At least the Weather Gods kept their promise. Saturday was cool and dry with just a light breeze to resist forward momentum. I arrive at Poynton High School in plenty of time for the start, got registered and bumped in to Jon, the proprietor of the Bicycle Smithy – the bike shop I frequented so often whilst living in Hazel Grove. I set off in the first group still unsure whether my legs would manage the 80 miles or whether the 50 might be the prudent option. Unfortunately, led by Jon, the lead group were clearly intent on setting a blistering pace. Nowadays I need a decent warm up before settling in to a solid pace so I quickly decided to drop off and join a group moving at a more gentlemanly speed. Still, the relatively benign weather and flat roads allowed for brisk progress and I reached the halfway feed in a smidge over 2 hours, giving me an average pace of almost 30kph! This was very fast by my standards at this time of year, and my legs would surely pay for it later.

In order to get to the 80 miles length, the route makes a couple of contrived loops, and I think the 50 mile version makes for a much more logical circuit. Perhaps the longer route would be improved by heading further south and east following some of the lovely lanes around Marton, Bosley and Gawsworth, but both circuits do share one thing in common, the last third is much lumpier than anything that has preceded it. ?There are no big hills, as befits a season opening sportive, but enough ups and downs to remind tired legs that they are not as fit as they were last September. My pace dropped significantly but was still riding fairly strongly at the head of a small group. After 4 hours, however, my legs forcefully communicated their lack of willingness to carry on the struggle and the pace dropped again, making the last few miles back to base a bit of a grovel. I finished in 4:37 at a pace just shy of 27 kph (16.7 mph), which considering the lack of road miles this winter isn’t too bad at all. Even if my poor form had been well and truly outed, it’s likely that, had I done the 50 mile option I would have been as fast as last year, so pushing a bit further into the red was probably a good thing.

I spoke to Jon later on – he finished in 3:58 – a storming effort. Well done big guy! (No-one was under 4 hours last year)

The Jodrell Bank has really stepped up to the plate in its second year and delivered a well organised event. The signposting was the best I’ve seen on a sportive, and the kids from Poynton High did a great job serving hot tea and coffee, as well as hot dogs to the finishers. I’d like to see timing chips introduced as I passed several riders in the latter part of the 80 mile route who definitely hadn’t set out ahead of me at the start meaning that they had either missed the Tatton loop at the top of the circuit or missed the turn in Bollington. Finally, would someone among the organisers please learn how to use a spreadsheet – that way registration would be simple!

Image under a Creative Commons licence by Smabs Sputzer on Flickr