Event Review

REVIEW: Endura Trek Lionheart

by Jennifer Trotman

http://www.thelionheart.co.uk

Essentials:

Date: Sunday 17th March
Distances: 100 km  or 100 miles
Participants: 1525 entrants
Start: Longleat Safari Park, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW.
Plenty of free parking.
Event village at start/finish with toilets, food tent, etc.
Feedstops: 2 on the 100km route, 3 on the 100 mile route
Catering: Hot/cold drinks available before and after the ride, free hot food after the ride. Also Claud the Butler in attendance.
Timed: Helmet timing chip - sent out in advance with rider numbers, map and instructions.
Signs: A clearly way-marked route with clear signage (black arrows on yellow background).
Roads: Safe quiet picturesque route on mostly back roads.
Broom wagon, marshals, NEG motorbike outriders
Goody bag: Endura Trek Lionheart medal, neck scarf, a free bottle of wine voucher, cheese discount voucher, and tyre levers.
Photos: www.sportivephoto.com

The Ride:

In the space of twenty four hours, the weather forecast went from passable to far from it.  Snowflakes appeared next to the blue drops under the grey clouds, and the predicted temperature dropped yet further.  But what's a forecast, right?  An educated guess?  It wouldn't be the first time a forecast had been wrong, right?  Wrong.  As in it wasn't wrong, it was right.  At 6:30am this morning, as we loaded my bike on to the rack on the back of my mate Martyn's car it was already cold and damp and altogether not attractive.

My sportive packing is back on track, and pre-pickup faffing was all sorted well in time this morning. Last night I discovered that my brand new rear light was missing - who knows how, where, or when - which was irritating but not a problem.  Or so you'd have thought.  As we got closer to Longleat and the clouds came further down and the rain became heavy snow, I started to rue its loss a little more keenly.  Braving the blizzard, we joined a steady stream of equally insane riders heading in the same direction. Quite a few of my mates were doing the ride, and a regular volley of text messages and phone calls ensued.  The first piece of good news to come our way was the cancellation of the 100 mile route...which came as a bit of a relief considering the conditions.  The idea of 100km rather than 100 miles was infinitely preferable, and I felt a spark of hope that it might actually be doable. I perked up a little.

snowy queue
The Queue Into The Safari Park

snow
Great Looking But Scary To Ride In!

We pulled into the estate, well before the 8:00am cut off time, and joined a long and winding queue that was backed up all the way from the parking by the main house to the entrance. Tedious. The snow carried on coming down, covering cars, roads, everything.The side roads looked worryingly coated, and there was a lot of both mental and verbal debate going on. Let's face it, if this was a normal ride, this was the kind of day when you just don't bother!

parking
Parking Up

muddy
Muddy Start Village

Finally, and it did take quite some time, we were marshalled onto a parking field, which was already a quagmire, and ensured that we had wet feet practically the instant we got out of the car.  First things first, and it was off to the toilets and, I am happy to report, there were plenty of them this year, with minimal queuing, and though I can't speak for all of them, mine was still suitably equipped and relatively sanitary!  Having been sent out our rider numbers and helmet tags in advance there was no need for registration, which is always nice, and removes one element of queuing from the equation. Back to the car, and minimal faffing.  Well, who wants to stand around getting cold?  Besides which, the layers question was simple...all of them!  To be fair, it wasn't totally freezing, possibly due to the lack of wind, but I still put everything on as wet and cold is a whole new ballgame.  Gradually a little peloton of my mates massed by the orange coffee tents. There was not a lot of positive mental attitude going on, and quite a lot of doom and gloom, as we joined the long queue for the start. A very impressive array of waterproof luminousity was broken up by the occasional insanity of men in shorts. Shorts!  Mad!

queue
Queue In Front

queue
Queue Behind

We shuffled forward in fits and starts to our rider briefing. Though the snow continued, I gather only 20% of registered riders didn't make it over the start line, which is fairly astounding, and possibly due to the late change in the forecast. If you're already on your way somewhere, you're less likely to bail?  Anyway, "be careful, it's not a race, don't do 100 miles, and off you go"....so off we went.  Cautiously and carefully, since setting off in a bunch is bad enough in good weather, and worse when the roads are wet, slippery, and about to be uphill

