Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Sportive No 3 September 2009 Manchester 100

The Manchester 100 Sportive/charity ride was the event we chose for our first 100 mile ride. I was told that it would be a flat ride with it being held in the heartland of Cheshire - was it flat? yes it seemed so with the exception of the Delamere section which travelled the same few lanes and hills as the Liverpool Chester Liverpool 'Sportive' but even so there was still some 3600ft of climbing to be done so hardly flat!. Delamere seems to be a popular choice for Sportives and charity rides in this part of the north west and rightly so - beautiful scenery, quiet roads and some moderate hills what's not to like?

So myself and Phil travelled the short distance to Wythenshawe Park for the start. We were there for our designated start time of 7:20am and after getting all our gear on we rolled to the start line, handed in the required paraphernalia, given a basic map in return and we were off. A quick start saw us teaming up with a group of around six riders. I was happy to stay within the group but quite prepared for a turn on the front when it was my turn - as it should be. The guy who was on the front lead for a few miles and seemed to really enjoy being there. I was behind him for a while and then figured that it was my time to have a go on the front so pulled out overtaking him and lead the mini peloton for about 2 minutes before he stuck himself back on the front again - ah well I gave it a shot. When Phil put himself on the front a few minutes later, I watched this guy to see what he'd do. Instead of trusting his lead man who was indicating dangers and was riding at the same pace we had all been travelling at for the last few miles, he rode to one side of Phil with his neck craned to see ahead and again within a few minutes he stuck himself back on the front. He obviously didn't trust anyone or perhaps he wanted to be the hero but whatever - we tried to do our bit, now if he wants to burn himself out on the front then so be it, he's doing us a big favour in doing so....

We rode on through Knutsford and Northwich until 25 miles in and not far from Hatchmere we came to the first feed station. We wanted to be away quick so pulling up outside of the school-yard which hosted the feed stop, we ate our power bars and set off again for the southern part of the ride. Through Delamere up the few hills that there was on this 'Sportive' and on through Kelsall and Tattenhall. The ride now turned east and into a headwind that although wasn't strong, it did slowly sap your strength and here especially we felt the advantages of riding in groups. I remember one group of four we latched onto - we started off on the back with a really strong rider on the front and what happened was over the next few miles the three riders that were behind the leading man pealed away one by one from the group until I was behind him and Phil behind me. After a few minutes just as I was about to take a turn he beckoned me through and as I went past him I could see that he was so absolutely shattered - he was breathing like a horse and looking really ill. I felt bad that he worked himself into oblivion and no-one had helped out. I slowed the pace down a little to give him a rest - we had been riding at over 20mph for ages. After a few minutes I glanced behind only to see he had dropped away completely, it was just me and Phil...

The next feed station was the 'enforced' 30 minute stop at Nantwich approx 56 miles into the ride. Enforced wasn't really accurate to describe the 30 minutes you were supposed to stop. You got your time card stamped by a couple of kids sat at a table - you could then if you so wish walk away, come back 10 minutes later, get it stamped again and be away. I can't recall our exact time but it was near 30 minutes before we set off again for the last feed station. This second to last part was boring, flat roads that just seemed to go on forever but at least a decent speed was easily achievable travelling in a group in excess of 20+mph for miles on end. Again we found ourselves in a small group and again we had someone on the front that was just a mile munching machine. I think he was on a flat bar road bike with flat pedals and trainers, certainly nothing bling about him or his gear which just goes to show that Lance is right, 'it's NOT about the bike...'(but it is nice to have nice stuff).

I later found out through the Bike radar forums that about 70miles in, someone had sprinkled tacks all over the road and a few people came a cropper before the tacks were cleaned up, I didn't see it myself so I don't know if this happened before or after we passed that particular spot but we were thankfully unaffected. The next feed stop at 77 miles was at a pub by the banks of the river Weaver in Middlewich (or was that the Weaver canal?) again we didn't go in but stopped just outside on the road to have a bite or two. By this time I was getting a little tired in the legs and glad of a break.

We quickly moved on for the final 23 miles and again just like the Liverpool - Chester - Liverpool 'Sportive' all the rides came together. In this case there was just the 100k and the 100 mile rides and again there was congestion. When we came to the last hill of the day at Styal, all I remember is being stuck behind a car that in turn was stuck behind a group of mountain bikers from the 100k route walking up the hill. The road was narrow with no room to pass so it was stop start right to the top of the hill, I couldn't judge how steep it was because I didn't actually get to ride it...

The end was now in sight, when we hit the main road which was less than a mile away from the finish line I now had my bearings so put a spurt on only to be stopped by traffic and traffic lights!!!!! the last few hundred yards were reduced to a crawl behind slow moving cars. Crossing the finish line a lad gave us a certificate for completing the 100 miles under 6 hours and a cheap cycling computer that I gave away to someone more needy than me.

So that was that, time to pack up and drive home. I didn't feel too tired, my legs were a bit frazzled but I could have gone on for a few more miles. Would I do it again? I don't really know - it did get boring, miles upon miles of flat is not my thing. I think I would prefer a shorter but hillier route but I may just do it again next year, just have to wait and see...

My Stats
Distance 100.5 miles - Time 5:51 -Av Speed 17.2 - Climbing 3593 ft

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