Cheshire Cat 2011 Review

Last Sunday I took part in the Cheshire Cat. Seen by many as the season opener to the Sportive season. I had a good time. Me and several other members of the club took part. I did the 67 miles. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous beforehand. I didn't sleep a wink, and as ridiculous as it sounds I even had a nightmare over conquering Mow Cop.

I had only attempted Mow Cop once before, and that was driving to the bottom with my mate Brad about 2 years previous. Now I was here for real. I had to get over the top and onward to the climbs around Wincle. My goal was to get to the bottom of the pub on Mow Cop. I wanted to reach the 25% without stopping as before I didn't even get halfway up.

I conquered all the hills without putting a foot down, and where in the past I would be running low after the effort of the hills, I found I was now setting the pace on the flat for the 40 miles back to Crewe. I still had energy in the legs without any cramping as I rolled in. It was such a great feeling and thanks to James Risk and his Dad Andy from Weaver Valley Cycling Club for the company.

The start was a bit dodgy, I think the 3000 taking part all turned up for 8.30am. This caused queues around the car park and we didn't start for a good 45 minutes. The finish wasn't much better either with hour queues should you have wanted to get a certificate and medal.

The pace heading out was brisk and within 15 miles we were knocking on Mow Cop's door. There is a strange silence as everyone approaches the climb (think of the scene in Band of Brothers when they are sat quietly in the Belgium trenches), then you turn the corner, get over the railway and it is total chaos. Riders everywhere, slowly grinding their way up the climb.

The thing with Mow Cop is that yes there is the 25% 100 metre incline at the top to contend with, but you need take it easy in the first half. The first incline is incredibly steep, you need to be in the small ring after going over the railway. You just need to keep control, keep the breathing steady, the heart rate down and keep at your own pace.

I got to the bottom of the pub (the start of the 25%), and the surge of addrenallin pushed me forward onto the steep part. After 6 strokes I had to stop but I was delighted.

The Cheshire Cat spends a good 20 miles up in the hills. After Mow Cop, you travel on to the edge of the Peak district through Congleton up an 18% climb, onward to the main road to Leek which is lumpy. Two climbs in particular really test the legs, the first is before you reach the first feed stop, a long drag of climb which you've just got to sit and churn out.

The second climb is in Wincle. For me this was the worst, it was horrendous. You bomb down a steep decent after the feed stop and infront of you is a steep brick wall of road. The road reels you in, you know you've got this long steep section ahead, and before you know it you're grinding up this hill. And you are grinding too! Out of the saddle, back in the saddle. Barely moving, slowly turning the pedals.

Once you've tackled Wincle you're out down through Withington, touching Swettenham and on to Holmes Chapel. Then churning out the miles in the big ring back to Crewe via Nantwich.

I had no issues with the Cheshire Cat. Ok the queues were a bit tedious but some of the feedback I've read, especially on the Facebook page, has been quite incredible. Quite frankly embarrassing. I find it absurd that there are people getting wound up over a bit of a queue and a piece of paper with their name on!

Don't be put off by the comments, this is definitely a sportive to add to your list. I'll be there again next year, that's for sure!


Lee Band said...

Excellent review, honest and too the point. Anyone thinking of doing this ride next year take Andy's advice about tackling the hills. I did and also got up mow cop and wincle(just!). Roll on next year.

Woody said...

Cheers Lee - congrats on Mow Cop! Skills to pay the billz! Saw your other message about the new bike, sounds nice. Definitely do the Macclesfield Bikeathon, it's a great ride!

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