Whilst browsing Facebook a friend's post caught my eye. My friend Claire asked if anyone could take her place in the Manchester 100 bike ride for The Christie Foundation. She picked up an injury a few weeks before she was due to take part in the event. It is an event I am aware of as I used to live in Northenden close to Wythenshawe Park the events start and finish.
I’ve spent most of this year recovering from a torn Rectus Femoris quad muscle. Sustained whilst playing what was sadly to be my last ever football match. It stopped me taking part in long distance rides so far this year. Specialist consultants decided not to perform surgery on my leg. I have to instead strengthen the three remaining quad muscles and get active again. I’ve been doing so and starting to feel fit again so when this chance came up I just had to say yes. I have really missed long distance rides this year, so I was really excited by the prospect.
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I dropped down from the 100 mile to the 100 kilometre option. This was my first long distance ride since the injury. The only recent rides being my commutes and last week's Ride the Lights in Blackpool. Even the shorter 100 kilometres option would be the furthest I have ever rode a bike. When Sunday morning came I had a large bowl of porridge for breakfast to make sure there was no chance of me bonking half-way round.
I drove to Wythenshawe Park as cycling there would have added another twelve miles to the day’s cycling. I parked in the dedicated field parking and readied the bike, saddle bag and drinks. There was no need for a rucksack as the weather forecast was dry. In fact the weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny but slightly overcast, with no sun glare and comfortably temperate.
I signed in and made my way to the start line. Riders are given different start times to spread them out. My start time was earlier than it needed to be. Despite changing the distance to a hundred kilometres my start time remained one of the earlier ones designated for the hundred milers. I set off with a group of around thirty riders. It didn't take long for us to disperse. There was the tricky crossing of the tram lines in Wythenshawe followed by the pot holes along Altrincham Road.
The route turned left on to Thorley Lane after Shaftsbury Avenue. Eventually reaching the short climb of Delahays Hill and fast descent of Park Road into Hale. After Hale a left turn on to Ashley Road and I was into the Cheshire countryside. At Ashley the route turned right on to Ashley Road. After the Birkin Brook bridge and the woodland I turned right on to Birkinheath Lane then Cherry Tree Lane to eventually reach the original route of the A556. The route follows the old dual carriageway and has a new dedicated two-way cycle lanes along part of the route.
There was a cyclist down and being treated by paramedics at Bucklow Hill. I'm guessing he must have collided with another cyclist as it looked like he had come off at speed on a wide open part of the road with very few obstacles. Where the A556 reaches the M6 there is a new dedicated tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians that passes under the new A556 dual carriageway to reach Old Hall Lane which then gives you access to the Cheshire lanes. The route followed Budworth Road, Budworth Heath Lane, Knutsford Road north of Great Budworth. It then turned left on to Pole Lane to reach the A559 Warrington Road which I crossed to head south down Gibb Hill to Comberbach.
The route then follows Marbury Road south out of Comberbach and passes the entrance to Marbury Country Park. Shortly after that I reached the first rest stop at The Moorings by the Anderton Boat Lift. I have to admit at this point I started to miss having company with me on the ride. Camaraderie is one the main reasons I do these cycling events and walking challenges. Normally at rest stops you can have a good chat about how the ride has gone so far but I found myself alone. The nice lady in the cafe at The Moorings cheered me up letting me have her last piece of chocolate covered flapjack.
After Anderton the route gets urban as it heads through Winnington towards Northwich on major roads. Here the red light jumping brigade started their frustratingly ignorant and life threatening antics. At the top of the hill in Winnington the route turns right on to Moss Road heading south to reach the A559 Chester Road. At The Greenbank pub the road splits. This is where the hundred mile and a hundred kilometre routes part.
The hundred kilometre route continues along Chester Road towards Chester and the hundred mile route turns right taking the B5153 Beach Road towards Weaverham. The plan all along had been to do the hundred kilometre route but that didn't stop me from nearly changing my mind at this point. So far my legs and lungs were both feeling like they could do it. I opted for the shorter route and stuck to the original plan.
