The Lands End 100 first ran in 2011 but I was unable to ride it despite entering owing to my hip fracture. However I rode it in 2012 and enjoyed it.
It was set up by Cornwall Council previously but is now part of the Just Events stable and is the last ride of the 3 Counties Challenge that I had signed up for.
The start has moved from St Ives Leisure Centre to Marazion with its picturesque back drop of St Michaels Mount, the smaller replica of Mont St Michel in Normandy.
The route is a circular one across inland to Camborne before picking up the north Cornwall coast to Hayle, St Ives passed Geevor tin mine, St Just and Cape Cornwall to Sennen, Lands End before returning through Mousehole and Penzance.
The drive down was pitch black until we arrived at Hayle and we then parked at the St Aubyns’ Estate where Mounts Bay was looking particularly clear. This was at odds with the forecast and we could see St Michaels Mount too.
l parked up and got myself ready before going to find Simon, a fellow Coastbuster who was riding his first sportive. As I went to find him I bumped into Julia Browne and her cycling buddy, Meg.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse as Simon and I gently rode through the car park to the start. I decided that I would go as fast as I could but if things turned nasty then I would just go steadily round to be safe. My competitive nature wanted a gold medal but safety has to come first.
We waited for ages at the start with the usual briefing before setting off and turning right through the village of Marazion. Already the drizzle had started and the dark clouds enveloped the sky and you could not see the other side of the Bay. Great so not many decent photos today then.
The road through the village climbs gently parallel to the sea before we swung left to a roundabout to cross the main road to the Lizard. Here was the course split as we went straight on for the 60 mile course. Not many around us turned right! As it turned out that it would be a long day on that course.
The road was wet and now littered with fallen leaves making some points treacherous. You can easily slip and lose traction in these conditions. Then to make matters worse wet drain covers throw another dimension to every thing. Simon was happy to sit on my wheel as we negotiated the dark dingy road but many a rider seemed to go passed us. They must be good or confident in these conditions.
Anyway the road descended to the quaint village of Goldsithney. Here the road was being resurfaced, nice. Raised manhole covers rough surface meant weaving through rather than going straight but all was safe with no mishaps.
I then started to feel decidedly uncomfortable. I was wearing my yellow rain jacket but it’s only flimsy in case of need. My arms were starting to feel damp even with a base layer underneath and we’d only be riding for 5 or so miles. The foreboding to come was punctuated by a loud pop as one rider had punctured. I was glad it wasn’t Simon.
The scenery was not exactly spectacular in the gloom of overcast clouds precipitating nicely and now we had to contend with old Farmer Giles who obviously had been out and about with his tractor. The roads were full on mud and after a while of checking that Simon was ok I turned to him to see his yellow wind jacket sporting a new polka dot shade of brown all over. Sometimes it’s good to be out front my splatter was pretty impressive. He smiled back but I was pleased he was still in touch. It’s always tough doing your first sportive when you don’t really know what to expect but are recent commuting together had obviously helped.
The road was undulating constantly with the odd bit of effort as one village merged into another. We encountered Leedstown I couldn’t help smirking to myself since my beloved Sheffield Wednesday had just beaten Leeds 3-0.
So as you can see it was more od the same overcast wet and horrible. I was wearing my overshoes but Simon said his feet were soaking by now.
Straight on over a crossroads and my legs were heavy as I wasn’t enjoying the conditions. The saving grace was that we had for the moment stopped the lumpy climbing as we headed for Camborne. Just before Praze an Beeble we made a left turn and I suddenly remembered a nasty climb from 5 years ago that was near here. Help I thought and warned Simon.
However I hadn’t realised at the time but the route had changed slightly but at Carnwell Green, perhaps the most normal of sounding villages we encountered, we hit a 4-way traffic light system and seemed to wait for an eternity. Turning right I then took stock and realised realistically a gold medal was not on with what was to come.
On we travelled through Barripper, these names were playing with my mind I tell you, and a left turn to Penponds a quaint little village where we encountered a man with a video camera who said he was recording for the parish magazine. I wanted to charge image rights.
Still faster riders no longer seemed to pass us as I think everyone was being cautious now.
Stopping short of Camborne we crossed over the A30 and on what was in effect a slight downhill towards the first major climb of the day. In the dry it would have been a lovely run down to Coombe but you could see where we were headed. Down to a tree-lined section and over a narrow bridge replete with leaves, nice, making riding difficult and on to climb up the other side.
The hill wasn’t particularly steep but significant enough to cause you to breath heavily. It passed without incident save for Simon offering me some jelly-babies that I took, popped in the mouth and then spat out following a wind up comment! I replaced it with one of my gel blox much nicer; just like a wine gum they are.
