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Event Review

Great Weston Ride 2013 REVIEW

by Jennifer Trotman

Essentials:

Date: Sunday 21st July
The charity: All Great Weston Ride participants are encouraged to use their place in the event to raise as much money as possible for Prostate Cancer UK.  To date, well over £40,000 has already been raised for the charity by people taking part in the Great Weston Ride. Anyone who raises £100 or more for the Charity (excluding Gift Aid) receives a free reflective waterproof rucksack cover and any riders who goes on to raise over £200 also receives a FREE top-quality cycling jersey (worth around £40).
Distance: 56 miles one way from Bristol to Weston-super-Mare
Entry fee: £24 Adult, £16 Under 16s (must be accompanied by an adult).
Start: Long Ashton Park and Ride, Long Ashton, Bristol, BS3 2HB.  Transport to Bristol in the morning, and back to Bristol in the evening available for £15 either way.
Catering: food token for food from "field & flower" catering at the end, where there was also a bar.
Feed stops: water stop at Burrington Combe, coffee stop (cakes/bacon butties extra) at Blackford.
Participants: 850
Timing: None - it's a charity ride.
Signs: Black arrows on yellow background, and extra Caution signs too.
Photos: www.sportivephoto.com
Goody bag:  Medal at the end

The ride:

Another sunny Sunday, another sportive...superb!  Welcome to the fourth annual Great Weston Ride.  I know this to be true, as my mate Guy and I have done every single one!  It's local, and it's one of those tradition things now.  Which also indicates that it must be a good event, why else would we keep doing it? It's been a long time since I've done a sportive in company, so I was really looking forward to it on many levels.

It's also traditional for us to ride there.  To ride back home afterwards.  And for him to never take us in to the start via the same route each year.  Well he's the commuter, so therefore somewhat of an expert on routes from here to Bristol!  Clayton, Karl, and myself all met him at the end of his road at 6:30am, under disappointingly cloudy skies, for an uneventful and fairly easy 20 or so mile ride to HQ at Long Ashton Park and Ride.

It being a Park and Ride, there is unsurprisingly a lot of space for people to park and ride!  No buses today though, just cyclists.  Registration was easy - just join the relevant alphabetised queue, and get your number, cable ties, emergency details card, and free 9 bar from the smiley encouraging lady behind the table.  There were plenty of official GWR jerseys around, as well as charity jerseys - particularly for Prostrate Cancer, one of which was being sported by Clayton - very fetching.  For those that needed it, mechanical support was available too.

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Registration

The event gets busier every year, unsurprisingly, and I think the demand for the toilets is now outstripping supply.  There are, unusually, a lot of women that do this ride, and so there were queues on both sides, that were getting longer and longer as more people arrived...  I decided that I'd pass on that last minute "gotta go before you leave the house" visit, and we all headed for the start.  It wasn't so much a queue as a coalescing group.  At some point the group decided, in that weird unspoken herd of sheep way, that it was time to move to the start line.  Probably because the official start time of 8:00am was approaching.  It was actually almost chilly out there, not helped by having ridden in and cooled down in clammy fashion, so I think we were all quite keen to be underway.

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The official jersey

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Start line

Ride organiser Darren gave each group a bit of a safety briefing, including a warning about the dangerous descent of the day, and then we were away, second batch of the day.  We retraced our steps back through Long Ashton, down the main road (if you're me) or the very shiny smooth new adjacent cycle path (if you're Guy or Clayton).   I was more worried about negotiating the change between road/path and messing that up in some ridiculously public and embarassing fashion, so the slower nastier road suited me just fine!

Barrow Gurney is often a nightmare however you look at it, whatever you go through it on.  It's narrow, windy, with speed bumps and traffic calming methods...and today, the additional obstacle of a long traffic light managed section.  Deep joy.  At least being very early in the morning by Bristolian standards, there wasn't much traffic around to add to the negotiation challenge, and the speed bumps are easier on a bike than in a car!  Once out the other side, traffic lights ushered us on to a brief stretch of riding on the A38 before a left turn took us onto quieter and far more pleasant roads.

Knowing these roads as I do, I knew I was in for a nice fast essentially downhill stretch for a while, where I could make up for the fact that I had been being crap at anything with anything even vaguely approaching a positive gradient.  All too soon our momentum was cruelly taken away from us, as we turned right at a spoilsport mini roundabout to head towards the ever scenic Chew Valley Lake.  Again, flat, fast, but straight, so the perfect opportunity to take a couple of photos, marking the only time when both Guy and Clayton were behind me for any length of time.

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Flat before the storm

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Chew Valley Lake

The closer we got to the big climb of the day, the brighter the day became, and the sun was finally out when we reached the first food stop at the bottom of Burrington Combe.  It was signposted a bit before, but to say it was a tad low key when you got there would be an understatement.  Blink, or look in the wrong direction at the right time, and you'd have missed it.  An eagle-eyed Clayton pointed out the drinks point, and once one rider was there, everyone knew where to go!  One of my bottles definitely needed topping up, so that's what I did, before taking advantage of the public toilets that I knew were a little further up the road.  In previous years the bike shop there, Bad Ass Bikes, has been known to let riders in to use the facilities, but not so this year.  As various riders all milled around the toilets at the bottom of the Combe, and we were preparing to leave, a tractor thundered past us heading upwards, bravely followed by one drafting rider on a fixie - chapeau m'sieur!  We all clapped in appreciation of his efforts, before heading off ourselves in far less impressive fashion.

