The arrival of Spring – that near extinct part of the year sandwiched in between the really-cold-and-wet-season and the little-less-cold-and-slightly-less-wet-season – is a time where nature flourishes and we see new growth. On the fourth Allez Prestwich ride since it’s inception, I saw that same, spring like new growth for this cycling club and felt that the earlier encouraging green-shoots of promise had finally started to blossom into something that might actually resemble a cycling club.
It was with some trepidation that I prepared for the March Allez Prestwich ride, as I expected this may be the ride that I just wound up going on my own. Given the state of our glorious weather (horrible) and my broken body, it wasn’t something I was particularly relishing. Rich had taken his band – the excellent Shield Patterns – on their inaugural tour of Europe, Craig was busy toiling his way around NYC (poor sod), Gav wasn’t sure if he could make it and Josh had managed to bust his hand at work.
All that aside, I’d still taken the time to plan a route and still loosely hung on to the hope that I may not be riding alone. I’d been speaking with a guy called Rob on Facebook and he’d suggested that he and his friend Martin were hoping to make it along. For this ride, I also took the liberty of posting it under the Allez Prestwich on the SkyRide site. This turned out to be a very good thing.
As I went to bed on Friday night, I said to my wife that if no-one showed up then I could just come back and we could go on a slightly smaller ride together. As I awoke I checked the event on Facebook: Martin and Rob were still coming, so I just really hoped they’d show. Just before I set off, I checked SkyRide for the first time in a few days since I’d posted the ride up: 3 people were down as attending!
I was pretty excited as I approached the gates of St Mary’s Flower Park to see Keeley, Adam and Steve awaiting my arrival! Winner. Next, Rob and Martin showed. I’d spoke to Rob a number of times on Facebook, so I was pleased to meet in ‘real life’ and I was happy that he and Martin had both made it. Hoorah. We were just about to set off, when Kieran showed! Excellent. I was slightly in giddy inside that this now felt like a REAL club!
“Are we expecting anyone else?”. “No, I’m pretty sure that’s it. Let’s do it”. So, off we went up Bury New Road, to hack our way through the urban jungle of Gtr Manchester/Bury before we could get to the ‘good stuff’. Good stuff being more hills and slightly greener scenery. At this point, I’d not switched on my Garmin for the route direction, as my Garmin Edge 810 had been a total swine of late, taking me this way and that way; “Do a u-turn”. NO! Luckily for me when I did turn it on, it behaved. However, little did I know that I had a ready made sat-nav replacement in the shape of Martin. It turns out he lives near the area where we’d be cycling today. Martin did beat the Garmin on almost every major turn, I think it wound up about Martin 3 – 1 Garmin.
We snaked our way through the usual Allez Prestwich route of Radcliffe and Bradley Fold, all chatting and getting to know one another the best we could as we rode. We went the more major road route of the A58 but we were trying to get to the show stopper part of the ride as soon as possible. This section was always going to be the Belmont Road climb and surrounding Bromley Cross areas. I have to say, from a ‘hill loving cyclist’ point of view and from a ‘appreciate the views of our wonderful country’ point of view this ride scored big time for me. Belmont Road is a nice steady climb, a little challenging, with a fluctuating gradient of around 4-6%. While those gradients, and slightly lower ones, are not all that mind boggling, at a distance of three miles to our turn off at Egerton Road, it’s the length of the climb that really add to the challenge. From about a quarter of the way up, the views get really nice .The residential buildings stop and your left with a nice view of a green valley hills on both sides. With the sun shining a little more brightly, I really enjoyed this part of the ride and was left day dreaming of the summer days to come later this year.
At the end of Egerton Road, there was a short, REALLY punchy little climb before you join Longworth Road. Tiping the scales at 15%+, I think everyone felt this one! This, coupled with the fact that we were about 50% around our plotted course, made this prime location for a little stop. With the sun shining, the skies blue and views back across to Winter Hill, it really was a lovely setting.
While stopped on this short break, taking the photos you see in the blog. I noticed I’d missed a call and text just as we set off. My friend Gav! I called him to make my apologies but he informed me that he’d tried following the route. Luckily, he’d turned the wrong way so he wound up meeting us halfway round as we set off down to Bromley Cross. Then there were 8! We only needed one for a fellowship (sorry, LOTR geek).
A little time later, we lost two of our minus-one-fellowship, as Keeley and Adam decided to take a slightly different route and head up to Ramsbottom. It was nice to meet them and to ride with them.
The rest of us carried on, undulating our way back to Prestwich. There were some nice downhill sections of freewheeling and also some tough little climbs, most noticeably the area of the B6196 around Harwood. I love climbing and I was feeling this one in the legs. I was also a little concerned for Kieran who, though obviously a super fit and acomplished cyclist, was on his first ride since recovering from a torn calf muscle! I’m pleased to say he survived unscathed.
I’d left a nasty little sting in the tail; the Outwood Road climb in Radcliffe. I made my apologies to Gav in advance, as he isn’t the biggest fan of hills. Somehow, and joyfully for me, I’ve managed to surround myself with similar cyclo-sadists. Before he, Rob and Martin motored up the moderately challenging climb, Steve declared “We’re doing Outwood Road? That’s my favourite hill”. Fair play, Sir.
Arriving back in Prestwich, we all said how much we’d enjoyed the ride, how nice it was to meet one and other and with that we all made our way back to our respective homes.
I tootled home with the ubiquitous pain in my knee but a big smile on my face that made the pain irrelevant. This was the ride that most felt like a ‘proper’ club and I was over the moon.
Ride Length: 30.2 Miles
Elevation: 1,890 ft climbed.
Strava Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/271638665