Manchester to Blackpool Review

The annual Manchester to Blackpool ride has been going for donkeys of years, my Nan used to ride it back in the day! This year proceedings kicked off at Old Trafford, home to Manchester United. This was a really good idea by the organisers, previous years have seen it start in the center of Manchester meaning having to pay £10,000,000 for car parking. Old Trafford had masses of car parking space and all free too.

Rolling up to the car park it was great to see such a turnout, the car park was full, with mini buses dropping off further groups of riders. Signing on was easy, I was glad I had pre-booked our entries as 8am seemed the best time to be setting off for most riders. Having to queue up for 15 minutes to pay, then another 10 minutes to the start would have been too long. Having pre-booked we simply queued for 10 minutes, handed in our entry card and got a map in return (not that you needed one as it was very well signposted).

The ride to Blackpool took in the sights and sounds of Wolseley, Leigh, Wigan, Haigh Hall, Leyland, Chorley, Preston, Preston Docks, Lythm St Annes and finally Blackpool. The ride was pretty flat, the hills were no issue at all, all were easily done in the big ring and were more long drags than sharp climbs.

Between Haigh Hall and Preston Docks was the best part for me, open country lanes and a quiet bypass allowed to dig deep and get some speed in. The worst part was the final 10 miles, a strong headwind was tough work, luckily I got some help from Harvey Hutchinson and we got rotating on the front. The long, long, long 5 mile drag into Blackpool with the headwind and heavy traffic was tiring and I suffered cramp towards the end. The finish was fantastic, a sprint from the traffic lights down the promenade right by the sea front with hundreds of people shouting and cheering you on.

The support of the general public through out the ride was great. The whole 60 miles had people watching at the side of the roads, shouting and cheering on, especially when you were attacking or digging deep.

Dangerous

It was great to see so many riders of all abilities out there. There must have been 10,000 riders on the route, however this lead to problems. The roads, especially for the first and last 20 miles, when we were going through towns were totally jammed with bikes. In my opinion it was really unsafe for both riders and drivers. It was the first time I've ever seen an event this busy.

People also unfortunately rode carelessly, keeping more than two abrest in built up areas and even if they were two abrest they were taking up nearly the whole road! Slow riders were not keeping to the left, some even sat right in the middle of the road. Many didn't look over their shoulder when moving out and one guy nearly spat in my face at one point because he wasn't looking.

This chaos all meant that cars couldn't overtake, and that in return caused faster riders to overtake both bikes and cars. The constant slowing down and sharp acceleration to get past everything was a pain and wasted valuable energy.

I also ride in SPD-SL's which makes it very hard to stop and start quickly so I was constantly on the edge looking ahead for riders pulling out which was also tough when concentrating on keeping focused on my own ride.

In my opinion it was far too busy to go through town centres. It was totally unsafe and the organisers must either reconsider the route next year or limit numbers. It will be a shame to limit numbers as the ride does great things for Christies but safety must be paramount.

Conclusion

I was chuffed with my ride, the legs felt good, the bike was great and despite being slowed down numerous times (together with the strong headwind) I managed a time of 4 hours 25 minutes. If I had a clearish run, I believe, I could have got close to 4 hours. I was really chuffed with my constant speed, at one point I had a train of 6 riders behind me and they dropped off. It was also good that even in the last 200 metres I had a good, fast sprint in me.

Manchester to Blackpool is a great ride, especially for those starting out on Sportives. The ride takes in riders of all qualities, lots of different charities, fancy dress, road bikes and mountain bikes.

There were tons of feed stops, 5 in total stocked up with food, drink and mechnicals. Food and drink was well priced, £3 quid would get you a drink, sandwich and banana. You can be assured that you will never ride alone and that there will always be someone of your ability. If the family isn't coming down to support you can either pre-book a bus back home or we got the train back to Manchester for £15, although be aware they only let 5 bikes on per train!

I would definitely recommend Manchester to Blackpool to anyone. I'll be back next year for a sub 4.

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