Event Review

REVIEW: Great Weston Ride

by Jennifer Trotman

GB Flag

REVIEW: Great Weston Ride 2016

Date: Sunday 17th July 2016
Distances: from 56 miles upwards - choice of 8 possible routes & distances for participants - up to 75 miles max.
Start: Long Ashton Park & Ride, Bristol, BS3 2HB
Feedstops: one refreshment stop, one food stop
Timing: N/A 
Signs: black arrows on yellow background for main route, on blue background for add-on options.
Roads: mostly quiet lanes with the odd more major busier road stretch in between times.
Photos: http://www.sportivephoto.com
Goody bag: medal, free post-ride food token, bottle of water.

Burnham on Sea

Chew Valley Lake

The Great Weston Ride is a tradition. 2016 was the 7th GWR and, just as with the previous 6, I was there.  Which apparently makes me unique!

Clayton and I

Darren in Charge

For me - the event is usually a ride of three parts, with the first half being the ride into Bristol, to HQ at the Long Ashton Park 'n Ride.  This year three of us were doing it - myself, Alan, and Clayton.  Clayton rocked up to park his car at my place around 6:20 ish, and after very little faffing we headed up the road to meet Alan at Shute Shelve.  It was grey, but humid, and though the arm warmers, knee warmers and base layer were to stay on a while, the gilet came off there and then.  Then followed a sociable, uneventful,  20 miles or so that got us to HQ on schedule or thereabouts. We were there well before the 8:00am start so, though we were far from the first there. 

Me at the finish


First things first - the toilets of course!  There were the usual inside the building ones, and some extra portable toilets outside.  I opted for inside, before heading outside to registration.  Which was a bit confusing.  When it was busy, I imagine it made sense.  Find the queue that led from your surname letter and follow it all the way to the desks.  Except there weren't any queues, and there were no letters on the desks, and quite a few of us queued our way to the front in what we hoped was the right place only to be told we needed to move one queue to the left or right!  Still, the free coffee being given away to those waiting near the front by Truestart helped ease my suffering somewhat   Once finally in the right place, I was given my bike number and cable ties, and a free 9Bar, and sent happily on my way. 

Truestart Lady

A different SAS

There were a lot of riders milling around, and amid the organised chaos, I bumped into organiser Darren, which was nice.  We had a bit of a chat, before he headed off to the front line to do his duty, and I headed back to Alan and Clayton for a little more faffing.  Well Clayton's front mech was playing up...or something like that anyway.  I'm not that techy...!  The queues for the mechanics were fairly long though, so he decided to leave it in the hands of the gods and see what happened en route... 

Always Stopped by Traffic Lights

Arriving at the Finish

We joined the massing hordes and slowly shuffled our way towards the start line, a process that was gradually sorted into more organised batches.  Eventually it was our turn to reach the front line, after the photographer had immortalised Clayton and I, to be given our briefing.  We were warned about the narrow gravelly road after Priddy, and the nasty gravelly descent to Westbury, reminded that it wasn't a race, and let go on our way.  There's never any point hurtling off though, though some people do, as there are two sets of traffic lights, that will inevitably be red at the wrong time, to negotiate before you can get going on your way proper. 

Bacon Roll Posse

Barrow Gurney Lights

There are lots of options to the route these days. You can add various loops - all or none of them as you wish, to add more miles, more climbing, or both.  Blue signs for extras, yellow for basic.  Being a traditionalist and having always done the basic route, none of those extra options were for me.  So instead of heading straight on and straight up, we were for the lanes of Long Ashton and beyond to Barrow Gurney.  Retracing our steps from the way in, as it happens, but that didn't last too long.  Cycling through the narrow traffic-calmed Barrow Gurney rat run is far more fun than driving through it and luckily when our slowly stretching out batch went through it, there weren't too many cars there to wish we weren't there... 

Bottom of Burrington Combe

Cakes One

It was still grey, and humid, and threatening a little damp, but I was warm.  A little too warm.  So before we hit the A38 we stopped so that I could stash knee warmers and arm warmers away, which was a huge improvement.  Mind you it didn't make the slow slog up that A38 any more pleasant, but it's pretty unavoidable and it didn't take too long.  A bit longer than usual though, as the traffic meant there was no over-taking slower cyclists and it was just a long linear orderly queue slowly progressing up the road until we could escape by turning left. 

Cakes Two

Cars queuing for the Combe

After a bit of dragging up in steps, which slowed me at least down a bit, came the lovely long flying section towards Chew Magna that I enjoy every year. All good things come to an end though, and there's a little bit of up and down to do to get out the other side and down the long straight past the very pretty Chew Valley Lake.  Man it's pretty around here.  It's so easy to be blasé about it when you live here, and it's good to be reminded that I'm lucky enough to live in a very lovely part of the world. Come and do the Great Weston Ride and see for yourself!  

