The Hell Of The North Cotswolds 2007 - Sunday 14th April 2007
by Ian Coles
I was determined that 2007 would be the year that I would ride the Hell Of the North Cotswolds and finish without feeling like the event had beaten me. I had ridden and finished the 2 previous editions but in 2005 I suffered hunger knock and in 2006 I got caught out in a 20 minute hailstorm that really put me in a bad way with only 16 km to go.
This year I had decided would be different and my target for the 100km hilly off-road reliability ride was 5 hours. This was an hour faster than I had done before but with dry conditions and good form it didn’t seem unreasonable.
The day dawned mild and misty as the 1000 riders gathered at the start. It made a pleasant change from previous editions to be able to ride in shorts and jerseys and the temperature was predicted to get higher through the day. The roll out through Winchcombe was sedate with most riders aware of the tough conditions still to come. After the turn out from the village past Sudeley Castle a tough climb greeted us that took the route up from the valley to one of the highest points of the Cotswolds near Cleeve Hill. This soon spread out the riders and as I rode onto the first tarmac section my average speed crept up to 13mph which would put me comfortably in my finish target time.
The first half of the ride went well even with the temperature gradually rising, I kept my liquid intake up and was soon at the rest stop. Here I replenished my bottles got my card stamped and was quickly off. Unfortunately I hit a broken roof tile going into a stretch of single track and my rear tyre blew out. I then realised that my spare tube had not only got a valve too small for my rims but was leaky (big schoolboy error). I was then very grateful to a fellow rider who gave me spare tube and with me thanking him greatly I repaired my puncture was off again, making sure that I put plenty of air in so as not to suffer the same fate again.
The second part of the ride was understandably the toughest. As the un-seasonal April temperatures reached 25 degrees combined with the punishing and relentless off road sections it started to become a major challenge. There was a lot of climbing off road in this section and my average speed soon began to drop. I hooked up with a group and we all helped with pace making and route finding and it was nice to hear a voice from behind me who recognised the North Road kit (an old school friend of Ashley Glass from Colchester) who kept me company for a while. By the time the town of Winchcombe came into view in the valley below I was very grateful and I knew that there was a fantastic descent to finish. I bombed down the hill and as I rode through the town I was realised that I was going to complete the distance in just over 5 hours, which considering delays for route finding and getting held up by the amount of riders at the start I was really pleased with.
It was hot enough to be a different type of ‘hell’ this year and the amount of orange dust accumulated on me gave an appearance of a lycra-clad David Dickinson! But at the end it was another personal demon that I could finally put to rest as this year I had finally beaten the Hell Of The North and not vice versa.