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Preview Ride of the Marie Curie Etape Mercia

| Blog, Cycling Plus | 29/04/2013 15:40pm

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to take part in a preview ride of the Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Mercia with Dame Sarah Storey, the latest closed road event to be added to collection of events under the Etape Series umbrella.

Apparently the weather in London last Thursday hit around 22 degrees. I heard tales of people lounging on city rooftops sipping Pimms and leaving the house with just a cardigan for protection from the elements. This was not the case in Cheshire where the gloomy skies cast a grey haze over the otherwise beautiful scenery.

Despite the disappointing meteorological outlook (let’s face it, we’re used to it by now) the 45km section of the Etape Mercia route that we rode was pretty impressive. Weaving through the quiet country lanes of Tarporley and passing by the charming Beeston castle, the gently undulating roads are perfect for first timers to the sportive scene.

At about 20km in, the rain began. What a surprise. However, it didn’t really dampen the mood of the riders who were rallied along by eleven-time gold medal winning Paralympian, Dame Sarah Storey, who at seven-months pregnant, happily lead the pack (under the protective watch of her husband Barney) to the lunch stop at The Boot Inn in Willington.

This is where we had the chance to catch up with Sarah. “When I came into cycling from swimming I loved that it was such an all-inclusive sport,” said Sarah. “You can have 8 year olds and 80 year olds taking part in the same event. That’s something that really struck me about cycling.” And as she grew up cycling in Cheshire, a local event such as the Etape Mercia suits her well. Especially one that is raising money for an important charity. “It’s nice to have an event that is relatively close to home and not too hilly. And if you hit a wall just think about the people you are raising money for. I visited a Marie Curie hospice recently and it is completely incomprehensible how people manage in that situation. It’s an incredible incentive and if it is your first event and you think – oh, I can’t manage 69 miles – then just think about the people who you are riding for who would probably love to be able to ride 69 miles.”

After some speedy refueling on sarnies and chips (The Boot Inn has arguably the BEST chunky chips in the world) and chewing over Sarah’s food for thought, we were back out into the rain for the final 15km of the ride. Immediately out of the lunch stop we hit a long steady climb. Followed by another. And another. If this is your first sportive, here is where the challenge steps up a level and I am reliably informed that the full route takes in a few more tough climbs to get your legs burning. By the time we’d made it back to the hotel, I was glad to see the finish line and looking forward to a shower and a coffee!

But my lasting impression of the day, and of the ride, was that this is going to be a great event, one that I will be signing up for. I think the Etape Mercia strikes a nice balance between challenging and enjoyable that will encourage new riders to enter the sportive scene.

Sign up to the Etape Mercia, that takes place on August 18th 2013, here!


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