Event Review

Wiggle Wye Valley Warrior REVIEW

by Mark Powell

Essentials:

Date: Sunday 19thMay 201

Short course: 49 miles
Standard course: 66 miles
Epic course:
97 miles
Entry fee: £28.00
Start:
Chepstow Racecourse, Chepstow
Parking:
Free and plentiful at the racecourse
Feedstops:
.Short course: Two feed stations Standard course: Two feed stations Epic course: Three feed stations.
Catering:
Bananas, flapjack, energy bars and gels
Timed:
Helmet fixed timing chips, times available via the website. Gold, Silver or Bronze standards.
Signs:
A very clearly way-marked route
Roads:
A mix of country lanes and B roads, mostly good, some rough sections but well marked
Goody bag:
Finishers medal and goody bag on completion of the ride.
Extras
: Mechanical support, rider public liability insurance, bike wash facilities, emergency support, on site catering, event photography, massage, pick-up wagon

The Ride:

Based in Warwickshire and with an early start, we took the plunge and decided to make this event an overnighter. Bristol seemed a sensible option, within striking distance of Chepstow and plenty of hotel choice. We stopped in the Premier Inn at Cribbs Causeway, we were impressed with the friendly and helpful staff and their extremely positive approach to us keeping the bikes in the room.

Up early on the morning of the ride, we set off across the Severn and into Wales, about 20 minutes later we were rocking up at Chepstow Racecourse. One very minor negative for this venue was the gravel car park, it's a right pain with cleats! Otherwise the parking was plentiful and the registration was situated within touching distance.

parking
Lots of parking......and ....lots of gravel, grrrr!

Website and Entry

The UK Cycling Events website is slick and professional. The Wye Warrior website contains every piece of information you need when choosing a ride. Everything is at your fingertips, from event entry to the GPS file links and route maps.

Having entered, the rider pack was of the same standard as the website, with detailed advice and information.

HQ and Registration

Registration was situated in the Premier Stand at the Racecourse

registration
Registration was located in the Racecourse Premier Stand

Registration was available from 7.15am and took the usual surname/alphabetical format, it was good to see that the local cycle club were involved in helping out at sign on. Registration was quick and easy, early entries were awarded with an energy bundle, the rest were given rider number and then timing chips were affixed to the left side of our helmets.

busy registration
Busy registration inside the racecourse stand

wiggle and ukcycling
Wiggle and Ukcycling Event partners took prominent position at the registration area

The Ride

If you've never been, the Wye Valley is one of the countries designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and an internationally important protected landscape straddling the border between England and Wales. It is one of the most dramatic and scenic landscapes in Britain and home to the river Wye, the UK's fifth longest river.

As much as I might describe the scenery in this part of the world, I could never do it justice, neither can photographs.

clear skies sun
Clear skies, sun and fantastic scenery

The Wye Valley is recognised in particular for its limestone gorge scenery and dense native woodlands, as well as its wildlife, archaeological and industrial remains. The routes for this event zigzag in and out of the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, taking in some fantastic views.

photographs never do justic
Photographs Never Do It Justice

Although this was our second sportive in 8 days, we elected to ride the epic course, gluttons for punishment as we are! Last week we rode the Malvern Spring Sportive (Malvern Spring Sportive review). The previous week's route was challenging due to the short but testing climbs.Today's ride, (although statistically easier with less feet of climbing) could prove to be just as challenging, especially if the conditions were difficult. Fortunately our luck was in, although the start was mild/chilly, the temperatures soon rose, reaching late teens and making for pleasant riding conditions.

We collected with other riders at the start with the mixed distance starting together; we waited patiently in line for the starter to send us on our way.

set off
And they're off!

Once we had been given the green light we made our way out of the race course and immediately headed north, closely following the contours of the river Wye. After a very short and early climb, we set off downhill for what seemed like an age.

We quickly came to the small village of St Arvans which sits on the edge of grounds to Piercefield House and the surrounding Park (Piercefield Park) The house is now only a shell but remains as a Grade 2 listed building, the grounds and Park are extensive and include the racecourse.

