Great Weston Ride REVIEW
Great Weston Ride: http://www.greatwestonride.com/
Date: Sunday 15th 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. £22,000 was raised for the Charity by riders in 2011. Anyone who raises £100 or more for the Charity (excluding Gift Aid) will receive a smart FREE 'buff' and any riders who go 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: £23 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 Butcombe Brewery bar.
Feed stops: water stop at Burrington Combe, coffee stop (cakes/bacon butties extra) at Blackford.
Timing: None – it’s a charity ride.
Signs: Black arrows on yellow background, with GWR to be read the right way up so that any signs that had been tampered with were obvious.
Goody bag: Medal at the end
I don't usually do repeats, but the Great Weston Ride is on my doorstep, it's quite a laugh, and it's not too long, so this is one of those exceptions to the rule. This Sunday made it the third year in a row for me. Third time lucky too, since this year the weather was finally nice, if a bit windy.
As the ride is local, and my riding mates are almost as mad as I am, we ride in, do the main event, and ride home again. This is partly because it would take nearly as long to load up a car and drive there, park and unload as it does to ride there. It’s also because there's something quite nice about rocking up at an event on the bike all nonchalant, riding 56 miles, and then still having the energy to ride home again.
At 6:30am, three of us met up in the Square, our fourth being due to make his own way there. It was a tad chilly and I was glad to be dressed in my all my most flexible options - leg/arm warmers, gilet, toe covers, as all of them were required at that time in the morning. To add to our obvious insanity, we rode to our destination not by the most direct means possible, but via some hills and with extra miles – totally gratuitous! There were 22 miles in my legs by the time we got to the Long Ashton Park and Ride just outside Bristol from where the ride starts but at least this year, unlike last year, we weren’t soaked to the skin! Registration time. It's a good start venue as it's a Park and Ride. You park and you ride! It also has toilets, and plenty of room for 650 riders to gather and faff and queue.
There were clearly more women riders than is usual as, for a change, there was even a queue for the ladies, so I nipped into the disabled loo since I figured the chances are that there would likely be considerably less demand for that. As this is a charity ride there’s a far greater range of riders than your normal sportive though it was noticeable that there were more roadies this year than last.
I made my way to the desk, found my name on the alphabetical list to tick off and was handed my bike number (560), two short but just long enough cable ties, and a free cereal bar. I saw Darren, one of the organisers, to chat to briefly before heading back to the bike.
We joined the informal rider queue and admired bikes, kit, and the fact that the sky was actually hinting at being something other than grey.
Queue For The Start
Around 8:00am we all moved forward to the actual start, from where we were let free in batches, after a quick briefing on the signs and so on.
Waiting For The Start Under Blue Skies
Look - see that blue stuff? Very welcome! We headed off, once we got past the first two unfortunately timed sets off traffic lights, and the route went along Long Ashton, through an unusually quiet Barrow Gurney, along the A38 briefly, and then through Winford. It may have been getting warmer, but it still wasn't warm enough. Along with several riders around us we formed a little impromptu group and teamed up to ride against the wind that was bound to be against us.
Riding In The Chew Valley
Chew Valley Lake was looking lovely, all reflective water and wide open skies, though we were going fast enough that there wasn't that much time for aesthetic appreciation. It wasn't as much of a slog as it can be along there, but the road surfaces on that stretch are like two day old porridge, and equally unpleasant. Then there's the stretch of the A368 - through Compton Martin, Ubley, and Blagdon - which is surprisingly lumpy, with a couple of drags up that are longer and steeper than you're expecting somehow. How do I always forget that? It's not like these roads are new to me after all! They do say the brain blocks out painful memories.
I did what I usually do - which is to do the best for the bits I can do (downs and flats) and as best as I can for the rest. The driver of an unnecessarily large Mitsubishi in Blagdon decided leaving the corner shop and getting home regardless of our presence was the way to go and nearly took out several of us, which briefly made life a little too interesting. Before long it was time to take the left turn for Burrington Combe, with its water stop at the bottom at Bad Ass Bikes. There was only one water butt there - I think there had been some delay with setting things up, judging by the two loitering slightly concerned looking civilians - but the shop was open and letting riders use their toilets for which several of us were very grateful.
Two Riders At The Water Stop
I guess we were near the front of the pack of riders, as there weren't that many folk around as yet, and not everyone was stopping either. I stuffed my gilet and arm warmers in the saddle bag, ate some of my flapjack, and enjoyed a quick breather before it was time to go and climb Burrington Combe again. It had been a while, but I did decide to pretty much pootle up it. Well it's pretty, the sun was kinda shining, everything was green and it's not a race, right?
Bottom Of Burrington Combe
Riders Behind Me Climbing Up
Riders On Burrington Combe
I told you it was green out there. Well it would be, what with all the rain we've been having recently! Guy and I were chatting away, passing the time, and also passing riders. "Could you stop making it look so easy?!" said one of them. Wow - result! Quite an ego boost, and a first.
Once up on the top of the Mendips it was time to head across them, along the fairly, blissfully, flat. It was, as it always is, chillier up there than it had been down below so, since Guy wanted to put his arm warmers back on, we were on the look out for a stopping opportunity, which gave me an chance to capture an example of the signage.
