A few mates had entered the Cheshire Cat sportive at the weekend so I thought it was a good excuse to get some fast miles in on the roadbike and incorporate the middle bit of my route with half of their sportive route (the interesting hilly part of it) and some cheeky banter….
Even though I had planned to start very early and ride to the start in Crewe, I opted to ignore the alarm clock for an hour then ride to Crewe thus missing Budge, Nick and the others at the start. I thought that the challenge of catching them up after an hour head start would be fun and I’d be faster after more sleep anyway 😉
After checking they weren’t hanging around at the start and feeling like a proper freeloader, I rode out of Crewe following the sportive direction signs.
The thing about the Cheshire Cat and in fact Cheshire in general, is that it sounds like it should be flat. Mostly, it is. But the hilly half of the route is peppered with short but very steep climbs that need a lot of out-of-the-saddle pedal mashing and a low gear to get to the top of. I’d been thinking about this aspect of the route as I was riding a bike with a ‘standard’ double chainset for the first time so my lowest gear was a fair bit taller than the lowest gear on my old compact chainset-equipped road bike. As it turned out, a fair amount of grimacing and kung-fu noises saw me to the top of each climb just fine and as an added bonus, the very large top gear had me descending at 45mph and still pedalling.
Eventually I caught the guys up and we rode the next couple of hills and flat bits together before we got to Holmes Chapel and I left the sportive route and headed back north. Holmes Chapel is near the start of the predominantly flat half of the route so it wasn’t going to be too interesting from now on so off I went, still riding into the headwind that greeted me several hours ago when I left the house. Despite having a good few more hours and almost 60-odd miles in mind left to ride, the headwind was starting to wear very thin indeed. So I changed my plan a little, opting to ride a revised and shorter but quite pretty route towards Tatton Park and then through Dunham Massey.
Reality kicked in eventually (the headwind now right into my face and getting stronger) as I rode closer to Manchester, eventually dodging the traffic on the A56 through Old Trafford, the City Centre and up to Prestwich, 120-ish miles later.