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Hectic Off-Road Weekend – Sportives

Welland valley off-roaders were spoilt for choice this weekend with two off-road sportives to choose from and cyclocross kicking off on the first weekend of the season – all with the TT and road seasons still in full swing.

There was a choice of the Tour of the Cornfields on its traditional weekend (and one of the few events which went ahead last year) and the rearranged Hell of the North Cotswolds. Both are excellent events with quite different characters – an off-road blast around the largely harvested rolling countryside of south west Cambridgeshire in the ToC or the tough climbs and barely in control descents of the HONC.

Simon Dixey reports on the HONC

Due to some event cancellations this year, I made quite a late (and unprepared) decision to enter the 36th edition of the HONC, an event that a number of fellow members are quite familiar with. For those that aren’t aware the Hell of the North is a 50k/75k/100k (with @ 2000m climbing) mainly off-road ride through the beautiful countryside of the Cotswolds, some of which can be appreciated when not chewing your stem.

There was the full spectrum of bike styles on view demonstrating the varied terrain on the day, roughly 60% off-road/40% road so I was advised, although to me it felt even more skewed towards off-road. People doing the longer 100k route gathered for a chilly start at 7.30am, with the organisers setting off groups of around 10 riders rather the usual mass start through Winchcombe. Even the weather gods, finally, came to the party treating us to warm sunshine for the second half of the ride.

The stunning scenery throughout the day helped to take your mind off the continual climbing, even when during the last ten miles the organisers somewhat cruelly thought that not one but two ascents of Cleeve Hill up towards the radio masts was a good idea!

The course offered everything from road, byways, bridleways, lumpy and very bumpy grass tracks. And gravel, quite a lot of gravel. On my totally arbitrary gravel scale it ranged from pea sized to reasonably sized boulders, leading to some interesting descents on a cross bike. All of which contributed to a new first for me, hand cramp. Still, at least it helped me to grip the post ride burger!

63 miles (6,296ft) covered in 4h55. A superb effort also from Simon Askham completing the route in 4h43.

All in all, a grand day out. An evening beer well earned.

P.S. Can anybody lend me a pair of legs for Tuesday’s TT?

Adrian Killworth reports on the ToC

The ToC or the HONC? It was a tough choice but the ToC won as it was being run on its normal weekend – and for me it was the 4th year in a row.

Three WVCC riders rode out together for the 100k route – me and Kevin Mills (3rd year in a row) both on MTBs and Nick Horder on his gravel bike for a full shake down in preparation for the 200k route at the Dirty Reiver gravel event in Northumberland next weekend. They were set off in small groups and went full blast from the off. The event was GPS only this year, with some blue tape for confirmation, which seemed to work well, with the odd overshot turn quickly dealt with. Front suspension did little to absorb the vibration from tractor tyre tracks on field edge bridleways, so numb hands were a problem – particularly heading out to the feed station – but much of the off-road was smooth and fast on the sandy soil. The second half saw some single track in the woods near Potton and the classic sandy descent through the golf course and the end saw a fast and furious 10km almost straight off-road section. The team finished with an official time of 4:10.

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