Richard Heald reports:
This Sunday saw WVCC tackle their annual Spooktakular autumn gravel ride. As I looked out the window on a very rainy Saturday, I did worry how much gravel there would be compared to mud, particularly as autumn bugs had meant the reccie was limited to google maps and memory. Never mind, off roaders are hardy individuals and what mud we encountered would be perfect cylcocross training!
After a minutes silence in memory of Bill Barrie, who used to be a regular on our off-road rides, we set off as a group of 15 Riding as a large no-drop group. Given the rain we stuck mostly to the road early on, avoiding a muddy slog up Five Ways until we’d got 100k in our heavy legs on the return journey. Quick cut across East Carlton then fittingly over to the Welland valley and the ever impressive viaduct, a couple of warming climbs then we hit the bridleway at Spanhoe for our first proper off road section, fingers crossed. Through a short slippery section we emerged onto the gravel fire roads in Wakerley forest in sunshine – lovely all gravel rides should be like this. Unfortunately this was the spot we had our first visit from the puncture fairy – there were a few during the day which slowed us down and meant we swapped the café stop for a quickly munched meal deal from the Co-op. Never mind, all fixed and rolling again, through not quick enough for Neil who’d shot off into the distance. Over to Finshades and some more great gravel. Round Apethorpe, (another quick fairy visit, maybe two), the going was good considering and mostly gravel. Heading towards Lyvden there was a bit of impromptu ‘cross training, (aka mud), on a grass uphill section that had become saturated, all still rideable though but tough on the legs. A short road section, back on to the gravel past Lyveden, quick CX section, (muddy field), then back on to the gravel again. Then we hit some proper mud – those who race CX showed off their skills flying through at a remarkable pace, (green is good remember), others settled for staying upright, others had a little lie down but we all got through and emerged onto another welcome fire road. Round Brigstock then on to what I thought would be the most testing bit – Geddington chase. The first section was muddy, though not as bad as I feared and the run down to Geddington made it worth it. A quick mini re-group by the cross in Geddington, wave goodbye to Dave, (waiting rescue following a puncture), then through the ford to clean the bikes – what mud 😊 Round Kettering, feeling it in the legs now, bridleway to Ruston then through and out the other side to Pipewell, Desborough airfield and Willbarston. Legs definitely feeling it now. Final push up and over 5 ways, relieved we didn’t go out this way, then back to the tarmac of Welham lane and the run in to Harborough.
So, haunted by punctures? Was the mud a trick or a treat? Scared silly on the ruts in Geddington chase? Visiting the home of one of the gunpowder plotters. All very fitting for our Halloween ride. There was some great gravel but some of the linking sections made it tough with recent rain – it was a real test for those that tackled it and great effort by all.
Many thanks to Richard for planning the route – and for the report.
Next Sunday we are planning a trip to Cannock chase, where we have a 30km route to tackle in the morning and then another 30km route for the afternoon. Please see the off-road whatsApp group for details.