Drystone walls, picture-perfect cottages, windswept plains and rolling hills punctuated by short but steep climbs – the Santini Cotswold Spring Classic offers a stunning sample of the riding the region has to offer.
Taking place on Easter Monday, April 9, the event is in its fourth year and will offer routes of 105km/65 miles and 169km/105 miles from Cirencester College, with less than 30 places remaining for this year’s sportive.
The rendezvous ahead of our 35-mile preview ride was east of Cirencester in the village of Poulton, meeting at the premises of Performance Cycles, the shop which, as well as organising the sportive and offering neutral service support, will host the short route’s only feed station and the first of two on the long course. My machine for the day? A Look 566 – first ride report to come.
And so, having left the village, our ride began with a 3.5-mile leg-warmer on the A417 towards Fairford, but the fast opening stretch was by no means an indication of the route to come.
Turning left from Fairford, both routes enter a world of rolling, largely traffic-free and surprisingly smooth lanes which link life in these parts. The route heads north, very gently climbing over nigh-on 15 miles to an altitutude of 750 feet before a long, straight descent – a test of nerve – into the valley to Compton Abdale, where the road runs alongside a fast-flowing stream and smoke rises from the chimneys of a scattering of cottages.
There’s little time to admire the scenery as the first of two climbs on our ride takes us out of the village, with an initial stretch at a gradient of more than 10 per cent to a left-hand kink in the road where, already searching for the top, the ascent drags on before another steep descent to Withington.
Energy is best conserved on the opening climb, however, as the sportive’s signature ascent follows less than two miles later, with Withington Whiteway snaking through the woods, two steep hairpins adding a touch of Alpine glamour, while the rough, laggy surface adds to the test.
The summit is marked by a farm gate and respite comes in the shape of a dead-straight Roman road – like many in the area – which, gently descending at less than one per cent over more than five miles, offers the opportunity to motor. Our group of five, riding through and off, ticked along at approaching 30mph despite a nagging headwind, so if you find a good group on the day, and with the tailwind which normally blows along the road, you will fly.
White Way, as its known, continues to Cirencester, giving those on the short route a free ride home, while the long route turns west out to Painswick, Stroud and Chalford before returning to event HQ.
As for our ride, we ducked off the route to head back to Performance Cycles for coffee and cake to complete a fine day in the saddle which should be mirrored by the 750 riders set to enjoy this quiet corner of the Cotswolds on April 9.
Less than 30 places remains for the Santini Cotswold Spring Classic on Easter Monday (April 9). Riders will enjoy electronic timing, NEG outrider support, neutral service (provided by Performance Cycles/Reynolds/Lezyne), free hot food at the finish, and a goodie bag containing a gift from Santini worth £9.99 – plus an Easter Egg. Entry costs £24.50 – sign up at www.cotswoldspringclassic.co.uk
All photos © Richard Kendal Photography