Chilling Out Post Ride

Cooking the Bacon Rolls

Right.  Past the lakes, and the ducks, and the people feeding the ducks.  Time for one of my least favourite parts of the ride - the draggy section along the A368 from West Harptree to...well we'll get to that in a minute.  This bit is slow.  Sure, there are some nice down bits in it, but there are a lot of up bits.  And they're draggy, the road surface is that thick porridgy stuff, there's traffic, and they go on a while.  Nowt for it but to sit back and get on with it.  Plod, plod, plod...in the grey, and occasional drizzle...  Clayton was struggling a bit behind me, I wasn't flying, and Alan was having lots of fun getting behind us both on the down bits, and then hurtling past us, out of the saddle, and making it look easy on the ups, so as to wait for us somewhere convenient after whichever up it was was over.  Well he was having fun, it was making me laugh, and hey, the miles passed... 

Dragging up the A38

Dragging from Ubley

Which brings us to where we were going to...Burrington Combe.  Which is today's big climb.  Turn left off the A368, and there's barely time before it starts for a sigh of relief.  Or to catch your breath.  Well, there kinda is, because the first refreshment stop is at the bottom.  This stop seems to vary year on year.  Judging by the moaning of other riders around me, they were expecting a food stop. However it is only a refreshment stop, and it is only 20 miles in, so a full on food stop really isn't required anyway.  Mind you, by the time we got there, there were just two barrels of water - there wasn't even energy drink, though I think there had been earlier, judging by the tubs in the rubbish bin next to them, which wasn't great.   

Explaining Signage

Getting Sunnier

Toilet facilities were available, by arrangement, in the Burrington Inn, and when I headed off to use them, I realised they were also open and serving tea, coffee, and the like to a couple of riders as I walked past.  Which I would have known if I'd paid clearer attention to the pre-ride information!  So as I walked back I joined them.  No fizzy orange (my usual choice)...but they did have Appletiser, and I figured that would do.  Fizzy sugary re-hydrating goodness. 

Gluten Free Cakes

Massage crew

I slowly wove my way back through all the riders milling around to rejoin Clayton and Alan...and it turned out Clayton had had it, and he had to bail, leaving Alan and I to head off up the Combe together.  I've no idea how many times Alan and I have cycled up here together, but it's a lot!   But I like it.  It's long.  It's pretty.  It's got harder bits and easier bits.  Even though I wasn't feeling top notch, I was happy to pootle along my way and enjoy it.  In fact it actually felt really good, even if Alan still had to wait for me at the top   Sadly the top of the Mendips was not at its best today.  In fact it was pretty much in a cloud.  Grey, drizzly, a tad chilly, and devoid of the usual views.  Not somewhere we wanted to hang around much, and definitely not a day for adding the next extra section in.  Which, if you were interested, took you across to Charterhouse, down Shipham Hill and back up Cheddar Gorge.  Probably well worth doing, especially if you don't have Cheddar Gorge on your doorstep, and want to challenge yourself a bit.  But tradition, remember? 

Me at Second Food Stop

Medal Presentation

So instead we hurtled across the flattish top to Priddy. We chatted, and pedalled, and got to Priddy where the nasty gravelly road out the other side was exactly as forewarned, and also a bit tricky as it includes a nasty short, steep, and narrow up.  Tricky because it's steep and unexpected, and trickier to negotiate when there are a few riders around, of varying abilities, all trying to get up it at the same time.  Alan and I got out of the saddle, and pushed up around them all - politely I hasten to add - just to get it out of the way. 

Medals for all

Murky Mendips

Actually you could avoid the Priddy bit altogether, by taking a right turn earlier on...but I guess it's included to show off Priddy, or add miles, or something...  Anyway ahead lay the descent we'd also been warned about, down Westbury Hill to Rodney Stoke.  It being a bit damp, and having been warned, we took it really easy down the descent.  Which was a bit annoying because it's a very nice down, and also because it turns out my brakes were squealing, and now was not a good time to stop and find out why!  Still, braking was kind of essential, as there are bends, and there was traffic of both sorts, and gravel near the bottom, and today caution was a very good thing.  Someone should possibly have mentioned that to the eejot who flew past Alan on the way down, and got dangerously in the way from time to time... 

