Cheshire Cat Sportive

Well first race of the year over with. Fortunately I was able to grab two entries for the Cheshire Cat thanks to Stuart Pritt and Fran Doyle. My original plan of doing the 66 miles was put to bed after doing a drive round the course on Saturday afternoon before sign up. My thinking was handle Mow Cop and then get back down onto the flat for the remaining 30. Unfortunately for me the course was pretty relentless. Much is said about the Mow Cop climb but in my opinion there are several others afterwards which are just as bad, as well as going into the wilderness of the Peak District, with the Cat and Fiddle pub just down the road to give you an idea of the climbing involved.

You have to be very, very fit to do the 66 miles, and with less than 100 miles under my belt on the road and simply 5 months of turbo work I couldn't do it. I would also have to loose a couple of stone, as you would have to be lean to handle the amount of climbing. Those that enter the 102 mile course (and do 60 miles of riding before even getting to Mow Cop) must be machines that are completely off their rocker!!

So, 37 miles it was and following a trip to Dave Hinde for a service and a set of new Mavic Aksium rims I was ready. Sign on was pretty straight forward, I would recommend going the Saturday afternoon. That way you can simply roll up and get going on Sunday morning. The queues were massive on Sunday.

I felt a bit lazy just doing the 37 miles, the late forties on the flat would have been more of a challenge. The task that lay ahead was simple, use the ride as getting leg mileage in and test to see if the interval training had worked. My target was 3 hours.

The ride started briskly. The new Mavic's were fantastic, super light which did wonders for speed and acceleration, I would really recommend upgrading your rims if your considering improvements. To begin with I struggled to find a group to hook on to and up to Peover I had powering along at good speed.

In the distance was a good sized group, I powered ahead to get onboard as I struggling with the headwind on my own. Unfortunately as I clambered on to the back, I found that a small group of 5 had decided to slow up with the main bunch keeping up the pace. I overtook the small group but it was too late, I was shattered and was left on my own. I tried grabbing on to the back of passers by but had lost my legs. I grabbed a bite of a cereal bar and a good swig of drink. As we got to Byley I got onto the back of 2 lads who were going at a good pace and managed to keep with them to Middlewich roundabout where they went right on the 100 mile route.

I was yet again on my own and struggling to get going, I could see a couple of riders a mile ahead but not the energy to catch up with them. I took another bite of cereal bar and on the way to Congleton via Holmes Chapel I got my strength back. Seeing a group of 10 riders a few miles ahead along the winding country lanes, I got my head down and got a pace going, I managed to get on to the back and sat in the middle of the group. At a road junction we were joined by another group of 20 and got a peloton going.

This is the first time I had been part of such a large group, reading in magazines there are articles warning you of the dangers, and the skill involved, keeping your distance and the signals to use when riding together. I was apprehensive, but it's a piece of cake. Infact I loved it. There isn't a better feeling in riding a group, the banter and simply the power it has storming down the road, reeling in the miles. I easily sat in the front 5 and looking back it was great to see 30 people rolling along.

Unfortunately the whole group was off on the 66 mile, so we parted company at the feedpoint. I grabbed a free banana and waited for Brad to come along, unfortunately he didn't stop so 5 minutes later I set off to chase. As I was leaving I left with 3 guys, and they seemed to be set off to go at a nice pace. As we rounded a corner I saw Brad up ahead, put the power down and caught up with him to see if he was ok before they caught up and I could hop back on. He needed his bike sorting and by the time we had it sorted the others had overtaken and were gone for 5 minutes. Once Brad was ok I shot off to catch them up. This was where my interval training came into play, it took 15 minutes of pure speed, down on the bars to hook on to the back again.

From there we cycled back to Knutsford together at a good place, with a mile sprint on the run and I eventually crossed the line in the offical time of 2 hours 28 minutes, taking off the stops would make it 2 hours 16 minutes. I was delighted. The mileage may have been short but the work rate had been high, very high, especially in the second half catching up to the group. The time I was blown away with, in fact I got back so early that Becky hadn't even turned up to meet me at the finish!

For those looking for good fitness and road miles I would definately recommend the 37 mile. Very flat, great for speed and 1 hill to test you. Gorgeous, quiet country lanes, which wind effortlessly along.

The Cheshire Cat, you think with a UCI status, would be quite spectacular. In fact out of all the events I've done, it was one of the worst run. No marshalls at busy roads and small signs which could be easily missed if you're head down. However it dead have posh timing gear, free food at feedstations and free massages at the end.

The ride was a great experience and I loved every minute. Onward to the Ron Sant Reliability on the 13th April.

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