The Christie Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride 2021

Covid be damned. Given that I’d waited for the best part of half a year for this one, I was not going to let that bloody virus stop me from attending this ride. And fortunately I tested negative on Friday, and again yesterday, so all systems go.

Logistically this one was a bit of a challenge. Originally I was due to get a lift up to Manchester, but that, unfortunately, fell through. As such on Friday afternoon I was left with having to make some last minute plans to get myself, my bike, and all my sundry kit and supplies over to somewhere close to Salford Keys / Manchester’s Media City area, with some method of getting my none-cycling clothes back home again. Riding to Blackpool with a rucksack didn’t sound too appealing.

Thankfully, my parents came through. So, travelling up last night, I watched the England match in the hotel room then got my head down for an early night and an early start. My plan was to get up at 6.40, then get dressed and down to the start line for ~7am.

A bit late from the hotel, I left at 7.20, and cycled down to Media City. Already, it was absolutely packed.

Queueing took a good while – at least twenty minutes. In hindsight, a better option would have been to pay on the day. It seemed to be the same price (think £28?) and there was no queue for on the day sign ups. Lesson learned. I seriously doubt they “sell out”, so there seems nothing to lose?

The famous Manchester to Blackpool ride is a very popular event – 60 miles from Salford Quays to a great finish with music, food and beer tent on the South Promenade in Blackpool. Lots of refreshment stops along the scenic country lanes of Lancashire, with marshals, cycle mechanics, first aid and pick up vehicles looking after you. The Christie charity team will welcome you over the finish line with a well deserved MEDAL, then join your friends and families with music and refreshments.

Bike Events Manchester to Blackpool ride description

For whatever reason, I didn’t take many photos during the first half of the ride. Not quite sure why.

What I do know is that the weather forecast on the night before was predicted to be fairly heavy rain, and a high degree chance of certainty that rain was coming.

Thankfully that never arrived, and I can imagine this one would have been fairly miserable if it had.

However, I had come prepared.

Now, you may not be able to read my chicken scratch writing – heck, I barely can – but there was plenty of stuff to carry with me. Pro tip, I put a scoop of chamois cream in a plastic bag and turned it inside out, then back this morning to apply it. Lovely job.

I had kit for the wet, and none of that got used. But it did mean I was carrying a fair amount of weight. My jersey felt stretched.

There was a staggered start system in effect. I’m not sure if this is usual, or Covid 19 related. Either way, groups of 6 (roughly) we formed and departed. This meant I was steadily meeting small packs, and some larger groups of riders within the first ~30km.

However, after about 30km things started to spread out. There were two little climbs in this ride, according to the Garmin. However, there were at least 3 other climbs that didn’t register on the Climb Pro. Even so, the total elevation for this one only came to about 580m, so averaged out, it was ~50m every 10km. Essentially pretty much flat.

For me, as a rider not used to riding with others, this was an interesting experience. I learned all about hand signals, drafting, staying safe with others around me, and the joys of having a chat as I was riding along.

That said, after about 50km this one became a real solo affair. Once I’d reached Preston and passed the docks, I found myself on more familiar roads, and in some ways I was grateful for this as the signage kinda just disappeared.

The Bike Events website offered a .gpx file for the ride, which I had duly loaded onto my Garmin. However, early doors I realised this was not exactly accurate. Fortunately in most cases it was just ‘head straight’ but when isolated, this became a little questionable. Have I missed a turn, is this the right way? Not what you need when you’re physically tiring.

Regarding my physical form, I feel having had two weeks off the bike was in some ways a bit of a blessing. I couldn’t have been fresher from one perspective. But the Covid illness had wiped me out, and I would definitely have liked to have had at least 20-30km in the legs on the week prior to this one.

I found I was mostly alright for the first 70km on this one.

Then my knees really started to hurt. It became a slog to get through those final 30km, it really did. I think this comes down to my prior longest ride being 75km, and my body just isn’t used to riding for that long. I guess, like anything, it’s a learned skill. The more you do it, the more your body adjusts, and over time it becomes just another century?

Anyway, heading into the final 20km I was really starting to count it down. By 10km remaining I was flagging.

Again, fortunately, another stronger ride overtook me and I was able to draft him for a good few kilometres. I had a brief chat with him and he was turning around and riding back to Rochdale – I guess he was going for his imperial century. I didn’t envy him.

And then we reached some road closures, and a small set of riders all approaching the finish line. I took a shot myself – see above – and my wife and kids were there to meet me – hence the 3rd person shots below.

I tell you what, getting clapped home (and along the way) is something of a novelty for my Sunday morning bike ride!

So that was that.

Into the rest area, and a mammoth amount of cramp as I pulled my leg over the top tube. Yikes.

I was advised to grab my finishing medal, and was offered a banana, but honestly, I’d already had three by that point of the morning and I couldn’t face a fourth.

No, it was time for a quick toilet break and then straight home in the car.

Checking my time, I was super happy with the 3 hour 35 minute ride time.

I was aiming for 3h 30m, and if I had stopped the Garmin at all the traffic lights I encountered along the way, I suspect I could have come in under that.

Somehow I seemed to put in a faster second half of the ride to the first half. God knows how that happened, and trust me it didn’t feel that way.

Interestingly a lot of this ride was spent in Zone 2, which is to be expected, but Zone 3 wasn’t too far away.

I’d planned to stick around 2.4-2.7w/kg, and I feel I did a bit of a bad job of this. I reckon I went too hard, too early. My pacing didn’t feel right. Yet the numbers above seem to say it differently. Unusual, but I am a bit too tired to analyse that further just now.

As we got on the motorway, about 10 minutes drive from the finish line, the heavens began to open. I do feel sorry for those riders who would be taking a few more hours to get home. The showers today have been brief, but torrential. They were full soaking type affairs. Not what you need.

I have to say, I think I’ll sleep tonight. At least I hope I will, I’m absolutely bushed.

All that said, I can’t honestly face another century ride any time soon. That really took it out of me for the rest of the day. Typing this up has been a challenge – one I put off for a good 8 hours or so.

I’m definitely glad to have done my first metric century. I always knew I could. And on this occasion it was for a really good cause to boot.

If you took part in this years The Christie Manchester To Blackpool 2021 ride I’d love to hear how you found it. Would you do it again? Leave a comment and let me know.

2 thoughts on “The Christie Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride 2021”

  1. Congrats on the first century! Great feeling hitting that milestone.

    Higher cadence might help with the sore knees, I find mine get sore if Im sitting
    at 80rpm or below. I try to keep it around 90rpm and that generally keeps my knees in good shape.

    • All a learning exercise – probably went a bit too hard at the start, more grindy, less spinny. Also harder not knowing the route, so no idea what was coming. Thankfully it was largely flat in the second half. Anyway, I think I did more damage than I realised in those last 20km, at least if the latter half of this week has been anything to go by 🙁


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