Event Review

Cheddar Cyclosportive 2013 REVIEW

by Jennifer Trotman

Cheddar Cyclosportive

Essentials:
Date: Sunday 15th September. 
Distances: 100km or 160 km.
Start: Sharpham Road Playing Fields, Sharpham Road, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3DR. Changing and showering facilities available. 
Catering: Roosters Snack Van at HQ. 
Feed stops: 100km - 2 stops, 160km - 3 stops. 47km, 80km, 110km.
Cost: £23
Participants: 360
Timing: electronic chip timing (to be returned) attached to bike number
Signs: black arrows on yellow, also Caution signs.
Roads: mostly quite country road, short stretch of cycle path.
Photos: sportivephoto.com
Goody bag:  free cup of coffee at the end.
Support: first aiders available, broom wagon, mechanical support at the start. 

With this being my local sportive, and many people I know taking part, I thought I better spend Saturday giving the bike a thorough cleaning. I washed, cleaned, oiled and polished. Good for the bike, very bad for fingernails! It's our local event, run by our local bike shop, it would be rude not to do it! Since it is so local, Guy and I took advantage of our proximity to it, and went down and registered both us and my Dad the night before. File in, sign, and get a little goodie bag that contained the bike number, with timer tag attached behind it, and an assortment of edible things.

CS1
Registration

Another advantage of a truly local event was the less than hideously early start in the morning. An alarm set for 7:00am? Unheard of! Dad arrived, early as ever, for a little pre-ride faffing, and we were ready to ride to the start at 8.00am. It was chilly, and the forecast was truly hideous. Rain wasn't due until around midday, but there had already been an unforecast shower.

CS2
Mechanical support 

So much for making my bike perfect; as we rode to the Square I noticed the bike squeaking like the dawn chorus! I knew I should have left all the dirt where it was... Paul, in the mechanics tent, reckoned I was doing it on purpose just to test him out for this review! Nonetheless he squirted something lubricating around it, spun it around a few times, repeated, and, after a little while, the squeak went away!

Much relieved, not least because I'd used the toilets while I was over at HQ, I headed back to the start line where our group was gathering. The plan today was to ride as a Group, and act as domestique for my mate Gaz in his first 100 miler. Best laid plans... 

Cs3
Start queue

CS4
Pre-event briefing

Some of our group got split up as the waiting riders were briefed and let go in batches. And some were never seen again, both in front and behind. We also managed to lose Dad almost instantly, which was a bit of a shame. Well, considering the speed I was liable to be riding at, I could quite cheerfully have kept him company! 

SS5
Determined riders

The first section of the ride, out to Wedmore, Glastonbury and beyond is pretty fast and flat, ignoring the small grind at Cocklake and the lump of Mudgeley, which took a few by surprise. Well, prettier when it isn't windy and grey, but still... The terrain did mean that it took quite a long time for riders to spread out, and it felt quite busy early on. In the meantime I had a nice chat to a gentleman by the name of Rob, the second time in two rides that someone has recognised me, and made the ride that bit more sociable. 

SS6
Heading for Glastonbury Tor 

Sadly it was too early for the residents of Glastonbury to be doing much by way of living up to their reputation. Not a set of fairy wings in sight! After a little time spent negotiating the streets, and enjoying the antics of the small car completely failing to indicate and going all the way around the mini roundabout at the top of the town, we were heading back out into country lanes again.

SS7
Tor View

Although these are roads I'm familiar with, I don't get out quite this far that often, and I always forget that it isn't totally flat. I only had the thought of the High Ham Hill climb in my mind, and considering how I was going up hill I was dreading that. However there were a couple of bumps in between to cope with first, which were as much fun as might have been expected. As we flew down from Butleigh towards Somerton, a train went past us which turned out to be a steam train. It's probably something to do with my Dad, but steam trains always make me smile.

SS8
Bridge at Somerton

After the grind up to Somerton the back lanes were quieter, narrower, and flatter, and there was actually time for a bit of a chat. I could pretend I was riding slowly to converse rather than because I couldn't keep up! Only a brief respite though as High Ham was looming... It was steep, hard work, with a wet surface and stuttering rider traffic on it. 17% rumour has it. The rider in front of me had had to stop, and then swerved all over the road trying to get back on and clip in again, which was a bit hairy for a minute. At least I made it up on two wheels, however slowly - a fair few were walking.

