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Somerset Sportives

In the last fortnight we’ve ridden on two great local Sportive rides, the Lionheart and the the Bath 100. Its been a great experience doing these sportives and if you’ve never done one or think its not worthwhile read on and I’ll try and convince you!

The 2 rides shared a few bits of route, especially in the hills to the south of Frome with the fearsome ascent of Alfred’s Tower in particular.  Both have almost the same amount of climbing, with my GPS showing the Bath100 to have slightly more at 8957ft compared to 8427ft for the Lionheart.  Apart from that both have some great long descents and long flat blasts.  The overall feel that I had of from both rides was that the Bath100 was more ’rounded’ whilst the Lionheart less so.  If you look at route maps side by side the shape of the rides shows that the Bath100 is more round, but its more the feel of the ride I am talking about.  The Lionheart route ‘splits’ early on after about 10 miles at Longbridge Deverill with the 100 milers blasting down to Wilton on a long flatish section.  Whilst it was a fun flat section maybe its nicer to get the climbs under your belt earlier on in a ride.  The Lionheart route took on Alfred’s Tower just about 15 miles before the end which was a real killer!  The Bath 100 did have us crawl up Sion Hill in Bath, about a mile from the end.  Its pretty awful, steep, but nowhere near as tough as the fearsome Alfred’s Tower!

The descents on a ride are a real highlight and there are some really great ones on both rides, but I’d have to say that the Bath100 was the winner here.  The descent to Midford from Bath is great, on an A road with long steep sweeping bends you can really lean into.  The steep hill into Lacock is fun but you need to be very careful on a switchback three quarters down, but what’s the point of a descent without a challenge?  Then the hill from Kingsdown down into Bathford is a long long blast and if you’re lucky you won’t get stuck behind vehicles in the village and you can blast all the way down through the one way priority islands, I wasn’t!  The white knuckle descent off the White Horse tests your bike handling skills to the max, skipping down the slightly bumpy road trying to time your braking over bumps and the double ‘S’ corner, before the blast down to the bottom where you have to grip your bike very hard to stop the bumps bouncing you around.  The descent down to the grand mansion at Longleat is nice, but pretty tame in comparison.  You can see all the corners from the top and its as smooth as a billiard table, making it not such a great challenge.

The food stops are another highlight of a Sportive, after all its not meant to be a race!  There were plenty of food stops on both rides.  At the start of the Bath100 you got a complimentary energy gel bar which was nice.  All the food stops had plenty to offer cakes, flapjacks, bananas and hot tea or coffee.  The lunch stop for the Bath100 just after the White Horse was supreme, a proper buffet with cold pasta salads, quiches, roast pork, bean salads and a variety of fruit and cake, there were even chairs and tables.  The Lionheart lunch equivalent at Kingston Deverill was well stocked but basic filled rolls, cakes and bananas, there were a few chairs but not enough.  Some people don’t like to have much of a stop for lunch so this does come down to personal preference, but it can be a highlight for some.  The Lionheart won out at the end with an amazing 9 (or was it 12) bean stew with very nice wholesome crusty bread.  There was also beer available(!) but I passed on that.  The welcome at the end of the Bath100 was a bit muted with not even a complementary drink, although there was a mobile caterer on hand.

Finally just a few housekeeping things to highlight.  The signposting on both was good, but the Bath100 was fantastically well signed.  In particular the junction where the 100 mile and 100 kilometre  rides split was very well signed with 2 very large blue or yellow signs showing which route to follow.  As well as this there were signposts for potholes, narrow roads, and even a toad crossing. Both rides had a good number of marshalls, and special mention must go to the marshalls on the A303 for the Lionheart who were great.  The goody bag at the end of the Lionheart was a real treat – I have used the complimentary buff now a number of times!  I didn’t get a goody bag at the end of the Bath100, maybe I missed it bit of a shame as the one we got last year on the Action 100 was fantastic, with lots of recovery bars and jelly beans!  That had ZipVit in it and its seems as shame that they are no longer involved (I think) as I can’t abide High5!

Both rides were completed by me and Becci in 6hrs 40mins ride times, but we did stop to enjoy the lunches and food stops taking us to about 7hrs 30mins for both rides.  I won’t hesitate to recommend both rides as each had its merits.  The big draw for the Action100 is the money raised from the rides goes to funding research into childhood illness, which Action Medical Research have an exceptional track record for.  The Lionheart has a less obvious charitable purpose, and is not billed as a charity ride, but as their website states ‘Spin Events will be donating a percentage of their profits from the 2012 Lionheart towards the ColaLife project.’  The Lionheart could be viewed as a season ‘opener’ to motivate you to train over the winter and get a decent time early in the year. Both rides were great and we’ll be back for more next year!