NWCR Circle Of Hope 2015

NWCR Circle Of Hope 2015

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.

Circle of Hope ride

Circle of Hope ride

The Circle of Hope ride is a local charity event that’s been greatly supported by our local cycling clubs since it started. It offers a great 100 mile route.

There are other route options. It’s on the 3rd of May. VCM and RCC always have a good showing. We could treat it as an “extra” away day for the club, both Sunday ride groups as there is a 50 mile option too.

I’m in. Who else is?” — Darren Wareing

The weather is due to be on the moist side – however the event is for raising funds for North West Cancer Research. Routes are 10, 50 and 100 miles taking in Cheshire and North Wales. The event starts and finishes at Castell Alun High School, Hope.

While the weather is indeed looking moist the entry fee could be looked on as having ‘paid to stay dry’ (something those attending this years Cheshire Cat would appreciate being VERY worth while) and in the process the added warm feeling of having supported a local charity.

For more information and entry – visit the CIRCLE OF HOPE website.

Cheshire Cat 2015

Cheshire Cat 2015

Rumour has it packs are being prepared, and start times are being sent out by email.

As an early season sportive (if not the first – Sunday 29th March 2015…. 3 weeks or 21 days if that motivates you more) – a popular event – 108 miles of joy, a few ‘climbs with names’ – well organized, catered, pretty much on our doorstep – and usually, and most importantly well attended by VC Melyd.

Once you have you start time – you may want to start the conversation over on the FB group and we can get ourselves organized into groups to work together.

More information on the event for the curious and those yet to receive their packs can be found over at the Kilo To Go Cheshire Cat 2015 site.

ENTRY TO THIS EVENT IS NOW CLOSED

The Cheshire Cat 100 – Sunday 23rd March 2014

The Cheshire Cat 100 – Sunday 23rd March 2014

The alarm went off at the usual Sportive-O’clock and from the comfort of the duvet it was apparent that it was either hard rain or hail going on outside. Snoozing the alarm more than once – it was now more than time to get up, and out, and over to Crewe. This was to be my first sportive of the year, and peeling back a curtain to dare to see what manner of meteorological delights were occurring outside… it was going to be a long day… my first 100.

The start for the 2014 Cheshire Cat was the football ground, not too far from the station or a tonne of places to be dropped off with clear signposted routes to the Stadium. Dropping off, train, or long term parking all pretty much dealt with – there is not really that much demand on a Sunday at quarter-to-early – and as such there didnt seem to be a lot of complaining going on.

Gillet, arm warmers, winter longs, overshoes, full finger gloves and a neck warmer… somehow this was not the Century I was looking for.

Number on me, on bike, seat post, tag on helmet – no need to check in, hung bike on ample rails, just toilet stop (no queue!) and good to go. I am not sure who was less impressed the people living across from the stadium, or the cyclists waiting (in the well organised holding pens for the ride to start) – as an overly enthused chipper voice (given the weather and the time of day) boomed over the PA system. The attempts to rally the crowds was mainly met with silence, comments on the weather and the odd murmoured ‘you missed your QR mate’.

Sure, the sun was out, but it was not feeling it. Stewards not used to clip clopping riders a little bemused, stood around in large cosy jackets commenting on the fact people had been waiting for 30 mins to start. The nod was given and we were off. Out in the third group from the first pen.

The groups were clearly very mixed, even given the start time and distance. The almost fluid motion of people moving forwards and backwards, and holding position in the streams of riders leaving the stadium, passing through the all but empty Sunday morning town and on the way out.

The big fuss was the first climb of the day – Mow Cop. I am a heavy rider – hills rarely fill me with joy – however – living in North Wales and having seen / ridden some expletive worthy stretches of tarmac in my time – I was wondering how bad exactly could it be. In short, its a silly place to build a road. What were they thinking – PUT A BEND IN IT. Having had it pointed out to me as we approached off to our side – like a glimmering wet sliver of metal on the side of a hillside, straight – Roman style, just up. It kicks up a little to a gradual climb to start with , then a left, and there it is infront of you, like a ramp, and the worst of it being you can see it, there, taunting you, and you have to really look up to see the top. There is no subtle blade here – this is the blunt instrument… there is no hidden pain its all on display.

A local said on the way in to it that there are no faster parts, just sit in from the get go and do not try to rush any of it – it continues to climb at the top after the stupid steep section. Seemed rude not to heed the advice really… although I didnt really have a choice in the matter – getting up was more important than doing so quickly. Overly warm, and with an uncomfortable amount of leaning over the front of the bars – I ascended. It continues after the “OUF!” to make up the mile of ascent (the timed ‘killer mile’ as they put it – but beyond that flat, open, plenty of space for people to cheer you on 25% section but nothing of a comment worthy nature. I overheard an older woman by the side of the road ask “What is the name of this road?” to another member of her party. “Purgatory” I said back… as the photographer snapped her chuckling and me grimacing.

Now the route profile suggested that the big climbs came early in the ride, and that they did. That all sounds great in a ‘get them out the way early’ kind of way… I would urge any of you to reconsider that – as basically you are now ‘done’. Any further climbing beyond a hillock comes as an unwelcome surprise, and you are carrying them around in your legs all day. Dismissing that as a great idea would be foolhardy. I, am that fool.

