Event: 25 March 2012
Location: Crewe, Cheshire
Report: Eddie Allen
British Cycling staffer Eddie Allen rides the 76 mile Cheshire Cat and takes on Mow Cop
Above: British Cycling staffer Eddie Allen on the 76 mile route. We blog our experiences from dawn til day's end.
The time was 10am, the place Crewe Alexandra Football Stadium. 76 miles of glorious Cheshire roads lay ahead. However, for me, only one of those miles really counted.
Mow Cop’s killer mile has been on my radar ever since the Cheshire Cat began in 2007. A hill topped with a fort, towering high above the Cheshire plain, with a vertiginous strip of tarmac running straight up its flank.
Rolling out of the HQ, Mow Cop’s 25% final ramp was the only thing on my mind. From the off, I resisted the temptation to overcook it in the first few miles, knowing that the best policy would be to spin away the opening miles and warm up the body prior to hitting the famous hill.
After about 45 minutes of spinning through the spring sunshine, Mow Cop suddenly came into view. As soon as I saw it the butterflies in the stomach began. I could only look at it for a few moments before returning my attention to the road ahead.
Soon enough though, Mow Cop was unavoidable. A level crossing slowed our group’s progress at the foot of the climb – I looked around at the nervous faces of my fellow riders – they were thinking of nothing else than getting to the top without buckling and climbing off, intent on claiming that Mow Cop killer mile medal.
My son and ride companion, Tom, is 10 stone and 5’11’’ in old money and a natural climber. As the level crossing raised he wished me luck and danced off on the pedals, up the first steep section at the foot of the hill.
I’m 5’11 and 13 1/2 stone, so dancing away on the lower slopes was never an option for me. I engaged low gear (34x25 for ratio nerds) and ground out the opening few yards of the mile in the saddle.
Immediately, the breathing rate began to soar and I focussed on the patch of tarmac just in front of my wheel. All around me, riders were setting body and mind to purpose, that same look of determination on their faces. Even on these opening slopes keeping forward momentum was difficult. How would I fare a little further up?
Soon the gradient eased a little – time to pedal a little softer and regain control of the breathing. I looked up for a moment and saw, with horror, the horrendous 25% ramp adjacent to the Cheshire View pub, made famous on countless photos.
I let my pace drop, resisted the urge to push too hard – I’d need everything for that final stretch. Ahead, riders were climbing off and walking. For a split second I thought of doing the same but a combination of stubbornness and bravado kept me on the bike. Tom was up there, about 20 yards head and was now grinding out a tortuously low cadence, out of the saddle, dropping his weight on the 39x25 gear in an effort to maintain forward motion.
Soon enough, I was on the killer ramp by the pub. I climbed out of the saddle for the first time. My shoulders and arms were burning, my breathing at a whole new level. I dropped my bulk on the pedals and cranked past the event official, who counted the numbers of those who’d completed the killer mile. Ahead, Tom was already at the top, slumped over his bars, getting his breath. I’d made it. I couldn’t believe it. My first attempt at Mow Cop ended in success and a medal to commemorate my achievement lay back at the HQ, just 60 miles away...
Did you ride Mow Cop? How was it for you? Leave your comments below!