It never fails to amaze me the number of people that approach the bike mounting line and stop perfectly still in order to get on their bike, and today was no different..! Upon the approach which by now was quite muddy from the exit of T1, I spotted a plausible gap, and went for it and hopped straight on through the mounting line, mounting my trusty stead [bike], rolling my feet into my cages [no clipless here, that is still to come!], and got pedalling making up around half a dozen places in the process…!
It was fairly obvious to me, but not others, that you really cannot approach a speed bump at a rate of knots without losing important stuff from your bike – the first kilometre adjacent to Chasewater was littered with bottles that had been dislodged from cages, nutrition bars and so on. Not an ideal way to start the next 90.0km with the first water / feeding station some 12miles / 20km away at Kings Bromley.
Once I had cleared the speedbump nightmare, I was out onto the open road from Chasewater heading to Kings Bromley. I spent the first few kilometres of the ride settling into a comfortable pace, and chucking drink and energy gels down my neck to ensure the batteries were topped up for the next 90km. As I had driven the vast majority of the route a few weeks back during my recce drive, I knew that the route itself was quite technical over the first 15-20 kilometers or so. Lots of sharp corners, blind corners with ascents making gear selection really, really important. I must admit, Staffordshire County Council had obviously been out and repaired some of the large potholes, and I even suspect that they had the roadsweepers out, as the road now was 1) less potholed, & 2) less gravelled / dangerous on corners – that just goes to show how much the local council had embraced the event, and as such its competitors. During the course of the first twisty downhill sections, it was fairly obvious that people had not done their course homework or looked at this video as there were bike skids on the tarmac, and I think even some blood… however, in hindsight it may have been a strawberry energy gel…..!
With Kings Bromley approaching and feeding station number 1, by now, I had drained some of my SiSi orange energy drink and around x2/3 energy gels if memory serves me correctly. Upon the approach, I sighted the energy drink station, disposed of my existing 450ml drinks holder majestically into the bulk wheely bins in the run-up [he shoots… he scores.. and the crowd goes wild!], and steered towards the energy drinks station, grabbed a bottle from the friendly volunteer, and managed to slide into my seat bottle cage in a relatively swift and dare I say adept movement! I even managed to get some cookies and cream and strawberry energy bar chews toward the end of the feed station also which was a tasty bonus. All energied up, and back into a good cadence, I pushed onward, having enjoyed what Staffordshire was throwing at me so far.
The next 12miles / 20kilometres or so was relatively uneventful, except of course for Gordon Ramsey tearing past me on his space-age carbon TT aero bike! With a cheeky turn of the head and a “come on Robert!” he was away – I must admit, I did try to keep up for a time, but have to say he was pedalling like a beast – kudos to him for that – in his 50’s and doing that … I only hope that I will be doing the same.
With the kilometres ticking over at a decent rate, I got to doing some mental arithmetic – so far, by my reckoning I had safely got to Kings Bromley in around 45minutes (20km), the second feeding station at around 1hr25 (37km), and the third at around 2hr15 (57km) – so was averaging around 45mins per 20km – or around 25/26km/h which was exactly where I wanted to be at this stage – pre-Cannock Chase / hill climb of course. Anything more would have been a bonus, but contrary to that, anything less would put me in a position where my bike would be approaching 4hours, which would have put me under pressure for cut-offs should any mechanical failure occur [touch wood had not yet happened, although I was acutely aware that by this stage I had seen around a dozen people repairing flats at the side of the road.]
With Cannock Chase fast approaching I took the last few kilometres pre-Cannock Chase, as I entered the bypass into Rugeley to take on some more fluids / electrolytes and top up some energy gels. I rounded the last corner before the start of the incline, dropped my gears in preparation for the hill and got grinding…!
The first kilometre of the climb wasn’t actually that bad – hell, I was actually enjoying it! My training locally in Stevenage had taken in quite a few comparative climbs and as such it became fairly obvious that I had the legs to get up the hills pretty quickly [trust in your training!] – and to say that I overtook a lot of people would be entirely fair..! It was great!
I do have to say at this point – the crowds out on the bike course so far had been amazing [and I hadn’t even reached Cannock Chase yet] – young families stood out on the roads cheering you on, people waving, ringing bells, rattling pots and pans, young and old – it was fantastic – in true British style, people were out in force, and it is events like #IM703STAFFS that GB needs – cheering on the unknown person – the average Joe – someone who wants to do something a little bit different, something out of the ordinary.
Reaching the top of Cannock Chase, I was hoping to see my support crew that to date I had not seen. Sadly no sign – by this time I assumed that the shuttle buses were not playing ball – a real shame. That aside, I cracked on not-disheartened as I was still buzzing after the Cannock Chase climb which was EPIC – not just in a satisfaction level, but also in terms of the scenery! I rounded the turning point and began the fast downhill section back into Cannock being overtaken by a lot of fabulous bikes along the way hitting around 51km/h on some of the downhill sections. The last few kilometres on the bike were spent just concentrating on keeping my rhythm up and getting into T2 in one piece, without a puncture, and completing the bike section without hitch. Glancing down at my watch I was over the moon to see that as I completed the hill descent from Cannock Chase, and made my way on the bypass toward Little Hayward and Shugborough the time was around 3hr25 or so and with only around 6kilomteres left to complete – I was hoping I would be well within my 3hr45 to 4hr target time – YAY!
As I entered the grounds of Shugborough, and came up to T2, I heard the familiar whistle of my support crew as I reached the dismount line, hopped off the bike, gave them a smile a hello, and after a slight wobble [jelly legs!] started the run into T2.
Over-the-moon with my performance on the bike – slightly quicker than my target, on what was certainly not a fast or flat course – it was however a very picturesque route that was chosen in the final stages up toward Cannock Chase.
Fantastic route, crowd and volunteers.
Bike Finish time: 3hr39m:21s
- Distance Split Speed
- 37.1 1:29:02 25.00 km/h
- 70.7 1:18:06 25.81 km/h
- 84.2 0:37:12 21.77 km/h
- 90.0 0:15:01 23.17 km/h
- Avg 3:39:21 24.62 km/h