Arrived at the start after coming over Kettleshulme from New Mills - Macclesfield in 51 minutes (12.2 miles, 676m ascent) - my friend Dave tweeted "you must be mad, cycling to and from a bloody bike race" - I like that :)
Turned out my entry hadn't made it into their system so I registered there and then, no problem, given number 143. Then a 30 minute wait for the start where I got talking to a nice guy from Hazel Grove, who, it turned out, I was never far away from for the whole ride. Start at 9am was a mass start of around 300 riders up the Cat and Fiddle climb - not good for local traffic, and actually pace was limited by a coach on the way up for the first half. Once that disappeared managed to get into better rhythm and passed a lot of people, as I expected. Last time I did that climb I ended up in Macclesfield A&E of course, but no such outcome this time, thank God.
The route took us over into Buxton - that descent still excites me every time, then up Long Hill (not as bad as it sounds) before turning left down the steep drop into Goyt Valley. Next climb (Goyt Valley - Derbyshire Bridge) is one of the best roads in the region, in my opinion, so enjoyed that. Cross over Buxton road and right onto Allgreave road - can really put the power down on that stretch. Left turn into Wincle up that nasty little climb past the farm and then turn left towards Danebridge. Gun Moor is also a nasty bit of climbing but again, the descent off that to Meerbrook is brilliant. Right turn there and a bit of nice country lane rolling terrain to Rudyard and the feed station at Hotel Rudyard. Well organised, bananas, cakes, coffee, tea, sports drink etc.
Didn't stop long as legs already feeling a bit heavy. Pressed on up the hill to Top Road. Now here's where it went wrong. I had tried to put the route into my GPS from the directions on the web site and was sure we should bear left on Newton Road and loop around Biddulph back to that point, and bear right the second time. However, no sign at all for the bear left bit, and a very obvious one for bear right. Stopped to consider that for a moment, with some other riders, but the consensus was, rightly, that we should follow the signs. In any case I knew that would take us back to the finish eventually so no big deal, except missing out an 11 mile loop.
In any case I still got to do the Wincle Minn road which was pretty brutal - steep, poor surface and really takes the line of shortest distance (i.e. steepest) over the top of that hill. Felt good to get to the top of that one though - then a bit of a drop down to the main road, right turn, left turn at Fourways Motel, which, I now realise, is the junction I can remember from the Cheshire Bikeathon all those years ago! Anyway, next climb up the hill not too bad, then drop right off into Macclesfield Forest - good job the brakes worked on that descent as I met a little old sports car coming the other way, with virtually zero space to pass, even at walking pace!
Now I was riding with a guy from Nottingham and we went pretty quickly over the last few miles back to the start/finish, where.... there was no one! I mean, no one from the organisers! Amazed, a bunch of cyclists gathered around and tapped their feet, bemused, before going their separate ways. One guy asked me as I arrived what distance I had done; "Honestly?" I replied, which got a few chuckles and then of course they knew the answer anyway. Turned out they had all done the same. It will be interesting to see if there's any follow-up on this - had there been some big accident or something? I really can't imagine why there'd be nobody there at the finish - if that was what they intended then I'd say it was outrageous. The most important thing is not the times - it's accounting for all the riders. How do they know I'm not in a field somewhere with a broken neck? They don't. I think it's a bit irresponsible actually.
So, a brilliant route - don't get me wrong, I will do this as a training route starting from Goyt Valley, it's that good. And harder than I expected, although I'm always surprised by the Peak District, must be one of the best places in the country for training.
But, sportive massively let down by signage at one of the most critical junctions - they should've had a marshall there, and by the totally bizarre idea of not having anything at the finish! The 15 quid goes to charity, fair enough, but come on! On cyclosport it says they intend this to become a premier sportive on the calendar - not like that mate.
Anyway, totals: 51.6 miles, 2201 m ascent, 3h43 total time, 3h35 moving time. Not too bad.
Then of course I had to get home - should've gone via Hazel Grove (flatter) but sod it! Get over that hill to Whaley Bridge :)
Got home at about 3pm, pretty knackered. Ate lots.