Event Review

REVIEW: The Friends Life Tour Ride with Mark Cavendish

by Alison Salthouse

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REVIEW: The Friends Life Tour Ride with Mark Cavendish

Date - Sunday 6th October 2014  
Distances - 50, 100 miles  
Participants - c1.000  
Entry fee - £35  
Start - Staffordshire University, Stoke on Trent, free parking and toilets  
Catering - free water, hot drinks and free barbecue for participants at finish (including vegetarian)  
Feedstops - 3  
Timed - Yes, timing chip on reverse of rider number. Immediate text message results (online by the end of the day) 
Signs - Clear and well positioned, red for the 100 mile and blue for the 50 mile route  
Road - Stunning scenery, variable road surfaces, plenty of challenging climbing on both routes  
Photos - Alison Salthouse, Sportivephoto (www.sportivephoto.com)  
Goody Bag - Finisher's medal, free water bottle, energy products and T shirt 

With a fabulous first summer of sportives and three 100km rides already under my belt I decided to end my season with a 'hilly' 50 miler. I've been riding (and exercising) for less than 2 years, am 55yrs old and those that know me will confirm...... I HATE hills with a passion. However, I've reached that point in my cycling career where I've decided that I can no longer avoid hilly rides - we live in the UK after all and not the Alps so how hard can it be? 

A week before the ride I heard that the ride ambassador, Mark Cavendish no less, would be riding the 50 mile route to support the sport and show his backing for the ride. Well, maybe he could teach me to love hills! I arrived at the start, parked up and registered with ease and attached my ride number. It was chilly (3 degrees) so I was keen to set off rather than wait around. I was conscious that a certain Mr Cavendish was in the group setting off in front of me, but was too busy to take too much notice as I prepared for my own start. 

Start line

After the clear safety instructions from the friendly stewards we were off. As the morning brightened I started to look forward to my ride - I'd seen on the event website that the route included the famous Gun Hill included in the Tour of Britain Stage Five in 2012 - an average of 7% climbing over a distance of 2.1km, rising to over 15% in places. I was a bit nervous - but hey - I'm not too scared to walk! 

The 100 mile route followed most of the 50 mile course with extra loops (and climbing) before the first and third feed stations. The organisers, Sweetspot, had set 2 Strava segment challenges - one for Hollington Rd Climb (5% over 1.6km) and one for Gun Hill with prizes of Strava cycling jerseys for the fastest up on the day, not me then! 

Pro roadside repair 

The first feed station felt early (even to me) about 15 miles in, based in a church hall up a huge slope.... a sign of things to come. Only cold drinks were available at this stop, which was a shame as it was still cold - but at least it was dry. There was though plenty of malt loaf, breakfast biscuits, jelly beans and energy gels and indoor 'facilities' for the use of. 

As soon as we set off back down the slope and turned back onto the route we hit the first Strava KOM climb - Hollington Rd. This was a bit of a shock coming so soon after the feed, but I stayed ON my bike and rode up it to the top! Hurrah... finishing 27th woman overall. The weather was improving and the scenery was absolutely beautiful as we cycled towards Wootton with more lumpy hills and breath-taking descents, I was actually enjoying this. 

Still going on Gun Hill (Sportivephoto

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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) 10 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 9 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 10 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) 8 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?) 8 out of 10
Overall Rating 88.9%

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