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Wheel Heroes 100s REVIEW

by Jennifer Trotman

Date: Sunday 27th May
Distances: Wheel Heroes Lites - 10 and 25 milesWheel Heroes 100s - 100km and 100 miles
Entry fee: £20 for the 100 events, £10 for the 25 miles and £5 for the 10 mile (£11.98 booking fee applied by the online entry supplier)
Start: Stratford Racecourse, Luddington Road, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 9SE
Catering: Hot drinks available at the start and finidh (Claud the Butler), cold drinks etc at the finish, free bacon/beefburger/veggie burger roll for riders at the finish.
Feed stops: every 25 miles - water, gels, jelly babies, flapjacks, bananas, pork pies, sausage rolls etc.
Participants: 1400 overall
Timing: Rider numbers with disposable timing chips attached to seat post - by
Signs: large square signs with blue on orange for 100 miles, orange on blue for 100 km.
Roads: mainly quite rural back roads with above average road surfaces for such, with some bigger A roads to join them up and to get through towns.
Photos:  several photographers on route
Goody bag:  Finishers medal, bottle, energy drink sachet, Cycling Active magazine.

The Pitch: Based on the success of the inaugural event in 2011 the Wheel Heroes ride will be forming the backbone of the two day Stratford Cycling Festival 26/27th May 2012. Bring the family and enjoy a stack of family cycling fun!  New for 2012 - British Cycling Event Entry and Insurance, nutrition on all feed stations, new bigger, wind resistant signage, 10 mile and 25 mile Wheel Heroes "Lite" rides, Free BBQ for finishers, massage service, Hot and cold drinks, sports nutrition on all 4 feed stops - all day!

The Ride: Another Sunday, another early start - this is definitely sportive season.  And unlike the last couple I've done, the Wheel Heroes was not next door.  Having not slept well, I woke up before the alarm, to rising sunshine, and less wind than that which woke me up in the middle of the night.  Not a bad start.  Being on the motorway, wearing shades by 5:47am was novel though.


Morning on the M5

I took myself off up North a bit, up a very quiet and peaceful M5, and got to HQ at Stratford upon Avon racecourse half an hour ahead of schedule.  Parking was in rows in the middle of the race course, on recently mowed long grass which got everywhere!  I parked up and headed over to the racecourse building, which was complete with all the facilities you could wish for, to sign on.


Car Park

There wasn't much of a queue to sign on, possibly because I was early, and they had me down for the 100km not the 100miles but were happy to annotate my entry accordingly.  Minor niggles - the cable ties for the rider numbers were way too short, and I had to attach my number to the brake cables not the handlebars.  And I still don't like the timing chip sticker/seat post combo.  It's hard to attach at all, let alone neatly, so I may well have bent it more than a little trying to get it on properly, and it's just not user friendly!  Mind you, my ride number was quite cool.


321 Go

As I was faffing, my ride buddy for the day Kevin turned up, so we both faffed, got our bikes sorted, and then headed off for pre-ride coffee.


Claud The Butler


Baristas at Work

Claud the Butler was in residence again - making very good coffee as ever, although it's not free.  Good coffee in the morning is well worth the money though!  However gassing over coffee is all very well, but at some point you have to go ride the bike, so we went and joined the growing queue for the start.


Queue for the Start


Nearly Ready to Go

We shuffled our way to the front, until it was our time for our rider briefing.


Rider Briefing Signs

The top signs are for the 100mile route, the bottom for the 100km route.  They were a bit too similar for me.  Put it this way, if you're going to differentiate between two routes then two different colours of arrow - e.g. red and green - is easier.  Trying to remember if yours were the orange on blue or the blue on orange is a bit confusing.  3...2...1... and off we go.  Even at 8:00am it was already warm and sunny as you can see.


Under Way in the Sun


Gorgeous and Green

The first 25 miles or so are pretty flat, which means there was plenty of time for groups to form.  Lot of flying along in the sun faster than is wise that early in a sportive!  We kept discovering ourselves leading packs of riders, which is all very well, however here's a group dropping back behind us on a hill.


Pick up a Peloton

Just to warn you, I'm a big fan of correct rider etiquette.  I know this was a charity ride, so this probably doesn't apply to a lot of the riders, being less experienced etc.  However I can eavesdrop with the best of them, and if you and your group are talking about the sportives you've done, up to and including the Fred Whitton, then this most definitely applies to you.

