Event: 14 October 2012
Location: St Ives, Cornwall
The Lands End 100 was born out of a conversation between the Chair of One and All Cycling, Rod James and Carrick Leisure of Cornwall County Council. The first event in 2011 was a low key affair aimed mainly at local riders and intended for the organisers to learn how to deliver a sportive. 300 riders turned up, the weather was fantastic and the route considered superb (except the hill at 90 miles).
Ratings from riders placed it in the top 10 rides nationally. The 2012 event was also intended to be low key with a maximum of 500 riders, so there was no national advertising or any real sale pitch, relying on word of mouth to encourage more to join up. What happened was a real surprise. The 500 places sold out quickly and eventually 250 more places were added, all selling out by the closing date the week before. 750 riders potentially stretched this year’s capacity so it seemed like a good place to stop.
It was on the Tuesday before the event date (14 October) when things got scary. The weather forecast predicted 35+ knots of wind NW with very heavy rain. As the ride starts in St Ives and proceeds down the stunning but very exposed north coast of Penwith towards Lands End this potentially was serious.
This is a fantastic ride but NOT into the teeth of 35kn winds and heavy rain. Emails flew back and forth between the organisers and a re-route was drawn up that avoided the north coast, shortening the route was proposed, even cancellation was discussed. Sportives need to be “fun” and safe, extreme weather conditions in such exposed locations are NOT!
The Celtic Gods were appeased too! It involved numerous sacrifices, ceremonies at a stone circle under blackened skies and messages left on the “nodding tree”. Objects of value were left on the beach at low tide, etc.
The start: “It worked!”
And so it came to pass that 700+ riders lined up at 7.30am in St Ives on the 14 October 2012 under bright blue skies, virtually no wind and although there was a chill in the air, conditions were perfect for riding.
There were three routes, 68Km, 100Km and 100miles. All riders set off down the north coast towards Lands End. On a bright blue clear morning this is one of the most stunning rides anywhere in the world. A really stiff climb to the “Eagle’s Nest” at 200 metres was followed by a fast descent into Zennor (of mermaid fame), past Geevor Mine at the heart of the historic tin mining region of Pendeen and on toward the wonderfully “alternative” St Just (known locally as Narnia!)
Lands Ends was then reached and riders passed over the iconic start and the finish of the lands End to John o’Groats. The south coast is marked by deep wooded valleys and roads lined by “Cornish Hedges” which are actually stone walls (beware they hurt!). The descent in to Mousehole, a classic Cornish fishing village, is a serious test for the brakes and balance of all riders (two unfortunately failed but no serious damage). Penzance follows and the feed station at Jubilee Pool was amazingly busy with riders replenishing energy and bikes being sorted.
Just outside Penzance the 65km riders return to St Ives via the “back road” - it was not far for them but it included two cracking climbs out of Gulval and Nancleadra. 100 km and 100 milers continue through Marazion past the majestic St Michaels mount to the second split. The 100km ride went north east joining the 100mile route at the wonderfully named Praze-en-Beeble.
100 milers continued via country lanes to Portleven with breathtaking views of the sea made exceptional by the clear blue skies and bright sunshine. A tough climb out of Portleven and through Helston was rewarded by a remarkably up-market feedstation. Steve and his team at “Cyclelogic” bike shop provided what was described as a “feast” as well as repairing those bikes that had started to suffer like their riders.
This was followed by circumventing Cludrose RNAS (where you can see Merlin helicopters) before plunging in to Poldhu Cove through Mullion and across county past Goonhilly. The drop into Coverack was one of the most spectacular anywhere with views down to the harbour as well as toward Falmouth and the Lizard. However whatever goes down has to go up and the steep climb out of Coverack went on and on and on!
Country lanes, deep water filled valleys and rapid, sometimes challenging descents led to Gweek where a “four mile hill starts”. At Black Rock the descent starts and for those brave enough it was fast! Both 100km and 100 milers met and crossed to the north coast again via Red River Valley. (The organisers would like to apologise for the inclusion of this hill again at the 90 mil/km point - its 20% at one point and with an angry dog to boot, the route designer will be punished!)
At the top of the hill you could see the finish if you knew where to look, (just past the six miles of sand that makes up Gwithian Bay). A ride through the towns of Hayle, Carbis Bay and St Ives completed the route. One of the difficulties of starting a Sportive at the top of a hill with breathtaking views is the challenging climb to the finish.
Lands End 100 is a challenging ride for all capabilities of riders and this year was no exception. The reward is a varied and beautiful route with stunning views and passing through some iconic Cornish settlements.
Was it Good?!
The weather held, except for the occasional shower and late arrivals had to contend with a real chill in the air. The NEG motor marshals did a fantastic job and all the volunteers from One and All worked tirelessly and for little reward (thank you) other than the pleasure of seeing others suffer! We had no outburst of road rage reported, the ambulance was not really needed (thankfully) the day was long for the organisers (05:00 until 20:00). The team from Carrick Leisure, which took over this year, was amazing.
All organisers need to do is review this year and plan for 2013. Organisers would like to thank you to all riders who took part and made it a pleasure to put this event on. The day was marked by many thanks freely given at the start, the feed stations, marshal points and at the end.