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Great Weston Sportive REVIEW

by Holly Blades

Words and Images by Howard Johnson: Looking through the events list of sportives this year, the number of charity events must be the one biggest growth area.  British Heart Foundation have the long established and hugely popular London to Brighton, there are the Action Medical series of events, of which I rode the Trossachs Ton last year, and there is now a series of rides to support the Prostate Cancer charity.  I decided to ride the Great Weston event because I have not ridden an event that starts in one town and finishes in another. 

Watching the forecast for the whole week before the ride on Sunday, and the weather was more like autumn than summer. And since my comeback ride this will be my fourth event, and three of them have had rain. Not what I usually expect for my Sundays on the bike. With a 4am alarm call and long drive from Cambridge it was enough time to consider what to wear, or not wear, or carry, or not carry.

Arrival at the Bristol Park and Ride gave the 550 riders enough space for parking, no worries there. Registration was quick and easy and there were no timing chips for this ride, and therefore I think it gave the event more of a leisurely feel. And I believe that if you're really serious about a "time", you can always use a good old fashioned watch if needs be.

The rain was forecast to blow over by the early morning, but the dark grey clouds insisted on hanging around delivering rain in the range from a few drops to nothing short of monsoon style. Well you could have sat round all day waiting for it to dry, or just get wet. We all chose the latter option. 

With an uneventful start it was time to just follow the blue arrows and make our way to a promised fish and chip reward in Weston Super Mare, on a meandering 56 mile route.


The start of the ride looped around Bristol Airport through Winford and Chew Stoke, and then onto Stoke Hill. The first peak was crested at 5.5miles, legs now gently warming to a slow pace from myself, for some reason I was feeling lack lustre and tired. But one had to proceed there was food to be had and the saw tooth profile of gradients and descents on some quiet roads led us through Compton Martin, Blagdon and then to Burrington, and a quick left to the major climb of the day. 


But not before the riders stopping at the first refreshment stop. Not technically a feed station it was more a top up of drinks and the option for a quick bike tune up at the bike shop conveniently located next to a pub.

Leaving the refreshments behind it was time to tackle the large climb of the day up Burrington Coombe, a long steady drag through the limestone gorge on the north side of the Mendip Hills. The rain had almost stopped, and the drip drip drip of the odd rain drop mixed with the sweet smell of the foliage on the climb took away any thoughts of sore legs. It was a pleasant moment to be climbing, even for a chubby boy.

The one constant reminder when the rain did stop was the wind. Not just a breeze but damned hard and always in your face westerly gale. The descent was tricky on a narrow gravel road and I managed to have my mid ride chat with one of my old chums Paul Wright who was out on the course taking photos. Once through Priddy the descent started back to sea level towards Rodney Stoke and through the farm lanes to Cocklake. A sharp turn left at Widmore and it was B roads all the way with headwinds to Burnham on Sea. I for one would have preferred a road option through some parts of Burnham, opposed to the cycle tracks where there were many dogs with owners. But that's my personal preference. 

Once through Burnham it was another 10 plus miles of zig zag roads, in the back lanes and getting close into the hedge for protection, or praying for a slight cross wind. 


It was for me a real struggle just to spin the pedals, and maintain forward motion at some points, the wind really did make it a long hard ride, and once we entered the outskirts of Weston Super Mare I for one knew it had been a long day out.
The finish was set up on the greens opposite the beach, but sadly the promise of welcome village could not be. The organisers could not get any tents to stay up, so the fish and chip reward was at the chip shop itself. 


And it tasted gorgeous.

It was a shame the weather dampened the day a little, because there was well over a hundred riders in the Prostate Cancer cycling jerseys, and this would have really given more impact to bystanders as to why everyone was out cycling. Also, the beauty of these charity rides is that they attract more of the leisure cyclist, or just friends that have a bike and want to raise some money. Two ladies that started at 8am, made a full day of the ride and didn't finish until just before 7pm. I can only just imagine the sense of achievement they will have in finishing the event. And, if anyone was raising money for Prostate Cancer, then you have my permission to ask for double from your sponsors, we all know how hard it was out there.

And finally, food eaten. Photos taken. Drinks consumed and the compulsory purchase of some rock, it was time to load the bike on a van and take the bus back to Bristol. Where believe it or not, it was still raining.

What we liked: The route and the fish and chips as a reward.
We didn't like: The cycle path in Burnham on Sea





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