It's A Sign
Up on the top there, with the scenery rising around you, it's like being in a bowl of Mendips. It's also quite sheltered as a result, which is nice. Well, up there is also where the wind usually hides so if I can hide from it, I'm on to a winner! However having gone up, and the Mendips being of limited size, there was bound to be a down shortly, and the one we were after was to be found in Priddy. There are the most amazing views from the top before you go down, as you can see. Although there are better views on the way down, at that point I planned on holding on to the brakes, not the camera!
View With A Lump
It's potentially quite a dangerous descent, which we were warned about at the start. It's bendy, frequently wet, usually gravelly, and has traffic that, unlike Cheddar Gorge, is not expecting you to be there. The warning sign at the top was therefore a very good thing for those less familiar with these hills than us. Short and to the point.
I'm not the greatest descender, and was fully expecting to meet Guy at the bottom, with him having had to wait for a while. However he got caught in rider traffic so I actually caught up with him. I'm too scared to overtake people descending on roads like those, but just as I was thinking I might be tempted a rider went past me with no warning whatsover and made me jump! That would be why I don’t do that. The descent ends at a nasty junction which, like several of the main troublesome junctions, was marshalled. This made crossing the main road and getting on our way again a whole heap easier, and was also done with a smile. A smile goes a long way, as does a thank you I imagine, and we all made a point of thanking him, and the others, on our route. Can't be much fun to stand around at a road junction all day, right?
We were proper onto my home turf now, flying across the flats towards Wedmore. We were in the process of chasing down some other riders, as you do, when this came the other way. They even waved as they went past.
We did catch up with the other riders, and Guy and I ended up taking in turns to lead our acquired peloton for most of the rest of the ride, but more immediately to the food stop at Hugh Sexey's School in Blackford.
Water etc was outside, inside were the lovely looking cakes and bacon butties. Coffee was free, but the rest wasn't, though it was very reasonably priced (50p/£2 respectively) and by all accounts, yummy. The coffee was very welcome.
We were sat, in the sun, next to a tyre damage stricken rider and his mate, who were patching things up with a gel wrapper between the tyre and damaged tube. Ingenious. They'd run out of tubes, so I donated one to the cause which they then, most unexpectedly, paid me for. Which was lovely, don't get me wrong, and thank you. Mind you I do view inner tubes as a karmic thing. What goes around comes around. Help others, donate to the cause, and maybe the puncture fairy will pass you by when your turn comes. Coffee drunk, mini toilets utilised, and it was time to be on our way again with 20 miles or so to go. From here on in the route is a little less attractive. There's the long, goes on forever in unremarkable fashion, road through Mark out to Highbridge. Then the urban wiggle to and through Burnham on Sea, which had its fair share of both motorised and pedestrian obstacles.
It took a while to get through the towns and out onto quieter country roads again. By then my legs were feeling up to having a go, and could sense 'home', so we weren't hanging around. At the next T-junction, past the photographer there to catch me over-cooking the corner, there was a 5 miles to go sign. That would be a red rag to an already raging bull then. Sprint finish time! I knew the roads and terrain, and I know my legs. That I could do. And I did. Nice and fast and flat, all the way to the finish.
Cycling time: 3:16:10 hrs
Distance: 56.09 miles
Avs: 17.2 mph.
Didn't we do well? Much faster than the last two times too. We were given our medals by the welcoming committee and a token for our free food, but that wasn't quite ready yet. Luckily I wasn’t hungry but by all accounts when it was ready it was lovely.
Even The Bicycles Needed A Lie Down
Here's Darren again - very pleased with how it had gone. Having ordered lots of foil blankets just in case, the good weather was presumably down to him, for which we are truly grateful.
Now if he could do the same next year and also remove the headwind, that would be perfect. In the distance some nasty looking clouds were gathering, and heading our way, so we decided to head home before they reached us. With a wistful glance at the beer tent it was time to retrace our steps a little. Well, if I'd ended up there I'd never have ended up at home – not a good idea!
We took it a little easier on the way home. It was surprisingly early for getting home from a sportive, what with the whole driving there and back element being removed from the equation, and it was a nice way to get home too. Let’s face it, there are far worse ways to be spending a Sunday lunchtime than riding through the Somerset countryside in the sunshine. It's important to remember that it doesn't actually rain non-stop even if it sometimes feel like it!
I was home, 88 miles later, in time to end up at the pub for a Sunday dinner with my family and my folks, making this a very family friendly ride in many ways. Maybe next year my son will come and do it with me?
“Great event, took advantage of the transport service which worked out well. Well signed and friendly marshals at all the dodgy junctions, who always had a smile and words of encouragement. The free energy bar was nice and the free hot drink at the second stop was also welcome. Enjoyed the route except the bit around Highbridge but not knowing the area I doubt it could be avoided. I didn't take advantage of the free food at the finish but again it was nice of the organisers to offer it.”
“I thought the event was well organised and the route was suitable for any rider except for the descent of gliders hill. The food stops were signposted well plus the food was delicious and responsibly priced. The finishing line was well presented plus there was a bar and a burger stand but there was only one person serving the burgers so you had to wait 30 mins to get a burger but that was the only let down of the ride.”
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