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Shropshire Hills Sportive REVIEW

by Sean Lacey

Essentials:

Date: Sunday 1st July
Distances: 100, 70 and 50 miles
Entry fee: £23.00, £20.00, £17.00
Participants: 300 entrants (sold out)
Start: Bridgnorth High Street - closed to traffic for the day. Facilities available at the leisure centre a short distance away, parking in the town centre car parks.
Feedstops: 1 on the short route, 2 on 70 mile route, 3 on the 100
Catering: Hot/cold drinks and food available before and after the ride
Timed: No
Signs: A clearly way-marked route with highly visible signageRoads: Good routes on quiet lanes for the most part, a few short sections on main roads and some tough climbing on the longer routes. Outriders on route to provide assistance if needed.
Goody bag: Mamil Cycling casquette, food, Schwalbe promotional material

The Ride:

After a 400+ mile round trip last weekend for Ride24, it was back to the (very) local circuit with a 20 minute drive to the pretty Shropshire market town of Bridgnorth, for the second running of Mamil Cycling's Shropshire Hills sportive. Getting out of the house was a little more hectic than usual as we had a full car; not just me and my bike today as Mrs Lacey and youngest daughter Abigail were along for the trip as they were helping out as volunteers for the day at the HQ.

Parking is plentiful at the early hours of Sunday morning, and just a short walk to the start on a traffic free High Street which was already busy with riders signing on and pre-ride faffing. Giving my two a minute to get sorted I was signed on with no trouble and busy pinning my number to my gilet - less chance of pin holes on a perforated garment.

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Signing On In The High Street

The ride is capped at 300 to make the event manageable, and sold out a while ago. For an event like this I think it's an ideal number and as most of the entrants are local it's a friendly affair as lots of folk knew each other and chat was easy to come by. Once I'd hooked up with regular ride buddy Alex, we headed out of Bridgnorth, ready to settle in to the ride. Until half way out of town I realised I hadn't left my car keys with my wife, so hiked back up the hill to drop them off.

Suitably warmed up now, we got back on track. The road rises early on and although not too testing it did give a flavour of the days riding to come. Although overcast it wasn't to chilly so we got into a rhythm on the ups and downs heading out through the lanes to Cleobury Mortimer. This signalled the first proper climb of the day, over Clee Hill. Not a brutal steep climb, but long and exposed, and the wind was up today - I don't think I need to mention in which direction!

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Heading Up Clee Hill

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Riders Still Smiling Early In The Ride

The descent off the back is one we all enjoy, fast, well surfaced and open. So fast and open that even I, as a slightly cautious descender was enjoying in so much that as I whizzed down, it was only my peripheral vision that caught the 'left turn' sign. Brakes on hard, a quick turnaround and an extra bit of climbing back up to the turn. Once off the B road the descent continues, faster still, until the village of Caynham and the first feed station.

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Caynham Feed Station

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Hot Drinks Were Welcome

Last year I rode the first edition of this ride and did the 50 miler, which was a reasonable challenge for me back then. I remember sitting in the sun here glad of the rest and being pleased I was half way round. How things have changed! Out of Caynham it was a rolling route into Ludlow. Through the picturesque town, up through Ludlow racecourse and on to familiar roads that form part of my local routes. Here the routes split, and the 100 milers turned left to head west into the hills. 

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One Of The New Signs

Following the road I know heading towards Craven Arms, a right turn took us off the B road onto a lane I wasn't familiar with - and one that headed skyward. Evidently this was where our legs were to be tested, as the next 20 or so miles were all up and down the big lumps. I have climbed the Long Mynd on numerous occasions but this took us over the back side of it that I hadn't explored, so was keen to see what it was like. Once out of Church Stretton, a quick stint up the A49 dropped us onto the lanes once more. Initially it was a good steady climb, quite long but not too bad, before the 20% sign changed matters. Now it was getting serious, low gear engaged and push on. Oddly though, half way up was a tiny village with some outstanding properties, complete with a tiny village green. 

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Nice Houses

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Nice Renovation Project

I took a breather at the top while waiting for Alex to catch up. It was blowing a fair bit up here and was cold and drizzly - I felt sorry for the locals who were probably bemoaning the lack of summer the same as us.

