Event Review

REVIEW: Pedal Norfolk 2015

by Sean Lacey

GB Flag

REVIEW: Pedal Norfolk 2015

Date: 2-4th May
Distances: Saturday & Sunday 20, 50, 100. Monday 20 & 50. 
Entry fee: Varied on route and camping option 
Participants: c.1000
Start: Holkham Estate 
Feedstops: Varied by day and route 
Catering: Numerous options on site 
Timing: Electronic tag on helmet
Signs: Yellow, blue or red 'chainring' logos dependant on distance 
Roads: Scenic coastal and rural routes on quiet country roads, minor A roads 
Photos: None
Goody bag: Beer at finish of each ride 

I had been recommended this event by a couple of friends that rode last year, who stated that it was a good weekend but needed some work. With a thirst for multi-day rides and events that my wife and daughter could join in with too, this looked to be ideal. Spread over three days of the bank holiday there was a lot on offer - for the really committed, two back-to-back century rides followed by a 50 miler on the Monday, with a middle and short distance route on each day too.

The event promotes a festival look and atmosphere, so to make the most of it we decided to camp within the grounds of the venue at the Holkham estate. This did mean careful packing was required, with a large tent and all of the accompaniments, plus three bikes and luggage. The journey over to Norfolk in the bank holiday traffic was testing at best. However, we arrived with just enough daylight left to find a pitch (basically wherever you wanted within the area) and get things set up.

The event village was in full swing with numerous catering options, retailers, demo areas and a huge chill out area / beer tent in a marquee. Registration was still open so I took the opportunity to pick up my timing chip and route cards for the three days, and register my wife and daughter (family routes weren't timed).




Waking the next morning after a decent sleep, it was positively leisurely as we were just a stone's throw from the start line. I was riding the 100 miles whilst my family would explore the estate and event village. Heading towards the start, I needed to fill my bottles at the provided stand pipe and spotted a familiar face - Shropshire friend, Chris. Great news as we both now had company which always makes for a better ride.

Setting off over the empty start line - most had already gone - we hit the lanes for what promised to be a scenic ride as today's route followed the coast road east, before turning inland and bringing us back. Luck wasn't on my side though, as only two miles in I punctured. Pulling a cat's claw shaped bit of flint out of the tyre at least made a speedy inspection and tube change.

Onwards again on flat and rolling roads, passing by Wells-next-the-Sea, we stuck to the coast with its occasional tantalising view of the sea. Passing through picture postcard villages with their pebble clad buildings was a pleasure, and the improving weather certainly helped. Rolling through Cromer, Chris and I took a quick diversion down to the seafront for our fix and a picture or two, before a few more miles and the first feed at Mundesley, right on the seafront.

One of the comments I had heard about last year was that the feeds weren't great. Despite the fact we were one of the last through, it was still well stocked with numerous sweet and savoury items, and Torq energy drink and bars were on offer. The gels had run out though. From here we continued east until the turn inland at West Somerton. The scenery changed now from coastal to farmland and woodland, meandering through the Bure marshes and a second riverside feed in the grounds of the Rising Sun pub at Coltishall. By now I was really feeling it, despite the flat profile, and a longer break was required. Again well stocked, this time with gels but no bars but plenty of other things on offer.




Just after this feed we encountered our first (and only) navigational issue.  As we passed a left turning, my Garmin beeped that we were off course. There was no sign in sight though, and we could just see other riders up the road so carried on for a few miles to eventually reach a T junction and around a dozen riders discussing where to go. With a bit of directional sense and the aid of the card, we picked up the route at Reepham.

We had started to catch other riders as the day wore on and routes converged, and it seemed to be plain sailing along the sunny lanes, until I hit a stone at 20mph and my front tyre deflated with a pop with ten miles left. The pace dropped for the run back in to Holkham as I was paranoid of getting another flat, but we made it back to the estate and the rather spectacular mile-long, arrow-straight driveway up to a needle monument. A left turn towards the stately home took us to the finish line, to be greeted by a small crowd and a well-earned beer from sponsors, Adnams.

We took the opportunity to sample some of the varied catering on site, as Chris left to stay with friends in Norfolk and we had a relaxed evening among the village and entertainment, including a Q&A with cycling star, Emma Pooley.

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 7 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 9 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 6 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 10 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 8 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 9 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 9 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 8 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 9 out of 10
Overall Rating 83.3%

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1 Comment

4th June 2015 12:23pm Kev Sp wrote:

Always like reading your reviews Sean, especially when I've not had a chance to ride them or be there on photographer duties.

I'm regretting not writing up the 2014 review now as, apart from moving the site around a little to make it flow better, nothing much else changed.

I was over there on the Monday (and through the week) and it appears that they still can't clean up either. All of the branded 'Pedal Norfolk' signs were gone (those on wooden stakes) but the directional arrows were there on Friday afternoon and really should be cleared away (in 2014 there were also a lot of large cable-ties lying around on the verges between each day where routes where changed).

So it's getting better - still pricey if you're just riding the three days and not adding camping/social aspect of the location - but sure I'll still be planning a 2016 trip.