The FWC was looming. I had two centuries under my belt this year – a chunk of climbing, and this was going to be my last chance to get miles in my legs before The Daddy. The NWCR Circle of Hope is an event well attended by the club – and there had been a fair amount of ‘who is going / how are you getting there?‘ in the weeks leading up to it.
The 100 route takes in a some great scenery, through North Wales and Cheshire.
Come the morning the sky is dark, the rain is hammering down, and one by one we the Facebook thread increments with “not going” responses.
A group of three of us ventured over to Hope, windscreen wipers busy as we rolled into the school car park. Seeing another club member, we did the obvious thing, drove over to him, while his head was in the boot of his car, real close, real quiet and sounded the horn. Oh yes. He was pleased to see us.
The discussion turned to what we thought the weather would be doing – and “the sun will dry us” became the quasi-religious mindless chant for the day. Sure, we were going to get wet, but the sun will come out, and as long as we stay warm it should be fine.
Bikes out, clothing decisions, pockets filled, good to go. Not too cold – but wet.
Registration, and the wonder that is ‘Sportive Toilet’. Emerging eyes watering in the rain, Strava started, and off we go. No numbers, just coloured tags on our bikes and bright hospital bracelet style tags for food stops.
It was ‘orrible. The rain was still falling. The winter bike was the right choice for the day.
The ride started off with a slow climb, as we ascended the rain lightened, but was replaced by drizzle, as we headed up into the low cloud.
Heading up to the roundabout at the turn for the Horseshoe Pass was the first time we knew where we were, and as we descended towards Corwen – the cloud started to clear, and moments of sunshine.
The turn back took us back alongside the Dee. The river valley kicking up and down, the narrower back road still wet, muddy, graveled, but it was a lot better than driving rain. The sunshine certainly lifted our spirits.
Air Cadets in their crisp packet jackets (how I do not miss those) and woolen trousers stood around a table stacked with water bottles in the light rain. Bottles filled. Thank you. This being said – it must have been wasteful to be handing out so many 500ml bottles – lets see those familiar barrel types next year? Less recycling, less energy.
The up started as we headed over the foot of the Horseshoe Pass, and we stopped on the other side to try and reduce layers and refuel. Gary – fully layered up after his hyperthermic Cheshire Cat finds a safe place to ferret away a coat he was wearing as an extra layer. Then on towards the ford.
Okay – so, lets be straight. A *lot* of people have slipped and fallen crossing the ford at World’s End. The big difference with me is that I was caught on video doing as much. Nice. One of those things you do not live down :) Nine times out of ten we cross it in the other direction. It is quite a climb to get up to that point, and then over. I reach there to see Mat on the other side with his GoPro running. “Oh how I laughed” : /  The stepping stones had moved with the water, and it looks as if it had been recently de-mossed. However it was still as grippy as greased PTFE bearings on sheet ice. Teetering across the climb on the other side up through the trees is quite steep but nothing too troublesome.
Clearing the trees you remember that the ascent continues for quite a way before turning to the right and skirting along the tops of the moor. Then the pace picks up, as the gradient increases, down to the sudden left turn and the main road… this thankfully did not come as a surprise to me – however there were no real warnings for those who may have been ‘making progress’.
That was it really – the climbing is done, and the last 50 miles is flattish. That sounds great doesn’t it? Right up to the point the wind gets up, and you are now riding flat open exposed roads in the wind.
The latter half of the ride was a lot harder than it should have been.
With the climb up to the finish we were pretty much done. Wearing too many layers, too warm, and getting warmer riding into wind and little in the way of shelter.
Met at the finish by Sally – we collapsed, sat around, felt a bit sorry for ourselves. The route ran up short at 93 miles – but we felt absolutely no need to do a further 7 miles. We were cooked – literally. Too far too warm.
Most memorably we popped over the road for a beer to join a group of people dressed as Romans. Yes, really, Romans – as in SPQR Roman. On the up side, they had marched from Chester – and they looked considerably more spent than we did : D
The route was good, the company was good, the charity is worthy – it is a shame the weather spoilt the start, and meant that so few took part. I look forward to next year.