Lovely ride if you remove the sections of A-roads and ignore the potholes around Alfreton. There are lots of historical information points as you pass through villages on the south side of Nottingham.
A 2am start from Stoke which meant that the roads were empty, one car in the first 12 miles. However, the road diversion at on Cubley Lane just after Rocester (JCB) had completely closed the road and left me manhandling my bike over a footpath stile which was taller than my bike as I had to lower the bike by the front wheel. I then spent what felt like hours wandering aimlessly through long grass and nettles trying to find the path which would take me pass the road closure. This is why people with dynamo lights carry a spare light! Mine was at the bottom of the bag! It was not long before my feet became very cold, at least the nettle stings were numbed by the cold. Note to self: next time take the diversion!
After this I was able to maintain a good pace over the tops. There is a lovely section that gently climbs a valley between Blackbrook through to Belper Lane End (Dalley Lane) to Ambergate which is worth a visit if you are ever this way. I stopped at the Pub (the Bull’s Head) and took a photo of the sunrise before the general descent to Ambergate.
As I approached Alfreton the roads became more pothole than tarmac with a lot of traffic as it was approaching 6am and rush hour. I bypassed the town centre and cut through the housing estate where I was slapped in the face by the poverty. It reminded me of the old coal mining council estates from the 80’s where I grow up, strangely it felt comfortable and safe. As I climbed out of Alfreton there was a 24hr petrol station (with an everyday Morrisons) which was empty, so I took the opportunity to buy a couple of Mars Bars as I only had energy gels.
Castlewood Business Park services at Derby (45miles) was very busy, the Costa had a queue, Greggs was still closed and the sandwiches in the Spar looked horrible. So, I opted for a small bottle of milk and pushed on. A short sprint on the Kings Mill Road East A-road which was not too unpleasant, and I turned for Ravenshead (7-11 – Sainsbury’s Local at 51 miles). In hindsight, I should have stopped here for a sandwich. I took Longdale Lane to Calverton where I was hoping to find a café, no such luck. The road to Gunthorpe was fast and I only had one near miss with a white van who did not want to wait until the one car on the other side of the road passed. However, I nearly got wiped out by a Morrison home delivery van in Shelford who thought that he would overtake a parked bus with a blue car waiting behind it for me to come through. He then shouted out of his window as if it was my fault!
Gunthorpe also represented the turn west for Donington services and home and the lanes were busy with traffic cutting the corner. Just after Radcliffe on Trent (Grantham Road) there is a historic vantage point which provides vistas across to Nottingham and into Lincolnshire. Before I knew it, I was at Donington services (90miles) and I still had not found a café for a rest and a cup of tea. 90 miles without a proper rest stop is too much for me and is something I will not do again. A Greggs egg bap and a large coffee sitting in the rain on the park bench, I don’t understand why more people don’t do Audaxing!
I have completed the 40 miles section from Donington service to Stoke on Trent and home several times, so I just put my head down and turned the crank. In reality, I had no choice as the wind had picked up, making my legs burn from the effort. I hoped that when I turned at Stanton by Bridge the wind would reduce but it did not, I had it as company all the way back to the finish. I stopped at Scropton and had a 10minute rest on the roadside bench and watched the world go by.
I had thought that I would stop at Uttoxeter services as the last 10miles are mainly uphill. However, when I arrived it felt like they had closed the A50 and everyone was being diverted off, Uttoxeter town was just as busy so I pushed on. I Turned off the B5027 to Stone at Bramshall and followed the back roads to Church Leigh and Meir Heath, to the finish line. The B5027 is the quickest route but in my opinion, can be unsafe due to the many blind corners.