On 28 March, the clocks go forward. That’s one less hour in bed. But it means summer time is here, even if summer weather may take longer to arrive. What better way to celebrate than a good day out on the bike? David Else suggests the Cheshire Cat sportive may be just the ride you’re looking for.
We were riding up a steep hill on a narrow lane. It was windy and raining. The road was covered in a carpet of leaves, which made for lurching wheel-spins when standing on the pedals. Half way up the hill was a cattle grid, its metal bars as slippery as ice under the wet foliage. Crossing it without sliding off was like attempting some bizarre fairground attraction. On the other side of the grid, the hill got steeper. Riders strained on too-high gears, or gave up and walked. A handy sign on a road-side tree announced: ‘Now you know why it’s called the Exmoor Beast’. I should co-co.
I’ve got a cycling mate who defines ‘hill’ as a gradient steep enough to come off the big ring. There were 16 such hills on the Tour of the Peak last weekend, meaning a good baker’s dozen to test the legs as well as the three major headliners of Cat & Fiddle, Winnats Pass and Holme Moss. And if that wasn’t enough, torrential rain and high winds were on the menu. The result: a sportive to remember.
The New Forest 100 sportive is organised by UK Cycling Events and sponsored by Wilier – they of the rather nice Italian bikes – and while there may not be many Giro-style climbs in this part of the world, it’s definitely a great place for riding a bike.