Shakespeare Spring 100 REVIEW
by Bill Joss
April Fools Day, and the morning dawned crystal clear and -3C frost. Not a breath of wind and the promise of another beautiful day ahead. By 0700 the Stratford-upon-Avon Park and Ride was buzzing; Spring Sportivists are an early rising lot, it would seem.
Registration was pretty quick and easy, and the inevitable toilet queue was good humoured. A few portable toilets would have been useful, but the car park operator had unfortunately declined to allow them.
A slightly unusual start, with two waves: about 250 or so riders at 0800 the remainder at 0915 to allow the now legendary Barton-on-the-Heath Feed Station hospitality team to lay on their customary banquet. Rumour has it that the Shakespeare 100, 100 miler in September is always fully subscribed because the cakes, sandwiches, salads and other goodies at Barton are the best on the English sportive scene! The villagers did us proud today as well.
At bang on 0800 Rob Gullen, Shakespeare 100 organiser briefed the first wave of riders and the field was away, on time and keen to spin the chill out of their legs.
A “neutralised” first half mile worked well and kept the start disciplined; more organisers ought to start events this way. We were then into the Warwickshire countryside at a decent pace, most of us riding harder than normal to try to warm frozen hands and feet.
The first 20 miles or so were fairly flat and fast, with groups of riders working well together through and off.
Encountering minimal traffic, the route wound its way out towards the south-west of Stratford skirting the Vale of Evesham towards the northern tip of The Cotswolds and Chipping Campden.
Signage was good and the organisers had sent a car out ahead to make sure signs were all intact.It’s a feature of the Shakespeare 100 rides that signage is both clear and plentiful.
Turning gradually towards Saintbury Hill, looming in the distance, the riders stayed close together; at Saintbury, which ramps to 15% in places, the field broke apart as it always does on a steep and longish climb. Rob had spared us the full Saintbury experience and we diverted left and on to a flat and fast section dropping down to Chipping Campden. The views along this ridge are exceptional, as they are in many places along this very scenic sportive course.
Out of Campden the route became quite “lumpy”, with several short climbs taking us to the east of Moreton-in- Marsh and onwards to Barton and the Feed Station. The sun had risen in the sky by now, and the warmth was adding to the experience.
Those who gave into temptation and over- indulged at Barton soon paid the price, as the sharpest climb of the day, followed by the longest, hit the legs only about a mile from the feed stop.
The climb from Little Compton, varying between 5% and 9% marked the end of the upward stuff for the ride, continuing gently but steadily to Whichford, with a final descent which had to be taken carefully, but at top speed.
Back into Warwickshire at Stourton and onwards through some beautiful countryside into and through Shipston-on-Stour before heading back over the Fosse Way on to the final section to Stratford. Most had enough in the legs to take full advantage of the pan-flat miles from Mickleton to Clifford Chambers before joining the tourist traffic into Stratford on a sunny Sunday morning.
The Ring Road gave a great opportunity for a quick last few miles, before threading through the Stratford Enterprise Park to the finish where a medal, bananas and drinks were available.
Overall, an enjoyable and challenging early-season event run on a well-planned and traffic free course through some of England’s finest countryside, with panoramic views in all directions.
A couple of toilets at the start and, to please a number of riders, some official timing would be welcome next time.
Make sure you put the 2013 Shakespeare SPRING 100 and the 2012 Shakespeare 100 on 9 September in your schedules; both great sportive experiences with enough to test the hard-riders, but accessible for those new to the world of sportives.
Bill “BJ” Joss is an ex-elite triathlete and quadrathlete who has competed in hundreds of major endurance events and sportives over the past twenty-five years. Undeterred by a series of major hip operations, Bill trains almost every day, regularly achieving Gold Standard finishes in the toughest UK and European sportives. He is co-author, with Jerry Clark, of Cyclosportives: A Competitor's Guide (Published by The Crowood Press Ltd)
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