25 miles in, and time for the first food stop, which was at a village hall as promised, thus with toilets, which always pleases me.  There was a range of sweet and savoury goods on offer - which meant jelly babies and half a banana for me.


First Food Stop

Back on the road, in the knowledge that the hills, such as they were, would be starting soon.  This was one of the advantages of having done the event last year - no fear of the unknown for me.  Kevin led the way for a bit, as you can see.


Kevin Leading the Way

There's only one way of avoiding being photographed by me, and that's being behind me.  In fact, as you'll see here, that doesn't work either!  Which would be why this, particular peloton is here.  Well you can see some of them anyway.  They sucked our wheels, at a good 20mph+, happily chatting away behind us for miles and then when we finally decided enough was enough, and dropped back a bit to eat for the hills coming up, went past us without so much as acknowledging our existence!  Very poor form chaps.


Another Acquired Peloton

One of the nice things about the Cotswolds is the number of trees that have been allowed to remain standing, unlike Somerset.  There are the (blurry) country estate variety - as seen here, near posh houses.  There were a lot of posh houses.  And large numbers of prestige cars. However the roads were actually very quiet all day, remarkably so for a sunny Sunday!


Country Estate


Posh Place

There were also various foresty bits, but the best trees were all over the hills and therefore most importantly all over the climbs.  On a day like this shade is greatly appreciated when going uphill!  The hills were my kind of hills - slow gradual gradient slogs - up Stanway Hill, and up to Broadway Tower, to name two of them.  I think Broadway Tower is the highest point in the Cotswolds, but I could be wrong.


Saluting the Hill

Clearly I'm still using the camera to distract myself going up hill.


A Shady Climb

At least if you go up, you get views right?  This would be a green and pleasant land presumably.


Countryside Views

The 100 routes split at around 40 miles in.  There was a Cyclists For Cancer clad gentleman on the RHS of the fairly main road holding up a hand drawn sign to demonstrate this which, I'm afraid to say, being on a white board and not the backgrounds described, was not the easiest thing in the world to spot. The 100km went left shortly ahead which was easy - leaving the 100 mile mob to start heading downhill, and then discover a right turn half way down which was not easy what with main road traffic both behind you and coming the other way to cross through.  

Luckily the classic car behind me paid attention to my indications and let me pull over but it was a tad hairy there for a moment. Things got a little quieter after that, as a lot of the faster groups were clearly faster because they weren't going as far as us, which was nice and meant that riding became a little more relaxed and less pressurised.  The second food stop was at 50 miles in, at another village hall - and very importantly had plenty of cold water available, as well as two portaloos. There was also a mechanics station set up, with somebody's Boardman having the gears looked whilst we queued (briefly) for the loo.


Second Food Stop under Shade


Welcome Water Supplies

Both the shade and the water were very welcome, as the day was just getting hotter as it went along.  I was very glad I'd applied my sun cream first thing!  We were underway again shortly, but Kevin was not feeling well, so after stopping a few times, around 60 miles in he decided to take a "short" cut and head straight back - 20 miles - to HQ.  This left me with around 40 miles to do all by myself. Those few other riders that I saw were mostly ahead of me for a while until I went past. There was a distinct lack of wheels to suck, and a whole heap of headwind to fight against.  Being on my own I became very aware of how few signs there were.  No repeaters, not enough signs at junctions, no reminders after junctions, and not enough warning other road users of cyclists on the road, which made the odd sharp narrow corner rather more interesting than usual.  I love being in the middle of the road and meeting a white van coming the other way likewise located. The gpx course I'd downloaded was great - with all the waypoints marked and popping up with turn right/left/straight on messages - but not everyone has such gadgets, and neither should they have to to feel sure that they're on the right route.


Alpine Cadence

There weren't a lot more hills to come, but there were some.  Besides, the more miles you have in your legs, the more an incline feels like a hill!


Castle Inn

This is the Castle Inn, with a pub garden with views from the ridge to the left that were just stupendous, and plenty of people were sat in the sun enjoying them...  Stopping there, and not getting going again, was seriously tempting!  I had to settle for the well earned descent that came along shortly, which was totally ruined, almost dangerously so, by having an unexpected sharp left turn off it halfway down just as you'd truly built up momentum.  Another hairy moment that could have, and should have, been avoided.


