April 10, 2012

Crushed by the Killer Mile (Bar one!)

Prologue

'Peloton' Long way past the red zone up Gun Hill, 31 miles in
Well the big season opener did not disappoint  and what a fantastic day it was riding the Cheshire Cat 100 mile Sportive! With perfect conditions, blazing sunshine, low winds and a temperature of nearly 20C things were ideal...apart from one thing that is - climbing the bloody Killer Mile!

As Team Dave (TD) rolled up to the start line with some 3,000 other enthusiasts all wearing their finest colour coordinated lycra, this looked a pretty serious event. TD's plan was to stick together as a team, come rain or shine, roll up the hills in formation and then over the finish line some 105 miles later as a single integrated unit. Aspirations were for the Silver medal which was to complete the 105 miles in 6 hours 40 minutes.

Part I - The Mile that Killed Us!

3,000 riders hit the start line for the off!
TD assembled at the start line ready for a salubrious send off by the Mayor of Crewe, however it was evident someone was missing... pre-match nerves had kicked in and Everest Hall had mysteriously gone AWOL...this amusingly developed into a bit of a theme for the day. Read on....

Ferret Lewis decided his pace would likely be tardy so headed off in advance. The remaining team re-grouped and we were off! Steadily breezing along at 20 mph along the flat roads around Crewe, TD  headed toward Kidsgrove, Stoke on Trent. Clearly there was only one thing on the everyone's mind in the peloton...how long to go before the dreaded Mow Cop the home of the Killer Mile ...!

Without even a moderate climb to warm the legs, it seemed almost a flash and we were turning right into the bottom of the mile. Suddenly the entire bunch seemed to grind  to a halt as the road reared up severely around a tight bend and with a slightly damp surface the rear wheels started to spin left right and centre as the bikes struggled to gain traction. Surrounded in a cloud of grunting and groaning it was clear this hill was going to live up to its reputation. At this point, Peloton Long realised his 3rd bowl of muesli, 2 x energy bars and gels for breakfast had been a big mistake and already things were looking bleak for towering the famous mile.
TD checking out the Killer Mile the day before

Inevitably, as the mile progressed things started to deteriorate rapidly and TD began to crumple like a cheap suit - with one exception, Slipstream Read who claimed the The King of the Mountain jersey and the Killer Mile medal by slowly and steadily grinding his way to the summit without a single foot touching the deck - an awesome achievement. The final section of the Killer Mile itself, whilst incredibly steep is not the biggest issue, it's getting to that point and what reserves you have left is where it kills you. Anyway, excuses for not making it up the mile were in abundance:

Slipstream Read takes
the KOTM Jersey 
  • "The road looked a little sheen so I dismounted to check"....'Bradley' Haynes
      • "I just had too much Muesli for breakfast"....'Peloton' Long
      • "I was distracted by a rather attractive lass from Yorkshire and lost my rhythm"...'Ferret' Lewis
      • "It felt downhill to me until someone dived in front of my wheel taking me down"...Everest Hall
      It has to be said however that 'Everest' Hall would have most likely made it had someone not collapsed right in front of him as he entered the last 25% gradient to take him crashing down - really tough luck.

      Part II - Into the Mountains 

      'Ferret' Lewis  breaks free as they hit the mountain section
      Once past the Killer Mile, TD re-grouped and stories were briefly shared with both tears of joy and of miserable failure. Thinking the worst was over, in reality the pain was only just beginning. With only a few minutes it seemed like to recover we were into the next climb, Blacky Bank and Bridestones. This hill is pretty steep reaching 15% at certain points and gradually getting steeper as you reach the top. However TD was now digging in deep with Haynes and Hall pressing ahead and whilst the pace would hardly have won the Tour of Flanders, the team crested the peak and took a few minutes to take in the views of the glorious Peaks in all their sunny glory - a fantastic sight.

