YOUR GUIDE: Alex Wise
DISTANCE: 31 miles (50km)
MAIN CLIMB: Harborough Hill
TOTAL CLIMB: 408 metres
ACHTUNG! Careful crossing the A6003 and A47
Alex Wise is 18, but he?s been racing since he was five. Currently second placed junior in the Rudy Project time trial series, Wise used to race around the streets with his brother, terrorising their neighbours so much that somebody suggested to their father that he take them to the local cyclo-cross races to blow off some steam. He did, and the bug bit deep.
?It was just a laugh though, until I was 10,? Wise said before setting off on his ride. ?Then I rode the Manchester Youth Tour, but I fell off in the city-centre race. Stephen Roche was presenting the prizes and he congratulated me by patting me on my sore shoulder.?
Rubbing shoulders with the greats, literally in Wise?s case, has galvanised many bike riders into wanting more. Wise was soon riding track and time trials, and got into road racing as soon as he was old enough. At the moment he?s halted his college course to concentrate on sport. ?I want to see what potential I?ve got, and I want to give myself every opportunity to do that by being a full time cyclist,? he says.
If basic speed is anything to go by Wise could well fulfil his ambition of ?getting in a ProTour team and going to the Olympics?. He says he was a bit below par in the junior National Championships, but he still rode a 1-08 in the kilo time trial; not bad for someone whose rangy build better suits much longer races.
From the centre of Uppingham, which is famous for its posh boarding school, Wise heads south-west on the B664, crossing into Leicestershire near the head of Eyebrook Reservoir. One of the big features of this ride is the honey-coloured stone that many of the older buildings are made from. It?s called ironstone, and the colour comes from iron oxide staining caused by the numerous deposits of the metal found in this area.
Wise passes some beautiful old buildings in Ashley, where the route picks up the course of the river Welland, but the real peach is the village of Rockingham with its calendar quality main street.
The area?s beauty isn?t lost on Wise either. ?I love riding my bike. If my coach says I should go out for a one-hour recovery ride, I always do two. I just enjoy riding along and looking over the hedges,? he says.
From Rockingham, Wise continues along the Welland valley, but now to his right is the edge of Rockingham Forest, once a 200-square-mile area of mixed woodland, that has been inhabited since the iron age and was a hunting ground for William the Conqueror. Today the woods are sparse, but there is a big effort to rejuvenate them and introduce some of the wildlife that once lived there, including, Wise says: ?A colony of red kites that have just been released. They are trying to get them established.?
From the wonders of nature the route next takes in some of the ingenuity of man, as Wise approaches the Welland Viaduct and we stop for a Fred Dibnah moment. ?I think it is the longest in the country. I wonder how many bricks they used,? Wise muses.
It is indeed the longest in the country, comprising 82 arches of 40 feet each, and they used 20 million bricks to build it. It was completed for the London and Midland railway in 1878, having been built by 200 men, who lived in a temporary encampment with their families that was called Cyprus.
Underneath the arches
Under the viaduct and Wise is back in Rutland again. The route then leaves the Welland Valley at Morcott to skirt the southern edges of Rutland Water, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Europe with a reputation for sailing, fishing and cycling.
There are good views of the lake from the road between Lyndon and Manton, after that the route heads south to Wing and along a bit of main road back to Uppingham. ?It?s a nice ride isn?t it?? Wise says after he?s finished.
It is a nice ride, not much traffic, a bit of flat, a few undulations and even the odd hill. Perfect cycling country really. Good for races too, in fact we crossed parts of several road race and time trial courses on the route. The ride is also close to the roads that are used in the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic, so next year why not combine watching one Britain?s premier one-day road race with your own ride around the glories of Rutland?
ALEX WISE: THE FACTS
* Age 18, lives with his parents in Uppingham
* Races for the Agiskoviner team
* Coached by Askigo?s junior coach, John Percy
* Sporting heroes are Lance Armstrong and Muhammad Ali
* Says that his next step is to live and race abroad, to see if he can do it
Start in Uppingham, take B664 to Medbourne. Turn left (TL) onto unclassified road to Ashley and Middleton. In Middleton TL on B670 to Rockingham. Cross A6003 just north of Rockingham and follow the unclassified to Gretton and Harringworth. TL in Harringworth, go under viaduct and turn right (TR) on B672 towards Morcott, TR on A47 and immediate TL (extra care) and immediate TL again in Morcott on unclassified road to Pilton, Lyndon and Manton. In Manton TL, direction Wing. TR just before Wing on narrow unclassified road to A47. TR on A47 to Uppingham.
YOUR GUIDE: Alex Wise