The York 100 is one of the many annual cycling events organised by Action Medical Research. This year, I've decided to show my support together with by riding two Champion routes. Our fundraising efforts will be collated at our JustGiving page. Let's do it: if you like what you read, please donate.

August will definitely be THE epic month of 2015 in terms of mileage covered. I started off with the PruRide at the beginning of the month, blasting a minus 5-hour time. Then the charitable side of me decided to go full-steam (I blame adrenalin) into two of Action's Ride 100 series (the series is a range of 10 events across the country, running from April to September).

My first Action 100-mile ride was the York 100, successfully completed last week and my second one will be Bristol - London at the end of the month. Come on, join us, you know you want to!

The Champion route on the York 100 sportive.
The Champion route on the York 100 sportive.

Riding the York 100 sportive was the perfect excuse to visit this beautiful historic walled city and to ride my first route in some of the best cycling terrain in England: the Vale of York and the Yorkshire Wolds.

I caught the train from London King's Cross on Saturday morning, with my 'Cycle Space' pre-booked to guarantee a safe journey for my bike too. The journey is quick and smooth: maybe a single stop in Doncaster, and in just 2 hours you are in York city centre already.

After spending the afternoon admiring the Shambles, York Minster and other local beauties, I headed back to the hotel relatively early to get a good few hours' sleep ahead of the sportive.

Typical cyclist's train breakfast.
Typical cyclist's train breakfast.

HQ and missed connections

I'm not sure if it was because of the lack of coffee, but I really got lost despite setting the Garmin to bring me to the start line. The HQ was at the Sports Centre of University of York, in the east of town and outside the walls; but somehow I ended up getting lost in the maze that is York University. As a result I missed my appointment with other Strava cyclists with whom I'd agreed to set off together for the Champion route. Boo! Not a great start to the day, is it?

By 7:45am, when I arrived at the HQ, the place was already buzzing with people, the car park was relatively full, and the first waves of cyclists had set off in timely fashion in small groups of 20. Drinks, bars and gels were available to grab before setting off, and the registration point (the university's dance studio) upstairs was where a few of us would also return at the end of the ride to get a shower and a free massage.

Champion route

York100 offered three courses: Cool with 40 miles, Classic with 65 miles, and Champion with 100 miles. York was a beautiful starting point for the Champion route and the weather was kind: a bit chilly but sunny as we rolled out gently on the quiet Yorkshire roads.

During the 100 miles we would be climbing just over 1,000 metres, but the first 20 miles were relatively flat: a very nicely paced warm up.

At the start in York.
At the start in York.

Kirkham Abbey and a Cat 4 climb

The first little climb took us past the ruins of Kirkham Abbey: what a stunning view! I took the opportunity here to snap the first picture of the day, to take off my arm warmers and gilet, and just to breathe in the beautiful surroundings. The climb itself is not too challenging: just shy of 1km at a gentle 5% gradient.

The picturesque ruins of Kirkham Abbey.
The picturesque ruins of Kirkham Abbey.

The route carried on through rolling segments via the Yorkshire Wolds. Around Leavening, 40km in, we hit a longer Cat 4 climb close to the first feed stop.

Not to worry though, as there were quite a few flat segments too that really helped to keep up the tempo. I found a few different groups to ride with; most of the time, groups of 3-4 guys didn't seem to mind having an extra person at the back drafting away!  

30km uphill

Just after the second feed stop in Burton village, at about 80km in, the road seemed to very slowly rise for the next 30 km! I was left wondering if it was just my legs not having a very good day after a while - but that false flat seemed endless. In fact, from Rudston to Kirby (between kilometres 75 and 105) the profile of the route shows the ride going slowly up and up and up: oh boy!

I was extremely lucky here, as exiting the feed stop was another woman, followed by a man who seemed to be working together (taking turns in the front) at an up-tempo speed. I promptly jumped in the queue and nicely worked with them along the 'Stairway to heaven' for a few kms. It later turned out that I was trying to keep up with the fastest woman on the Champion route (thanks Louise!), and that granted me a wonderful 2nd place overall in the women's classification: hooray!

Castle Howard and a very generous feed station

Hold on onto those legs! The not-so-steep climbs were not over yet - and by this point even a 2% long stretch felt more like climbing an Alpine pass! In fact, we then passed the spectacular Castle Howard and the Howardian Hills, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Passing through the beautiful countryside around York.
Passing through the beautiful countryside around York.

Soon after passing through the marvellous arches, at around 130 km, we turned right and there was Bulmer village with a well-assorted feed station. There were the usual power snacks, bars, and drinks to choose from, but even a full savoury choice for those cyclists who actually wanted to stop for a proper lunch inside the Village Hall.

The route passed under the arches of Castle Howard.
The route passed under the arches of Castle Howard.

Back to York and a free massage

At this stage of the course, my legs were just useless to say the least (I had been far too enthusiastic throughout this ride). Nevertheless, a fellow cyclist in the yellow event jersey was again sharing the workload with me for the last 10km to the end, and together we led a small group of four to the finishing line in a nice tempo.

Without giving it a second thought, I headed straight upstairs at the HQ and put down my name to get the free massage. And what a treat! In the queue I met again with a couple of guys I rode with in the second half of the Champion course, and we had a blast and a banter about our experience. I loved it.

The massage itself deserves a paragraph in this report, because this was a real professional massage: not one of those super expensive 15-minute quick messages that you usually find at the end of the big London events!! The masseuse was really attentive to my needs and we had a good chat about sport activities around Yorkshire: simply superb!

Laura is riding York 100 and Bristol to London this summer to raise money for Action Medical Research. Her fundraising target is £428 - that's £2 for every mile cycled. To find out more about the personal story driving Laura's challenge, and make a donation, visit our JustGiving page.

One down  one to go!
One down one to go!