Event Review

REVIEW: Cycle Wiltshire Sportive 2015

by Sarah Lewis

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REVIEW: Cycle Wiltshire Sportive 2015

Spending my childhood in the Borough of Swindon (a ceremonial county of Wiltshire) is not something from my past that I actively volunteer when it comes to personal information.

While I have nothing against it personally, there was an episode of Room 101 where a minor celebrity banished the whole town to the show's shameful vaults - and it does seem to have a problem with being taken seriously (especially after being twinned with Disneyland Paris, for a time). For example, you can pick up postcards showing off The Magic Roundabout on an overcast day or grab a stick of rock with 'Swindon' appearing throughout - despite it being around 80km from the nearest coast (and an estuary at that!).

Rather than answer that my home town is Swindon, I generally opt for something along the lines of 'half-way between London and Bristol' or, for those more familiar with the area, 'near Marlborough'. And while this is geographically correct, the latter is actually indicative of where Swindoners will likely head out for a ride, pointing their handlebars south and heading into the green and rolling heart of Wiltshire.

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Just setting off

Though based in the North West now, I wanted to ride the Cycle Wiltshire Sportive to nail my first ever century, but also because a sizable section of the route is on my parents' doorstep. I therefore signed up for the long route in an effort to familiarise myself with my home county and link together a whole host of small towns and villages visited over the years for dentist appointments, walks and good pubs.

To provide a little more information about the wider initiative, Cycle Wiltshire is all about creating a lasting legacy of cycling and healthy living across the county (yes, that was lifted from their website). The two-day festival at the beginning of May featured the sportive and event hub on the Saturday, followed by the final round of British Cycling's Spring Cup which forms part of the Elite Road Series.

Based at the Five Rivers Leisure Centre just outside of Salisbury, the event hub had a hi-vis-clad team and ample parking which made the arrival process incredibly simple. Signage directed riders through reception, past the squash courts and on into a sports hall, where a row of sign-on tables formed HQ. Here, everything was ready to go and I was quickly out again with my timing chip, bike number and cable ties. While a few of the tents were open, serving coffee and starting conversations, I decided to crack on with preparations and get my bike ready.

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Tank crossing! Ooh er...

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The view from the top of the Downs

Back at the start, small groups of riders were briefed and set off in short intervals. There was nothing out of the ordinary to be highlighted, but both the official and the guy on the PA were decidedly helpful in offering beginner's tips to help in dealing with the wind (that would be gusting at up to 25mph all day) and working as a group to save energy. The range of bikes and riders was pretty wide, with short (20 mile), medium (64 mile) and long (99 mile) routes available.

We were soon set off and rolled away from the leisure centre on a bike path that headed north out of the town. This quickly turned into winding country lanes with hardly a car in sight - which turned out to be the blueprint for the day.

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Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 10 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) 8 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?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 93.3%