CW Difficulty rating: 3/10
This year’s event: Sunday 22nd May 2016, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, LN8 3EA
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Where is it?
The Arrow starts from Market Rasen racecourse, on the edge of the cathedral city of Lincoln. After taking on the long, straight roads of the county, weaving through farmland, the route heads to the highest point in the East Midlands, the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Why ride it?
Taking on a flat cycling event will surely add something a little different to your sportive season. And if you’re looking to bump up the miles in one ride, this could be a good way to achieve it. On a clear day, you can see over to the Pennines from the Lincolnshire Wolds. These are always well-organised cycling events with well-stocked feed stations.
This year’s edition will be the Arrow’s second outing. With many of the rides on the Cycling Weekly sportive series taking place on hilly terrain in places such as Surrey, Yorkshire and Dartmoor, the Arrow is an event with a very different flavour. The series now has a total of 10 events, with the Arrow the fifth of the year.
The selling point of most sportives is the tough climbing. They often sport fearsome names and can be billed to have you chewing on your handlebars. But if you’re not built for climbing or just fancy a route that doesn’t have you pushing out of the saddle defying gravity, then the Arrow could be for you.
It’s not long before you see how this event got its name. Upon leaving Market Rasen racecourse, heading south, black ribbons of tarmac stretch out before you straight as, well, an arrow. In the first few miles, the roads have wide bends sweeping you on to the next section, as the first 20 miles weave through farmland, the lanes flanked by full hedges. Towards the village of West Torrington, the hedges begin to thin and you catch glimpses of the agricultural landscape lying flat to the horizon.
Mostly it’s potatoes growing in the fields, but this area is also known for its production of wheat, barley and oilseed rape, which, come May, will provide bright splashes of yellow across the otherwise green landscape.
These lanes are quiet and the only thing that may hold you up on the day is a tractor or wildfowl crossing the road, as we encountered near Snelland village.
Watch your speed just after Stainfield before hitting Bardney. There is a narrow bridge, and we encountered a car coming quickly towards us over the small rise. There are a few bridges on the route, which take you over the river and streams here, but most have traffic lights.
As flat as the majority of this route may be, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. After the village of Bardney you cross the River Witham. The hedges drop away and the roads become wider and more exposed to the gusts. We experienced quite a wind when we rode the route back in March. Experience the same and it’ll turn into a tough ride — you’ll certainly feel like you’ve done more than 588m of climbing. Our suggestion is to get a group together or try and join one, working together to use that to your advantage on these exposed roads.
As you pass through Washingborough, the first feed stop, take a look over to your right and you’ll see the turrets of Lincoln Cathedral in the distance. We hit some traffic here, with people heading to the town centre, but on a Sunday morning you shouldn’t have to endure that battle with cars.
Canwick Hill will be your first and only real climbing challenge of the day, possibly one of the few times you’ll be out of the big chainring. It’s only a short slog but will certainly wake up your legs. The route rolls gently after this to Metheringham, and riders on the standard course reach the southern most point of Martin. If you’re up for taking on the epic route, you’ll travel as far as Ruskington before making your way northwards.
Lincoln’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is now approaching. The hills may be low-lying but your legs will certainly feel the difference as you move to more rolling terrain. You’re on the home stretch now, so don’t hold back. A pretty good downhill takes you into Tealby and snakes up through the village past the church. Willingham Woods to your left offers a leafy run to the finish line back into Market Rasen.
1 Canwick Hill
This short climb will shock your legs after the first half of the route on the flat. Its average gradient is six per cent, ramping up to 15 per cent. It’s less than 1km long.
2 B1181 to Martin Dales
Making your way east, this exposed four-mile section of road is often the place you’ll meet a headwind. Get in a group and share the toil.
3 Papermill Lane
Don’t get too carried away on this 15 per cent downhill section. It’ll be a nice relief from pedalling all day, but keep your wits about you as it sweeps quite sharply to the left.
It may be the highest point in the county but these hills are still relatively low-lying. If you’ve shot out of the blocks and not conserved your energy, these rises could be the last thing you want to see. You’ll hit the escarpemnt on the west side of the Wolds with just 20 miles to go. If you’ve still got life in your legs, then you can be confident in pushing on to the finish. If not, then make sure to use the rolling road to your advantage. Build up your speed on the downhills and use that momentum to propel you over the rises and onward.
Enter at: bookmyride.co.uk