As the winter sinks its icy teeth into the bones, it’s inevitable to think forward to the next year and the buzz of a new season and new challenges.
Of course, I’ll be going back for more mountains, breaking my Dolomites virginity (mostly an excuse for me to go and eat loads of pizza and drink gallons of espresso), and returning to the old classics in the Alps.
However, through a combination of good luck, good networking, and a bit of hard work (only a little mind you), I’ve got myself entries and accommodation for events in some of the most renowned cycling districts of the UK: the South West and Exmoor, The Peak District, Yorkshire, and the Brecon Beacons.
The four events (comprising six days of riding) I’ve become involved with all fall in a fairly punishing period of 6 six weeks.
This is what I’m lucky / foolish enough to be doing:
Tour of the Peak – 7th May – 185km / 3,300m+
Based on the route of a famous old road race across a hefty distance and featuring numerous climbs I’ve heard a lot about (including Holme Moss and Winnat’s Pass) and have not yet ridden, this is going ot be heck of a challenge early in the year, but a great way to keep me focussed over late winter. The profile looks somewhat threatening. Apparently they’ve not heard of flat roads in the Peaks….
The event is organised by velo29, who also put on a lot of road races oop Norf. As far as i can tell, they’ve taken over the sportives that used to be run by KiloToGo before they went insolvent. I’m really looking forward to riding somewhere totally new and more than likely getting mashed by hard northerners on even harder climbs.
The Struggle – 21st May – 174km / 2,900m+
Shortly after my first venture past Watford Gap of the season, I tentatively will return for the ominously titled ‘The Struggle’
Another loooong ride, another bowel loosening looking profile, and another set of climbs that I’ve heard of but not experienced (Greenhow, Park Rash et al). I went up to Yorkshire for the Grand Depart a few years ago, and remember the roads to be heavy, grinding and generally difficult. No chance for much rhythm, not much respite to be had in the wheels, and a lot of concetration involved. Crkey.
The event looks quite a big deal, with affiliations to OTE nutrition (another northern brand), a training camp, and some snazzy kit. Again, another one I’m really looking forward to. A good chance to ride in God’s own country and visit the cycling heart of the UK. Everyone in South East think that Surrey is the be all and end all of cycling, and I howl in protest at this every time. Bring it on. Let’s hope the legs are good…!
Tour of Wessex – 27 – 29th May –Three stages / 529km / 6,000m+
I did this in 2016 and it was where I felt my legs starting to grow into what they ended up as at the Haute Route.
A multi-day event based out of one venue in Somerset, featuring three days of over 160km each and pushing 2,000m every day. It was absolutely awesome last year as I felt pretty good, the weather was kind, and I was with a good group of buddies, who went on to become my team in Haute Route Pyrenees.
The event is supremely well run, yet still down to earth, with boy scouts stocking the egg sarnies at feed stations and a rotary tent dishing up jacket potatoes at the event village – all mingling with shimano outriders and full medical support. The event is stepping up again this year, with improved routes and event village, revised routes, and affiliations with Swift Carbon, SRM powermeters, and good old Vince from Nuffield Health (the man that singlehandedly towed my bunch of 30+ riders home on the 6 hour epic to the south coast on day two).
The weekend offers a great mixture of super fast group riding through the plains of the south west, crushing climbs through Exmoor and the Quantocks, and some stunning environs. Lets hope my good relationship with it continues.A great way to prepare for a Haute Route.
Dragon Ride Gran Fondo– 17th June – 230km / 3,600m+
This will be my fourth outing to the Brecon Beacons, and after a real horror ride in 2016 -where a shocking night sleeping in the back of a van, a shite ‘packed’ breakfast, and an allround offday conspired to produce 8 hours of hurt (as documented here) – I promised myself I’d never return. However, a free ride and the desire to put bad demons to rest has lead me to return.
The event is probably the daddy of UK sportives and is a bit big for its boots I think, with astronomical fees seemingly justified by crap you don’t want like free coconut water at the end and a KOM section etc. However, there’s no denying it’s one heck of a route on some beautiful climbs and stunning moorland.
I’d bloody better have good legs for this one. Other than the Marmotte, it was possibly my longest and hardest single day in the saddle in 2016. Fortuntately it falls a week later than normal, meaning I won’t be going into it still carrying the previous weekend’s Tour of Wessex in the legs.
The challenge is on. Don’t be a re-run of 2016. PLEASE.
Why am i telling you all this?
What i’m getting at in a very long-winded way is that you don’t need to go shelling out masses of money going to the mountains if you want a tough ride in stunning locations.
We’re very very lucky in the UK to have some beautiful countryside, brilliant events, and climbs that will put hairs on your chest so thick they’ll rip through your jersey, Hulk-style.
If you’re short for time or money and want a challenge, you really don’t need to venture far. Just book a dirty weekend with your loved one (your bike, obviously) in the English Riviera.