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Motion in Mercia REVIEW

by Sean Lacey

Essentials:

Date: Sunday 15th April
Distances: 54 miles and 93 miles
Entry fee: £22.00, £28.00
Participants: 800 entrants
Start: Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton. Parking available on site and the surrounding residential area.
Event village with trade stands, food and drink and major facilities inside the centre
Feedstops: 1 on the short route, 2 on 93 mile route
Catering: Hot/cold drinks and food available before and after the ride
Timed: Helmet timing chip - sent out in advance with rider number, map and full instructions  
Signs: A clearly way-marked route with highly visible signage (black arrows on flouro pink background)
Roads: Good routes on quiet lanes for the most part, a few short sections on main roads and no major climbs bar the pull out of Ironbridge.
NEG riders on route to provide assistance if needed and professional photographers out around the route.
Goody bag: High5 bidon filled with drink mix and gels, Kilo To Go buff, Purple Harry sanitizer spray

With this event being local to me I had the luxury of a lie in, and the overnight frost had started to melt under blue skies as I packed the car for the short trip to Wolverhampton and the start of a new event for Kilo To Go. They have started running a sort of preview ride in the form of the free to attend Ride Outs and the first one of the year in early January was for this new sportive. Attendance on that ride was capped at 100 and was filled up quickly, from which the positive feedback undoubtedly helped the numbers signing up for the main event. Around 800 were riding today and the HQ was packed and buzzing with activity when I arrived just after 8am.


The busy HQ at Aldersley Stadium

Although there were a large number of riders to go out, the queue to start was quick moving with groups of 30 or so off at a time, following a quick safety briefing. Once underway the first couple of miles took us out of the urban area and into the countryside. This section was pretty quick with the other riders around me working well together to pull along as a group. Quickly into Staffordshire and heading towards Cannock the roads headed upwards on the long but steady climb into Cannock Chase.


Riders head up to the top of Cannock Chase

Riding up through the forest towards the highest point was a pleasure, followed by a fast descent before heading up again which caught those out who weren't familiar with the route! The long downhill stretch that followed brought us back out onto the farms and fields and the first feed stop at Church Eaton. Stocked as usual with High5 goodies, sports drinks and bananas (good to see the portable toilets again!) once fed and bottle filled it was back on the road again.  


Church Eaton feed station


Plenty of riders enjoyed the rest

Now we were starting to get into familiar territory for me as the route took us through Newport, the home of my cycling club and host of the Newport Nocturne, Britain's first flood lit road race which hopefully will be run again later this year. Out of Newport and a rolling route past the massive dairy at Crudginton, before swinging south with the Wrekin hill dead ahead. Now I definitely knew where I was as all of these roads comprise my training routes, so local knowledge allowed me to press on a bit knowing the roads.


Newport town


Wrekin in the distance

Literally riding 'all around the Wrekin' the route followed the river Severn towards the town famous for the birth of modern industry and its bridge, Ironbridge. The second feed stop was set up at Buildwas Village Hall just a mile or so from the town and was as well stocked as the first with a few extra food choices and use of the hall.


Buildwas feed stop

After a five minute stop to refuel and stretch the road out dropped down to the river and through Ironbridge itself. A very picturesque place nestled in the gorge, it's a popular spot with tourists when the sun is shining (which it was today) but reasonably quiet which made the ride down the high street a little easier. Having studied the route beforehand I had seen that the route took you over the famous iron bridge, and although it was signed as such, they were hard to see due to the limited locations to put them and a few riders in front of me rode straight past.

Luckily Kilo To Go had foreseen this potential problem and had continued to sign the road further down to take riders over the modern bridge half a mile or so further on and back to the route, a nice touch.


Crossing the famous iron bridge

Immediately after crossing the old bridge you hit the start of the only really tough climb on the route up Bridge Road. Steep and a fair length, our club hill climb will be held on here this year so good practice if nothing else! Once up, a slight rest before a short sharp run up to Broseley  and back onto the rolling roads through beautiful countryside and the old market town of Bridgnorth, famous for its funicular railway connecting high town and low town. This is another pretty Shropshire town worth a visit when in the area.

Dropping from high town down to the river, it was a worrying sight to see Police and two ambulances in attendance for a crash on the bend halfway down. It seems a rider had had to swerve out onto the opposite side of the road and collided with a 4x4, hitting the windscreen. The fact that the rider was still outside propped against the wall rather than in the Ambulance was a good sign (I have been informed since that although battered and bruised, he was OK). Hope you are doing well!


Bridgnorth High Street

Following the river once more for a short time, the route turned away from the main routes back onto the scenic and quiet lanes. The run back into Wolverhampton was easy going with a chance to take in the surroundings and reflect on a good days riding. Returning to HQ riders were welcomed back by enthusiastic staff and the usual level of Kilo To Go post-ride facilities, with a secure bike park, goody bag, hot food, massage and use of the Stadiums showers and changing facilities to see you right.


At rest after a good day on the road


Kilo To Go director Geoff hands out the goodies


Hot food and drinks were welcomed by many 

For its first running the Motion in Mercia event was a good one. Kilo To Go have been running professional events for a good many years and confidence is shown when such a large number sign up to an 'untested' sportive. The route was excellent, taking in some of Shropshire and Staffordshire's prettiest views and the support and organisation were top notch. Of the people I spoke to nobody had any complaints and I couldn't find fault either other than the state of some of the roads, but we can't blame Kilo To Go for those and there were even warning signs up on the worst stretches.

Rich Goddard from the Newport Shropshire CC commented at the first feed stop "I'm training for the Dragon Ride so thought I had better enter a couple of sportives in the run up. The route is great, and the organisation is excellent. I will definitely ride another."

Speaking at the finish with Simon Thomson and Geoff Saxon, the two directors who run the show, both were pleased with how the event had gone and the numbers that signed up. Ever the perfectionists, they already had ideas on improvements for next year's event.

Overall another quality sportive experience, showcasing some of the outstanding areas of my back yard.

Strava ride info: http://app.strava.com/rides/6785560