Event: 16 September 2012
Location: Sharpham Playing Fields
“We look to put on a sportive that keeps riders coming back; the route is my personal showcase of the area, using local knowledge from years of training in the area. It’s the sort of ride I’d do on any Sunday and I like to share that.”
Paul Baker’s Cheddar Cyclosportive is a personal vision with a family touch, which started five years ago with the support of a strong local cycling scene and has gone on to sell out success.
Since that first event there have been changes; the route has been slightly modified, while organisation is referred to as hard work, rather then the panic mode common to any start up event.
Perhaps the biggest change though, comes from the number of events which today also use the famous Gorge as a selling point, however despite competition, one of the original sportives in the area has remained popular, something which Baker attributes to the ethos of the ride.
“There seems to be a growing trend of sportives becoming about how long, high or hard you can make the route – but that’s not what this ride is about, I feel doing that can put people off. We want to put on a ride that everyone can enjoy, while still providing a challenge to those that want it.”
Baker achieves this by offering two distinct options; both routes cover the same rolling 100km, with a 60km extension for the long route which takes in three challenging climbs including Cheddar Gorge, Wells to Penhill Mast and Burrington Coombe.
That sell out entry and the fact that 60% of the field are local riders underlines the route is right, but there are many other considerations made when keeping the event popular as Baker explains.
“We restrict the numbers to 350 and keeping the numbers to that has been no disadvantage. We’re happy the way it is – if we increased the number of riders we’d have to find a different HQ, change the way the event is run. But we don’t want to do that.
“Because it’s a local event run by a local business (Baker also owns the Cheddar Cycle Store), we take our responsibilities seriously. We get all arrows down and try to keep everyone on the route informed. That’s especially important now there are regular events taking place in the area.”
With final preparations now complete and the final few entries being confirmed, Baker admits that it will be a great relief once the event has been completed smoothly on Sunday, September 16 following months of organisation, helped by his daughter Jo.
“Sarah’s brilliant, she does all the admin. I like to keep it simple, just the two of us and then plenty of paid helpers on the day. After the event it’s usually a great relief – we start with a mass supermarket raid on the Friday night to stock the feedstations, then arrow the route and don’t really finish until 48 hours later. But all the hard work is worth it, to give the entrants a real experience of the area. There’s always the worry we’ll not get many entries, but until now we’ve had great support – as long as the support is there, we’ll continue to welcome riders back.”
A limited number of entries are still available for the Cheddar Cyclosportive – enter now using British Cycling online entry.