Leaving St Arvans and Piercefield Park we rode into the picturesque village of Tintern. Lying on the Welsh side of the winding valley of the River Wye between Chepstow and Monmouth, Tintern is famous for the Tintern Abbey originally inhabited by Cistercian Monks who lived by the ideals of leading a simple life of spiritual discipline and hard work (ideals which would stand us in good stead for this ride). The Abbey can be seen clearly from the road, unfortunately, the fast descent prevented any lengthy views.

We continued to make our way north until making a 45 degree turn East, riding through the village of Newland and then Clearwell; is a collection of Hamlets and home to Clearwell Castle, a mock gothis castle built in 1728.

Next we navigated our way through the villages of Sling, Bream and then Milkwall. Milkwall is located on the edge of nearby "Puzzlewood" ancient woodland which is believed to be inspiration for Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings and is also believed to have been visited by J.K Rowling and influenced her ideas for the "Forbidden Forest" which features in the Harry Potter series of books. Puzzlewood was also used as a location for the BBC TV shows Merlin and Dr Who. We reached the first feedstation at the 25 mile marker, it was popular and well stocked.

first feedstop
The First Feedstop was well stocked

stnadard grub
Standard feedstop grub

Leaving the first feed station, we rode west and into Monmouth for the first time. Monmouth is a market town and the tourist centre and heart of the Wye Valley, located on the edge of the river Wye. The main road through the town is dominated by the Monmouth school building, built in 1614.

monmouth school
Monmouth school in the background, under repair

Riding North out of Monmouth we passed through the village of Mansons Cross before eventually reaching the Northern most point of the ride and turning South Westerly and riding through the village of Broad Oak.

views
Views across the valley from the climb out of Monmouth

From Broad Oak we eventually navigated our way in the direction of Monmouth but turned once again as the route split separating the standard and epic courses. Riders on the Epic course rode west on the first of the Epic Route loops. We took the Epic route, passing the prestigious Rolls of Monmouth golf club which incorporates the spectacular Manor House, and former home of Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of the famous Rolls-Royce Company.

route split
Route split......we chose the 'Epic' route

Soon after the routes split we found the second feed station.

feedstation 2
Feedstation No 2

Dingestow - the site of a former Norman Motte and Bailey (fortress type thing apparently) which although the bricks are long gone, some of the shape can still be seen in the landscape. Leaving Dingestow we rode further west and back towards our second visit to Monmouth via the village of Wernycourt.

stunning views
Stunning views from part way up one of the climbs

Passing through Monmouth for our second visit we headed south towards Lydart; commanding spectacular views this hamlet sits on the top of an escarpment which slopes steeply down to the valley of the River Trothy.

monmouth
The river at Monmouth

At this stage in the route we entered the forest of dean and the western part of the county of Gloucestershire. The forest is a roughly triangular plateau bounded by the River Wye to the west and north, the River Severn to the south, and the City of Gloucester to the east.

3rd feedstop
Third feedstation, came just after a decent climb but definitely a grab and go with only just over 20 to go

Waving goodbye to the cakes and biscuits, we travelled further South for a short distance and passed through the small village of Llanishen which overlooks the vale of Usk. Shortly after leaving Llanishen we took the easterly dog leg and the second Epic Course specific loop towards Llansoy, home to the remains of an Iron Age hill fort.

many of the climbs
Many of the climbs were marked with 'encouraging' signs

Feeling the miles in our legs, we made the last extra effort to get home and to the comfort of some warm drinks and food, passing through the village of Langwym; home to a number of historical buildings including a renovated former home of a religious sect (in the 1500's and now a B&B).

Next stop was Chepstow and we made the most of the downhill approach (and slightly flatter terrain) towards the finish, before crossing the line at the racecourse and receiving our finisher medal and goody bag.

resting
Riders taking a well earned rest at the finish

thoroughbreds
The two thoroughbreds at the finishing fence

In summary, this was a professionally run event with all of the facilities you would expect. The Racecourse proved a good venue, with plenty of (gravely) parking. The route took in stunning views, long testing climbs with some exhilarating and fun, lengthy descents. The route alone is worth another go next year!


Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 8 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 10 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 10 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 10 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 10 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 95.6%




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