Monday, 13 July 2009

Manchester to Blackpool

****NEW PB - 4:13:27****

At 6:00am a very weary me woke up to dull grey skies with the threat of rain on the morning of Sunday 12th July for my 2nd Manchester to Blackpool ride. After a night of rain (some heavy) my heart sank a little at the prospect of 60+ soggy miles. However my worries were unfounded as not a drop of rain fell until we were back at base waiting for the bikes to arrive back.

I had aimed to leave my place at around 6:30 for the 7ish mile ride out to Old Trafford to start the ride with Simon who had the same start time as I did; however I ended up leaving my place late, but used the ride out as a very good warm up with a few sprints in there to test the legs out.

Arriving at OT at 7:15 I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Bananaman say that they're letting people off early due to the sheer number of participants (over 8500 people), so I set off at 7:25.

Bananaman also had a warning (already) that there'd been quite a few accidents (already) pretty much 5 minutes outside of the ground (already!), due to the rail lines that crisscross the roads (slow moving freight trains use(d) them for the warehouses). Hmm, that's not sounding good. As it was we only had to cross the lines once and they were easy provided you attack them in the right way - I cross lines quite often on some of my rides so I know how to do it without slipping.

Out past Trafford Ecology Park and round to pass the Imperial War Museum looking very brooding under the cloudy skies, and soon we hit the first 'climb' of the day that got quite a lot of people panicking and slowing down or stopping and walking. Mmm, it got me last year, but I wasn't going to let it get me this time round. The organisers are great at shoving a climb (this one was an average of 11% with a max of 20%) right near the start of the thing. I happily twiddled my way up it passing all sorts of riders of differing abilities.

We got onto the A572 through Boothstown and on through Leigh to Hindley Green and Hindley for another 5% climb to Aspull and on to Haigh Hall. An interesting cobbled section (they didn't warn us about that!) led to a 7% speed-humped descent into the grounds and the Higher Plantation. Still descending we entered the Lower Plantation for what can only be described as a bit of a silly route - steep, twisty, leaf-littered, slick road with chicanes added to ensure we didn't fly down it. As it was, I overshot a corner and nearly fell into a valley, with only a tree stopping me. Almost everyone I passed or who passed me at this point were all saying this bit wasn't ideal for a road bike due to the conditions. Not only was this bit bad, but we had to climb back out of it at the other side in the same conditions, only shorter and much steeper.

After leaving the grounds I noticed a chap riding alongside me and decided to natter to him for a bit. This was his ninth or tenth time of riding the event, but the first on his nice shiny new bike he got off his mate (alloy, carbon forks/seatpost, Italian wheelset). We were both a good pacer for each other as we shot along at 17mph chatting, neither letting the other get away

Once back out of the grounds, the route took us through Standish, past Charnock Richard Golf Course and up to Euxton where the route left the A49 and joined on to some very odd sounding roads: Schleswig Way and Flensburg Way. Soon we were at Preston Marina and the right side of the Ribble for Blackpool.
Up to this point, the route really wasn't overly scenic, but now above Preston it was, with lovely little villages to ride through. I found Treales to be the prettiest. I also knew of it's secret: last year I stopped for a breather here and got chatting to a villager who asked what was going on, after telling him of the event and asking him how much further Blackpool is, he let me in on the secret - there is a very evil hill that catches everyone unaware not too soon around the corner - this hill leads right up to a junction where we have to turn right and there is no flat bit at the top, so the possibility of rolling backwards is quite high.

Last year this hill was a bitch to me. I wasn't going to let her take a bite out of me again. I forewarned my riding chum and advised he take it real easy as his leg was beginning to hurt and I knew that this hill would make him really hurt. He rode part of it, then got off to walk the rest. I wasn't going to let the hill get off that easily. It starts of as quite an unassuming 2 or 3%, but soon kicks upwards to an average 5%, then to 7, 9, 10% until right at the very top it's 13%. Last year I got halfway before having to walk. This year I tamed the beast! I was amazed to see quite a few club riders struggling despite their super light carbon bikes.

