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The Broken Spoke Sportive REVIEW

by Adam Tranter

Words and Images by Howard Johnson: Since I have returned to cycling and sportives, I have had the pleasure to ride in many parts of the UK, all except my old home training ground of North Wales. Being brought up in Liverpool, it was only an hour to the café at Two Mills before the Sunday run started in earnest into North Wales and the choice of routes was limitless, and so were the hills. So it was with slight trepidation that I ventured back to Chester for the start of the Broken Spoke Sportive on Sunday.

HQ was at The Catholic High School in Chester, and two routes were on offer for the day, an 85 miler or a more leisurely but still lumpy 55 miles. Registration was simple, and with no timing chips, it was simply a case of sign, apply wristband, collect route card and promotion brochure and go.

For all other sportive administrators out there, a wristband is a simple and effective way of identifying signed on riders at feed stops, as we all know there are sometimes interlopers who "bunk in" on a ride.

The start of the ride was en masse, with 4 motorcycle outriders, the riders on the long route were escorted out first, followed closely behind by the short route riders. Once again a neat way of clearing a start area quickly.

The escorted groups were kept together until the split at 6 miles, and the long route riders turned left out towards Shropshire and the Horseshoe Pass, while the remainder of field started the first climbs of the day.

The first drag started just after Llay, and it was a climb full of ramps, and blind corners so you never quite knew where the summit was. Nothing more than 10%, but enough for heavy breathing high heart rate and a moist brow.The final summit at Gwynfryn promised the descent I have always loved, the Nant y Garth Pass. Get this right, oh and it's a joy, technical, but I found the lines, and was soon touching 40mph. But was it the descent into Ruthin that was increasing the speed, maybe. 

Photo courtesy of Sport Sunday

The real incentive was the food stop. Not your average foods stop, of energy drinks and flap jack. It was and hopefully still is the staple of cyclists of many a year. Beans on toast and cups of tea. Heaven. 

But the days of lounging around the café and then giving it "big licks" on the hills are history, I need more time to haul the more substantial frame up the hills, and the challenge out of Ruthin is the Bwlch. Luckily we did what I have always known as the New Bwlch, on the main road. There is a small side road off to the left and up Moel Famau called the Old Bwlch, with a 1 in 2 ½ at the top. Oh the days of flying up the Bwlch are long gone, thankfully, the views are not. I had enough time to savour the views I took for granted as a teenager.

Once over the summit, the organisers did not allow a full descent, I felt cheated. It was a quick right turn and back into the quiet lanes for more ramp climbs with blind summits towards Llanarmon-yn-lal. The profile was now showing more descents and sharp little climbs to keep the lactate flowing.

The narrow quiet lanes finally brought us back onto the opening part of the route, and a flat run in to the finish. Where, I felt underwhelmed. The atmosphere was flat. The pasta was welcome, but for some reason many had just packed up and left. For me there was no sense of occasion, when for some riders there should have been.

All in all, for the 220 riders that turned up, it was a well organised and supported event. A few nice touches such as the hot food in Ruthin, some classic North Wales climbs, and it managed to stay dry, if a little chilly for August. If you're looking for challenge, on quiet roads, mostly well surfaced, give this event a try. It could turn out to be a gem in the future.

We liked: Route, escorted start, signage, hot food at mid-point and finish.
We didn't like: Finish zone, underwhelming.

You can follow Howard on Twitter @thehowiejohnson

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