They climb over we traversed the top towards what would have been a fantastic view on a sunny clear day ass we reached the north Cornwall coast. As we turned onto the coast road, the somewhat blissful state of the weather worsened to absolute carnage, as the full force of the gale force wind hit us. It would now be a headwind all the way to St Just with a few respites but truly tough.
As we climbed up one hill to Hell’s Mouth the café advertised “stunning views.” Not today for the hardy souls out for a walk. However I did mange to stop to take this view that happened to be right as we crested the downhill to Gwithian and on to Hayle.
It did look nice but I was more concerned with what I could (or should I say couldn’t) see beyond.
We were all dressed in winter clothing really but even these were starting to get wet with the steady stream of rain falling around us.
Descending was down circumspectly all the way down to the lowest point of the ride. The trouble was the significant wind off the beach at Gwithian made life difficult. I was grateful for the protection of the sand dunes around us as we the made our way to Hayle, where cars all had their lights on, as the road twisted round the harbour area and under the railway bridge.
As we made our way around the harbour there was a new Asda building that was a well designed building rather than a concrete monstrosity but I couldn’t stop for a picture as it was busy with traffic.
Passing what looked like remnants of an old fort with an old canon to boot, we broke out onto the Hayle Estuary where we could see pockets of yellow fluorescent riders trudging there way round the arcing round. By the side of the Estuary were twitchers spying all the wading birds.
Contrary to the ride 5 years ago we didn’t turn for St Ives at Lelant, but went straight up to lelant Downs and the back road to the coastal road. No respite a steepish climb that relented to a long 5 or 6 mile false flat. Simon tucked in behind in to the wind, it was hard going and was starting to feel uncomfortable. water was starting to seep into my shoes via my socks. I couldn’t wait for the feed station after 27 miles.
Fields full of cows seemed to pass slowly as we made our way along and Simon said to me “is this a false flat?” “Yes” I replied and it was just getting really tough to keep going . Normally this would a blast for me but being in an uncomfortable state and wet it was unpleasant to say the least.
We passed Halsetown with its pub and on to the feed station at Hellesveor. I couldn’t wait to get inside and get a warm drink. It was by the Methodist church but the spread was good. These are perhaps the best I encounter. The variety of fare is immense unlike other rides I do. I grabbed a cup of tea and it was piping hot.
I joked with one lady who I’d met at the start as if she had a puncture she said, “she had the gear but no idea.” She wanted to stay with me for the rest of the ride. Don’t come on these if you cant change an inner tube I thought.
After a little time Simon and I embarked on what would be the longest slog of the ride, 12 miles on up and down road into a massive headwind with rain and now low lying cloud or fog. By now I was hoping I could make a silver medal time.
Simon is like me in for a penny in for a pound and just on with it no matter the weather, grin and bear it. It was going to be what it was for as long as it took.
Last time I rode it, it was hard but dry today it took every ounce of effort on the downhill bits to maintain course. Slippery wet roads and somewhat ineffective brakes in the wet, made for interesting riding. Simon’s brake pads were extremely loud on contact with his wheels being so wet and grimy.
No real markers to go by and the descents were short lived as little lump after little lump came a long. On one corner was the massive orange-painted building that was my marker and brilliantly named Gunnards Head Hotel as we went passed.
The views here out to the Atlantic ocean were stunning!
I kept seeing sign posts off to the left indicating Penzance 5 miles or 4 miles if only to turn left. In order to keep me sane I kept humming a tune to myself. I can only blame Chris Evans and Moira Stewart on radio 2 as for some reason Englebert Humperdink and “The Last Waltz” was going round and round. Please why not something else whilst suffering this torture.
On we trudged grinding each pedal turn. At one corner I checked on a lady who had stopped if she was ok. “Yes” she said “Repaired a broken spoke with a hair grip.” Genius I thought that’s how to play it not that I could have done it but she knows what to do on a ride like this. Chapeau!
The wind howling around us but blowing straight into our faces. Wearing no glasses obviously it was hard even to look up as each time I did rain would sting my eyes as it flew into my face. Though I had a cycling cap under my helmet, the brim was ineffective now.
I knew Geevor Tin Mine museum was to come but saw this old ancient disused one appear out of the mirky mist.
On we ploughed buffeted and drenched through Bojewyan where I saw “Lils Chippy” a very small fish and chip shop. I think she’s cornered the market here as it seemed to be the first shop for miles.
Pendeen then came and suddenly Geevor Tin Mine. I knew then St Just was not too far away. I became conscious of one rider slipstreaming Simon at this stage. Lovely I thought but frankly I might have done the same.
