0615 alarm call. It’s Easter Sunday morning and it feels a bit rude.
However, the promise of the day ahead is enough to coax me from my slumber. I’m heading off to Wiltshire to meet up with Andy Green for the ‘Glorious Gravel Salisbury Plain Easter Epic’.
We arrive at Thruxton race track at 0830 and, after a quick bike build and event/Covid sign-in, we’re rolling out shortly after 0900.
The route, whilst slightly shorter than the original planned one, is perfect. Starting with some rutted single track, we make our way through a wooded area before a small rise and a loose, fast descent deliver us to a road crossing which takes us towards the plain proper.
By now, the sun is shining brightly and beginning to warm up what was a rather chilly morning.
The view which greets us strongly reminds of the white roads around Sienna seen on Strade Bianche. This is the stage upon which most of this ride takes place. It’s the perfect mix of wide gravel trails over rolling hills, interspersed with short rutted sections and single/multi track. You could ride this route hard for a quality skills and fitness workout. Alternatively, take your time and savour all the moments. We choose option two, allowing friends to catch up, side by side, without having to worry about traffic; save for the odd off-road trail bike or military vehicle. The chatting briefly stops when drinking in the expansive views or negotiating a technical section.
Two feed stations provide all the sustenance and hydration required for the 72kms, including a fine sausage roll at the 55km point. Arguably competition for those served atop Leith Hill, and perfect fuel for the the final uphill wooded section en-route to the finish.
With Thruxton race track in sight, Andy suffers the only mechanical of the day. A rogue thorn has punctured his rear tyre. Walk to the finish or fix it 100 metres from the finish? The decision is made to carry out repairs and cross the line in style.
We collect our post ride beers to take home and enjoy later, agreeing that it won’t be long before we do it all again.
Strava route: https://www.strava.com/activities/5067358769
If you fancy getting your off-road mojo on (highly recommended), check out the following info...
The event was well organised with social distancing observed throughout. Support bikes were on course in case of difficulty, although mechanical self sufficiency is encouraged.
We could not have hoped for better weather, however there is little shelter out on course and a hot mid summer’s day or wet and windy conditions would offer an all together different experience.
A gravel/cyclocross bike or cross country mtb is the perfect tool for the job. Pre-arranged Pearson rentals were available.
The route crosses ministry training grounds and may not be available at certain times. Information can be found via https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/salisbury-plain-training-area-spta-newsletter
Joining an organised ride ensures right of access and safety. Follow the link for this and other rides later this year: https://gloriousgravel.com/product-category/gravel-sportives/