Event Review

REVIEW: Black Rat Sportive 2015

by Jennifer Trotman

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Black Rat Sportive 2015 

Date: Sunday 17 May 2015 
Distances: three routes - 84km, 120km, 161km. 
Entry fee: £27.50 
Participants: c.500 
Start: Black Rat Challenge. Clifton Rugby Club, Station Road, Cribbs Causeway, Bristol BS10 7TTX 
Feedstops: three on the long route 
Catering: free tea/coffee before, free pasty afterwards. 
Timing: electronic tag on seat post tag, print out slip on site at Finish. 
Signs: black arrows on yellow background 
Roads: very scenic on quiet country roads. 
Photos: Capture Cre8 Photography 
Goody bag: free pasty, cider, and Black Rat tankard 

This was to be my third time doing the Black Rat. However, it's been different every time. It was based in Portishead for my first in 2012, when it went around Somerset and also for my second, in its "Three Bridges" incarnation in 2014. This time The Black Rat had relocated to Clifton Rugby Club for a route that wouldn't be dissimilar to last year, but with less bridges and no Avonmouth to negotiate - so I was definitely up for doing it again. 

Clifton Rugby Club is, however, not that easy to find. The satnav was convinced it was a car showroom. The entrance on the other side of the uncrossable dual carriageway wasn't open, so I drove around circuitously hoping to find inspiration... When a black arrow hove into view I followed it and found the entrance lurking on the side of the one way road that I couldn't have gone done coming from the direction I'd arrived in anyway. Some sort of signage would definitely have been helpful. 


Ready to go

White windmill

Still, here I was, marshalled to park on a grassy field in the sun, where I would later be joined by both my Dad and my mate, Alan. In the meantime I headed off to register in the club building. The event was still sort of setting up around me and there certainly weren't any queues for anything. I'd remembered my 613 number so found the right place on the table to be given all the usual, and also a free High5 gel. 

It took me a while to get the fiddly sticky seat post timing tag - not easy with my huge saddle bag. As I was sitting in the car wondering what to do next, Dad walked past looking for me. And shortly afterwards, Alan walked past on his way to register. Dad was doing the short route, but Alan and I were both down for the 100 mile route - aka the Granfondo. It was his first in quite some time, and we were going to be sticking together for the duration. 

So with no time to waste, we joined the queue and waited for our turn to be briefed and sent on our way. Shortly after setting off we turned left into country lanes, at which point I found myself wishing we'd been let go in smaller groups as things got a bit clogged up. Still, at least the rider traffic stopped us hurtling off too fast too soon. 

First feed

Green bridge

I spy a bridge

I'd paid more attention to the elevation of the route than usual so that I knew that, with the exception of one lump, we were in for pretty flat times all the way until the Severn Bridge. We bimbled our way around the country lanes, doing a reasonable speed but not pushing it. The lump, whilst a bit testing on early legs, went fine albeit predictably slowly.   

Right, off to the (old) Severn Bridge. Which I love riding across, and today was no exception. You can see it shining white like a beacon from quite a way off, and it always cheers me up.  After the wiggly cycle path to get to the bridge proper we stopped for selfies and the like to immortalise the moment, before enjoying the scenic - if slightly windy - ride across to Wales. It sure was pretty. Unlike the housing estates of Chepstow that followed, but they passed by soon enough. We then bunched up for a while at the traffic lights in the centre where the route split was last year. 

Wales is where the hills were, and oddly I like Welsh hills. They're mostly long but not too steep. We climbed out of Chepstow past the racecourse and beyond, and then flew back down to the Wye Valley to Tintern Abbey. Shortly after the abbey came the route split, which didn't seem to be marked, and the marshal who was occasionally shouting out which way to go seemed more interested in his mobile phone than whether or not we were going the right way. Luckily I caught the tail end of his last holler and we went straight on whilst the other two routes went left. 

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 9 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 8 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 5 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 8 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) 8 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 85.6%

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