Wide Open Sky

Wide open views stretched all around me as I pressed on my way and shortly afterwards was the third and final food stop, just as well equipped and catered for as the other two.


Third Food Stop

I diluted what was left in the bottles I had, and took advantage of the toilets to wash the salt off my face and cool myself down a bit.  Man it was hot out there!  The only advantage of the headwind was that it cooled you down a bit, and actually the same went for descents.  I should mention that some of the downhills today were truly epic - and only a couple of them were ruined by premature T-junction syndrome! As I was going down a lonely hill, around 80 miles in, 3 riders went past me at just the right speed.  I latched on to the rear and pedalled for all I was worth.  At some point I had to yell "car" due to the presence of one behind us, and thus alerted them to my presence behind them, which they took with very good grace.  I hung on for ten miles or so, until the fastest of the three got on the front, and upped the ante a little at the same time as the headwind hit once again.  Having to push that bit harder, and already feeling a little guilty for being unable to take my turn at the front - it being hard enough doing what I was doing, let along doing that - I decided the time had come to give in gracefully, so I dropped back.


My Three Musketeers

If one of these three is you - and I did chat to them at the end and say thank you - thank you again.  Most appreciated. That only left me ten miles or so to do, and since I was flying solo but flying pretty fast, I pushed as fast as I could to get back.  See - I even look fairly happy.  OK, so I was bored, and I'd run out of things to take photos of.  The scenery was lovely, and wide, and rolling, and so on but it was, to use the word literally, unremarkable.  I can only take some many pictures of rural landscapes!


Me on the Move

Right then.  A bit more wind, a bit more wiggle, some rather more major A roads to get back to Stratford, and there, finally, was the Finish line.


Approaching the Finish Line

Kevin was waiting for me at the end, which came as somewhat of a relief as I'd been a tad worried about him getting lost on the way back, or not making it back at all and to get his revenge he photographed me for a change!


Me at the Finish

Cycling time: 5:55:50 hrs

Distance: 101.63 miles

Avs: 17.1 mph.(The official times were, impressively, up that night, and had taken into account my change of route.  They made me 92nd of 222 finishers - which is pretty good going I think.)

I stashed the bike in the car, and went back to HQ to get changed and showered.  It turned out that I needed 50p for the shower, which my £5 note was not going to help me with, so I did the best I could to clean myself up a bit. Time to hand in my rider number and get my free bacon roll. Which could have been a burger, veggie or otherwise, but there was a bit of queue for those, and actually I prefer bacon anyway. It was very good bacon too.


Riders Relaxing at the End

Another sportive done, and done pretty fast too.  It's not one of the hillier sportives, with only around 1100m of climbing billed (c.1300m according to my gadget), though the headwind frequently made the flat feel a bit like a hill.  Done as a group, this could be a very fast ride indeed.  I got to spend a Sunday cycling in the sun in gorgeous countryside, and though I may have new suntan lines, I appear to have avoided sunburn.  I think that counts as a good day.


John Murphy

I'd seen Irish rider John Murphy and his distinctive kit several times on the route - and was impressed by the way he does all his climbing out of the saddle and makes it look easy.  He's usually a tri-athlete or runner and had only entered this, the 100 miles, at the last minute because there was nothing else on this weekend!  He'd had a great day out, enjoyed the route, and is off to do the Wicklow 200 next! 


28th May 2012 11:39am Sorebones wrote:

The lack of some riders experience showed in a few places on this event. At one point I spotted riders 6 abreast on an A road, and no amount of shouting seemed to alert some folks to pull over to single file to let cars pass on tight lanes, leading to frustrated drives attempting to nip in between riders.

Not the organisers fault, but given that this type of charity based event will attract novice bunch riders it is perhaps worth more emphasis at the start gate.

28th May 2012 6:17pm @nigelallport wrote:

Excellent write up Jennifer, thanks for bringing the hot miles back

29th May 2012 7:52am andytriharder wrote:

Very good write up. I agree with all of your points about the event, especially repeater markers required, the very late signage at the bottom of edge hill and the poor cycling form of some riders.But still a very good ride.