Now, we were heading south towards Freckleton and the coast road where I knew it was going to get hard. The winds were pretty bad last year, but this year? My God! I don't think they could get any worse than they were. They must have hit us at 20mph!

As soon as we turned right onto the coast road it became a struggle for a lot of people. I only slowed down 1mph, others were really slowing down to crawl. My riding chum was suffering big time with the wind despite drafting me. By the time I'd got to Lytham Lighthouse he'd dropped right back and urged me to go on as I was coming close to my time for last years ride.

On I plodded, riding through the piles of sand that'd drifted onto the road, even eating some as the wind whipped it up in the air. On past struggling riders, most of whom were drafting people or being drafted. On past the line of cars parked by the dunes. By the time I neared Blackpool Airport I had passed 30, 40 people who were struggling like they were riding through glue. Yet I was still maintaining a bloody good average; although I could feel the wind whipping sand across my body, it was like I barely noticed it.

As I approached the last marshall he shouted to everyone "Only 1 mile to go". One mile?? Am I really that close? From somewhere I found the strength to push even harder, flying past people who just seemed to be going backwards. Cheers and the sound of clapping pushing me on. 22, 25, 28mph. Bikers trying to catch me up and draft me, but getting left behind. A group in the distance with an mtb on the front of it. I wasn't letting that bugger beat me. Pushing, pushing, harder, faster, a blur of grey as I passed him mashing down on the pedals as I hit 30mph with 100 metres to go.

FINISHED!!!! Suddenly, there're girls shouting at us to slow down. Wondering why, I looked round to see they were handing out the welcome bags on the finish line, actually on the line. Bit of an odd place to hand them out seeing as people were riding to the finish so fast. We're not pro riders passing a feed station after all!

Sadly, I never saw my riding chum finish, so I don't know if he did or not.

Once through the hordes of well wishers and into the Solaris Centre gardens, I checked my PC to see a time of 4hrs 13mins and 27 seconds. I'd beaten last years time by 1min 33 seconds. Hurrah! After gulping in lots of fresh sea air and downing the bottled water in the welcome pack I headed for the barbecue area for an amazingly tasty burger to wolf down.
I didn't want to stay in Blackpool for too long as I knew it'd take a while to get home by coach and even longer for the truck carrying our bikes to get back, so I set of in search of the ticket tent, handed over my ticket (I had good sense to book it in advance) and was advised I can get the next bus which was boarding half an hour from now. After fighting my way through the crowds, never easy with a bike in tow, I got out onto the prom and joined the queue for the TNT truck which was to be home for the bikes for the journey back to OT. Clambering onto the first coach I was surprised to find it was an executive coach with lovely plush, comfy seats and tvs.

As the coach was leaving I noticed how the truck was still being loaded and not following on behind us like last year. Hmm, perplexing. Last year there was one truck per coach, this year we weren't sure what was happening. Not to worry, I thought, the truck will be leaving Blackpool soon, right? Wrong! We arrived back at OT and piled off the coach into one of many car parks. People I was talking to were asking where the bikes were. I advised that they'll be with us shortly, but to expect a wait of up to half an hour, as that's what happened last year. Half an hour later, no sign of any trucks. 40 minutes later and even I'm wondering if the driver has nicked off with all the bikes. An hour later the second coach pulls in without a truck in tow. 10 minutes later the truck finally appears, only for the driver to look like he's going to get mobbed.

The shutter of the tuck opened and sudden intake of air was audible, swiftly followed by "that better not be my bike!". Peering round a tall guys head I saw a couple of bikes lay on the floor, and thought "oh dear". The driver, sensing he might get decked in a bit luckily had paperwork to say that if he takes on too many bikes to be secured in an upright position, he must lie the others on the floor and tether them to the floor. Disaster averted!

Once Everest had been pulled away from her chat with umpteen bikes, a quick check over her revealed she'd survived the journey. On I jumped and off I set (surprisingly quickly) to head to my moms in search of a roast dinner!

