Friday, 24 December 2010

Cyclosport`s Howard Johnson report on last years event

Words and photos by Howard Johnson
Nestled in the leafy lanes of Cheshire is the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, a 76metre white dish pointing out into the cosmos. It’s used for tracking space probes and searching deep into outer space for cosmic research, it can now be linked to the Jodrell Bank Sportive, the season’s early leg warmer for events on a worldlier horizon, writes Howard Johnson.
Jodrell Bank Radio
The imposing Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope
The weather for the event was a whole lot better than it has been recently. It was 9C, but it did feel a bit more like 4C with the NW winds at 20mph. The wind speeds were exaggerated further once up on the more exposed parts of the route. The relatively good weather also attracted out 80 riders that signed up on the day, boosting the rider count to 680; many of them having their first attempt at a sportive.
The event was devised with options for three distances, 30, 50 and 80 miles, it is the ideal season opener to get the winter legs spinning in preparation, or should that be trepidation, for the season to come. The 30 mile option was included so younger riders could ride along with parents which is a great way to introduce youngsters to the sport; well done organisers.
Starting from Woodford, the route allowed riders to ease themselves into the ride, without anything too challenging too early, and with the first feed stop at 16 miles, and well stocked with the usual fare of cakes, bananas, copious box loads of energy gels and energy drink on supply, you could not fail to be topped up with sustenance.
Jodrell Bank Feed
Food, food, food; the first feed station.
The meandering anti-clockwise course soon switched from being undulating to being rather lumpy, with some sneaky hills to test early season fitness and stamina. The first real short sharp climb after 20 miles was an 8% drag near Blackden Heath, quickly followed by a 9% short sharp haul near the Jodrell Bank Telescope. Now nicely warmed up, the undulations became slightly steeper, longer and more frequent; with a lovely 10% climb at Bollington, a quick drop and then at 39 miles a 12% test of lung capacity and the use of my secret weapon on the triple chainring. All safely completed, and the legs rolling along very nicely indeed, and the miles counting down to a respectful finish. With two miles to go there was a sneaky little 9% to 10% reminder that you were not quite finished before rolling back to the finish line. My time for the 50 miles was 3 hours 42 minutes, and it could have been quicker however I was taking photos along the route; it is my goal to complete, not compete.
From my start time I can say the signage was good, with confirmation signs after a turn to reassure you that you were on the right road. But as usual on these events, there are still some ‘citizens’ that think they can remove or change the directions for fun. The organisers did remedy this as soon as they became aware of the problems.
After the event, and after a very fine portion of Thai chicken curry, it was time to chat with other riders. I caught up with Mr Robert O’Brien (pictured: right) who completed the thirty miles in 3 hours 31 minutes with his mum Claire (also pictured: right). This was Robert’s 3rd ride on his brand new bike and was not without mishap; he crashed. Thankfully nothing serious as he forgot to brake. His mum did defend him by saying it was a tricky corner with little room. Robert is a track rider, therefore not used to brakes, and can be found at the Manchester Velodrome with Eastlands Velo; Claire is a member of Weaver Valley CC and will be back out in the lanes in 2 weeks time for the Cheshire Cat. They were both complimentary about the signage, and had no problems getting around the course, although Robert did think it was too hilly, compared to the Velodrome at Manchester Robert, you are correct.
Enjoying a well earned rest were Darren French and his son Harry (pictured: left), aged 11. Harry is no newcomer to cycling and has been riding since he was six years old, and completed the 50 mile route in 3hours 53 minutes, and he wasn’t alone as his elder brother Connor  (aged 13) also completed the ride and the brothers both recorded faster times than dad Darren by 2 minutes.  Harry said the ride was hard, and I have to agree with you sir, it was a little windy out there, but you have to give great respect to all of the youngsters that turned up and rode the event. Chapeau!
Finally but certainly not least, there was Dave Lindsay (pictured: right) from Liverpool Century Road Club. Dave is relatively new to the sport and tackled the 80 mile route, however he “underestimated the hills” and the wind certainly made it a lot harder. Another rider using this event as a warm up for The Cheshire Cat; Dave should be on for a good time there as he clocked a very respectable 4hours 29minutes for the ride. He is hoping to ride the Polka Dot Challenge later this year if he can get an entry.
There was another interesting rider, who shall remain nameless to spare his blushes. The organisers were just waiting around for the last rider to come or to make sure he was accounted for. He stormed  into the HQ out of breath explaining that he has done the 30 mile extra loop for the riders opting for the 80 mile, twice. He had actually ridden 110 miles hence his late arrival.
Target times - 30 miles: Mark Coates in 1 hour 36 minutes
Target times - 50 miles: Peter Gettings in 2 hours 37 minutes
Target times - 80 miles: James Davies in 4 hours exactly
What we liked: Sensible course and good signage
What we didn’t like: A free cup of tea/coffee at the finish would have helped
Where's Howie? See his GPS route of the event:
Did you ride the Jodrell Bank sportive? Give us your ratings and see the results – click here >

Ed Cooper
First ever/sportive or similar. Drove up from Derbyshire, a bit nervous, unsure what to expect. Have to say, excellent organisation & well signed. Chuffed to bits with time for the 80 mile route. Definately not my last event.
Dave Lee
Nice blog Howie, great to include the youngsters !! On the subject of the younger riders its possibly the most I have seen, taking part, great for the future ;-) Really enjoyed the ride, great signage and a shock at the end with a few unexpected hills thrown in :-)
Mark Smith
My first ever sportive and I really enjoyed it. I did the 30m and thought my 2hr:15 was disappointing, as I aimed to do it within 2hrs, but after looking at the results I think I did ok. I will put it on the calender for next year. The event was well organised and the signage, roads, countryside and the houses in Prestbury were all impressive. The only niggle is that I am sure my £15 could have covered a cup of tea at the end of the race.
Andy Holme
I agree it was a great ride through some really interesting countryside and the perfect way to open the season. I'm sure it said somewhere that it the route was flat!.The organisation and signage was very good. Definitely in the diary for next year On the minus side (and it's nothing to do with the event) It's just a pity we had riders riding on the pavement to pass other riders and to negotiate red traffic lights. It just puts us in a bad light with others.
Chris Leary
Enjoyed it, thought the 50 mile route was very good. Take peoples' point about the toliets at the start and food/drink at the finish but all the way round I really enjoyed myself, even all the cramp that set in on the final climbs didn't reduce the fun!
John Sutton
I thought it was ideal a season opener, no need to put in leg cracking climbs on every sportive. I agree pretty much with your comments: my blog post on it is here: