This is not my first 600km, what makes it different is the Audax time allowance. I know that my fat belly would play a key role in my success! I wanted to be home late evening so that I could have a shower and a little food before jumping onto my bed when I returned. This meant that I had to start at 4am, which was fine for me as I love early starts or overnight rides. In terms of equipment, I did not pack anything new, but I did increase the number of energy gels to 15. I sometimes suffer from not being able to eat solid foods and I did not want this to stop me.
Hilderstone to Prees Heath (52km: 32miles): This is a section I know well as I often use this route to head for Wales or the Cheshire Plains (See A Place Called Hope for photos and write up). I made good time along this section as there are only two hills which slow you down. I stopped at the Prees Heath truck stop and had beans on toast and a cup of tea (£4.20). However, there is a 24hr petrol station a few meters down the road.
Prees Heath to Middlewich (103km: 64miles): This leg is very pleasant and offers views of the Cheshire plains and no significant climbing which meant I was able to make good time. There are cafes and a 24hr petrol station at Middlewich along the way should you caught short. St Michael and All Angels Church is on the cross-road and I have been told that it is very nice inside.
Middlewich to Poynton (136km: 84miles): For those of you who have done other Peak Audax rides these roads will be familiar to you especially the section between Middlewich and Poynton. Arriving at Poynton I opted for Costa Coffee as they had a toilet even though Greggs is cheaper. I sat outside under the shade of the tree drinking my coffee and eating a tuna bake trying to zone out two ladies complaining about their friend’s behaviour. This was my last stop before my leg over the Pennies.
Poynton to Park Head (187km: 116miles): Although the route takes you through built-up areas it was not that bad, but it felt like the Saddleworth climb was a long time coming. Along the way, you pass the Stockport Hydro Project which is worth a quick look. I stopped here to change into my summer cycling top as I was starting to get a little warm. When you reach the Saddleworth climb it is long, consistent, but not as excessively steep as I thought it was going to be. I anticipated that I would struggle with the combination of the sun and the exertion of the climb, which was true as by the time arrived at Park Head I had sunburnt my head (even with suncream). I am assuming that the suncream had sweated out of my skin as I climbed from Poynton. The result of which was heatstroke, which I was to suffer with overnight.
The views are of a typical moorland landscape and to be honest I could be in the White Peak by the Cat and Fiddle Inn. The descent is long and in places fast so tuck in and enjoy the ride to the Coop and 24hr petrol station at Park Head.
Park Head to Goole (254km: 157miles): This section follows the main road (A635) which is wide and does offer a one-meter wide strip of tarmac, in places, which can be used to move out of the main flow of traffic. Be careful at night as there are both large objects (tyres, car body parts etc…) and sharp objects (glass and reinforcing wire for car tyres). Although this road feels like you are climbing all the way it is a fast road so try to hang onto your speed. I was plodding along and without too much effort and I was able to cycle with a local group of rides whilst chatting to them. I was averaging about 18mph.
This main road gives way to smaller roads and country lanes as you grow nearer to Goole. Take a minute when you pass through the longest village in Yorkshire (Sykehouse). There is a bench area by the information board. I did notice that the church is set at an angle from the road, I am not sure if this was by design or by the environment, either way, it seems a little different to me. I finally arrived at McD’s (£5.85) and I had a rest here before moving on, I was starting to feel ill from the side effects of the heatstroke.
Goole to Gainsborough (352km: 218miles): The section across to the Humber bridge (298km: 185miles) seemed to take an age and there is a section of gravel which I was not expecting so it took me a few minutes to make sure that I was following the route correctly. There are a couple of petrol stations along the route but the one I stopped at (Morrisons) closed at 11pm. When I reached the bridge, I ended up carrying my bike up the steps as I missed the ramped pathway, I do this every time! Crossing the bridge was fairly uneventful as it was very dark, and I could not see anything when I looked over the bridge rails except the buoy’s flashing lights. Either way, this was a landmark in my ride as I had passed halfway.
