Descent of the Stiperstones (DIY, Audax, 200km) From Tern Hill

A great ride… killer wind, broken cleat, floods, roads full of winter debris.

Starting at Tern Hill (24hr Petrol Station) I headed across the Cheshire Plains to Ellesmere for breakfast, bypassing my favourite café (Midway) and Beans on Toast at Press Heath as it was only a few miles into the ride. The Boathouse at Ellesmere is nice, and the staff are always friendly. But the food and drink are a little expensive for me. I had a couple of heavy downpours of rain with a strong wind during this leg which reduced my motivation. Leaving Ellesmere, I dropped on to the route and headed for Crewgreen and the first big climb. However, the headwind was killing me. On the Dan-O-Meter, I would estimate at it was gusting at 30-40mph as it was pushing me across the road at times. The Cheshire Plains are pretty much the same wherever you go, generally flat roads, hedgerows and pasture or cropland. I had a little diversion just before Melverley, as the floodwater was still high. The locals were out collecting the plastic and other rubbish which had become trapped in the hedgerow. From the waterline, it must had covered the Hawthorne hedgerow. They recommended that I take the high road as it cleared a few days ago. It is interesting that on my original route there were no flood warning signs, but on the high road, all the signs indicate floods and road closed! It must have been bad as the waterline was equally as high along this road too.

Crewgreen and the first climb was a welcome relief as the wind was redirected by the hedgerows and my legs were now climbing. This climb reminded me of the climbs in the Peak District. Don’t forget to look behind you for the vista across the Plains when you turn at the house called ‘new house’ as you will lose this vista. The descent down the other side, Wallaston, is quick but the lane is narrow with blind corners and I had to slow down/ stop a dozen times for oncoming cars. You cross the A road and start the climb up an incline/ ramp which gradually turns into a continuous climb. However, like the first climb, there are places where the gradient reduces, and you can recover. The descent down the other side is very fast and very steep with blind corners but you pop out at a village and start a gentler leg to Montgomery (B4388).

Every time I have passed through Montgomery it has been night-time, so I took the opportunity to look at the church and castle. But to be honest, I was so tired from fighting the headwind for the past 60miles that I could not be bothered to pull off the road to visit the castle. The leg to Newtown has not changed and it was a little descent on to the A road and a headwind battering me until I arrived at McDonald’s. After 7.5hrs of cycling, it felt like I had just ridden 600km.

I stopped for about 15minutes, just long enough to buy 3 cheeseburgers and a large fizzy drink. I knew the Kerry road out of Newtown was long and steep, so I had one cheeseburger and save the other two for my ride back. Partway up the climb to Kerry, I sheered the plastic lip off the front of my left cleat. This had the unfortunate result of the foot popping off the pedal when I applied pressure e.g. trying to go faster. Every time the foot slipped off the pedal the ankle took a knock… this became rather tedious and painful! It also slowed my progression down especially when I was trying to maintain speed into the short climbs. On the positive, the wind had all but gone and I was making good time on the flats.

I stopped at Churchstoke (Patrol station/ Café/ Coop) to have my second cheeseburger and avoid the rain shower which was passing over. Back on the bike and it was only a mile or so to the left turn and the climb over to Ford. Don’t let the incline fool you!!! Eventually, you hit the real climb which is continuous and steep. This is definitely a climbers’ climb. I did not last long as my foot popped off the pedal and I did not have the strength to get going again. I think part of this was the slipperiness of the road. The descent off the top is excellent but be aware of oncoming cars and people in the road. I opted not to stop at Ford and Dinkys Dinahs. Instead, I pushed on for the car at Tern Hill. The last leg was more Cheshire Plains riding and constant ankle banging as my foot popped off the pedal.