Rough Ride

Cramp, Sweat and actual blood. The inaugral Worcestershire Rough Ride was actually quite fun despite that.

It was a new event promoted by friend Mark from Pulse Events. An 80km/50mile+ mixed-bag of quiet lanes, tracks, bridleways, some cobbles, occasional mud and plenty of sun as it turned out.

It was my birthday on Saturday, so I had to temper my celebrations the night before. So just a small amount of beer, whisky and red wine in the drip as I lay on the bed melting in the 30 deg heatwave we have at the moment. Wondering how I was going to sleep.

I was up early as I had been all week. A couple of mornings trying to get some last gasp training in. My mileage has been shocking recently so this kind of distance was going to be an endurance test

I left at 7.40am, coffee and breakfast consumed. A 20 min potter to the start. Registration was easy. Gave them my name and I was given my number. Due to the heat, we were started 30 mins earlier at 8am. I was glad because I was out for drinks with friends PM so I just wanted to get it done and off I went.

The course was very local and I knew a fair chunk of it but Mark had thrown in a few tracks and bridleways I’d never done before so I was interested to see what he’d come up with.

The first few miles skirted Bromsgrove, crossed the M5 and picked up the first track of day. Now at key points during the ride we were supposed to stop and scan a QR code and note our number and the time. This first section was quite fast and I flew out the other side and didn’t see any code. Whoops.

A long steady drag up through Bournheath and we quickly picked up Wood Lane that lead to probably the fastest offroad section of the event. All downhill through Pepper Wood. I’m sure I’m on the Strava leaderboard for this one but no risk taking today, I just enjoyed the empty path because it was so early.

Back into the lanes and it was a lumpy climb until what should’ve been a nice wide open bridleway but the farmer had closed (and locked) his gates for the first time I’ve ever known. Blocking a public right of way. I’m sure he saw the course arrow, thought ‘Event!’ and did it deliberately. And to top it off two of his big dogs came running at me as I rode past his house too. I thought the one was going to bite me. Dogs told to fuck off I descended a nice wide, dry track until a rare bridleway crossroads then right and the first field gate of a few on the course. Ploughing through the overgrown grass here mopping up the morning due was refreshing.

Briefly back onto the road and a quick left into another field of corn skirting the edge.

It’s 9am and baking hot

Out the other side and the freshly laid surface dressing was a gravel bonus!

Carefully crossing the A491 dual carriageway, the course jumped onto Munches Lane which is quite a long piece of offroad, peppered with mud and puddles as it is a very shaded section. You forget how energy-sapping offroad riding is.

After popping out onto someone’s driveway, the big climb of the day loomed now up onto Walton Hill at Clent. A long draggy road climb gave way to the Waltonberg (local name) which probably tops out at 25% and is a series of cobbles, bricks, broken concrete. It’s actually someone’s driveway to their house on the top and hasn’t been maintained in at least the three decades I’ve been riding it. It’s a tough climb but an even more interesting descent if you dare.

Clent views are amazing
Clent gravel

The views on the top were stunning but I had to crack on and tackle the super-steep descent back down to Clatterbach Lane. After a testing ride around a fallen tree trunk, right at the end the track, barely a foot or so wide, it turns 90 degs around a blind bend. Go straight on and you end up on a roof of a building. I managed (just) to negotiate it without putting my foot down which I was pleased with as it was pretty technical. #skillz

More descending back on road now and passing back under the A491 and past the first feed which I politely declined as I was only 13 miles in and my bottle was still full. Quickly in and out of Clent village and onto Hossil Lane which is a tarmac road that becomes gravel and then ends and carries on as track skirting open fields. Nice and quick that one was.

I popped out onto the main road and started to head back towards Belbroughton and a throng of riders were going the other way on another event as it turns out. Ride the Resevoir for St Marys Hospice I think. I took the next right and noticed three riders followed me. I thought they had made a mistake and had gone off course but randomly they were just out riding amongst us. They passed me on the climb to Drayton. All dripping in beautifully, clean Trek road bikes. I got back onto them over the top (with my 33 knobblies!) but then I turned off for a quick shimmy offroad onto another lane before I caught up with more riders on the event again. #bloodycyclists

Right through a farm yard now and I got a bit lost here as I couldn’t find the bridleway and had to ask someone. A car and trailer trying to load a horse were in the way. The horse looked a bit spooked so I held back but they said it was fine to go .