The section from the Humber Bridge to Gainsborough was a gradual climb which I remember from my 400km Moor and Wolds. This section is fairly uneventful and considering it was dark it just felt like dark roads connecting villages. The sunstroke was really taking its toll now and felt like I was a drunken rider, I needed to stop and get some sleep but I could not find any bus shelters with a bench in it. I finally stopped at Stow (225miles) for 30minutes in a bus stop with a concrete floor.
Gainsborough to Boston (442km: 274miles): Gainsborough, every time I visit Gainsborough I imagine that this town would be posh and inviting, ales it is another uninspiring town. At least there is a 24hr petrol station where I purchased items from. Another uneventful section and the last five miles into Boston are fast and the roads are long. To be honest, I am not liking the Fens.
Boston to Colsterworth (Grantham) (496km: 309miles): Why is it that every road I cycle along in the Fens seem to have a slight upward incline and I never get the road which offers a slight downwards decline! I saw some more dog size deer as I cycled away from Boston.
Even though the main road (A151) which runs from East to West was busy, it is fast if you are prepared to work to maintain your speed on the little climbs. I was able to regain time along this road which helped to mitigate my loses from my overnight issues. To be honest, I felt at home on this road, but the traffic was fast and getting a little close when I traveled along it during the daytime.
The roadside diner (A1 Stadium Diner) at Colsterworth was just like the American diners on TV. So I took the risk on some solid food (beans and eggs) and 15 minutes of sleep in the cigarette shelter. The food service was fast and the staffs were pleasant.
Colsterworth to Donington Services (552km: 342miles): The road after the Colsterworth was much more urban and narrower but the traffic had reduced and there were far fewer trucks. To be honest, I do not remember much about this leg. I think I had switched off and I was just focused on making it Donington services and home. So I turned the music on and settled in for the last 60miles. This was a long section and by the time I reached Donington Services I had elected the Queen song, ‘fat bottom girls’ as the song of the day. I must admit, it was nice to be back on familiar roads as it said that I was home, well not quite. It was just a little matter of 40 more miles.
Donington Services to Uttoxeter (596km: 370miles): For a fuller write up of this section please see The Boston Tea Party of 1773. This section was fairly quick as for the most part it is flat and most of the hill you can maintain your speed. I did experience a couple on electric bikes overtaking me on a short hill over a bridge but I think they were showing off as I overtook them about a mile further up the road. I stopped at Uttoxeter Burger King for a cold drink and to prepare myself for the final 10 miles…. which I knew would be brutal.
Uttoxeter to Hilderstone (614km: 381miles): This is differently the second hardest section of the ride and is described as “a few irritating lumps”. I acknowledge that it was my last 10 miles but the irritating lumps just keep coming and they are fairly steep in places. The last irritating lump before Hilderstone, in my opinion, was the hardest along this section but once you are up this lump you are reward with a fast roll into Stone.
What I learnt: I need to do something about the heatstroke issue, but I am not sure how to tackle this without losing my belly fat. However, a little bit of reading may yield some useful information. The USB battery pack (Anker Astro E1 5200mAh) which I have, got me through the 40hrs, but it had gone flat by the time I arrived at Donington services.
I also need more carrying space to store food and water which I purchase along the way. Currently, there is no free space when I start the ride (Orbit 2.7lt saddle bag, top tube bag 1.5lt) and I carry very little solid food with me as I prefer to buy food as I travel. One solution is to purchase a bigger under saddle bag or a midframe bag. I will have to give this some thought too.
|M&S SIMPLY FOOD||-£4.26|
|CO-OP GROUP 310309||-£2.75|
|BURGER KING UTTOXE||-£2.49|
|BP MOTO DONNINGTON||-£2.05|
|CENTRAL ENG COOP||-£7.10|
|MIDWAY TRUCK STOP||-£4.20|