As the riders for the 8 hour group assembled at Shakespere’s Birthplace at 0830 there was an eager anticipation for the day ahead, the weather forecast was good and the route promised interesting and varied riding. There was a mix of riders in the group including club veterans and novice riders who were using this ride as a practice for the Etape in just under a months time.
With a brief warning about the dangers of Traitors Ford and distribution of maps the group set off. The pace was measured from the start with an average of 17-18mph along Loxley road. The aim was to start as they would finish, a very sensible approach for the 20 or so riders in this group.
As the riders made their way past Walton Hall and down through the lanes used by the clubs LVRC road race towards Brailes the 6 riders in the 6 hour group assembled and set off. The pace in the 6 hour group was a little faster as one may expect but still measured.
With the 8 hour group starting the climb into the Cotswolds from Traitors Ford leading to pick up the reverse of the reliability ride the 6 hour group passed Walton Hall. With a pickup truck climbing the descent towards Halford blocking the road Costa found using the bramble bush essential to arrest his continental descending speed, whilst the rest of the group were forced off the road as the truck used up the whole road.
Both groups made steady progress through the lanes of the North Cotswolds passing through Stow, the swells and passed the Farm Park. The 8 hour group finding they were ahead of schedule elected to put in an extra loop to pad out the distance (that was it wasn’t it Tony?). The hills were paying their price on the 6 hour group with some of the members more noted for their ongoing battles with gravity searching deep in their resolve to crest these mammoth Gloucestershire Cols.
As the 6 hour group swung into the tea stop at Broadway Tower at just over 50 miles the 8 Hour group were just finishing their tea and cake and the Johnson’s Coaches tandem team were just tucking into their second helping. With this being a convenient return point for some of the riders with other commitments some goodbyes were said and the groups set off again about 15 minutes apart.
The next section of the ride was trailed as being a give-away as it descended Saintbury to route to Emley Castle, gently down hill or flat and on good fast roads. This was welcome by all, especially the non climbers. The 6 hour group passed through Emley Castle and were passed by a fat bloke on a 50cc moped, like a red rag to a bull the group then strung out behind the “derny” and had an unofficial club Kieren championship. Mick and Costa were disqualified for overtaking the derny although it was very funny to watch them overtake the moped and then realise how much shelter they were getting from it and that they weren’t sure what to do now they had passed it.
Shortly after Pershore passing Throckmorton airfield the 2 groups came together, and enjoyed eachothers company for a while. Adamant that the group should not get lost in the Labyrinth that is the Lenches the route designer Tom took all 26 riders the wrong way which also causes an outbreak of cramp as well as some disappointing language, anybody can make a mistake. Back on track with just 3 miles to go to the second tea stop at Miranda’s house there were the Col’s de Atch Lench and Church Lench. These were just about enough to cause irreversible cramp for Tony who had done a sterling job of leading the 8 hour group.
The tea stop at Miranda’s house was very welcome especially when the riders entered the back garden to see the spread that she and Heather had put on. 20 minutes later full of Heathers excellent cake and biscuits and full of tea and Mirandas much appreciated hospitality the group set off again as one unit.
As the riders climbed into Rous Lench the two groups spilt again, the 6 hour group setting a fast pace lead by James guesting from BN12RT in Worthing, a friend of Tom and ex-national squad rider. The groups were in good spirits and so a puncture for Costa was met with banter rather than frustration in Feckenham, the 8 hour group took the lead again here (as it was to stay until the end). One last climb up the Col de Astwood Bank and careful negotiation of the ford at Coughton and all of a sudden the group was in Stratford CC’s backyard. The group negotiated the lanes and climb into Wilmcote then along the Ridgeway into Stratford.
Both groups achieved their time goals and many riders completed their first 100 mile ride. A big well done to all who participated and a big thank you to Miranda and Heather for their help in the refreshment stop, also thanks to Tony and John Otoby for leading the group.