First sportive of the year for me – The Cheshire Cat, billed as an early season opener, and boy with a week to go did I feel like it was a little too early. I had signed up for the 100 mile option in some strange bravado that “pushing myself” was a good idea, 67 and 45 mile options were also available. So far this year I had managed a good number of 50 plus mile rides out but nothing to close to 100 miles. However a challenge is a challenge and hey what would have to blog about if everything was easy and straight forward.
My experience will be in two separate posts, the first to document my experiences of The Cheshire Cat and Kilo to Go (the organisers) and the second half a quick summary of my personal ride. I want to make those novices, like me, reading this to be able to decide whether some of the sportives I do are worth the money we are asked to pay out as well as share my personal experiences.
The Cheshire Cat
Before I talk about the day and organisation let me first turn my attentions to the sign up, website and pre-day marketing. In this area Kilo-to-Go are faultless, in my opinion. The website looks very smart, sign up is secure and very simple and there is just the right info regarding route, profile etc. In addition Kilo-to-Go have signed up a number of creditable partners be it Wiggle, Purple Harry’s bike cleaning or Mavic as outriders and on course bike mechanics making you feel you are dealing with a reputable sportive firm. However where they really excelled was with You Tube, Facebook and Twitter – the daily updates, information, videos of the dreaded killer mile climb up Mow Cop was excellent. In addition it wasn’t one way, often the Kilo-to-Go team joined in with the banter or answered questions. All in all I have to say the pre event marketing led me to have high expectations of the day ahead, the question is could they live up to the hype?
The day itself started a little chaotically with some rather large queues for the start, I was lucky as part of this chaos meant I was moved to the top of the car park which fed in to the front of the queue ensuring my total wait was around 20 minutes or so. However from certain reports many people waited over an hour. To be fair to Kilo-to-Go with 3000 participants and I am sure directions from the police a mass start is not going to happen, however I see no reason why riders of different lengths couldn’t of started at staggered times, this would surely relieve the queuing pressure.
The route itself was definitely challenging, the first 40 miles littered with climbs including the big challenge of the day, the Mow Cop killer mile climb. Kilo-to-Go had incentivised any rider who climbed this without putting a foot down with a medal. The final 60 miles were then a flat drag to the finish. Previous “Cat’s” had the climbs towards the end and to be honest this switch around made the event more friendly to riders like myself. A giant word of praise goes to signage which I have to say was excellent, I could only criticise one turn which was signed very late and a little hidden, however given the 100 miles with numerous turns and junctions this has to be a feather in the organisers cap. Whilst I am commenting on the route another word of praise has to go out for the quiet roads that were chosen, traffic was very very light which also led to a more enjoyable ride.Feed stops were well spaced throughout the route and the content was great with drinks supplied by High 5, the first stop was a little sparse on food but stops 2 and 3 were packed with food, from cake to gels, power bars, fruit and more High 5 isotonic drinks. I had no complaints about the amount of free food on offer, started to feel like a pack horse with all sorts of carby goodness stuffed in my back pockets.
The end. Hmmm well this unfortunately is where Kilo-to-Go let themselves down. Firstly the pre-ride hype made the “HQ” sound like we would be welcomed back to a cycling carnival, with demo’s from Kilo-to-Go’s partners and “pasta from a corden-bleu chef leading to the largest pasta party”. The reality was quite different. I crossed the line to disinterest of two stewards, I appreciate that clapping 3000 riders home is a bit much but a simple “well-done” wouldn’t of gone a miss. I was then handed my goody bag, some promo leaflets, a sample size bag of porridge and a pipe cleaner (an ingenious cassette cleaner I later found out). I followed a sign for my pasta, passable after 100 miles but hardly cordon bleu and then the real issue hit. I joined a queue for my time (which admittedly will be posted online I believe), certificate and if I managed the Mow Cop challenge, a medal (this will be revealed later, I don’t want to spoil the next post). This queue was ridiculous and took almost an hour to get to the front, not ideal in any circumstance especially when you have slogged it out on a bike for hours on end. Upon getting to the front the reason was obvious, Kilo-to-Go had 2 people printing certificates with one printer each. With 3000 participants this seems really poor planning and personally took the gloss off an otherwise excellently organised event.
So would I recommend a Kilo-to-Go sportive and would I go to another one of their organised events. Overall yes I would – at the end of the day when you break it down the pre-ride appetite whetting, a good route, decent feed stations and excellent signage is what you want. The rest is just window dressing, however if Kilo-to-Go were to read this, window dressing that could be easily fixed up to create an all round excellent event.
Sportive rating 7.5/10
Pro’s – Great marketing leading to anticipation, decent route, excellent signage, solid on route support, well stocked food stations.
Con’s – Queuing which could be avoided/reduced with planning.