115km (71 miles) - 31st August 2014
The Bristol Belter 115km (71 mile) route boasts 4265 ft of climbing, the route takes us south of Bristol and up and over the Mendips (a fair few times!) with the major climbs being Burrington Combe and Cheddar Gorge. The route is sign posted with full support wagon and 3 feed stations, there is also a suprise present at the end for all finishers...
Another sportive and another early start, 5.15 to be exact. The forcast is ideal, a sunny 20 degrees with very little wind - definately a t-shirt and shorts day! I have also managed 5 hours sleep which is good (for me at least!). This is the second time I've participated in the Bristol Belter, my first time was two years previously in torrential rain and wind, so this time around I'll get to see the views properly (yippee!).
My cycling buddy Paul picked me up at 6.15am and we embarked on the 80 mile drive down to the Belter Ride HQ, we arrived at 8am to find there were plenty of parking spaces available. Signing in along with 400+ other riders is hassle free. We were given our rider number boards to attach to the front of our bikes, our timing chips were stuck onto the back of these boards which is much more preferable to sticking them onto our helmets. The board also doubled as a 10% off voucher at the Bristol Giant Store (valid untill 31st December - not bad at all). Tea, coffee and snacks were also on offer before the ride starts.
Around 10 minutes before the off we had a rider briefing which was the standard affair of general rider safety and route information, what the route signage looks like etc.
At 8.30 the ride began, the first 5 miles were on urban roads into Portishead, just after Portishead we briefly rode alongside the Bristol Channel, the views of which were exceptional. Soon afterward, the countryside views started kicking in with the first notable view being Blagdon Lake. The route winds all the way around Blagdon Lake which I would describe as a very uppy and downy affair (hills), the view of the lake is pretty from all angles.
The first memorable climb is Cleve Hill which boasts a max 18% gradient (but only briefly), once at the top we rode through Corporation Wood and then on to feed station No.1. Unfortunately the feed station is situated at the side of the road just after a blind downward bend - not an ideal place when there is potential for cyclists to come flying around the corner! The station is stocked adequately with cake, flapjacks, biscuits, and also potatoes - the first time I have seen potatoes at a feed station. Disappointedly there are no toilet facilities, not even a portaloo!
Around 10 miles later the route then took us up Burrington Combe (The Mendips) this is one long slog of a climb of 2.5 miles with a max 15% gradient. Half way up, just as the sun started blazing on my back, I spotted a nicely situated ice cream van, however, it's against my rules to stop on a hill and it pained me greatly to ride on by!
There is some brilliant riding and scenery to be had along the top of the Mendips before descending again. We discovered Lillipool Farm Cafe situated along the route route at mile 47 so we stopped for a much needed caffine boost and toilet break! A few miles after leaving the cafe we entered Cheddar which meant it wouldn't be long before the climb up Cheddar Gorge began.
The 2.5 mile ascent up Cheddar Gorge isn't as bad as it sounds, the first few bends are steep and then evens out to an average of 7% for the rest of the way... once more there is some lovely flowing riding along the top which is where feed station no.2 is situated, once more there are an array of flapjacks, biscuits and cake on offer, still no toilets though.
From Cheddar Gorge we descend down to Chew Valley Lake which is a lovely sight, we also discovered a Mr Whippy ice cream van and felt an ice cream moment coming on... it just had to be done!
Approximately 10 miles before the finish we found Feed Station No.3. Plenty more flapjack and cake to gorge on and nope, still no toilets.
From here on in we began riding back towards Ride HQ, and as we got closer we found ourselves riding on a few busy roads including a descent down the A316 Bridgewater Road and while it is a fast descent, it isn't so pleasant with traffic passing at 50mph+, we soon turn off at the bottom though (phew!). The final climb of the day (2 miles before the end, are they trying to kill us???) is Belmont Hill which is just over a mile long and has a grade range of 3% to 18%.
71 miles later we arrived back at Ride HQ where we receive our medals and mystery gift which is... (drum roll please...) A Bristol Belter 2014 Travel Mug! Hot drinks and cheese cobs were on offer at the end, our travel mugs had to be used straight away to hold our drinks in - handy!
The organisation on a whole ran smoothly Overall a brilliant route apart from a few busy roads back into Bristol (which can't be helped) I would describe the road surface as a 50/50 mix, some lovely smooth gliding roads and some not so brilliant arm juddering roads (including a few bumpy descents)
First feed station on blind downward bend. Lack of toilet facilities at all 3 feed stations. The busy A38 descent.
A very enjoyable day with smashing views and sunshine. Would I do this ride again? Yes!