Major climbs: Saintbury Hill
Terrain: Rolling Warwickshire countryside
Number of finishers: 550
Best: Well-marked, accessible terrain
Worst: Last mile through Stratford
For a long time, the Shakespeare Spring 100 seemed just a nice, mild trawl through rolling Warwickshire countryside.
Taking off through the sleepy streets of Stratford, we crossed the A46 and escaped to the countryside for the day, keen types driving off the front in pursuit of the clock. For us mere mortals, with little wind and a weak sun peeping shyly through the clouds, it was the precursor to a pleasant and unchallenging ride through quiet lanes and little villages – for over an hour, we chatted amiably and enjoyed the views.
Approaching the 18-mile mark, however, whichever benevolent soul had been marking out the course dozed off and someone with a malicious sense of humour took the helm. Rolling out of Willersey, the road meandered under the shadow of Broadway Hill before the markers turned us right and pointed us straight up.
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Time to climb
Strava says that Saintbury Hill is 1.6 miles long, climbing 625 feet with an average gradient of 7.3 per cent, and I wouldn’t dispute that – the gradient peaked around 15.5 per cent less than half a mile in, but that meant that you had a long way to go once you’d gone past the worst of it, and wooded as it was, it was impossible to tell how far it was to the summit. It was a good climb.
The best thing about going up is coming back down again, and the long, straight descent into Chipping Camden provided welcome respite. The route became less punishing until we hit the food stop at Little Compton, 34 miles in – all of the supplies had a modest fund-raising fee, with a broad range of rolls and cakes, and ‘endless’ hot drinks.
Sitting on the grass with a bacon roll and a cup of tea in hand made a welcome change from trying to not inhale an energy bar on the move.
It soon got chilly sitting around, so it wasn’t long before we set off. The climb up Butlers Road came as a nasty shock to the system, peaking at 15 per cent after just half a mile. Thankfully that was to be the last real obstacle, and the remaining 27 miles passed by in enjoyable fashion through the quiet lanes leading back to Stratford.
It had been a good ride. The course was very well marked, the large majority on quiet, accessible country lanes, and while the sweeping byways didn’t offer a stern challenge, there were a couple of standout climbs to redline yourself on.
Cheerfully run and well organised, Macride events are staffed entirely by volunteers and have raised in the region of £350,000 since they began organising cycling fund-raisers back in 2005, all in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support – it adds something to know that every penny of your money goes to a great cause.
Missed it? Try this…
Missed this? Try this…. The Shakespeare Autumn 100 offers 100-mile and 100km routes on September 8 – go to macride-events_pg_Inspire.org.uk for more details
This article was first published in the April 25 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!