On Saturday 17th july, band of climbers headed to the beautiful english TOWN of broadway, for our summer of steep group ride in the cotswolds.
WITH TEMPERATURES REACHING 30C, WE KNEW WE HAD A TOUGH DAY IN STORE ON A RIDE WHICH WOULD TAKE US SOUTH TO CHELTENHAM, OVER 14 PUNISHING ASCENTS, INCLUDING THE FEARED BUSHCOMBE LANE.
Our day began with breakfast at Broadway Deli. A lovely little shop, bakery and coffee house on Broadway high street, which must surely be the finest looking high street in the UK. Complete with stunning period properties, homes with thatched roofs, and village greens to rival any open space we've seen on our tour. There's no Greggs or McDonalds to be found on this high street, that's for sure.
We pitched up our sign on station by the Swan Pub, and one after the other, over 40 riders joined us, ready for a tough day in the hills. There was one climb which had most folks talking in nervous tones - Buschcombe Lane.
The route we faced was just over 100km, with 2200m of elevation. On paper, this route had the least amount of elevation of any of the rides on our Summer of Steep Tour, but as we were to find out, the temperatures, plus the gradients made this anything but the easiest ride of our summer.
As with all our rides this summer, there was to be no warm up. Just 2km into the ride and we found ourselves on the first ascent of the day; Snowshill. 2km at 7.7%. A steady climb to warm the legs. As we reached the top, we turned onto perhaps the longest descent of the day, on a flowing and fast road down towards Didbrook. Unfortunately for one of the group, a rouge pothole tore the sidewall of a tyre, which ended their day, sadly.
The second climb of the day was perhaps the highlight of the ride, and felt like something from the Swiss Jura region. Salters Lane. 2km at over 8%, over meadows and wide open views. At the summit of the climb was a farmers gate, with a nice patch of gravel to navigate and add to the suffering.
With temperatures increasing it was time to hit the one we had all feared. Our route designer for the ride and Cotswolds local, Ian, had told us stories of a 35% ascent. Over dinner the night before the ride, he casually dropped into conversation that he'd only ridden this climb once, 8 years ago, and it was the only climb that had ever made him get off and push. This from a man who has danced up some of the highest and toughest Cols in Europe on Band of Climbers Escapes. We were, of course, talking about Buschcombe Lane.
Words can't accurately describe the suffering we faced on Buschcombe Lane. Horrific would be one such attempt. The climb itself is understated, clouded in trees and hidden away at the end of a housing estate. There are no views of mountains or hillsides, in fact, there are no views. Just a tarmac road, which rises in front of you like a wall. Only this wall gets steeper, and steeper, and steeper until it hits over 33%. There's only really one corner on it, so you can see the gradient change and get harder, the closer you get to the top.
The only way to get over it is to mash the pedals and use the smallest possible gear you can find. The only saving grace for this climb is that it was heavily shaded - meaning the heat wasn't directly on us.
A regroup at the summit gave us all a chance to breathe and relax a little, knowing the toughest test of the day was behind us.
With temperatures continuing to soar towards 30c, we were glad to find our OTE Sports Feed Station at Guiting Power, 55km into the ride. The village green playing host to 45+ thirsty riders.
The 2nd half of the route took us back towards Winchcombe and then north towards Broadway. We'd heard tales of the famous high standing Broadway Tower early on in the ride. We finally got to see it in the final 10km. Apparently, on a clear day you can see 16 counties from the top of tower, right the way from the midlands through to Wales and the South West. We didn't have time to prove this today, as we were in search of the finish line, and free Band of Climbers IPA.
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