snowy queue
Snowy Rider Queue

snow
Yes It's Snowing

The snow got heavier.  As we wiggled our way around the estate, climbing gradually, the white stuff hitting my face actually hurt! Going up the long main drive, a climb that always seems a little brutal for the start of a sportive, but is better if you're expecting it, the snow got heavy enough that the hyperspace effect cut in...  In its favour, the climb is long enough that my crawler gear engages and I felt relatively happy pootling my way out of the bowl where Longleat House sits, chatting intermittently as we went.  I wasn't too cold, unlike those poor photographers sat immortalising our misery, and I was feeling ok...but...man, the conditions.  The roads were getting even slushier, the snow was making visiblity tricky, my glasses were misting up, and a stream of riders were turning around and heading back past us in the opposite direction to the start.  We were two down before we even started the climb, and at the top the remaining five of us regrouped and mulled things over.  We decided to head to the end of the estate road and see what we could see...which was snow, snow, and more snow, and many more riders heading back towards us with reports of how grim it was out there.

S*d that for a game of monkeys.  Discretion is the better part of valour.  Live to fight another day.  Etc. We all have big seasons ahead, things we want to be doing, and quite a lot of experience amongst us and, as one of us put it, he prefers his collar bone in one piece.  We collectively turned tail and headed back whence we had come, picking our way gingerly down the wet hill and ascending riders, to bring us back to the start.

As we passed a couple of riders mulling their future over, they were heard to say, look at those guys, they're pro riders, and if they're heading back, so should we.  Very funny! There were a whole range of excuses/reasons for bailing going on, but essentially it wasn't the cold or the wet that stopped us, those we can cope with.  It was just too dangerous.  Maybe it would have brightened up (it did eventually, typically it was sunny later), maybe it would have been clearer further out (we'll never know), but the roads were going to be wet, mucky, and slippery for quite some time to come, and it just didn't seem worth it. DNF!

tent
Start Finish Marquee

riders
Steaming Riders

We re-racked the bikes and gathered at the start village.  Rather than a free coffee, I opted for paying for a more than worth it, because they make the best americanos out there, coffee from Claud the Butler, which was as fab as ever.  We collected our goody bags and took a pew inside the sodden marquee, where the floor under the matting was so boggy it was like walking on a bouncy castle.  This year's freebie Lionheart scarf tube is particularly fine as it's in shades of blue and thus perfectly matches all my kit and both bikes - result!  Can't knock the voucher for a free bottle of wine either J. It was a bit early in the day for free hotpot, but that didn't stop many.  I had a chat with Emma Slevin, one of the organising team, who, though cheerful, was understandably a bit disappointed that 8 months of hard work should have come to this, but you can't factor in blizzards in March, now can you?  Other than the odd queue, which may have been weather related, everything else had, from a rider point of view, gone swimmingly.  Almost literally. It's been a great event for the last couple of years, and hopefully next year it'll be dry and sunny! *fingers crossed*.  At least we tried, right?  I hope those that braved it had a good one, and kept it rubber side down.

helmet
Icy Helmet

my number
Iced Up

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES - SNOW & DNF!


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) 9 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 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?) 9 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 95.6%




4 Comments

andyrno1
19th March 2013 10:53pm Andy Rogers wrote:

This was a well run event and there was no pressure to charge around dangerously and for a reviewer to bottle it when less experienced riders managed is a laugh.

stevenreak
20th March 2013 8:32am steve wrote:

You did bail too soon. Worst conditions were at the top of the estate hill and the ride never became dangerous. By 12 the sun appeared! The large numbers bailing before leaving the estate, and cycling carefully to inspect the real road conditions; was more a case of mass hysteria like Lemmings over a cliff! Well done to the Lionheart team on a challenging day
Steve

Pendragon
22nd March 2013 11:31am Earth Sports wrote:

The road condition were fine, the main danger coming from the large number of riders that never looked to see what was behind them before switching across the road to overtake slower riders or to avoid road debris.It is great that cycling is more popular than ever; but riders need to be aware of what they are doing on the road, most importantly this includes the safety of fellow riders and other road users. Cycling Clubs are a good way to learn about group riding and road etiquette.

KevinGatward
22nd March 2013 9:15pm KevinGatward wrote:

I am surprised that the reviewer bottled it after such a short time. Yes it was cold it was snowing and some of the roads had slush on them but providing you were careful it was not dangerous. The ride was extremely well organised and the marshalling very good at all the danger spots. The food stops were excellent and Mrs Bs bean casserole was very welcome at the end. I have to admit that if I had not paid for the event I would probably not have started, but I am glad I did. In the end it was a satisfying experience which I hope will not happen again. I will be back again next year.