I do find it odd riding through people’s property despite being perfectly legal.

This was another ungated wide trail which I’m sure I last rode about 30 years ago. It ends at a main road, you cross over and it carries on again but the first few metres are a stingingly steep climb which gives way to a nice wide open descent onto gravel. Then, the briefest of tarmac sections and I was back onto another bridleway batting it across the back of Blakedown. Then another road, straight across and back offroad again! So far there was loads of offroad for me to get my teeth into. All pretty shaded but the heat was rising.

Section done, I crossed the A456 and headed offroad again for a loop around my old Stourbridge manor. There are some good (ungated) trails around Hagley and Mark had used some to good effect which was really clocking up the offroad km’s. He did take me on a couple I’d never ridden before though which were really overgrown and had some nice soft sand to test the skills too. I just ploughed through it just being careful my bars didn’t get whipped from under me and that my rear mech was clear of grass when I got out the other side. One thing I do regret though, is not taking and sharing a pic of the most fabulous art deco house I passed as I rode up the edge of it.

The next section was another long one. The Garmin complained because the actual bridleway and what was on the map didn’t really match although the general direction was right. It culminated in riding down a very posh driveway through some very posh gates into Harvington. It must really piss em off ๐Ÿ™‚

Back onto the roads for a bit now. I briefly stopped for a pic at Harvington Hall because it looked fab in the sun and then cracked on through the lanes to the next bridleway which was the first one straight through the middle of an open field. You have to look at the garmin and then see if you can see any tracks or a gate in the distance to gauge where you need to go. Luckily this one had both.

Harvington Hall

It was long road section now to the second feed at The Honey Bee pub at Doverdale. I was first in. I filled my bottle and drank some water. The shade was welcome as the heat was really intense now. I rested for a few mins then got going again. Onto the next bridleway and here is where I went off course for the first time because I blindly followed some tractor tracks 300 metres up and over a field before realising and then had to ride back. That pissed me off a bit as I was baking hot and getting really tired. Back on course now I got going only to do the same thing again following a path across a field FFS!

the wrong way!

Back on track again I made it onto a random, dead straight bridleway that goes through the centre of an industrial estate where It’s like the estate has been built around it. Another road to cross and onto the next one. I was really tired now and when I saw the climb up past some sheep I think I actually cursed out loud. In fact, when I got to the top and dismounted for the gate the tinge of cramp in my quad confirmed how tired I was so I downed my last gel and a big gulp of warm energy drink to try and keep the cramp at bay as long as possible.

The riders had been warned some of the trails would be overgrown but the next one had big long brambles hanging out of the hedge ready to cut us up. This gave way to riding across a runway! I shit you not! It’s a grass field cut short so light aircraft can use it. The gate before we crossed even had a sign telling us to look left and right!

the runway in a field

Back onto welcome roads again, I passed under the M5 and then struggled to cross the A38 it was so busy. Some lumpy lanes with strength sapping climbs to Hanbury Church and the Jinny Ring Craft Centre emptied me before I took on another overgrown bridleway to a gate where it immediately climbed amongst very long grass and I have to admit for about 20 metres I pushed the bike I was so fucked.

That one done, unbeknown to me I was going to take on the worst yet. Uphill, long, overgrown and rocks, lots and lots of rocks. But before I got to that part of it I had to hike the bike the mud was so deep. Churned up from horse riders. Normally if I accidentally submerge my foot in deep, sloppy mud I’d be pissed but today I found it quite refreshing.

The last tough section done, I cracked on and seemed to find a kind of second wind. Probably my gel kicking in and I picked up riders on the other event again. I dropped onto the canal towpath for the final offroad sector albeit too briefly before the last few km back to base.

I was toast. The sun eventually won. Cramping, bloodied, covered in shit I sat down in the shade and did a litre of water pleased I’d done 4.5hrs on a diet of a few HIT sessions. Lot to be said for them or I’m just a class rider! Probably the HITs then.

A great event. It was shame it wasn’t supported more but the other event may have drawn some likely entrants away. The route had a lot more offroad than I expected which, in turn, with the sun baking me made it a lot harder than I expected. I’ve ridden tour stages easier than that.

Can’t wait for the next one!


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