The Tour Ride Stoke-on-Trent REVIEW
by Sean Lacey
Date: Sunday 23rd September
Distances: 98km and 169km
Entry fee: £35
Participants: 700 entrants
Start: Trentham Gardens, Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent.
Feedstops: 2 on the short route, 3 on the long route
Catering: Hot & cold drinks and cold food available after the ride
Timed: Yes - Chip attached to bike number
Signs: A clearly way-marked route with good signage (black arrows on red or blue background)
Roads: Good routes on a mix of quiet lanes and busier roads as it mirrored the route the Pro’s raced on. NEG riders on route to provide assistance if needed and professional photographers out around the route
Goody bag: Chain Reaction bidon filled with drink mix, Gatorade Prime, medal, Outdoor Fitness magazine, bottle of water, Cycle Show discount voucher
I rode this event last year, and it turned out to be one of my favourite events. The route was good, I was at my peak fitness wise (considering it was my first year back) and we had a decent day’s weather. Being reasonably local again I didn’t need to think too hard about giving it another go, especially as the Tour has been so good this year and the Stoke stage is always one of the best. The route has completely changed this year, heading south initially to Cannock Chase before heading back up, past Alton Towers and onto more familiar roads to the Tour.
A leisurely start to the day saw me at Trentham well before the start, with plenty of time to park up in the expansive car park and get organised. The only shock to the system was the temperature – although forecast to stay dry until mid-afternoon, it was cold. Six degrees cold. This meant the first outing for some time for my ¾ Roubaix knicks and a base layer under a jersey and gilet; long fingered gloves too.Therefore, it was with a sense of disbelief as we rolled through the gardens to see so many people in shorts and short sleeved jerseys. I’m not sure if they hadn’t read the forecast properly or it was bravado, but I bet the majority suffered.This year we had the privilege of starting in the Italian Gardens as the Pro’s did, rather than the car park as we did last year, a really lovely setting.
Rolling Through The Gardens
Ready To Go
Lined up ready for the start, with the full Tour setup in place for us, we were let out in groups of 30 or so every two minutes. Fortunately I had got into about the fourth wave, so there wasn’t too much hanging about in the cold. Once underway we were out on to the busy roads around Trentham before heading down towards Stafford on a fairly flat route. Through small towns and lanes it wasn’t until too late that I noticed the first feed which came fairly early on, around 18 miles in. There were a few folk standing around the entrance, plus a lady waiting with her bike which was probably a clue, but one of the bystanders was obscuring the feed stop sign. No matter, I could have turned around but I still had a full bottle plus a bit and plenty of snacks on me so carried on.
Shortly after the road started to rise into the first climb of the day, up Glacial Boulder at Cannock Chase. Not too testing or steep, but pleasant through the wooded areas before opening up on top of the Chase itself. Once over it was downhill for a while, once into the valley we headed past Blithfield Reservoir. As picturesque as it was, I had managed to tag onto a group of 8 other riders and we were making good progress, so rather than lose a good working group decided to stick with them. I’ll have to grab a picture here another time!
Onwards, through Uttoxeter and into Rocester, home of the JCB factory and our second feed at the village hall. This one had a marshal outside to point the way and my bottle did need filling this time, so a brief stop. Hot drinks were on offer, along with water or Maxifuel drink, Soreen bars, filled baps (a nice addition) and energy bars.
Rochester Feed Stop
Plenty Of Food On Offer
Back on the road, and the start of the section that killed Cav off in the Pro race, as this was the part containing the meat of the climbing. First up the climb up to Threapwood (I’ll resist any Monkey Island jokes for you middle aged folk), a super descent down, before heading straight up again to Moorside. This climb takes you up towards Alton Towers, and it’s steep initially before reducing in gradient but dragging on for quite a distance. I thought this was one of the tougher climbs against the more well-known signature climbs, and the amount of people struggling up would seem to agree. There then followed a series of smaller, sharper climbs over the exposed moorland, where with no shelter the wind and cold were biting. Still think it was a good decision to wear shorts fella’s?
Great Views Though
This was a really nice section. Yes, it was a bit chilly but the views were great and the climbs nice and flowing, short enough to not grate but fun and did a good job of keeping you a bit warmer. There was one last steep climb up to Morridge, where Wiggo dropped back in search of his struggling team leader, then one last bit of isolation before joining the A53 towards Leek and the spectacular descent through the Roaches, a series of odd rocky formations on the hill tops. Confidence and a lack of traffic were on my side, and for only the second time this year I hit just over 50mph on the way down. Turning off the main road shortly after it flattens out took us on the approach to probably the most well-known climb of Gun Hill. This is now a climb I know quite well, having climbed it a few times. This did mean that although we had a good amount of miles in our legs I knew what to expect and headed up without an issue.
Another nice descent off the back followed before getting onto the busier roads again towards Stoke. More lumps and bumps led to the final feed at Biddulph Moor, and none other than one of the Tour organisers, Peter Hodges was directing riders into the stop. After filling my bottle for the last time and getting some food in, was the perfect opportunity to have a chat with Peter.He mentioned that the race had been a spectacular success this year, and that the Tour Rides had all been well subscribed and smoothly run. We chatted a bit about the route before I headed out for the last 20 miles or so.
Riders At Rest
Having only said moments earlier to Peter that I was feeling good, for whatever reason the legs got heavier all of a sudden and the last miles were tough going. Two long drags and one (unexpected) sharp climb led into the welcome downhill run back into Trentham. The rain had started lightly about five miles from the finish, and as I reached the village to get something to eat and my goody bag, it had got heavier. Looking at the finish times as I write, a few will have got very wet as it was tipping down on the drive home. I hope these were the sensibly dressed folk!
Riders Hide From The Rain
Spectators Did Us Proud
Finish Line Was A Welcome Sight For Many
As a sportive it is one of the better ones; run by the same people who run the Tour itself, using a good bit of the infrastructure the Pro’s get it does make for a good experience. With the cycling boom and Team Sky’s achievements it was even more special this time around as all of the climbs, and various other sections had Alp & Pyrenees style road graffiti. Sadly as My Kelly and Mr Yates no longer race there wasn’t a ‘GO SEAN’ on the road, but it was still motivational to see it all.If you haven’t tried a Tour Ride, give it a go next year, it can only get bigger!
Strava ride info: http://app.strava.com/rides/22916033
The Prostate Cancer Charity Tour Ride - Stoke-on-Trent
- 25/09/2011 - Stoke on Trent
Rating: 85.6% based on 7 reviews - See Previous Ratings
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