Stats - view route
Cloudy, pleasantly warm, mega windy.
Maximum speed: 42.5mph
Average speed: 14.2mph
Miles: 62 (actual mcr to bpl) 76.32 (total)
Climbed: 948ft

Nutrition -
3 litres SIS GO electrolyte drink
2 SIS GO isotonic gels
2 mule bars
1 'recovery' burger
0.5 litres water


  1. Those railways lines in trafford park are horrible though, any cars around its hard to get the angle right and they are really raised. I've been riding them a lot recently as been working out that way. I will be walking them in the wet though!

    Sounds like you had a good day.

  2. great review and good time. Well done. I enjoy reading your cycling trips and have decided to do a blog page on similar stuff.

    please let me know what you think :P

  3. Well done on the ride and 13% must have been a killer BUT YOU MADE IT. The Tour De France doesnt have many sections that are that steep.....the mountains have 10 and 11 in them but YOU RODE 13.....

    Is the SIS electrolyte drink really seemed to use it well.

  4. Well done on a new PB.

    Racing club riders on carbon roadies up the banks. I take it all this hill training paid off then!

    Looks like the Cat and Fiddle will be no trouble at all.

  5. Trio - those lines are a nightmare. Luckily there were'nt any cars for me to worry about, but I usually take them slowly anyway, so no problem for me. The day was fab!

    Crimmy - Good to see you up here Si. Bout time I got to read about your exploits instead of just hearing about them. I read your report from my mobile, but couldn't comment, so I shall do that now!

    Buttsy - So many people think Lancashire is flat ;o) After so many miles any hill is a killer, but for that to be there and with that right turn at the top....evil! Good job I remembered it and psyched myself up for it.
    The SIS drinks are really good; it's a drink I use on all my longer rides. Anything less than 15 gets the Vimto treatment!

    Red - The hill training does seem to have paid off. Even on the last 2 club rides which were hilly, I didn't struggle (except for Blackstone Edge of course, which I blatantly ignored!).
    We'll see about the Cat & Fiddle challenge...still not made my mind up yet.

  6. Well done - thats a cracking time. Glad you arrived in one piece.

  7. Thanks Joby. I'm well inpressed with how Gaz did - he seemed to do phenominally well!
    Shame about my riding chum though - not convinced he finished given how bad his knee got.

  8. Well I convinced him to sign up for the Manchester 100 (km) now, so I get to see his efforts for myself.

  9. Ah! I shall get to see how the pair of you do as I'm doing the manchester 100 too!

  10. Excellent! It'll be my first event so haven't a clue what to expect but will be nice to meet all these people who's blogs I post on but haven't got a clue who they are!

  11. It's a good route, not too hilly, you should manage it fine.
    I've ridden most of it either as part of other events or on general rides alone or with chums.

  12. Nice post! How the hell do you remember all of those details? It was great to be reminded of where I went as I have no recollection.

    Hopefully see you on the Manchester 100. Are you doing Km or M? I'd love to do the M, but I think too ambitious for me.

  13. I seem to have an innate ability to remember things like that, not sure where it comes from. Although having ridden the route last year helps a little.

    Not too sure which route I'll do for the MCR 100 yet - I'm swaying towards the miles rather then km, but thinking it may knacker me out for the potential challenge that may follow it.

  14. Well done on your time, the ride just sounds absolute carnage to me!

    Treales is lovely (the pub is good). I used to commute home through it a lot when I worked in Blackpool. I have been racking my brains trying to figure out what hill everyone was going on about near Kirkham (I have friends who did it) as I really couldn't think of one. Your description is perfect, the reason I didn't pick up on it as I always headed down it away from Kirkham to Treales!

  15. Ah, you ride it the easy way! The good thing about having ridden the route before is that you remember where the hills are so you prepare mentally way before you get to them.

    It was only the Haigh Hall part that seemed wrong, but I guess event makers like to throw strange things into the mix, just to stop you from napping!