Cyclo-Sportive: Cheshire Cat

Where: Peak District, Cheshire
When: March 29, 2009
66-102 miles route options

Regarded as the first super-sportive of the year in the UK, the Cheshire Cat with its 1 in 4 climb of Mow Cop is a brisk wake up call to sportive riders that the season starts here

Almost 1,300 riders (out of 1,650 entrants) signed on to this year’s UCI Cheshire Cat, regarded as the first major cyclo-sportive of the year. For the third year in a row perfect spring weather was delivered right on queue but this year’s weather took the biscuit as conditions were nigh on perfect. Slightly chilly starting out but, on the day the clocks went forward, by mid morning the bright sunshine put a smile on everyones’ face.

Responding to rider comments from previous editions a more difficult course was laid out with significant climbs on the menu for the second parts of the 66 and 102 mile options.  Mow Cop, Wincle, Macclesfield Forest and finally the organiser’s very own Kemmelberg, Swiss Hill deep in the heart of Alderley Edge, also known for its footballer’s wives.

Spectators set up camp on Mow Cop outside the Cheshire View pub to study some serious grimacing as riders took on the 1 in 4 gradient half way up.  Many walked but those who managed without stopping or putting a foot down were given a unique medal at the finish in recognition of the challenge. Riders also found Barlow Hill in Wincle and the Macclesfield Forest climb (used in past hill-climb champs) very tough too.

The real sting in the tail was dished up in the form of a steep cobbled climb tucked away in Alderley Edge called Swiss Hill, which is well known by many local club cyclists. The narrow bumpy climb called for a set of skills not normally tested on a tarmac climb. Many of those who heeded advice to ‘go to the side and ride in the car tyre tracks’ got to the top OK – but many walked.

Organiser Kilo To Go were pleased the day went so well and are already planning the 2010 event on Sunday 28 March, 2010.

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cheshire cat cyclo sportive, 2009, british sportive,

The organiser – Geoff Saxon
“The whole Kilo To Go team were pleased as punch with the way this year’s event went. We didn’t have a huge problem with arrow gremlins this year – nothing like 2008. Above all I’m always pleased when riders get back to the HQ safely and I was pleased to hear no reports of any major incidents out on the route.”

cheshire cat cyclo sportive, 2009, british sportive,

Sportive Sound Bites

Stephen Hinde (Tri-Preston)        
Time: 102 miles in 7-51-50 

“The Cheshire Cat was harder than 2008 with 1300ft of extra climbing after Mow Cop. The new route was better, very scenic, and more enjoyable and the signage was excellent. The feed stations were better and three routes mean that this event has something to offer for everyone. I shall be doing it again next year, an excellent event!”

Steve Chell (Stoke on Trent)               
Time: 66 miles in 4-28-33  
“I CHOSE the Cheshire Cat as my first sportive and boy what an event I picked. The Macc Forest and Mow Cop are as tough as it gets on two wheels. Dramatic scenery, epic climbs and electrifying descents made the day unforgettable. Well done Geoff Saxon for such a well organised event.”     

Greg Atkinson (New Brighton CC)         
Time: 102 miles in 6-07-15  

”The Cheshire Cat seemed a totally different event compared with the two previous times I have ridden it, when it was essentially get up Mow Cop and then it’s not too far to the finish at all. This year, the Macc Forest re-route was a revelation, nice scenery and more importantly very hard, especially when I was trying to make time up after a puncture. Just when I thought the pain was over, we were taken over what appeared to be the English version of the Kemmelberg! At the finish, I let Geoff Saxon know what a swine he is!”

 cheshire cat cyclo sportive, british sportive, 2009

My Cyclo-Sportive – Eamonn Sheridan
Bourneville, Birmingham        
Time: DNF

When my wife Deb and I looked at the weather forecast early in the week it looked desperate but Sunday arrived with blue skies and hardly any wind. Perfect conditions! Our main sports are time trials and triathlon and because we’d hoped to be racing on Saturday we’d only entered the 37 mile event.

When Saturday’s race fell through we upgraded to the 66 mile challenge. How we managed to miss the signs nobody in the group knew and we found ourselves riding the 102 mile sportive. Apparently extra signs were put up later.

For the first 50 miles this route is flat and fast. It’s only after the second feed station that the true nature of this ride becomes apparent. I’ve rarely seen anything like Mow Cop. It’s not high or long like mountain passes I’ve ridden but it rises straight up, no hairpin bends here, and in the end I ran out of options and had to join those pushing their bikes up a wall.

Mountaineering in cycling shoes and cleats is not top of my list of things to do. Whatever the cause though, my left knee began to be painful. I stretched out and wasn’t particularly concerned, telling myself that it’s got to be downhill now for a bit. Obviously I should have paid more attention to the route profile.

This is stunning countryside but it came at a cost, the route now had very little easy riding. It was either downhill into tight narrow bends requiring lots of concentration or uphill putting more pressure on my knee. The next 10 miles took a long time, this was definitely no time trial.

By the final feed station my knee was very sore and I was crawling along in my lowest gear. It was time to stop. I told Deb to go on and she completed the full 102 mile distance, quite a change of plan as she was originally only meant to be doing 37 miles. I sat on the pavement and phoned my friend Jules to come and get me. Sat outside the pub I searched through my kit but hadn’t even enough money to buy a consolation beer… Will I be back next year? Absolutely!

For more information go to Kilo To Go official website

 cheshire cat cyclo sportive, british sportive, 2009