Duke it out at Blenheim Palace

18th September 2010   Words: Chris Sidwells

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Thousands expected to join in this year’s sportive events in the Gloucestershire countryside

Blenheim Brompton 2009

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, home to the Duke of Marlborough and his family and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, is the place to be for all kinds of cyclists on Sunday October 3 this year. A day packed with events will take place in the 2,100-acre grounds and the surrounding countryside.

With over 7,000 attending in 2009, the organisers expect even more to visit this year and will use the day as an opportunity to raise awareness and money for the Breast Cancer Care charity.

The day kicks off at 8am with the start of a time trial within the grounds and a two-distance sportive event that heads into the Cotswolds. It continues with races, family rides and demonstrations until 6pm.

The sportive(s)

The sportive will be the biggest participation event of the day and is split into two hundreds — a 100km loop, while the more ambitious can top that up to 100 miles.

The shorter distance heads out into the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, then crosses into Gloucestershire to Stow-on-the-Wold before beginning the home leg back to Blenheim. The route will be well signed and the Trafeco organisation will be on hand to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Blenheim Go Ride 2009Both events use quiet country lanes for the majority of their length, and the hills tackled by the 100km riders, although plentiful, are less severe than those for the 100 milers.

Cotswold Edge

This is because the steeper slopes of the Cotswolds are found at its western edge, which is, in fact, called the Cotswold Edge. The 100-mile sportive uses the 100km loop as far as Stow-on-the-Wold, then heads off for a second loop, which drops off the Cotswold Edge at Broadway then climbs back up it later for the steepest slope of the day, the Roel Gate, just south of Winchcombe.

The riders return to Stow-on-the-Wold for a second time, where there is a rest stop for both distances. Then the 100-mile riders follow the rest of the 100km route to complete a testing figure of eight.

The organisers expect a big field for both distances — 1,200 rode last year. Improvements this year include extra food and drink stations out on the course.

Two world titles

After the sportive leaves and the time trial, comprising the Tricycle Association World Champs, is over, there will be another world title race. On folding bikes. The Brompton World Championship is in its fourth year at Blenheim.

Although this is a fun race, there are regulations: competitors have to wear a jacket and tie to reflect the commuter role of folding bikes, and competition for the title is fierce. Last year it was won by former Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras, with British time trial legend Michael Hutchinson in second place.

The course then opens to the general public to ride, and racing rounds off with a cyclo-cross. Once that’s over, the first of the sportive riders will be coming home. There will also be a full list of activities in the demonstration area going on all day.

Entry is £8.50 (adults), £6.50 (concs) or £4 (children). Under-5s go free.

Blenheim Sportive 2009

Website: www.bikeblenheimpalace.com

This article was first published in the October 2010 issue of Cycling Active magazine