Event Review

REVIEW: Tour of the Black Country 2014

by Sean Lacey

GB Flag

I'd like to say that my experience in Belgium made this an easy conquest, however, the varied surface was my undoing - instead of holding my line I tried to pick a path on the better surfaces; this proved my undoing as my front wheel caught a groove in the centre of the lane and a slow-motion topple was saved by a last second unclip. Ah well, I had to walk a section of the Koppenberg as well so I wasn't too disappointed.  The views across the surrounding countryside were well worth the effort though, and an MTB style single track descent tested your bike handling skills before rejoining the road for a fast, more traditional descent. 

ToBC5
The Waltonberg 

ToBC6
View from the top 

Riders were well catered for whilst on the 100km route with two feed stations, both located at pubs. With a French theme they were stocked with croissants and pain au chocolat, along with the sportive staples of bananas and water. Both offered plenty, and I doubt anyone went hungry. The second feed at the Navigation Inn at 74km was particularly pleasant, next to the canal and an impressive lock which took the canal under the road right outside. In the warm sun it took a shove to get me away from the surroundings. 

ToBC7
French feed 

ToBC8
Canal distractions 

From here it was only a short distance back to the stadium, and mirroring the queen of the classics, a lap of the velodrome before crossing the finish line. Being presented with a glass of champagne as you finished was a unique touch, along with a cappuccino cupcake and a lump of polished Black Country coal. Not your usual goodie bag! 

ToBC9
Last sectors 

ToBC10
Velodrome finish 

ToBC11
Sprint!

For a first attempt it was a very slickly organised ride. Communication was good, with the signing on and getting started procedure hassle free. The route was good, making good use of the lanes and unpaved sectors, but a couple of sections on dual carriageways were a bit hairy and could do with being removed if possible - I suspect the distance constraints made them a necessary evil though. The 'Waltonberg' was great, and should rightfully become the signature of the event, but all of the unpaved sectors were good fun. 

Signage was plentiful, with marshals at the entrance to each off road section to warn you of the surface change, and at the feed areas to point you in the right direction. There was one mishap with signage that sent us, in proper cyclocross style, over a grassy hill with a steep descent and a couple of stiles to clamber over - but the organisers have noted this and will ensure extra signage is in place next time to avoid the confusion. Some even commented they should leave the hill in! Finishing in the velodrome was another great feature, providing the opportunity for many sprint finishes amongst friends, and an open area to chill out afterwards alongside the coffee van and pancake stand to top up the carbs.

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 7 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 7 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 8 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 10 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 7 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 8 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 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 81.1%




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8 Comments

KevSp
12th May 2014 9:02pm Kev Sp wrote:

One for next year then Sean?

TimLeleux
15th May 2014 8:58am The whitest legs in cycling wrote:

Brilliant fun - I took a tumble on the Waltonberg but I'll be back next year to put it right!

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