“It’s not a race…”

On Sunday six Team ASL-Bolton riders joined the Lagan’s Cycle Challenge sportive around Rivington to support the Lagan’s Foundation – a charity close to the team. The route was just 44.5 miles long, but the organisers had made sure they’d squeezed as much elevation into it as they could, racking up almost 5000ft of grippy Bolton climbing. What’s more, rider Gareth Balshaw had his own course record to beat…

Gareth’s report:

This year’s 44 mile ride took place on Sunday 23rd April from Rivington and Blackrod High School.

The weather was lovely as we all signed on and everybody was in high spirits.  Although this was a charity ride we all knew the course record was 2hrs 13 mins so everyone’s competitive side came out from the off.

Team ASL had 6 riders taking part in the challenge and we planned to stay together as long as possible for a few good photo opportunities and good training. Everyone was released on the start line at 9am and I lead everyone out at a steady pace, passing the Rivington Barn then turning right to head up Sheep House Lane. Chris Froome (Mike Humphreys) then took the lead at a very fast pace. I had to tell him to slow down for the others but it was me that needed the slower pace!

We reached the top of Sheep House Lane and had lost Tony and Neil from the team. We knew 2hrs 13mins was going to be very tough to beat so we couldn’t wait.

As we got through Belmont and headed towards Tockholes we could hear the Drones above which were filming all the riders.

Throughout the morning the roads got busier and busier with walkers, horse riders, and tractors making it difficult to navigate past at times down the narrow country lanes and setting us back.

Team ASL Bolton Lagans Challenge
Team ASL Bolton on Lagans Challenge 2017

Approx 30 miles in the dreaded climb was in sight: ‘Foxholes’, 15% in places. This is a very steep road which runs between houses leading from Horwich to Matchmoor Lane (bottom of the Mast).

This segment is less than 1 mile but felt like 10 at that point! Everyone was off the saddle feeling the pain. Support from local resisdents gave us the extra boost we needed to hit the top in good time.

We reached the top with a sign of relief knowing the steep climbs were all done. It was then heads down to beat the course record.

We lost Mike on the technical descent off the back of Matchmoor. It was obvious that knowing these roads was a real advantage, and he struggled to get back on. We reached Belmont again a rider down, but this time turned left at the Black Dog to make the second ascent of Winter Hill.

We got down into Rivington with 2 miles to go and I knew the record was just about achievable.

Turning left onto Lever Park Avenue which was the final 0.5 mile stretch to the finish line. I led this out but Dave wanted glory and started to attack.

Seeing the trophy that was on offer this year (which I thought would look lovely in my living room) I also put an attack on which saw me just past the finish line first with a new course record of 2hrs 12 mins 14 secs.

It was a fantastic day and to a very good Charity raising money to support families with young children with heart defects.

As ever, it was organised extremely well with signs throughout the route making it impossible to get lost, and there were plenty of snacks on at the end which went down a treat!

Thanks again for all the hard work Carren and her team put on, and congratulations for raising over £2500! I hope to be there again next year with a time of sub 2hrs 10 mins…

Gareth collecting his first place prize

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