As we rose out of a previous slight descent we were greeted by the St Just sign and I shouted Denzel Penberthy lives here. (Watch a bit of Jethro you’ll see.). This was a good moment. A left turn in the village meant out of the wind for the first time in I didn’t know how long; respite at last. Normally I would now put the hammer down to make up time lost but I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do so. I wasn’t beaten yet but the weather was still awful. I really wanted to see Cape Cornwall today but this was not going to happen in this weather.
Stopping for this photo I had to catch Simon up and nearly took a wrong turn as the sign said right but it was up a no through road. I saw him turn right up ahead and followed on since we were on our way t Land End and the next feed station.
The road was pretty flat now across the top but still no view as we passed Lands End airport, doubt any flying today. Joining the A30 for the last 2 miles through Sennen was back into the wind but at least in was a descent of sorts. Simon offered to go on the front for a bit but I passed him again as I prefer to see where I’m going.
Soon we arrived at the long straight down to Lands End and passed a girl on bike, no helmet, probably off to work at the visitor centre. I’d paid money to be out in this but she must be mad!
We both stopped to refuel. I didn’t care for how long. It was miserable and I was starting to feel cold being wet rather than a cold wind. A nice sugar intake and we were off again for the last 15 miles.
When you have worked so hard into a wind to find it behind you is a real boost to you. You feel as though you are flying. The same effort gives so much more pleasure. Our initial progress was blocked by a coach crawling up to the coach park. Then it was the short climb to bear right towards Porthcurno.
With the wind at out back, we made good progress twisting and turning round country lanes. All of a sudden we were caught by a threesome. Two blokes pulling a woman round who was just wheelsucking them. That makes my blood boil. Sorry she would be getting a good time by wheel sucking the blokes rather than her own effort or doing a turn on the front.
We suddenly dropped down to trees again and I remembered this from last time. It would be the last major climb of the day. It’s like a climb on my daily commute, Clapham. A short climb, round a sharp hairpin followed by a drag. My initial speed was tempered by a Range Rover doing a 3 point turn with no apparent reason. It hampered the aforementioned woman who was now flagging uphill.
The climb passed without any problem as Simon and I ghosted up it all and back on to the flat. We were travelling well only to see the threesome again. Unbelievable. We encountered another climb and the same thing happened again, the woman got dropped. Simon and I ploughed on through the wet roads with the air now impregnated withe smell of silage. Boy just what you needed. It just about finished the day off but that was to come!
I warned Simon of the narrow descent to Mousehole. It was littered with drain covers as I slipped on one last time. Turning left the road drops through a tunnel of trees before a slight left hander to open out above the harbour.
I remember visiting here as a young boy around 10 and loved the place then. It is small, quaint and picturesque, typical of Cornish fishing villages. The road twisted through narrow streets with a final rise to open out on to the coast road that would take us back to Penzance and the finish.
I had already told Simon I would be stopping on the road for a photograph. I wanted to stay longer but wanted to get back quickly. However about 1/2 mile out of the village is the old Lifeboat station. The lifeboat relocated to Newlyn after one of the worst diasater in lifeboat history. This was the home of the Penlee lifeboat until that fateful night in December 1981. All hands of the Solomon Browne lost trying to save the “Union Star.” I remember donating to the cause when I took the takings of my xmas job to the bank a day later. I always think these guys are braver than anyone else in the world.
I sped off to catch Simon to take on the final few miles to Penzance via Newlyn. We motored along and soon got to a car park that signified the end of the ride. They had neutralised the last mile or so as it took us along a shared pedestrianised coast path parallel to the railway.
We could wind down knowing our times were protected but this part was truly awful. Intially the ride was muddy but over the course of the route the rain had washed it off. Here a wet, sandy path meant sand was getting everywhere. You know how bad sand is we you go to the beach and dry. The bike was getting plastered with it, lovely, thanks!
Passing the railway I saw this. Not often you seen a class 57 Diesel engine these days.
A short slow ride took us back to the car park at Marazion and the finish. We then went to the tent to get our time and medals. I was hoping for a silver but ended up a bronze by 3 minutes. I was glad to get round safely, though felt overall in view of the conditions they should have relented and added an extra 10 mins across the board to the medal standards. It wasn’t to be.
My disappointment was compounded when I then discovered I had not been included in the list of entrants for the 3 Counties Challenge. You what! I’d entered for it in April. I was glad I had brought the other 2 medals with me as proof since I didn’t know how to claim my reward.
Stewart Bergman then knew I’d done them to complete the set and I received my medal.
I changed into some dry clothes as I was sodden to say the least but I felt really fine otherwise. Our pace meant I wasn’t exhausted just wet
Simon has at least got the bug as he wants the big medal next year and I may have put that bronze right in better weather, you know I don’t like to be beaten.