Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sportive No2 July - The Liverpool - Chester - Liverpool Bike Ride

A bit of a gap from our last sportive the Cheshire Cat - a gap of 8 weeks. Phil and I figured that we would try for two or three sportives in our first year and build up the quantity and quality in the following years. This sportive - the LCL wasn't what I would call a true sportive - it is more a charity ride and anyone who can ride a bike had an option they could participate in.

Options Included:
Liverpool - Thornton - Liverpool ( Wirral Circular ) 25 miles
Liverpool - Chester 30 miles
Liverpool - Chester - Liverpool 54 miles Sportive
Liverpool - Chester - Liverpool 90 miles Sportive
& other small rides ideal for small children

We chose to do the 90 mile 'Sportive' and if we managed to finish the ride 90 miles would be a PB to that date. For training besides the midweek turbo sessions, from Jan onwards we planned w/e rides usually setting off to do the southern Cheshire part of the LCL loop completing around 50 to 70 miles including the hills of Delamere and Helsby.

The event

We all gathered at the mouth of the tunnel for the 8am start. The weather was looking good - nice and bright and would stay like that for the duration of our ride. Around us were riders of all types - roadies on bling and not so bling bling, hybrids, tandems, flat bar road and mountain bikers complete with backpacks, young and old, men and women.

It did not take long before a call from the announcer had the sportive riders moved to the front filtering through those on the shorter routes. With a klaxon call we were off down into the mouth of the Queensway tunnel, from light to sudden gloom and with a hoot and a holler down the gradual descent picking up some speed until the shallow climb slowed us down to a more sedate speed and then up the other side and back into the sunlight.

The roads and lanes of Wirral from what I remember were flat which allowed us to maintain some pretty impressive speeds forming and latching onto fast moving groups when possible all the way down to the first feed stop.

The only thing of annoyance to occur happened when we came to the first gate of the Chester cycleway, a small queue had formed to get through the gate and over the low bar. As we waited our turn a bunch of 5 or 6 idiotic lads on mountain bikes rode right to the front pushing their way in - not all of them got through though - cos by that time I was near to the head of the queue and refused them any space to push their way through haha the cheeky buggers...

Anyway a little time later a field adjacent to the Countess of Chester hospital around 20 miles into the ride was the location of the first feed station. It was well stocked with Banana's and other things that I can't remember. We bought ourselves bananas and a bottle refill and we were off again. This time heading into the more hilly areas of Helsby and Delamere forest - areas that are very familiar to us. We hit the first hill on Primrose Ln in Helsby which surprised a few people - a couple behind me breathing like asthmatics hissed through rasps that they 'were not expecting that!!' as they lurched themselves up the hill and came alongside me at the junction at the end of the road.

After Primrose there was just a few miles of relative flatness aside from a very short 13% climb and some rolling hills before arriving at Delamere. Apparently there were signs for a cafe stop pointing to the Delamere station but I missed it - no matter though as we had planned to stop at the forest for some buttys we had brought with us anyway. After the butty stop it was time to climb the last hill of note and head home back up the Wirral. It was here I heard a few people complaining that they thought Cheshire was flat!!

Around about 60 mile mark I had emptied my front bottle and started to feel thirsty but believe it or not I have never had to swap bottles on the go and with all the various rides coming together your eyes and attention had to be everywhere. I didn't have the opportunity or the confidence to safely do the swap whilst riding.

It was these last few miles that imho was the only let-down with the ride. As I mentioned all the rides came together all travelling along the same roads to the tunnel, that meant fast moving roadies trying to filter through kids on small bikes who were meandering all over the road with and without mum & dad, groups chatting as they rode not paying any attention and cars blocking the road as they in turn were being held up by other slow moving groups of social cyclists just out for a good time - it was chaos at times... Anyway the thirst got the better of me so eventually we pulled over at around 70 miles to grab a gel and swap bottles however I had left it way to late as I was starting to feel the affects of dehydration and as we came through the tunnel for the final time I suffered some shooting cramps in my thighs.

The tunnel itself had been closed for the event until 3pm which meant you had to finish the ride and be back through the tunnel by the 3pm deadline or else it was a trip over the Mersey on the ferry. We figured we would be back before 2pm but we surprised ourselves when we rolled in at just after 1pm for a time of 5hrs 14min averaging 16.4mph and a total distance of 85.7 miles not the advertised 90 miles.

Job done time for a pose

Now lets go home......

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