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First water stop

Burrington Combe may hold no real fear for me, it being actually quite a nice long climb that I've done a lot of times before, but every time is different. I pootled up in my usual unimpressive style, and Guy was kindly waiting for me at the top, where I stopped briefly to have a drink and catch my breath, while Clayton headed off into the distance leaving just the usual two of us again.  I have to admit this came as somewhat of a relief.  The pressure of trying to keep up with Clayton wasn't bothering Guy, but was slightly doing me in, and it was nice to have that not there anymore.

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Time to climb

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Half way up Burrington

I love it on top of the Mendips. The lovely views that you've earned, that top of the world feeling and, just for once, no killer wind.  Not no wind, do be serious, just no killer wind.  In fact the wind that there was was even behind us from time to time, which is always a good thing.

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Nice scenery

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Top of the (Mendips) world

We took a little wiggle to go through Priddy, presumably to show off the village to the tourists as the detour is slightly gratuitous otherwise, I'd just have turned right a little earlier on, but that's what comes of cycling these roads all the time.  The back country road from Priddy to rejoin that one is all very pretty but it does have a 90 degree downhill left hand corner on it, where they'd conveniently positioned a photographer.  Good for images no doubt, but not so good for keeping riders paying attention to where they're going...especially since there turned out to be gravel on the corner too.  One poor lass had come a cropper just before we got there and was washing the road out of her gravel rash as we passed. Nasty.

It was time for another quick break, this time for a gel, and a photo op.  This was the descent we were warned about earlier, of Westbury Hill.  See the Caution sign?  Well it's there for a reason.  Not only is it steep, bendy, shady and not well surfaced, it's also well used.  As the large tractor equipped with weapons of mass cultivation on the front that came up as we were going down demonstrated.  Luckily we saw it in time to avoid it.  Luckily the eejot who came hooning past me regardless didn't do that a little sooner, otherwise he'd have been a human kebab.

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Caution on the descent

Eventually we all got held up by vehicular traffic towards the bottom of the hill which at least stopped anyone failing to stop for the junction with the A38.  This, as with several other dodgy junctions, was marshalled, which made getting across much easier and less stressful.  Probably less so for the cars that continued to be going the same way as us for quite some time. Sorry! Impressive driver patience for a change though. Unlike some out there today.

Once all the traffic cleared away we kicked off and put some space between us and the slower riders that had been holding them up, on roads we know very well.  All the way to Wedmore, out t'other side to Blackford and the second food stop at Hugh Sexey's School.

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Second food stop

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A very nice table of very nice cakes (one of two available!)

This ride is renowned for its superlative cake.  Which sadly, it now being a very hot and sunny day, was being a tad neglected in favour of topped up bottles and free squash.  Poor lovely cake.  Even I opted for a large glass of orange squash rather than my usual black coffee, though the caffeine kick might have come in useful later.  Guy went for a bacon roll, and we took a little time to kick back in the sunshine and relax for a bit rather than hurtling instantly off again.   We couldn't leave without a toilet stop though.  Well it's a middle school, with suitably middle sized toilets, which always makes me giggle *grin*.  You could tell term had just ended; flowers in the sink, and an apple for teacher still on the table.

We headed off down the mother-in-law road (it goes on and on) to Mark and then on to Highbridge, at quite some speed. However there was no going anywhere fast once we got to Highbridge/Burnham on Sea.  In the middle of a heatwave, by the seaside, the traffic was even busier than ever, pouring in and out of town, with precious little chance therefore for irritable, hot and bothered car drivers to get past us, let alone past leisure cyclists happily minding their own business and getting caught up amongst us lot!

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Traffic lights

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Burnham on Sea Front

Once out the other side of Burnham and marshalled across the road to head across the wiggly lanes going northwards, it was time for a second gel...as I realised I was feeling like falling asleep.  Never a good sign!  I also got GB to slow down for a bit so I could gather my wits, as it were.

From here it was, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty easy going.  Hot though!  From Burnham to the end is around 10 or so miles, all flat barring the small rise to get over Uphill.  No hanging around then, time to put the heads down and push for the end, the gel having now cut in.  It was a bit unclear where the end actually was when it came to it, I'm sure there were some countdown markers in previous years, but we at least knew where we were going.  There was a clapping crowd waiting as we pulled off the main seafront road, through the banners and on to the lawn.  Always nice. There was also a photographer. Less nice.  I have another shiny medal for the collection to make up for that though.

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Collecting medals

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Finish Line

Last year they were handing out bottles of water when we crossed the line, when we didn't really need them.  This time we did, but they weren't in evidence, and I didn't feel like asking as I was really dying for a long cold fizzy drink.Instead I purchased myself a large diet coke from the bar, which was bloomin' lovely. The free food being laid on by "field and flower" looked delicious, though I didn't feel like eating.

We hung around and chillaxed for a bit in the sun which was lovely.  Maybe I should have had one of the post ride massages on offer, but then I suppose I wasn't properly post ride yet.  Another ten miles ride home in the sun and I was happy

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Lovely lager

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Finished!

This year's ride turns out to have been a little slower than last year's, though it felt harder. I'll blame the heat. Another very enjoyable Great Weston Ride done - in the best weather so far!  

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 9 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) n/a
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 9 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 8 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 90.0%




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