Posted Tuesday 26th April 2011 –
A bit of last minute decision on Sunday evening saw me head over to Cirencester early on Easter Monday to bag one of the limited on the day entry places for the Cotswold Spring Classic. The sun was already shining as the car park started to fill up and it seemed like the perfect day to be out on the bike.
Registration was straightforward and for an event with over 600 riders there seemed very little in the way of queues at the sign on. Having arrived early I had a bit of time to kill before the 8am start so took advantage of the jam on toast and coffee on offer (for a very reasonable £1) to top up my energy levels before getting the bike out.
The first riders headed off around 8 am with groups of 25-50 riders being released every few minutes. There seemed to be a really friendly atmosphere on start line, I guess partly down to the good weather and the anticipation of a good ride. Once leaving the college grounds the route heads along the A419 for a couple of miles, this helps spread the riders out and also seemed to make it easier to hook up with groups of riders going at your pace. I rode with a group of 10-20 riders for the first 20km until we got to a point where a not so friendly resident had decided to turn a course sign around. This led to a bit of confusion with riders going in both directions but it seems it was quickly corrected by a motor cycle marshal and only resulted in a slight detour. I’m honestly not sure what enjoyment or satisfaction people get from tampering with signs but it’s a concern for all organisers.
Anyway, detour aside, progress to the first feed station was fairly rapid (at least for me anyway) with an average speed just short of 20mph thanks to help from the group of riders that I rode with.
Whereas the first 50km of the route to the feed station is fairly flat the section that follows introduces a few hills to challenge tired legs, there’s a fairly long slog along the A435 towards Cowley that seemed to have a frustratingly gradual incline followed by a couple of steeper hills once you leave the main road. I was riding the shorter 100km route so it’s at this point the routes split and I found myself riding lone to the finish. It’s nicely downhill for most of the final 10km which allows for a quick finish and I crossed the line in 3h 26m pleased to have made it inside 3h 30 which also turned out to be the gold standard time.
There’s a few more photos on our facebook page – Cotswold Spring Classic Photos
Route – Having only rode the short 100km route I can’t comment on the longer section, the route starts fairly flat for the first half to the feed station allowing you to make good time, there’s a few steepish hills in the second half of the route that add a bit of a challenge to tired legs but they’re followed by a decidedly downhill finish and the last 10-15km seem to fly by. A lot of the route is on quiet lanes, the stretch along the A435 from Perrots Brook towards Cowley is a bit of a slog on a fairly busy road but overall it’s an enjoyable route and would seem to lend itself to setting a quick time.
Signage – White arrows on red background were easily visible and it was good to see caution signs at relevant points as well as count down markers to the feed station and finish. There was a slight problem with a sign being turned around at about 20km in but it was quickly fixed by the motor cycle marshal and only caused a slight detour before people realised we were heading the wrong way.
Feed Stations – There was one feed station on the short route (you’d pass a second on the longer route) with water or energy drink and a selection of cake, flapjack, bananas, biscuits, etc. It was nice to see some savoury crackers on offer as well to offer a bit of variation from sweet sugary offerings as well as there being toilets being available.
Timing – Electronic timing chips attached to the back of your rider number. It was nice to find an e-mail from ther organisers in my inbox on Monday evening telling me times would be ready by Tuesday morning, which they were.
Summary – I’ve ridden lots of sportives and don’t think I can recall a more friendly atmosphere, maybe it’s the Easter Monday date and everyone is in holiday mode after 4 days off work or maybe it was the sunshine but there’s definitely something about it. The organisation is slick, course marking was good and feed stations delivered what you’d expect. There’s even a decent goodie bag as well as free food and drink for riders at the finish, what more could you ask for?
If you rode this event please let us know what you thought using the comments section below.