This is now my fourth Cheshire Cat, I first entered back in the day when they were held at Knutsford Leisure Centre and you had to go down the day before to sign on. The refreshments back then were a plastic cup of orange squash, how quickly times have moved on! I also entered in 2010 and last year too.
Last year there was some trouble with people starting and finishing (ie: 3000 people tried to set off at the same time meaning massive queues and upset people). This year they had implimented a new queueing system where you were put into coloured pens with a set start time. Everyone got a coloured sticker to put on the bike and this was strictly adhered to. It meant everyone set off on time with little waiting around and the roads were pretty quiet because of it too. Everything is sent in the post so you could just roll up and get going.
This year there was a new route for the 75 and 100 mile options which would take us over Gun Hill. I have to say, even though the gorgeous weather helped, the route was much better than previous years. The scenery was stunning. The climb of Gun Hill, after the first feed station and before Wincle, was a good addition as it is a legendary climb in the area used by the Tour of Britain.
Of course the Cheshire Cat wouldn't be the Cheshire Cat without Mow Cop. The Killer Mile sees those that get to the top without putting their foot down get a medal back at the HQ. It's a tough ask, it climbs at around 16% until the final 200 metres elevates up to 25%. Last year I managed to get to the bottom of the 25% part, this year I wanted to go all the way. And I did. I kept it steady at the beginning, keeping my breathing deep and steady. Although my wheel slipped a few times I kept on going and found I was climbing well. Eventually I got to the 25% part and off I went. Out of the saddle, pushing down as hard as I could I found I was moving up pretty easily and before I knew it I was over the top! It was a great, great feeling - although my heart at over 200bpm was saying different!
Hills, Hills, Hills
After Mow Cop you're into the lumpy stuff for around 20 miles. After a decent into Congleton, you're just as quickly climbing out over Biddulph Moors and Bridestones; this is a horrific climb out. It is mind numbingly boring and (for me anyway) very slow going. The route then rolls up and down until the first feedstation. After a quick stop you're onto Gun Hill, the first steep bit caught many out thinking this was it, only for it to descend before starting a bit later on. I've never climbed Gun Hill before, it isn't a bad climb, tough in parts but is over pretty quickly. You then have a few miles rest before you enter Wincle. Wincle is notorious for it's couple of tough sharp climbs. Your heart and lungs definitely get a good work out for sure.
Loving The Flat
The best thing about the Cheshire Cat is that all the hills are over and done with early on. After which it is flat out back home. I love the second part into Goostrey. We do it on club runs quite a lot and you just thrash it out. I caught the tail end of a fast group where we rolled along at around 25mph. The run back to Crewe, takes you into Nantwich which is again pretty flat but a bit boring. As you reach Church Minshull your legs are on fire and you're just willing them along. I unfortunately had the pleasure of riding with James Risk, a promising youth rider (ex-Weaver Valley and now Sportcity Velo), who gave me a lesson in how to rip someone's legs off. I don't think we went under 20mph all the way home.
I arrived back at Crewe exhausted but over the moon. Risky had done a great job pacing me back home. The goody bag at the end had some nice gifts such as free High 5 waterbottles, gels, wind buff and helmet and a Purple Harry shoe sanitizer.
If you're looking for some good early season miles, which are testing but not too testing, then add this to your diary. The Cheshire Cat is a must for any cyclist.
|Two abrest. One of many agitations.|
However, I'm of the belief that no matter how good the campaign was intended to be it has unfortunately awoken a nest of imbecile that we unfortunately have to cope with in this country.
Today I heard the news that a club member has been deliberately knocked off his bike. The incident happened on his way home from Barnton to Warrington. Along a country lane he was squeezed by a car coming towards him. The next is what you, as a cyclist, have nightmares about. The car turned around and followed him. As the club member slowed down, the driver swerved and deliberately knocked him off his bike. As he lay on the floor the car reversed back running over his bike. Luckily he managed to unclip or he would have gone over his legs. Fortunately he remembered the registration number and the case has been reported to the police.
For the cynical of you out there, no I wasn't there personally, neither was anyone else, however I have roomed with this club member and I would very much doubt there was any aggravation. Especially to the sort that someone would knock someone off his bike and then commit, what could be assumed as, attempted murder.
Since the campaign I've noticed an increase in the number of agitated drivers. You normally get the odd one on a Sunday club run. From my experience, you can even bracket the driver, they are normally male, in fact all male, driving a decrepit vehicle like an old Volvo estate, a group of individuals in a white van or someone in a Jaguar XF or BMW. The most common feature of the driver is that they tend to be fat. I'm not being condescending either here. I believe the main problem from driver harrasment comes from those that don't participate in sport. They don't understand nor are they bothered. Until the government better encourages sport to all ages we will always be in this problem.
Since the campaign, I noticed, especially on our training weekend to Llanberis, that drivers were becoming increasingly agitated. Riding single file with plenty of room to overtake, drivers were insistent to exploit their anger for what reason I don't know. On a quiet road with no traffic with no problems to overtake, we had car windows down and even at one point a car door open. Fortunately these morons don't have the brain to understand that we can't understand what they are saying driving past at 30 mph anyway. In some cases, traffic going the other way, driving past without any delay or obstruction gave us the wanker sign.
I have never known such abuse, it was wierd, definitely out of the ordinary. I can only attribute it to The Times campaign. It has not only supported the cyclist but at the same time affected them. I believe it has rattled the cage of those who perhaps were frustrated by cyclist but have now joined the backlish of mindless moron inept of understanding the concerns of a cyclist.
It is obviously a mis-understanding between those who cycle on the roads of the UK and those who don't. The main agitation is those cyclists who run red lights. I totally disagree with this practice and I believe any cyclist should be fined for doing so. I also believe it should be mandatory for a cyclist to wear a cycling helmet.
However drivers need to be aware of the problems we cyclists face, skirting around massive potholes and the need to keep momentum being the main problems. We all know fuel consumption in a car increases massively when stopping and starting, well it is the same for a human. The majority of us are clipped into our pedals, which allows us to travel efficiently to avoid you any disruption, unclipping and reclipping is a difficult situation, as such cycling lanes would aid any disruption to you.
One of the major problems I would imagine is cyclists riding as a group, two abreast. We can ride single file, but this would mean the group would be twice as long and twice as hard to overtake, especially on winding county roads, due to the length of the group. The likelyhood of drivers being able to overtake cyclists single file on country roads with an oncoming car would be nil anyway. With two abreast drivers can overtake us easily despite a probably 10 to 20 second delay. Cyclists also ride two abreast as it needs two people on the front to look out for potholes and to point them out to our fellow group members.
We do everything we can to avoid disrupting the flow of traffic. I just don't get the problem but it needs to stop as the situation with my club mate has confirmed today it is getting serious. It shouldn't be us against them, we should be us working together.