Congleton Cycling Club have a programme of reliability rides early each season which starts with a 50 miler, progressing on through 65 and 100 miles. A few years ago, specialist long distance time triallist Karl Austin, who sadly is no longer with us due to a racing accident, decided to take it one step further and devised a 155 mile reliability route from Congleton to Ludlow and back. Understandably, this event has never raised any great enthusiasm within the club membership and I, personally, had been trying my best to avoid it up until this year.
The club’s ladies’ ultra endurance section aka Denise Hurst, Paris-Brest-Paris finisher, and Sue Blake, Land’s End to John o’Groats veteran, were desperately trying to recruit numbers for this ride. So, in the absence of any other takers, and being known for my penchant for distance, I was well and truly roped in – I definitely had my work cut out riding that sort of distance with these two!
The weather was pretty decent on the day so I decided to ride the extra leg from Mow Cop for the 6:30am rendezvous at the club house in Congleton. We set of promptly with a slight tailwind helping us along the route through Madeley and Eccleshall where the ladies had chance for a quick, and civilised, pee stop. Newport was next then the outskirts of Telford and through Much Wenlock before riding into Ludlow across the middle of the horse racing course.
Lunch stop was at the Castle Lodge Buttery, opposite Ludlow castle, where a beef Sunday roast was dispensed into the fuel tank. A quick photo opportunity outside the castle prompted one particular club member to comment later that I’d done well to ride all that way with a cannon tucked in my jersey pocket!
It was barely noticeable as we set of northwards but the wind was not in our favour and we suspected it may be a long hard slog back to Congleton.
Due to lack of recent long rides, Denise had started to feel her legs but she soldiered on through Bridgnorth and Albrighton, occasionally stopping to take on food. By the time we’d arrived at Gnossal for a coffee break on the petrol station forecourt, Denise was urging us to plough on without her. Approaching Stone, she switched to PBP mode and insisted that we forge ahead. Time to see what Sue was made of?
We kept the pace relatively high for such a long ride with Sue achieving two Strava QOM trophies on the way: a 4.5 mile climb from Stone to Rough Close with 135 miles in her legs and the next, on the steep Bagnall hospital approach at 146 miles. Phew!! On the final steep descent of the day, from Bagnall to Milton, I tucked in behind whilst Sue proved that, not only did she have the staying power for a 150 mile ride, but she was also “a mean descender for a girl”.
We rode all the way back to the club house to make sure no disqualifications were administered for non-completion of the course, arriving about 7:30pm. By the time I got home to Mow Cop I’d clocked 170.4 miles and 7,579 ft of ascent at 14.6 mph – my second longest ride ever after a 232 mile 12 hour time trial back in 2006. The Strava club leader board was looking pretty healthy too:An amazing day out in near perfect weather conditions and in great company. We must rally to keep this event on the calendar for next year. Have I a seconder?