Polocini Winter Sprinter

My mate Allen is a hard-working lad. So is his better half, Clare. Between them they manage to organise a brilliant series of road sportive events in the North West as well as running an equally-brilliant cycling-themed coffee shop.

(I think Clare’s got a full-time job as well so she’s probably the more hard-working of the two in fariness 😉 ).

The coffee shop serves nice coffee, cakes and massive sandwiches, has loads of space to park and lock your bike and shows pro cycling footage on a big telly. What’s not to like? Go there and get some of this down yer neck…


(Philippe Gilbert Slice photo courtesy of Twinklydave)

At the weekend I had a ride at Allen’s “Winter Sprinter” road sportive for the third consecutive year.

Say what you want about sportives, as long as they’re not completely populated by over-eager nutcases (who should really get themselves entered into a race to let off some steam) and as long as they’re not silly money to enter they’re a good way to ride a route that you otherwise wouldn’t normally do, get fed along the way and have a laugh. For someone that spends 95% of their riding time alone (and in the dark mostly), sportives make a very welcome and sanity-saving change.

They’re not a race and once you’ve accepted that they’re a bloody enjoyable day out.

After a brief ride to the start through the centre of Manchester I ate my large portion of porridge, said howdo’s to friends and off we went.

I’d decided, because I’ve been enjoying riding it so much lately, to do it on the Pompetamine. It’s only got the one gear and it’s also got flat bars and disc brakes so it’s a good job that sportives aren’t races but I was able to spin along nicely, enjoy the Cheshire lanes and had a good natter with a few riders that I’d only ever spoken to before via the magic that is Twitter 😉

It was going well….then 20 miles later my chain snapped. For some reason (my own forgetfulness), I only had 10-speed chain links with me and this chain is a 1/8” singlespeed-specific chunky bugger of a chain…so….I was pretty stuffed.

Off I marched in the direction of a main road that we’d crossed a mile or so ago. Rang Deb and grovelled for a rescue. Walked towards Knutsford and marvelled at the size of the mansions. A bloke in a very, very, very expensive car indeed offered to help. For some reason he didn’t have any 1/8” chain links with him in his half-a-million-quid motor.

Deb arrived, we went home.

It was good while it lasted though, honest!

At the end, everyone was treated to a huge portion of biryani and a slice of cake. I’d not earned mine so I hope someone had a double portion.

Get yourself entered into the next Polocini event – the appropriately named “B*stard” as there are a few more hills in that one than in our pleasant Cheshire excursion.



That was Hit the North 4

It’s not been a whole lot of fun, organising Hit the North 4 if I’m perfectly honest. Despite the near-certainty that the event would be a big success and would put smiles on the faces of everyone involved, myself included, preparing this one has been a chore at times and my usual level of enthusiasm just hasn’t been there for most of the time.

I think it’s down to the fact that the event is a few years old now and our perception is that we’re at the point where we can’t “get away” with quite as much as we used to and simply blame things that go wrong on our lack of experience. No shortcuts. It’s all familiar territory so therefore it’s a bit less exciting than it once was. This isn’t the Tour De France, but we tolerate our own mistakes less now and don’t want to look inept.

Fast forward to the event itself and its immediate aftermath and everything, on the surface at least, was tickety-boo. Everyone happy. All riders got a mint ball at the finish. All the marshals said “put my name down for the next one”. Our sponsors, especially those who took part or took the trouble to bring trade gazebos and kit to the event, were happy. The caterers did well and sold lots of corned beef hash. The one guy who spannered himself on the new section of trail – the new section where I expected carnage – picked himself up and didn’t need an ambulance and/or helicopter. The bagpiper and Nigel’s drum squad enjoyed themselves and contributed to the atmosphere in a big way. The kids’ racing and skills coaching was handled brilliantly by British Cycling and the youngsters taking part loved it and each received a medal. There’s plenty in the pot to give away to charity, assuming nobody hits us with a bill for something big. I’ve never seen as many photographers at a bike race before. The Mayor came, she saw, she conquered and her Jag got stuck for a bit but we pushed it out of the ditch. Loads of people commented that they’d return to Philips Park ‘just for a ride on the new stuff’ which was a big tick in the box. The sun shone. YES. THE SUN.


Great stuff. Best race on the calendar for a lot of people. I feel great now, the earlier thoughts of jacking it all in because I can’t be arsed any more have (almost) completely evaporated and have been replaced by thoughts of how we can make HTN cooler and more fun for us as well as those taking part.

I know Andrew feels the same way too (because we drank waaay too much beer on Saturday and had a slurred conversation about it).


The size of the event and the sheer volume of people taking part has told us though that if we’re carrying on, we need to look at a few aspects that are starting to creak a bit. The lack of toilets will get sorted out. Blokes can use the bushes but most ladies would rather use a proper facility. And we’d rather blokes didn’t poo in the bushes (not that any did, to my knowledge). We had one toilet on-site plus the ones at the Rugby club half a mile away but the on-site one ran out of bog roll very quickly. Quite rightly, people moaned about it.


Louise and her daughters and Debbie, her mum and Angela, who between them handled the lap counting burden, were stretched to the limit and perhaps as a result some errors crept in. Nobody’s fault but this time the errors were near the front of the race and this meant that one rider, who actually won his category, didn’t feature in the presentation.

300 riders being manually timed for 2 hours simply puts a small number of people under too much pressure both during and immediately after the race so we’re going electronic (with a manual back-up) from now on.

Luckily for us the rider in question was our very own Dave Powell and he was typically laid-back about it. What was also lucky was that the guy whose name I actually read out buggered off home before I picked up the microphone so I didn’t give Dave’s prizes away to someone else… but it was a bit of a cock-up all the same and we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again by making improvements and spending a bit more money on it.

The public address system, bought a couple of years ago from some charlatan on Ebay, is a pile of crap. So we’ll be sorting that out too so that I don’t sound like I’m auditioning for a Napalm Death tribute act.


Hit the North 5. It’s coming. It’ll be a bit shiny, but not too shiny 🙂

Loads of cool stuff, results and info about the race can be found on the HTN blog here and I’ll be updating it over the next couple of weeks with various links to reports that people have written and photos.