Red Kite Shropshire Devil sportive 2014

Welcome to ShropshireThe Red Kite Events Shropshire Devil sportive: I’d decided to enter this two days previously and use my new second hand bike. I decided that 85 miles (138km) around Shropshire would be an ideal warm down after six days of skiing in France.

After endless months of rain the UK had finally dried out and I had a definite spring in my step when I left the house at 7:15am. It took me two hours to reach the event start at Minsterley where I discovered that sportive riders like to start early and I was the last rider out.

I’d done a 90 mile event on a mountain bike in 2013 and expected this to be easier now that I had a more suitable bike. The worst aspect of the previous sportive had been deep vein thrombosis of the glutes (aka arse ache) from the MTB saddle. This time I was operating in biker hybrid mode: I was MTB parts below the waist and roadie above whilst the bike was all roadie. That meant MTB shoes on the flat pedals that came with the bike and knee pads (I like keeping my knees warm).

Red Kite Events sportive
Rider briefing

After a quick briefing I was off. As a map lover it felt a bit odd to have no idea where I was going. Instead I was relying on marker boards and road painting but that added an element of intrigue to the day ahead.

The route started out along a gently undulating B road and it was encouraging to find that 25km/h was fairly effortless even on slight inclines. On my mountain bike I have to work quite hard to manage 20km/h on the flat. It took me a while to find a comfortable position on the bike. My wrists weren’t used to the handlebars and I had some numbness but eliminated that by adjusting my position.

The course marking was very comprehensive. One junction had an array of four sign posts plus paint markings on the road! No excuses for coming off route.

On the first proper hill I found that standing up was going to be necessary beyond a certain angle. This felt pretty easy and natural. Fair play to the bike, it was very lively on the up.

CAC photography
Photo by CAC Photography

At the top I passed Neil from Red Kite Events fixing the broken bike of another rider. That’s the benefit of a supported event like this – mechanical assistance, food stops and the option of being picked up if it all goes wrong. I called this guy “green bike man” and he was the first person I’d actually seen out on the route.

After a long climb I was looking forwards to rolling along on a steady descent, ideally for 20 minutes or so. Instead it was straight down a steep and narrow lane. With my hands down on the drop bars and my neck bent upwards as far as felt comfortable my eyeballs were at their upper limit in order for me to be able to see beyond the front wheel. After fifteen seconds of this my eye muscles started to spasm and I thought I might pass out if I held it for too long. I was only just familiar with the handling of the bike and entertained myself with a sharpish corner that crept up during this. My survival technique was to alternate between looking at the front wheel and where I was going.

At the bottom of the hill I had my first “Hey, I know where I am!” moment. I know Shropshire pretty well after years of driving through it on the way to north Wales, some MTB trips like the Marshbrook MTB marathon and a weekend trip  and also some cycling holidays I did back in the late 80s (when I were a lad). 

Green bike man pulled away into the distance and I was on my own.  On the long, flat cruise the heat from the sun was totally offset by a cold headwind. This didn’t really seem to affect the bike speed but the noise and the cold were annoying me.

Shropshire view near Clun.

I know the climb from Abermule well from driving through and I was surprised by how much easier it seemed relative to my expectations.  At the top of the hill I was pleased to find the first food stop. As I approached I saw another rider who was just leaving. After a chat and eating several packets of Eccles cakes I was back on the road. From this point it was downhill for 18km with a trailing wind. Happy days and I caught my first rider too. My average speed was just below 20km/h and I reached 60km 10s before 3 hours had expired. I reckoned that it would take me 7 hours to complete the ride.

Warning: sportives do this to you.
Warning: sportives do this to you.

On the steep hill between Clun and New Invention I caught two more riders. I was very encouraged by the way that the bike went up hills. Years of riding mountain bikes in the mud had obviously paid off.

The route was designed to confuse as it passed through Clun, Clungunford, Clunbury, Aston on Clun and past a sign to Clunton. I spotted some more riders in the distance and finally passed them when they stopped. One seemed to be filling his water bottle from a stream. I’d been quite lonely for the start of this ride and it was nice to know I wasn’t last any more.

The second food stop was another welcome surprise and green bike man was there. After stuffing my face with carrot cake four of us set of. At the top of the hill I’d left the other three behind but then green bike man passed me when I stopped to strap my anorak to the bike properly. I reeled him in on the next hill. We all love a bit of competition.

At Church Stretton the route took the classic climb up Long Myndd. This meant that I spent most of twenty minutes standing up on the pedals. I had a minor cramp attack and managed to just see that off. At the top I was feeling pleased with myself. I was getting the hang of this roadie business. and the Garmin was showing 115km which meant that I only had 25km left, aka 15 miles.

Long Myndd sunny view
The top of the Long Myndd

Down the other side past Bridges the annoying head wind was back  with it’s cold and noise. It was a total relief to turn north towards Stiperstones. With only 15km left and some knowledge of where I was relative to the finish I knew that it would be a fairly straightforward run from there on. The last hill was a scenic and quiet climb up through a forest with many false summits and my morale was in good shape. Half an hour later I was at the finish for a cup of winner’s tea.

As my first proper sportive that was a great day out. An interesting route through an area I love, great views, well signposted and with good food stops.

Stiperstones view.
Last view of the day.

I was 12th out of 15 on the Strava leaderboard. That was promising since there was a group of riders with similar ish times and I could make 8th place if I was half an hour quicker. I hope that that sort of time reduction would be possible if I was fresh on the day.

Results on the cyclosport website.

Distance  140 km (86 miles) Elapsed time  7:36 h:m Av moving speed  20 km/h
Elevation gain  2034 m Moving time  7:01 h:m Max speed  61.6 km/h
Energy  No idea.Quite a lot probably.

Garmin | Strava | gpx     Photos on CAC Photography website.

Red Kite Shropshire Devil sportive map

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