Once again the Christmas Cracker Sportive was postponed from its original date in December (surprise) due to bad weather and took place yesterday instead. It’s the second time in 3 years that this has happened, I’m sure someone somewhere is thinking that maybe a cyclosportive in the depths of winter in the Lake District isn’t a great idea….but anyway.
I picked Phil up at dark o’clock and we soon arrived at Staveley, the plan was to ride the 15 miles or so from there to the start of the event at Grasmere so we’d be nicely warmed up. It also meant that I’d be able to fit in an extended ride after the sportive…
At the start we met up with Nick, Paul and Steve and immediately set off and hit the first and steepest climb (25%) of the day. Our warm up paid dividends as we grovelled up the hill, but grovelled a bit less painfully than those around us who’d only just got on their bikes. We then proceeded to tear off towards the first feed station about 35 miles away as quickly as possible. Me and Phil don’t do ‘sociable rides’ for some reason. We just try to tear each other’s legs off instead 😉
After a good 25 minutes of over-indulgence and a natter to Dave and Angela (who I reckon had been there for several hours drinking coffee and eating cakes) at the feed station in Cartmel we set off back onto the road via the river of mud outside the scout hut. We were taking it a bit easier now – scones, cheese and ham barm cakes, cups of tea and flapjacks caused me to feel a little bit sick after a couple of miles. Phil on the other hand was getting hungry again, blaming ‘fast metabolism’ or something.
I was glad I’d taken the newly-built Ragley Cragg Vale as the roads up there at this time of year seem to be liberally coated with mud and farm poo. The sensible mudguards were doing their job at keeping the sludge off me and mostly off the rest of the bike while everyone else I saw on mudguard-less bikes were completely covered in slop.
After returning back to Grasmere we finally had a bowl of Christmas pudding and custard, another cup of tea and I left Phil to continue my planned ride. I rode up The Struggle to the Kirkstone Inn, took a photo, admired the view for a bit then enjoyed the descent back down towards Windermere and then back to Staveley and the warmth of the car.
Chain Reaction have sent me a new road bike. I’ve got a fair few sportives planned and I’ll turn up to the local chaingang at long last this year so I’ll have plenty of chance to put it through its paces and show it off.
It’s a Vitus Venon – a full carbon frame and fork with a 105 groupset. The frame is beautiful – there’s something about exposed carbon weave that still gets me excited and this is covered in smart little details. Everything about it shouts ‘FAST!’ right in your face.
I took it for a ride yesterday on my usual ridiculously-early 50 miler and my first impressions are that it’s very, very stiff. I’m not sure if this is the wider seatpost, the wheels or just the beefiness of the frame but compared to my old Lapierre it’s a much firmer ride. It’s not uncomfortable, nor is it skittish, it just feels kind of ‘connected’ and more direct.
The stiffness of the frame is a good thing – climbing in a big gear, out of the saddle produced no flex at all that I could detect. I’m normally able to hear the brakes fluttering a bit on my old bike but not a peep from this one.
Climbing on the Venon is almost cheating. Short undulations are despatched with a few strokes without dropping into easier gears and I don’t think I’ve climbed the long drag up Cragg Vale as quick as I did yesterday.
I’ll do a full review and some ‘seatpost cam’ footage (I thought of that just then) after some proper hilly action in North Wales next week – expect some epic photos of a bike dwarfed by mountains too.
Another Hit the North organised, agonised over, sweated for and then executed with the kind of style and grace of a pig falling out of a moving train…nobody seems to notice though. Apparently as far as ‘my guests’, all 200 or so of them are concerned, it’s become something rather quite special over the last 3 years.
Seemingly universal approval from everyone – from the riders there for a laugh and a social to the guys who eventually get to stand on the podium (ok, 2 pallets and the spare wheel out of the van) to the helpers and spectators – there’s definitely something about this event that keeps making people feel good.
So I’ll keep doing it until everyone gets bored of it.
I’m not going to go on into loads of detail about it here, I’ll instead take the lazy route and pull together some of the riders’ accounts as and when they’re posted. My account would be weighed down with talk of insurance levies, traffic cones and barrier tape anyway – but I will say that there’s proof sometimes that if you work hard at something (and trust me, this was bloody hard work) it often ends up being very good indeed. A right bobby-dazzler, in fact.
Oh, and THANKS to everyone who helped out before, during and after. I love you all.
Blogs, comments, photos and a video all here (I’ll keep updating this list as and when people publish things so keep checking back)…
Cookson Cycles blog
Helmet cam video
Sportsunday pics 1
Sportsunday pics 2
STW forum thread
John Climber’s photos
Ed Rollason’s photos
Paul Riding’s photos
Somebody’s wife’s photos
Andy Spencer’s photos