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Wiggle Tour of The Peak REVIEW

by James Berresford


Stunning Scenery

Essentials:Distances: 156 / 105 / 76 km
Entry fee: £25 
Participants: 1000 (Sold Out)
Start: Chapel Leisure Centre, Long Lane, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, Derbyshire SK23 0TQ
Catering: Coffees and snacks at the start and end, Hot food available at the end
Timed:  Yes (Helmet Stickers - sent out in advance)
Signs: Clear black arrows on a fluorescent pink background
Roads:  Mixed, but a lot of fresh tarmac on the route.
Swag: High5 Nutrition sample Bidon, Wiggle waterproof case, Soreen Malt loaf, Kilo to Go headscarf, Lezyne Tyre levers, Purple Harry sanitizer 

Arriving at Chapel-en-le-Frith school for the Wiggle Tour of the Peak, the event immediately had the feel of something more major than your usual sportive. Music played around the various stalls and Wiggle and Kilo to Go banners blew in the wind. The clear blue skies and 20 plus degrees temperature only added to this atmosphere.  

Because Kilo to Go send out their timing stickers and numbers prior to the event there isn't a registration process you are just free to take your start. The start time was set for a fairly leisurely 9am and I was initially worried as by that time a lengthy queue had built before me at the line. My concerns were unfounded however as they dealt with everyone quickly and efficiently and I was on my way within 15 minutes.


Derbyshire, Home of the Hill

I set off with some intent having narrowly missed a tough gold standard last year I wanted to better that this time but knew how challenging that was going to be. I made good time from Chapel into Whaley Bridge and after the traffic lights tackled the first assault on the legs, Macclesfield Road. Although the legs were still a little tight I went OK until the turn for Pym's Chair and, crunch, my rear mech made a horrible sound and I dropped into my 11 tooth. Jumping off I realised I'd lost the rear cable and could no longer change down, try as I might I couldn't get it to run right at the road side so given how far I'd come I decided to head back to base and get it patched up.

Once the mechanic arrived back from his first job he quickly had it fixed and I was back underway but I'd dropped near to an hour on the rest of the riders so was set for a day of playing catch-up.


The Opening Climb up Macclesfield Road

After re-tracing the same route, from Pym's Chair I pushed onto the high moorland with breath-taking views on this clear day. The route then re-joined the Macclesfield Road briefly skirting town to pick up the start of the first of the Tour of the Peak's "Big 3" the Cat and Fiddle. A 10km hill climb of some repute it isn't particularly steep at 3.3% average but the length is enough to tire all but the strongest of legs. On the open sections of road the head wind was quite strong and it clearly wasn't a day for personal bests, more a fight to the top, jumping between riders that I'd finally begun to catch.


The Infamous Cat and Fiddle

The descent from the Cat and Fiddle is one of my favourite in the UK, a wide open road with smooth fresh tarmac but the wind was still wreaking havoc and I was having to pedal even on the downhill. Dropping down to the edge of Buxton we immediately headed back into the countryside through Chelmerton and Blackwell before the first and welcome feed at Tideswell. The day was so hot bottles were being emptied in minutes rather than hours so this was a popular spot. 


No Hiding Place on the Moors

At the feed I was informed that I'd be struggling for the long route cut-off at one o'clock, a quick calculation said I needed a 35kmh average including a fair bit of climbing. But nothing ventured, nothing gained I cracked on and tried to make it. I made good time down into Castleton but all the while I knew what was next, number two in the TotP triumvirate of pain: Winnat's Pass.

Winnats is the polar opposite of the Cat and Fiddle, at 2.5km what it lacks in length it makes up for in dramatic scenery; an inexplicably deep cut into the hillside, and sheer steepness; a 9.5% average topping out around 20% painfully close to the top. I applied my usual careful, measured, approach hitting the bottom slopes completely gung-ho then dealing with my exploding quads when the inevitable came. I fortunately hung on though many weren't so lucky, the upper slopes were a mass of riders pushing and panting.


Winnats Pass takes its Toll

Checking my watch and I'd frustratingly missed the cut by about 10 minutes, I took the first turn from memory anyway hoping I'd be OK but I quickly joined a group of stopped, confused looking riders as it was obvious at least the initial signs had been removed. The second half was really the part that was least familiar to me, so I decided to cut my losses and drop back onto the medium route.

So if I wasn't going to get to complete at least I could set a good time, the medium route would be comparatively easy now wouldn't it? Wrong. The climbing never abated. From Rushup Edge we took some unfamiliar back roads along Waterswallows back into Buxton. Some minor roads through town and we joined Long Hill where we were met by Kilo to Go staff in a van dealing out water at an impromptu stop. I was impressed by their versatility as they had clearly put this on just to deal with the weather conditions and was a big help to overheating riders. 


Helping Hand

The descent of Long Hill was glorious, bombing through a verdant Goyt Valley on another fantastic stretch of road. But we avoided taking the easy route back by joining Elnor Lane part way down in Fernilee then taking the steep climb up Old Road. Dropping through Combs we were now on the homeward leg as we re-joined the outward road near the reservoir and headed back to the school.

Although disappointed not to complete the full route my legs were relieved to be back as even the medium route in no mean feat, and anyway, I'm certain I'll be back to take on this event as many times as I can as it's a truly classic sportive.

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