My SAS Leadout Crew

Near the Top of the Combe

A nice friendly marshal was making sure we all stopped at the bottom of the descent, and didn't end up playing with the traffic on the A371 (which is the main road from Cheddar to Wells).  Once crossed, the down continued for a while, and then we were off across the distinctly warmer Levels, which are, unsurprisingly flat.  And familiar.  And fast.  And therefore fun. On to Wedmore, dodging roadworks and traffic.  It's always a bit interesting going through the town, with parked cars, and shoppers, and so forth.  But once out the other side, after a fast flying bit, with some peloton larks, we reached the second food stop at Hugh Sexey's school.  And if anyone had been disappointed by the first stop, this one was, and is always, more than worth waiting for.  There was an amazing range of cakes, as ever, at £2 for a slice + tea/coffee/squash.  There was even gluten free cake!  And outside there were bacon rolls and the like, which I gather were very lovely.  Even I had cake! And a couple more shots of that free Truestart coffee to give me a bit of a boost.  Plenty of time and space to hang out, chill out, eat, drink, and get ready to go again. 

Not on the Motorway...

Playing with the Traffic in Burnham

So.  20 miles to go.  No big hills.  Sun coming out.  There's only one way to do that, right?  Yep - time to sprint for the finish, in juvenile racing stylee.  Aided and abetted by the SAS team.  No, not that SAS...this one...but they were still quite fast!  Fast enough to tag on the back of as we headed out again, towards Mark.  We were kinda hoping that saw us set for the rest of the ride but no such luck, someone lost their bottle.  Sorry, a bottle.  And they all stopped to salvage it and regroup so we had to carry on on our own.  Thanks to long term road works on the Mark Causeway, even the traditional route had a little detour today.  It may have added the odd mile, but it took us around some of the nice flat quiet straight country lanes around here and, was to my mind, an improvement on the usual head down into the wind slog of previous years!  Mind you...there was still a headwind!

Post Ride Refreshments

Queuing for Refreshments

We pushed on, trying to keep the speed up, with the odd glance behind to see if the team had caught us yet...  All that racing along in ever improving weather meant I was getting pretty hot now which made a nice change this year! Before long we were back onto the usual route and the joys of Highbridge and Burnham on Sea.  Town roads and traffic - not all that appealing, even in the sunshine.  As we waiting at the traffic lights to turn right and along the Burnham sea front, we were rejoined by the SAS team, and a fair few others, which meant negotiating the sea front was a bit tricky, as it gets busy, and 'they' really don't seem to like cyclists much around there...  Well, sunshine brings out the tourist...and the sun was out, and so were they.  Lots of us and lots of them was not a great combo. 

Ready to Descend


The less than fun continued out the other side and northwards until finally, at Berrow, we got to turn off the main road and stop playing with traffic.  I managed to jump onto the SAS band wagon as they set off, but Alan wasn't so lucky.  I couldn't bring myself to drop off the back though, and I figured life would bring us back together soon enough.  I do SO love fast group riding, especially when I'm on form enough to hold my own, if not sit on the front .  As we went on, even that group started to fragment a bit - with a faster few heading off and a few off us dropping back - not by much but with an ever growing gap.  I still had enough wheels to chase though through the fun wiggles towards Lympsham. 

Registration Lettering

Rider Groups

As I was chatting to a fellow rider, Alan came from behind and blasted off into the distance.  Since my current companion needed to rejoin his mates, I left him to it and hurtled off after Alan.  And if it hadn't been for the junction with the A370 I'd have caught him too!  As it was I was left just racing the clock to get to the Finish as fast as possible.  Up the main road drag, left and through Uphill, out t'otherside, to hurtle along the Weston Super Mare seafront, and, to the sound of cowbells and applause, pull up on to the lawns and go under the Finish arch.  Man I love riding fast!  The sun was shining, I was probably grinning like a loon, and my 7th Great Weston Ride was done.

Riders behind me for a change

Starting Burrington Combe

I collected my medal and food token and a much needed bottle of water, and bumped into Darren just the other side, who was waiting to welcome people in and also keep an eye on everything I expect.  We chatted for a bit before  I took my leave, to find Alan unsurprisingly somewhere near the bar, having already collected his burger.  Just as well he had...the queues later were impressive and probably a tad annoying...  He headed to the bar for the pair of us in gentlemanly fashion and I put the bike and me down on the grass, to chill out in the sunshine for a while.  I'm glad the whole ride wasn't in weather like what we now had, but for us it had worked out perfectly.  Reasonable to ride in, then lovely to relax in afterwards. 

First Food Stop

Water Only

We hung out for a bit, debriefing as you do, and then my lift arrived to take me home.  Ok so the third traditional part of this ride is to also ride home afterwards but hey...some traditions have to be broken.  So....after a couple of pints of lager, chatting & laughing in the sun, my bike and I were loaded up and heading for home.  I pretty much had an absolute blast and I think I may have to do it again next year.  Not because it's traditional, but because it's a lot of fun :) 

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) 10 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 96.7%