This, the 67 mile Cheshire Cat was my second sportive, last year’s medium Tour Ride around Stoke having been the first. The weather started off rather cool but warmed up by early afternoon to the point where arm warmers and gilet could happily be removed.
Mow Cop is quite a climb. I’ve had one previous attempt at it and got as far as the front door of the pub (bear in mind this comes after the best part of a mile of quite steep climbing) before finding I could no longer keep my front wheel on the ground.
Today I followed the sage advice of keeping as much energy as possible in reserve for the section by the pub. For me this meant using 30/25 almost all the way up and chatting to one of those who had chosen to walk as a convenient means of ensuring that I wasn’t working too hard.
Looking up, it became quite clear that there was a whopper of a wall to climb from the pub upwards. ‘Clear’ isn’t quite the right word. I realised that I was sweating so much from my temples that my glasses were unpleasantly damp so I needed to find some way of safely stowing them in a back pocket while still pedaling up the climb.
As the gradient went from painful to insane, I stood up on the bike in order to keep my weight forward, pedalled as fast as I possibly could (an entire 40rpm!) and uttered every single Anglo-Saxon word I could manage in order to pretend that my legs weren’t experiencing the most agonising pain that can be achieved without causing permanent damage. Smile for the camera….
Several turns of the pedals got me to a point at which the gradient eased off. Slightly. A couple of spectators urged me to dig deep (like I hadn’t already done that!) while I concentrated on the blessed relief that might come twenty yards very much up the road as the road turned left and levelled off.
I had forgotten that this left turn led to a fine Cheshire false flat of about 7%. Just enough time to stop swearing, to give myself a little cheer while pedaling past some of the defeated and to consider the final few meters of climb that come after the road turns right.
A woman who appeared to live at one of the houses near the top on the left was urging me up to the summit near which the gradient hit 14% again.
And then it was over. 15 minutes and 13 seconds for the 2km from level crossing to summit.
Later I was told that it had been “absolute carnage” up Mow Cop for those who had attempted it earlier in the day. I was fortunate to have had a clear run at the hill. Others hadn’t been so fortunate: most mortals can only attempt a climb such as that at their own pace. And if one’s own pace happens to be just a little faster than that of the rider in front then there will be issues. Lots of people had fallen off while trying to avoid those who had ground to a dead halt.
4 kilometres of delightful, sweeping descent followed which offered fine opportunities to feel smug and to spin the agony from the legs in preparation for the next climb (of a total of four) at Bridestones.
I have only two criticisms of the day: a bag drop at the start / finish line (Gresty Road) would have been appreciated and it would have been useful for someone to have made the magenta and black “Caution Ahead” signs slightly less subtle. I missed one, hurtled at 40 km/h across the A523 and realised that I’d been a little too busy looking at the level crossing on the far side of the junction.
It was a tremendous day. I shall certainly be back next year.