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Fantastic views running along the ridge lines, trying to figure out what and where you are going to and over next. Overcast and moments of sunshine, and wondering whether you really needed the longs and the gloves proper. Trying to stay cool.

The roads are mostly dry with standing water, and few muddy sections thankfully. Surface questionable at time – but nothing you wouldnt want to take a winter bike over. It is afterall spring.

Then came the first feed station – between hills three and four, right at the bottom, down a muddy bumpy/gravel/potholled lane to a wonderful view of a lake. The temptation to just spend the rest of the day here was large. The sun was out, the clouds were skudding along the sky, and the water looked serene – if a little damned cold. Food was sufficient but there was no variety – functional – and plentiful, bannanas, gels (yo uhad better like apple), high5 and plain water barrels… oh and the curiosity of iced cupcakes…. really? Having loitered far too long – back on the bike and a spot of CX back up to the route.

Alas maths has never been my strong point.In my head there were three climbs and a feed station. There were four. So up, up, up we went again – that solace you get from continued climbing – the fact that despite you are going so slowly and people are passing you – that you are, in fact, making progress, not walking (as some were by this point), and to be fair its not all that bad – at least the weather is holding off.

The now familiar passing game ensues. Where they will overtake you uphill, you on the flat, down – to the point neither of you can be bothered, and you end up chatting for a bit.

As we got over the last lump – high enough to be passing an ever-so-bleak concrete based transmitter mast – the clouds enveloped us and the wing whipped through horizonal hail.

There was much yelpying, screetching and general vocalistations as peoples descents were reduced to a slow crawl or stop – not even half way. Generally looking where you were going was a painful business. A collection of riders gathered at a junction like penguins weathering out a storm waiting for more to arrive at the back to shield them. Then on again.

The next feeding station – more of the same. Made good progress with a fast moving train, potholes everywhere, loads of spray. Chain starting to make a noice like it no longer loves me.

Lost that group – most disappointed. The ride now turned into the wind for what seemed like the rest of the ride. Humour, and etiquette appears to have been in short supply for this as groups got larger, and finding yourself at the front of a group often meant just that… they would drop back if you tried to drop off the front. The wind was merciless, but the sun was out between clouds, and the hail was gone – of that I was thankful.

Last feeding station – confused marshals as we rode by – I just wanted to push on, as did the group I was with.

Its apparent that between 75 and 100 is the hard part. It could have been pan flat with a tailwind and I think that would still be the point the wheels started to come off – just time in the saddle, and earlier day now starting to tell.

A tiny more spirited group formed, and we just plodded onwards hoping for a finish line as we watched the miles tick away. Pace prozaic, seated, and as-long-as-we-get-there.

A smile raised amongst our small group to see an event photographer who had either intended to look sodden and dug in like a sniper, or – more likely had sunk into the side of the road and despite all the layers was looking decidedly moist and fed up in the fine rain…. I know which of us I would rather have been! Not far now.

As we passed 100 miles on all of our computers with what was that moment of not mentioning it… and then… …apparent to even the least local that “this was not Crewe” as we are surrounded in green… there was a dip in spirits… but soon enough we rolled into the outskirts, and then through lights towards the stadium – now busy with afternoon traffic. Someone who had not been out in the hail and headwind probably thought this was a great idea at the time – one word for you “thanks”.

2KM to go, then 1KM to go, some lights, a junction, and then – finally waiting foot down to turn right across weekend traffic and under a finish line…. it kinda spoils the moment… – and pretty much putting pay to a rather late in the day effort to pick up the pace with the finish in sight…. but the first sportive of the year in the bag.

Less elation – more thank-god-thats-over. Hang up bike, formally get results while collecting Mow Cop medal from the people at the desk who gave you your time for that sector. Yay.

Here is a question for you – why does no one ever have a feed at the finish station? Ever? Just me think that would be welcome? Maybe.

A well organised event all in all – on our doorstep – and weather / time of year aside – worth taking in.

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The good bits:
– Lack of faffing around on arrival – read the pack sent to you – sticker up and go;
– Generally no grief from traffic or locals;
– Signage was good, never really had any moments when I was beginning to wonder if I had veered of course;
– Good mix of riders doing the longer distance;
– Well supported event despite the elemtns;
– Well thought through use of space, bike park, starting pens, group starts;
– Sticker based RFID timing chip;
– Support from complete strangers who turned up to see a thousand pain faces on Mow Cop.

The not so good bits:
– Route meant that having got the climbing out of the way the remainder of the route was more open, and what felt like consistently into wind;
– Food – Banana, Gel, Cupcakes. Sure the High5 and water were on tap but sometimes variety really helps;
– Location location location – it would have felt better to have the feeding stops I did stop at more accessible / closer to the route;
– Miscommunication – Mow Cop “stay right if you can make it, stay left if you are in doubt” – “those riding go left, those struggling keep right” …. erm?

Would you do it again?
Yes why not – would have been a lot better given two things – neither of which in the organisers control:
– A group of mates / club to ride with;
– Weather – less hail and wind would have gone down a treat.
… otherwise seems rude not to – its on our doorstep, and is a great way to kick round of March and start the Sportive season.

Organiser:
– Kilo To Go
– Wiggle

— Words – Anthony Hogbin