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REVIEW: Jodrell Bank Classic

by Sarah Lewis

Jodrell Bank Classic REVIEW

Distances: 50 and 80 miles
HQ: Poynton Leisure Centre, East Cheshire
Transport: Poynton train station one mile away
Parking: Free and plentiful
Feedstops: One (on the 50-miler)
Timed: Yes, barcodes scanned
Signs: Black arrow on fluorescent background
Road: Mostly quiet, flat lanes with roads in good condition. Hillier terrain to finish with a couple of major road crossings.

One of the things I really like about the majority of cycling events is that, unless you know where to find them, you generally wouldn't know about them. This was one of those, where up to turning into Poynton Leisure Centre there were no clues that a couple of hundred cyclists had amassed and were sipping free tea in polystyrene cups in a car park. 

Sarah Lewis

The plentiful parking was mainly taken up by riders doing last minute tweaks on bikes and mulling over whether to add that extra layer or risk wearing mitts rather than gloves. Registration was in the leisure centre itself and was a swift affair, with a free lolly at the end (in case you wanted to supplement breakfast with a sugar hit). The guys were friendly and the tea plentiful, with toilets and changing facilities just across the corridor.

I had signed up to do the 50 mile route with a group of workmates, but there was also an 80-mile option for those wanting more of a leg stretch. At £25 in advance it was pretty reasonable, especially for the level of support offered (good signage, timing, feed stop, broom wagon and a cracking HQ). The fee also went towards supporting a women's racing team, which was a thoroughly good cause to ride for. NCC Group-Kuota-Torelli is an elite team who race across multiple disciplines and hail from across the globe. Keep an eye out for them in the Tour de Yorkshire!

Getting ready to start

Come 8.30 it was time to start and riders trickled under the inflatable arch after having their barcodes scanned. There was a photographer to capture the first few feet of clipping in, plus groups of friends got a nice snap to take home. The 50 and 80-mile routes started together, winding out of Poynton via the town centre and off in the direction of Woodford. Gradually riders began to thin out, with luckily just a smattering of traffic around at this time in the morning. 

Beyond Woodford we ducked south around Wilmslow, following quiet lanes into Alderley Edge. This was also the first split point where the 80-milers took a longer loop into Alderley. Rather than gaining any height, we passed through and took a big turn south before another west to pass through Chelford, facing into the wind for a bit of a slog to the M6. This was a nice and quiet section, with lovely rolling roads to settle into while catching up with the group.

Jodrell Bank

After crossing the motorway we only spent a small handful of miles on the 'wrong' side of it, quickly turning back on ourselves to head east and in the direction of the event's namesake: an observatory containing several giant radio telescopes. From a way off it's a pretty impressive shape on the horizon and you never know which way it will be pointing! On the day we were treated to the dish's full face which moved in and out of view thanks to the undulating tree-lined approach.

Quiet roads

Before getting too close however we made a stop at the one feed station on the 50 mile event which was well stocked with flapjack, bananas, High5 gels and water. No toilet unfortunately, but there were definitely places to pause on the route if required (with toilet facilities I should add - rather than remote hedgerows).

With Jodrell Bank behind us the route kept on delivering in terms of views and good road surfaces, but unfortunately the rain started to come down. Those on the longer route again split off for a more southerly route, while we got stuck into what was a sting in the tail to what was otherwise a pretty flat route. Crossing the A34 and heading through Siddington, we ventured onto Pexhill which is a pretty lengthy climb up to Broken Cross on the outskirts of Macclesfield. 

Jodrell Bank

It's not all that steady a climb, where the club runs I used to join in the area would stay together until the bottom of Pexhill before it was every rider for themselves. This gave a nicely different side to the sportive though, mixing things up a bit after the headwinds and relaxed parcours. It's the kind of road you can push on a bit, with shifting views ahead to what's coming and a few places to take a breather.

At the top we skirted between Prestbury and Macclesfield before crossing over the busy Silk Road to Bollington. While it's a busy road, the weekend traffic was relatively quiet and it was possible to wheel a bike across if required. With the A523 running straight through Macclesfield, crossing a major road is an unfortunate necessity to venture in the direction of the Peaks.

Feed station van

The road picked up straight away, with this being the trend pretty much all the way to the finish. Rising into Bollington, riders picked their way through the village and its Sunday hustle and bustle to climb out the other side and up through Pott Shrigley. Locals will know that the Brickworks climb turns off from here, but we followed the road left, up, down and right to follow a wonderful little lane into Higher Poynton.

Feed stop

After a flowing descent and quick check that nothing was coming through a narrow tunnel, we were soon into suburbia again with the leisure centre visible across a few fields. Here the 80-milers joined back on from an extra loop to roll into the finish and back under the same yellow inflatable we started beneath.

Cake to finish

The room that had been used for registration was now transformed with full tea urns, a vat of frankfurters and some trays full of cake. While the hot dogs looked pretty awesome piled high with onions, the organisers had also catered for us vegetarians with some generous slices of quiche. Tea and cake dealt with it was time to go, with lots riders streaming in to end their day out.

Event HQ at finish

Overall this was a great event to get out on quiet roads without gaining too much elevation. For locals it's a great way to explore Cheshire and link up lots of popular routes, while offering visitors a great taste into the wonderful cycling that Cheshire and the Peak District offer. 

Hotdogs for finishers!

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