The first food stop of the day was in the village hall, staffed by three very lovely ladies. Aka my friend George and her minions. It was lovely to see a friendly face, and not just hers - the rest of what remained of our peloton were already there waiting for me. They'd like to have been underway sooner, getting chilly 'n all that, but I needed a few minutes to top up the bottles, use the facilities, and get myself together first!

SS9
First food stop

Before long though, we were on our way again. Down High Ham Hill the way I usually go up it, with the obligatory photographer waiting on the apex of the sharp right hand bend at the bottom. Next was Pedwell Hill, more of a gradual climb and I actually quite like it as these things go. I don't quite like negotiating the A39 so much though - too busy, too major. It was a relief to be the other side of the dogleg needed to cross it and to see Brent Knoll in the distance. Somewhere to aim for.

SS10
View to Brent Knoll

Shapwick, Catcott, Edington, Chilton Polden...we undulated our way along, in somewhat nicer weather. I quite like the names of the villages along here, up to and including Woolavington, where I got to go downhill again! Just for once the long road to Bason Bridge after that wasn't too much of a slog, so it's just possible the wind was behind us. Or maybe I was just sitting on Guy's wheel so was sheltered.

SS11
Estuary

On to one of my least favourite parts of the ride. The traffic in Highbridge, followed by the cyclocross gravel path along the coast to Burnham on Sea, which, though scenic, is a shared path. A delightful woman with four children, two on scooters, who had to move slightly, informed us all repeatedly that we didn't own the path. Restraint...

SS12
Boats

In previous years going through Burnham on Sea has been a bit of a nightmare, but I guess the actual weather and the rain due meant there were less people out and about, so it wasn't too bad. The main worry here is always that some prat will open a car door as we go past, so it's always wise to leave a wide berth!

SS13
Burnham on sea

As predicted, since statistically speaking the forecasters are bound to get it right occasionally, the weather was starting to deteriorate now, a bit like me. By the time we'd wiggled our way to the second food stop at East Brent, the rain was starting for real. Oh and look, we do stop for traffic lights!

SS14
Waiting for the lights

Time to put on the waterproofs, as well as eating, drinking, etc. I decided that the forecast was proving to be too accurate, and everyone else was too fast for me. Throw in the fact that all the big hills of the 100 mile route are in the last forty miles (Cheddar Gorge, Bristol Hill, Burrington Combe), and I decided today was a medium route day. Hey, I did the full route last year, and I can ride up Cheddar Gorge in the rain twice a week between now and March! 

SS15
Second food stop 

That decided, a weight was lifted, and the last section was far more enjoyable for me. Not faster, just more pleasant! Besides which I quite like those roads. Flat, some up and down, but not too much; they are scenic, and more importantly, on the way home. With a castle thrown in for good measure.

SS16
Banwell Castle

The biggest remaining hurdle was to negotiate the traffic lights to turn right out of Winscombe and onto the A38. It's virtually impossible to sit in the queue, get up the hill and round to the right before the lights have changed if you're a cyclist. There was a lot of engine revving, and stealthy road positioning going on to try and make life difficult for the cyclists. In fact, together with a couple of others, I ended up making my way right to the front ahead of the lights to get away from any potential conflict!

SS17
ACG posse 

Having finally made it round, from there it was just a case of flying down the hill to Cheddar, waving a cheerful farewell to the stalwart few carrying on in the rain, and rolling myself over the finish line to HQ.

I handed in my tag, grabbed my voucher, and headed off to find my free coffee. As we all queued, the rain started to come down for real, and being wet already, I didn't regret my decision one bit! I decided to get my coffee, go and hide from that torrential rain under a gazebo, and wait for Dad to come in so that we could at least ride back home together. As it turns out, I may have been feeling crap, but that's more by comparison to everyone else than myself. My time still got me a Silver! 

SS18
Free coffee queue 

I'm pleased to report that the remain four musketeers completed the whole route, despite the weather, and Gaz did indeed complete his first 100 miler!


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) 7 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) 9 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%