18 April 2010 11 Comments

3 Shires Sportive

After my recent bout of running it was imperative that I got my cycling going again. I had chosen the 3 Shires sportive today based in Macclesfield as the event of choice. It promised a hilly 100km parcours without any of the really steep hills that the Peak District can offer. Ideally I would have ridden a slightly longer event in preparation for the Fred Whitton, but by riding to and from the sportive start at Peak Cycle Sport I could add another 30km to the day. As things turned out, I did more than enough kilometres to waste my legs.

My new Blueleaf Bicycle Smithy kit

I was really cold as I left home at 7:25, but I was pretty sure from the weather forecast that it would warm up. In fact, the conditions were near perfect, still and cool with just the occasional bit of sunshine to raise the spirits. An unusual feature of the event was a 9:00 mass start: some 300 riders would set out together up the Cat and Fiddle. There was plenty of questioning of the wisdom of this, but since the hill started immediately the riders were soon strung out and didn’t have too big an impact on the local traffic, I don’t think.

I hadn’t realised quite how challenging a ride this would be. Before the feed stop at Rudyard we ascended the Cat and Fiddle, Long Hill and the Goyt valley to Derbyshire Bridge, none of which were steep but amounted to 19km of climbing in the first 30km of the ride. These were followed by the hill over to Wincle, Gun Hill out of the Dane Valley and the road over to Meerbrook before turning right down past Tittesworth Reservoir and one of the very few flat bits in the whole ride.

The feed stop at the Rudyard Hotel (53km) was excellently stocked with bananas, sandwiches, cake, tea and energy drink which I was very grateful for as my legs were already complaining severely – and this despite having the 28 tooth get out gear on my new shiny SRAM cassette. After the feed things went badly from a route signing point of view. Immediately we were climbing again out of Rudyard followed by a big hill up to the ridge on Biddulph Moor. Here the route sign pointed right. I remembered that somewhere we were supposed to do a loop around Biddulph but the signs gave no indication that this was where you were supposed to go left. After a brief conflab with a few guys we made the decision to go right, thus missing a 17km loop.

The next challenge proved to be the toughest climb on the route. Minn End Lane climbed up from the Dane Valley towards the big transmitter above Sutton. The surface was broken and gravelly, it was steep in places, very narrow and had gates. It also had that unfortunate characteristic of the worst hills of having numerous false summits lulling you into the belief that the bit you are on is the last bit. Wrong. Minn End Lane will be added to my directory of least favourite climbs.

At least, from there on it was mostly downhill (a short climb past Fourways Restaurant on the A54) and I eventually rolled back to the start in 3:24 to find…nothing, nada, nichts. There was nobody there, no timing, no certifcates, no goody bags, no food or drinks, no toilets, nothing; just a crowd of rather bemused cyclists wondering what to do. What a let down.

I estimate that I finished around 20th, but I’ll never know, so I didn’t hang around long and pedalled off home.

Mass start - unusual for a sportive

In total I’d done about 112km in the day and about 4:43 in the saddle. My legs were telling me that they’d done more than enough.

The organisation of this event was very odd from the start. It was publicised as raising funds for charity so obviously the organisers wanted to keep the costs down. At £15 it’s at the cheap end of the sportive market so seemed good value for money. However, the entry system was very inefficient: you simply signed up on the website and then an invoice was sent to you – mine never arrived and I didn’t appear on the entry list which was posted on the website very late in the day. Luckily, I didn’t seem to be the only one in that particular boat and I signed up and paid on registration. The mass start was another odd feature, which I assumed was to make timing riders simple (wrong about that). If there was no intention to record times, why weren’t the riders set off in groups? In marked contrast,the feed stop was well organised, had plenty of variety of provender and was well staffed. Next up was the signage issue. In general it was adequate, if not great, but failed badly at the key point on the route. Finally, having nobody at all at the finish was simply unacceptable, in my view. A prerequisite for any sportive is some kind of official time and most organisers provide some food and drink (even if it has to be paid for) along with toilet facilities and some basic first aid. By providing none of these, the event wasn’t a sportive and riders missed out on one of the great parts of any challenge ride, namely the banter with other riders over a brew. This is a real shame as the the stand out feature of the event is an excellent route.

