Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Egg's Guide to the Challenge Weymouth Bike Course

I headed off to deepest Dorset with cycling buddy Sarah at the weekend for a first recce of the Challenge Weymouth bike course. I have written a basic guide to the main parts of the course below, but before you embark on a recce of your own, please note these important points:

There is only ONE proper tea shop en route as far as we could see (Pine Lodge Team Rooms, number 5) and the first time we passed it, it was closed. It's a mysterious place without a website or a Facebook page so the opening hours remain unknown. Sarah has been once before though and can vouch for their cream teas. 

Part of the route appears to require a mountain bike. A very hardy road cyclist may risk their rubber across the one hundred or so metres of gravel (3) but we picked up our steeds and shouldered them over. This was after several navigational misadventures as we couldn't believe the route actually went that way despite the GPS telling us it did. Challenge Tri have assured me it is being resurfaced though, phew!

WARNING: The route shown below includes bits of getting lost, short cuts and deviations.

The route starts along the sea front and after a flat start, leads gently up to the left. Where the route turns away from the sea there is a great spot to stop (yes I know, you've only just started..) at the Oasis Cafe (1). After we failed to find any tea stops on the first loop we came back here for a mid-route lunch break and enjoyed massive sandwiches with a sea view. I recommend you bring a small notepad as they also have loads of hidden cake, you have to ask sneakily for the list.

Back to the course, a gentle climb leads you to a roundabout where you take the first exit towards Upwey and onto the newly named Ketchup Hill (2). If you do stop for food at the aforementioned cafe, don't go too heavy on the condiments and then subsequently hit this climb hard. It's not massive, but certainly long enough to get you warm from that sea swim. You're allowed short respite through Broadwey before you veer off left onto the cycle route and re-commence the climbing. This climb eventually leads to the off-road section (3), but once you're over that obstacle, it spits you out on a fabulously fast descent into Broadmayne (4). The road is brilliant, just meandering enough to make it exciting but not too much that you have bother with silly things like using the brakes.

Once past Broadmayne, the course undulates nicely through some villages and shortly after the Pine Lodge Tea Rooms (5), you hang a left. At this point you leave the smooth roads behind and venture up a pot-holed evil section toward Puddletown (6). On our first loop we accidentally missed this section entirely, favouring a shortcut (7) through Tincleton. This shortcut is actually far more pleasant and if nobody is watching on race day, I reckon you should stealthily just wing it down that way instead. From Puddletown the route is supposed to go back down the green line shown on the map but we (okay, I) managed to get it wrong on the second loop as well and ventured off through Tolpuddle (8). It was at this point that EggNav got me in trouble as I had promised Sarah we wouldn't have to do the Affpuddle section (9) on the second lap. The Affpuddle (renamed 'Alfpuddle'.. "Who's Alf?!" .."He's a bastard") out and back is a cheeky bit of the course where a succession of hills lead you to a turnaround point. On the second loop it will be very tempting to skip this bit entirely, you'll want to just whizz straight over the road and pretend you never saw it.

Once Affpuddle is done, it's onto Bovington where at least there are lots of things to look at and be distracted by as you pass the Tank museum. It was at this point on both loops that the sun was really shining and Sarah suggested I get new cycling shorts. Having cycled mostly behind me, she declared that my shorts were too thin and that the sun illuminated my whole bum crack. This fact kept me very amused and cheery as we joined the main road into a headwind. 

As soon as you turn the corner again, you join a beautifully smooth and fast road toward Stoborough (10). I hit the drops and made sure I was as bent over as possible for Sarah and we glided over the tarmac. I didn't want this section to end. At the end you make a right turn at a roundabout and have to join another main road briefly before turning off onto some quieter country lanes. The lanes (11) are nicely sheltered and in surprisingly good condition. 

You rejoin the busier roads again at Wool (12) where there is also the only decent-looking pub on the course. Sarah scouted this as her bike supporting spot and then we stopped chatting and got our heads down as the next 10 or so miles are a bit of a slog along the main road, culminating in a draggy section along the dual-carriageway.

We turned left at another roundabout and I was so pleased to be off the fast road that I didn't care about the climb towards Poxwell and Osmington (13), but on the second loop as my legs were tiring I could concur with Sarah that Poxwell was indeed poxy. However, once you're over the hill at the top of Osmington Bay (don't forget to glance to the left for some amazing views!) it's downhill all the way back to start. The long downhill finish is a great way to recover the legs, by the time we were back along the seafront I definitely felt like I could run a marathon if I really had to. Instead, we opted for chicken and cookies at Morrisons, maybe recce the run next time.

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