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Sorry Looking Locals

Off the back and a slightly dodgy descent on the narrow lane with a lot of gravel about the roads flattened out for a tiny stretch before heading straight into the Stiperstones area. I haven't been here for many years and have never ridded my bike here, and if I'm honest, I'm glad I hadn't. I think when you know a particularly tough section is coming up it can mess with your head - sometimes it might spur you on, other times make you dread what's coming. This section was brutal. Lots of tough climbing with many really steep, out of the saddle sections with no let up inbetween. Fortunately I was going well today and took the positive frame of mind, even when struggling up in my lowest gear, with the headwind square in my face I was still smiling!

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Stiperstone Climb photo c/o David Perry

When finally at the top, there was another fast descent down to the moorland bog and the next feed station, the Bog visitors centre itself. We had been issued with tickets at signing on which got you a huge slice of cake (and many to choose from), I plumped for a delicious date crumble slice, and a hot drink. The café setting was a nice change from a village hall, but it did seem to bring the Sunday club run out in a few folk as they spent rather a long time there gassing!

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The Bog Visitor Centre

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No-one Seems In Any Hurry

Alex caught up again as I finished my coffee, so I had an extra bit of rest while he refuelled. As we left the sun broke cover and the next section was all downhill with some stunning views. This brought our spirits right up, and the challenge combined with the scenery will bring me back here the next free weekend I have. Heading out of the countryside and into the oddly industrial Minsterley we could sense it wasn't too far to go. Back onto familiar roads again the route was rolling now with the big climbs behind us, and the miles passed easily as we neared the last stop at Eaton Constantine, which is only a few miles from where I live. En route I detoured slightly to take a look at the Wroxeter Roman ruins - I've seen the ruins many times but last year they constructed a Roman villa for a Channel 4 programme and I was keen to take a quick look. 

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Roman Ruins

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Brand New Roman Villa

Pressing on for another few miles and we reached the final feed station. As with the first at Caynham it was well stocked with a huge variety of goodies, from bananas to wagon wheels to bacon flavour crisps, and everything in between. It made a nice change to nothing but sweet stuff.

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Eaton Constantine Feed Station

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Your's Truly Enjoying The Sunshine

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Alex Cursing The Day He Signed Up

Following the river Severn out of the feed led us into one of my favourite places in Shropshire, Ironbridge. As usual for a sunny Sunday afternoon the town was busy, and I couldn't ride through on a review ride without a shot of the famous bridge...

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The Iron Bridge

Passing the old iron bridge and further down the river, we crossed the new bridge and onto the final climb of the day, the drag up to Broseley. This road then takes you all the way back to Bridgnorth High Street, so head down with only a few miles to go I lifted the pace and made the last section in good time. Riding down the finish straight, it was good to see a number of people out cheering riders in, with one of Mamil cycling's directors, John Ireson on the microphone shouting folk back in and even interviewing them briefly if they looked up to it! Once off the bike a goody bag was handed over, and water offered along with a few bits of food if you wanted anything. Free massage was also on offer and looked to be popular.

Speaking to a number of riders at the stops and here at the finish, all were unanimous in praising the event. The route and signage were excellent, and the feeds well stocked with a good variety of products, hot and cold drinks and Torq energy products. It was great last year, and it's been an even better event this year - here's hoping it goes from strength to strength.

Speaking to the directors, John Ireson, Rich Smith and Andy Britton, all three were extremely pleased with how the day went and the support they have received. The beers will be well deserved!

Finally, thanks to my wife AnnMarie and little one Abigail - they both support my cycling activities to the full and wanted to get more involved. It was a long day for them but they enjoyed helping out with the event and are keen for more. Maybe I will have a full time support crew soon.

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Mamil Cycling - Rich, John and Andy

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AnnMarie and Abigail At Work  

Strava ride info: http://app.strava.com/rides/12264713 





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1 Comment

Alex Capstick
3rd July 2012 10:18pm Alex Capstick wrote:

Just how a Sportive should be testing but enjoyable when you finish. I must mention the motor cycle support, they were exellent. From maning the dangerous road and offering gells on route to the encouragement I received on the last climb out of Ironbridge. Thanks


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