I appreciate that when running a charity event an organiser will be very keen to keep costs down, however, I would rather pay an extra fiver and have a decent online entry system and facilities at the finish than put up with the sort of organisation we had today.

Here’s the route I rode:

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11 Responses to “3 Shires Sportive”

  1. Redbike 18 April 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    I rather fancied this one but its just too local to pay to ride.
    I might skip around your loop later in the week

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  2. Andy 18 April 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    You weren’t alone missing that bidulph part, the signing was all wrong. The lead group of eight had split into 5+1+2 at that point (I was the 1) and we all went wrong independantly. The lead five went wrong again later, missed the gated climb and ended up climbing macc forest. You were near the front at 3:24 for the shortened loop, I hit langley at about 3:10 but then waited on the wall for a buddy.

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  3. John Sutton 18 April 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Andy, thanks for the comment. I think I saw you sitting on the wall.

    Redbike, I saw a guy from Leek CC and asked if he knew you. “Oh yeah, the guy with the fixie,” came the reply with a wry smile. 😉

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  4. Simon Lewis 18 April 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    How bizzare! No one at the end. Very odd.

    Well done for getting back on the bike. Something which I must do very soon.

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  5. Andrew 19 April 2010 at 7:42 am #

    Hi John,
    Good to meet you yesterday! I completely agree with you about the event – great route, but they really should’ve had a marshal up on that junction. I did have an idea that we were supposed to go left first and then loop back round, but I wasn’t going to take responsibility 😉
    And, super bizarre not to have anyone at the finish. Still, my ride over Kettlehulme to home in New Mills afterwards finished me off anyway 🙂

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  6. redbike 19 April 2010 at 9:15 am #

    lol, I think i’m the only person mad enought to *pretend to ride a fixie around these hills.

    *It’s all pretend. I think I push it more than I ride it.

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  7. Simon 19 April 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your review of the event, I’m glad you enjoyed it for the most part and thanks for your positive comments about the feedstation.

    Re the other points – this was run as a Charity event and as such has raised over £2000 for which we are very grateful to all the participants.

    However, we want to improve it – the lack of manpower at the end was not down to trying to save money, simply a lack of experience in running the event – we wrongly assumed no one would get to the end much before 1.00pm – this was then exacerbated by the unclear section of the route – I understand the majority of riders missed the loop and thus finished earlier.

    We do hope to run another 3Shires event and will certainly aim to improve in terms of signage and timekeeping for riders. We will also improve the online entry system to allow instant online payment rather than the manual invoicing we used this time which was a definite weak spot.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to review the event -we will be putting an article on the 3Shires website later today and inviting responses to help us improve the event.

    Simon – Buxton Round Table

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  8. John Sutton 19 April 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Great, thanks for your response, Simon. I think you have the basis for an excellent event – the route is really interesting – Minn End Lane is embedded in my memory!

    Well done on your fundraising efforts!

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  9. Margaret 19 April 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Simon,
    We actually did the Mow Cop loop and added on an extra 5 miles by overshooting the Minn End turn and going back to make sure we completed the full course. We’d nearly missed one or two other turns as well – just making the signs A4 and brighter would help. We arrived back well after 1.00pm to meet with the same absence of people at the finish and after all that effort disappointing not to have any idea of how we’d fared in comparison to anyone else. The feed station was very good.
    Margaret & Barry

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  10. Simon 20 April 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Hi Margaret and Barry,

    Thanks for your feedback – we have noted the signs need improvement and will be going for a larger sign with a bright border around them. We will also be producing printable routemaps along with the gpx files in advance of the next event. The plan is to try and rope a few more volunteers in next time and get the finish manned from around 11.45am with refreshments and goodbags.

    Hope you enjoyed the event – we’ll do our best to solve the niggles next time!

    Simon

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