      From here on the hills seemed relentless, no sooner down but going up again and next up was another big one - Gun Hill, a category one climb of 385m (1,263 foot) used on the Tour of GB and one of the highest hills in the Peak District and boy did it feel it. Hanging on for grim death and totally into the red, every rotation of the pedals were pure pain as the inclinations just seemed endless. Man this one hurt! Apparently another hill followed this but there was no recollection as the brain and body were at the point of complete capitulation - the only vivid memory being that if there had been just one more climb it could have resulted in catching the bus back to the Cheshire View pub for a pint....
      Team Dave Ready for the Off at the Cheshire Cat 100 miler!

      As we neared the end of the 40 miles of hill climbing, the bunch swept around a left bend to a beautiful little area reminiscent of Alp d'huez with a little bridge and a stream. Suddenly however we were presented with a sharp switchback chicane superseded by a 16% climb of some 150 meters. A tricky little one, but having recovered suitably, the legs were now starting to kick in and we all powered nicely over the top. Now the fun section was about to start...!

      Part III - Riding the Peloton

      After a brief feed stop, TD re-grouped again (although The Ferret was still no where to be seen) and we hoped the circuit guide was accurate in predicting mainly flat lands to come next. Thankfully that was the case and as the miles were consumed at 20+ mph, energy began to return to the legs and a large peloton of some 30 bikes started to form. By this time Bradley Haynes and Ferret Lewis had broken free, which left the remaining three TD riders squarely riding in the pack. 
      TD tucks into a 30 man peloton and cruise at 20-30 mph - awesome!

      Things started to hot up as the peloton grew in size and riders took their turn in trying to break the bunch and failed. Eventually an incredibly strong rider dug in firmly and literally dragged the entire group along at between 20-30mph for some 20 miles. This has to be one of the most exciting things you can do in cycling - awesome! As Slipstream and Pelo, engulfed in the pack, caught and sped past Bradley and Ferret, the peloton machine was simply flying and they could not hook on. Unfortunately, unbeknown to the TD pack behind us, TD's #1 rider Everst Hall had started to 'bonk', completely hitting the wall dropping off the back due to lack of carb input.
      At the Feed Stop it was evident
      Everest had gone missing...

      Left to right: Ferret, Slipstream and Pelo
      As the next feed-station arrived things were worrying. 40 minutes ticked by and there was still no sign of the bonking Everest. Various permutations were debated including Everest by-passing the feed stop to make a break for the finish line, to defibrillation by a local farmer. Ferret Lewis decided to press on in the hope of a stage win, whilst the remaining team members waited. Eventually, dazed and confused Everest arrived after 50 minutes at the station. This was going to be a tough run to the line for him and a total team effort was required to make this happen and qualify for the Bronze grade at least....

      Part IV  - Onto the Finish Line

      Bradley takes a turn at the front
      With just 20 miles to the finish line, Ferret Lewis was oblivious to this and was now nowhere to be seen, still working his way up to a sprint finish. Meantime, Haynes, Read and Long decided to ride tag team to nurture Everest over the remaining distance and provide some slipstream to recoup. At a steady pace this eventually worked, and gradually we managed to up the pace. Then, almost within reach of the finish line Bradley suddenly shouted "faster", as it was suddenly evident we could miss the bronze cut unless we made a dash to the line. At this point Peloton hit the front only to realise within a few yards of the chequered flag the remaining TD riders had not tagged on and as he slowed to re-group the cleats caught in the pedals and he hit the deck! Needless to say, the finish line marshals were all highly amused at this debacle.

      How not to finish! TD go over the line (-1)

      Epilogue

      The Cheshire Cat was a great event. It will be remembered for a very long time as the first Sportive for Team Dave, for the suffering and pain incurred at various stages by different riders, for the beautiful countryside of the peaks and also the exhilaration of speeding along in a large peloton. Quite simply it was a brilliant day out!

      Ferret Lewis enjoying post race recovery 
      Bradley sporting the new TD head gear over a pint


      Team Dave (-1) - Awesome!