This was the first cycle sportive I have done and at 70-miles the longest ride I have done as well. A day of firsts for me. I have previously ridden around Death Valley but the biggest day of riding we did out there was 63-miles. Leading up to the Cheshire Cheetah, I hadn’t really put in the training for this, my mileage was around 1,000 miles down on this time last year, but I was hoping that all of the running I had been doing (700+ miles in the first half 2017) coupled with the cycling from 2016, would see me through. We could not have picked a better day for it, clear skies and a pleasant 19c for the 7:30am start, peaking at 28c by the time we finished.
There were a choice of three distances, Short – 45 miles, Standard – 70 miles and Long – 100 miles. Given my lack of training, I opted for the standard route, although was very very tempted by a 100-mile ride, one for next time I think. The route started and finished at Crewe, heading out to Weston then over to Mow Cop for the first in a series of four climbs across to Wincle. Mow Cop is only 1-mile long but it makes the top 35 toughest climbs in the UK with an average gradient of around 10% peaking at 25% in two locations. A very tricky test, one in which pretty much all of the riders had to dismount and push up the 25% stretch. After the following three punchy climbs we reach the split where the 100-mile riders went off to tackle the Cat & Fiddle. We headed across to Sutton for our first rest stop / aid station. We were in two minds on whether to stop or push on for a better time, but decided to take a quick comfort break and get going again.
Water topped up and fuelled by a bag of Haribo Starmix I set off again, we were just under half way through the ride with the next 42-miles pretty much flat(ish), certainly no big climbs to come. I had managed really well on the four big climbs, hill climbing is something that I seem to be quite good at when running and cycling. Taking on the 17-mile long, 5,955ft climb on day 2 of the Death Valley put a lot of hills into perspective, although the UK hills are a lot steeper. Anyway, we were cycling across to Holmes Chapel and then down just south of Middlewich. Following Phil on the flat roads for this 25-mile stretch was tough going, he is a really good rider and was putting the power down, I was finding it tough to keep up at this stage. We stopped for our second stop at Cranage, with 15-miles left for home. By this stage I had drank all of my water so this was perfect timing, I am somewhat of a thirsty rider so decided to re-fill both bottles as it was getting quite hot…. maybe I should have put some sunscreen on this morning, oops.
Just after passing Middlewich we came to a directional sign which was quite low down and didn’t look right, being the trusting guys we are, we turned right as the sign advised. After about a mile and a half we thought this doesn’t look right and saw a fellow Cheshire Cheetah coming the opposite way. He flagged us down and said that the road we are on just loops back around, it looks like someone had tampered with the sign so back we went to find a bunch of 6 other riders now standing around the sign. One had the GPS file on his Garmin so knew the sign was wrong. We headed back on our way down to Crewe where we finished. Those last 10-miles were tough going, my knee was starting to ache and I just didn’t quite have the conditioning in my legs but I made it. It was a good job I went for the Standard ride and not let my ego get the better of me by signing up for the 100-mile ride.
Riding with Phil was a pleasure, he has done a lot of cycling and a lot of group riding so I learnt a great deal from following him around and the tips he was giving me throughout the ride. I also learnt that I will need to get some good training miles in between July and October ready for when I fly to Arizona to cycle 530km from Cameron to Las Vegas over 5 days.
All in all, I really enjoyed this Sportive and will definitely be doing more with Wiggle in the coming years. The event was really well organised from booking through to finishing. The issue with the directional sign is just one of those things, you will always get that one idiot who has to mess with things and spoil other peoples fun, certainly nothing Wiggle could have done about it.
My Ride Stats:
- 73.7-miles (a bit extra due to a wrong turn),
- 14.4mph ave speed,
- 40.3mph top speed,
- 4,163ft elevation gain,
- 5:08:12 moving time.