Once a year on the day of the famous cobbled Paris-Roubaix race in France, Velo Club Walcot members pay tribute to the horrors of terrible road surfaces by taking on some of the steepest, shoddiest lanes of the West Country.
Seven groups took part on Sunday 8 April 2018, setting out from the usual meeting spot at Orange Grove, Bath and heading out into the local countryside via some of the gnarliest, beaten-up lanes that organiser Arran Armstrong dared challenge them with. The ride culminated with a horrifying ascent of Hodshill from Combe Hay up to Southstoke and then a few hard-earned brews while watching the professionals at Paris-Roubaix on their big screen at The Bath Brewhouse.
The ride comprised of three distance choices of 27, 37 and 47 miles and named Green, Amber and Red but all based around the same scenic route to the south of Bath and taking in the picturesque waypoints of Hinton Charterhouse, Iford Manor, Norton St Philip, Buckland Dinham and Wellow. Within that the distances split into faster and slower groups of roughly a dozen each so that pretty much all fitness and confidence levels were accommodated. Not exactly comfortably on account of the gratuitous hills but at least everyone finished feeling a sense of achievement and nicely burning legs. Although most of the riders went around ‘non-stop’, two of the three Amber groups rebelled and chose to add an extra four miles to visit the Walled Garden at Mells for delicious cakes and coffee.
Up up up the dastardly Fox Hill
At the start and after just a few minutes of riding, all the Red and Amber riders took a left turn off the top of Perrymead to be faced by Fox Hill, a sheer climb up a narrow lane with gradients up to 22%. Everyone got successfully to the top, one way or the other and some smiling more than others.
This choice of an obscure and excruciating exit from Bath is just the latest of a Classics Ride tradition dating back to the early days of the Velo Club Walcot in 2006. In previous years, the ghastly leg-screaming climbs of Rosemount Lane and Forefield Rise have been incorporated into the opening miles and it can surely only be a matter of time before the dreaded Prospect Place in Bathford features in a future ride. This time next year maybe?
Photos by Jason Power and Adrian Boswell.