The route passed through Hartford then turn left crossing a bridge over the A556. There were several miles of enjoyable rural open roads again as the route headed south towards Winsford. At Winsford there was a very busy and wide roundabout to negotiate. I am used to this kind of obstacle being a regular commuter but you could tell some people were understandably uncomfortable. Just south of Winsford the route meets up with the hundred mile route. It then follows the B5074 south until Church Minshull.
At Church Minshull it turns left on to Cross Lane crossing the River Weaver on a single lane narrow bridge. There was a long climb after this followed by a hump back bridge over the Shropshire Union Canal. At the end of Cross Lane the route turned left and headed north along Brookhouse Lane to reach the A530 Nantwich Road. I headed north along the A530 crossing the west coast mainline railway. Not long after the route turned right on to Chapel Lane which leads to Forge Mill Lane to Warmingham and Sandbach. Shortly after the road dips then rises after a narrow bridge over the River Wheelock the route turned left up Warmingham Lane, heading north towards Middlewich.
The road entered the south end of Middlewich. A few minutes later I found myself at The Turnpike pub which is the third stop on the route. I must have unknowingly flown past the second rest stop. I was starting to feel my neck and shoulders aching now. No matter how much I try to get used to road bike geometry my body still prefers the upright position of a flatbar hybrid or mountain bike. I fueled up and set off on the penultimate leg of the route back towards Manchester. These roads were more familiar as I had cycled most of them several times before. The route headed north from The Turnpike to Middlewich. It then turned right along the A54 until it reached a major roundabout where the route turned left then almost immediately right on to the B5081 Byley Lane.
I followed this long straight road in a north easterly direction. It crossed the busy M6 motorway then dropped into Lower Peover. The route crossed the A50 at a staggered junction then continued along Seven Sisters Lane to Ollerton. At Ollerton it crossed the A537 and continued along Marthall Lane. Eventually turning into Pedley Lane and heading towards Mobberley and Wilmslow. There was a sharp left bend in the road where it turns into Faulkners Lane. I passed the Frozen Mop pub on the left and Mobberley Methodist Church on the right before reaching the junction with the B5085 Knutsford Road. I turned right towards Wilsmlow and after a few hundred metres found myself at The Bird in Hand pub the final rest stop on the route.
I phoned my Mum to let her know I was less than an hour from the finish as she and her partner were coming down to cheer me over the line. I fueled up again for the last time and headed east along the B5085 Knutsford Road towards Wilmslow. This was possibly the worst road surface along the entire route. At a roundabout the B5085 continues east towards Alderley Edge, the route heads north instead into Wilmslow along the B5086. The route passes right through the town centre then heads north along Manchester Road to Handforth. There was a busy junction after Handforth where the route crosses the A55 with two busy roundabouts to negotiate.
Shortly after that the route was signposted as turning left down Bolshaw Road. This takes a quiet route through the housing estate to reach Outwood Road instead of just turning left further on. Unfortunately no one told the organisers that the next road Cross Road which everyone turned north on to was being resurfaced that weekend. It was not the organisers fault as they probably weren't aware of the resurfacing at the planning stages. It caused havoc as people tried to cycle over hot sticky tarmac getting tarmac and tiny stones in their bikes parts. I had to get off afterwards and wipe it all from my tyres.
When I finally reached Outwood Road I turned left heading towards Heald Green. At Heald Green I turned left down Finney Lane to reach the busy junction with the B5166 Styal Road. Here I turned right and headed north on the B5166 Styal Road into the suburbs of Manchester. Eventually reaching Northenden and the familiar route back to Wythenshawe along the B5166 Longley Lane. On the road near the entrance to Wythenshawe Park there was the most ridiculously large pot hole I had seen in months, and I see a lot of them commuting. You really would think with a major bike ride taking place the council could have dealt with this as a priority.
When I reached the finish line I could hear my Mum shouting well done which immediately made me smile. I was very proud of myself for completing my longest ever bike ride at the end of a difficult period of illness and injury. I went over to the finishers stands to collect my medal and flopped to the ground drinking the cold and flat Coke Zero I had requested from my Mum. I am definitely coming back next year to do it again but next time I'm determined it will be the longer hundred mile route.