Report by Alex Boyce
Last weekend saw the inaugural Vélo Birmingham event take place, the latest 100 mile sportive to be staged on entirely closed roads. Pete Ganderton and new member Alex Boyce represented GS Henley and without any large climbs like those seen at Ride London were both hoping to complete the course at a fast pace. It did turn out, however, that the profile was not fully indicative of the challenges the course had.
There was a fair amount of controversy in Birmingham and the host counties leading up to the event where local residents were not entirely happy about roads being closed for several hours. On the day however the crowds came out to support the 15,000 cyclists as they made their way through the towns and villages of Staffordshire and Worcestershire before looping back into the city to finish right in the centre of Birmingham. Crossing the River Severn in the picturesque town of Bewdley where the largest crowds were seen was a real highlight. The day was not without its hiccups however with stories of tacks causing punctures, oil spillages and even hay bales being thrown into the road. One village had a protest that cyclists were welcome, just not 15,000, however this failed to dampen the mood of an otherwise well run and well supported event.
Pete and Alex set off from different pens at the start but each found themselves in strong groups prepared to share the work. With 50% more climbing than Ride London it soon became clear however that this was certainly not a fast course as the rolling hills kept rolling for the entire route. The relentless inclines took their toll on the overall pace but both crossed the line inside the top 15 and only a minute apart, just 4 minutes behind the fastest finisher, and both with top 20 times overall, out of more than 11,500 finishers.
Full results can be found here, and you may also notice a download option in the top-right corner, which provides a sortable Excel spreadsheet for all finishers.
With free massage, bike wash and even free beer at the finish line it was certainly a successful event which is set to run for the next 4 years, and with no ballot to enter either Vélo Birmingham is definitely a worthwhile consideration for those wanting to take part in a mass-participation closed roads event; just don’t expect it to be easy!
Pete added “for a new event it went remarkably smoothly. While there were challenges for the organisers on the day, they were very receptive to feedback, and I’m expecting the event to be even better next year. Of all the closed-road sportives I’ve done, this is by far the toughest course, with constant undulations meaning that there was no real opportunities to get into a rhythym. I actually grew up in the Midlands, in the Stourport and Bewdley area, and was overjoyed to see the level of support going through my home towns. I’ll certainly look to be heading back to the event next year, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a challenging, bumpy ride!”
If you have an event report you’d like to see featured on the GS Henley website, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org , along with any photos you have of yourself in the event!