Now in its second year and twice the size of its 2011 incarnation, the Endura Lionheart Sportive returned with a roar to Longleat House in Wiltshire, home to the famous Longleat Safari Park.
Above: Riders amass at the start in the Longleat estate.
With a new co-sponsor of Trek on board, it was the first big event of 2012. There’s even an Endura Lionheart beer now, brewed especially by a local firm. In the name of research and carbo-loading (of course), we enjoyed a pint of it on the Saturday night before the event.
Above: Claud the Butler's Citroen H Van, getting ready to serve the morning arrivals.
The day dawned with a chill to the air but the promise of better weather to come. The catering van was kept busy warming riders up with bacon butties and coffee from ‘Claude the Butler’ in his little converted Citroen H Van. The queue of riders waiting to leave meandered around the side of the spectacular Elizabethan stately home and departed from right in front of the building for a short tour of the parkland and followed by a steep climb out of the valley.
Above: Feeding the Lionhearts - oodles of cake at the feed station.
It was great to see such a range of riders there – everything from top end carbon road bikes to people on hybrids and even a guy on a tandem with his child on the back who were tackling the shorter route of 100km.
Wiltshire is home to some stunning quiet lanes and sleepy villages and the route made the most of them, meandering through almost constantly rolling countryside. While it’s not a hilly route by any means, it’s always undulating and this can be more taxing than having one brutal “signature” climb.
Above: A sportive with its own beer - surely a first?
With more people on route than last year though, there was almost always someone in sight, a friendly face to share small talk and drafting. Spring was certainly in the air as well with daffodils in bloom on the roadside. In a few weeks time the woodland areas which the ride passed through will be carpets of bluebells.
Above: Quiet lanes abound on the route.
The organisers have the makings of a true classic with this event – top notch food, a great atmosphere and a stunning early season route -and their own beer. A great ride and highly recommended.