May 09

Tour of the Abberleys 2015

The Abberleys Tour is a series of 4 races run over 3 days. It is an LVRC event so for over 40 year olds only. Each event is split into two age categories 40-49 years (A-Bs) and over 50 years (C-D-E-F-Gs).


In the latter there are prizes for over 50s and over 60s. As expected, stamina is essential to being able to complete this event, however, as the routes are hilly and the pace fast, power is also key.


The event attracts high quality riders. Neil is very much middle of the range of ability in his 5 year category and both times of riding he has been beaten by one of the over 60s. I took more notice of the 40s this year as we had Shaun join us. They are noticeably stronger and faster and rumour has it that some still hold their BC Cat 1 licences!


The Races 2015


This year’s prologue was a 3 mile TT which started with over a mile up a steep hill then 2 miles down with flat sections.

The Saturday afternoon race was an undulating 42 miles.

On Sunday the longest of the races, 56 miles which included the steep TT hill – 5 times over, finishing at the top of the hill.

And finally on Monday, a ‘vicious’ 38 mile hilly course, profile below:


Stage 4 Profile




It was lovely having Shaun join us for the weekend though he soon found he was likely to suffer with the A-B riders. Despite riding over 20 mph on the TT he was well down the pack. The afternoon race proved to be out of his league but he was game enough to come back on Sunday, after which, along with others, he abandoned. He should not be too disappointed, only his second racing year and he has improved a lot over the past year.  After another winter of solid training he should improve again and if lucky, might have forgotten how tough it was.


Abberleys Day 2 Race 1 2015 (8) (800x624)


Neil was frustrated coming to the tour with his legs complaining due to problems with the medialis muscle (that bit just above the knee on the inside of the thigh) and cramp that had caused calf damage a couple of weeks ago. In addition he had missed a couple of races due to illness. All in all not very prepared but hoping it would all come together once the racing started.


Saturday morning and the races were off. The Prologue/TT at 11:30am is a complete ‘lung raker’. Back at the village hall I reckon there would be asthma clinics that sounded healthier!  Probably an hour of hacking before the chests settled down. In Neil’s group the prologue times ranged from 7:16 to 8:50 with Neil’s time 8:06 giving him a position of 18th out of 41 and 6th in his own age group, only 20 seconds behind the quickest in that group.  The TT is really important as those few seconds make all the difference to your position if you can simply stick with the peloton for the rest of the races. Neil was reasonably happy with his performance but would have liked to do better and could have gone a bit harder up the hill but for concern over his quads.


In the afternoon was the 42 mile race where I was rear driver with a car full of spare wheels. My co-pilot was great company and we talked non-stop about cycling and training whilst watching the riders ahead. Not a single puncture.  The route was undulating with a couple of steep sections. Neil sat in for most of this race being concerned about his legs, although he did go to the front on one occasion only for his legs to start complaining immediately, so he dropped back. By the third lap his legs were threatening to seize up but thankfully held out to the end. Neil’s physio had said that after hard training, cold water was one of the only things proven to help recovery and back at the Travelodge I listened to the gasping as he lowered himself into a cold bath, timed for 15 minutes! A bit of a rest then off to the ‘Leaking Well’ for a massive mixed grill then back to prepare the bikes ready for Sunday’s race.


Sunday was the longest race. I was not involved in the organisation so cycled to HQ and did couple of laps of the race circuit giving me plenty of time for cheering and photos. This race was 5 laps with the time trial, mile long, hill as a neutralised climb then 5 times over during the race. Ouch! The KoM (King of the Mountains) competition started today with points for the first 3 at the top of the hill.


Abberleys Day 2 Race 2 2015 (4) (800x528)


Once again this was a day for hiding in the bunch as much as possible on legs that thankfully didn’t seem to be any worse than the day before. The race stayed together until the last lap when a few riders got away, including a couple in Neil’s age group. But he stuck with the plan of staying protected, and only went to the front on the final climb to set a steady pace as people started looking at each other and getting ready for a final dash to the line. Neil had to stay seated and couldn’t follow when the sprint for the line kicked off and had to be content finishing in the bunch. It was a relief to have the afternoon free to relax and have another cold bath as the 3 races were taking their toll.


Monday, the final day and those hills ahead. I combined running with marshalling and helping with the time keeping. I had a warm up mile run whilst Neil was also warming up then saw him off with a kiss (“They’ll all want one” said the organiser!). I now had time to run 3 miles to Whitley Church returning through a vivid yellow field of rape. Then cheer Neil on as he finished the main loop where everyone had stayed together before collecting my red flag for marshal duty.


Abberleys Day 3 Race 2 2015 (3) (800x479)


Main loop done, now the big hills! There was no way he could dare to push hard enough on the first long climb to stay with the main bunch or else his quads would be torn before the first summit so, having dropped off, it was a fast chase down the hill, regaining the group by the time it flattened out. There were two small groups ahead as the hill had shredded the race. A bit of deja vu followed and on the next climb Neil was again dropped but another strong descent had him flying through my corner at over 25mph and making contact again just as the next hill steepened when you can guess what happened!


I quickly rid myself of the flag then ran the mile up the hill ready to see the end. Reaching the finish I was quickly herded into calling numbers. Meanwhile Neil made contact again half way down the big descent then stuck with the much reduced group to the main climb where he was off the back yet again! Another amazing descent, caught and passed the group and led out the sprint up the final climb with the group ahead not far away. A couple of riders came past but the rest stayed behind. I enjoyed watching Neil finish strongly battling with the group (whilst calling numbers). All things considered, 12th on the stage was a very decent result.


Summary of the Tour


Overall Neil’s improvement in 2015 was to finish 14th and 6th in his age group (this compares to 19th and 7th in 2014). Just 10 seconds quicker and he would have picked up a couple of prizes as a number of riders were very close together. Who knows what will happen in 2016 but a return trip for another tour is very much on the cards.


Fancy it?




To join the race you have to be a LVRC (League of Veteran Racing Cyclists) member which costs £20 for the year. This covers insurance. The event cost £30 this year for the 3 days.


It’s about 3 hour drive from Hull. There are plenty of B&Bs in the area though for a couple, the Travelodge 9 miles away is good value (i.e. cheap) and they don’t bat an eyelid about wheeling your bike into the bedroom either. Breakfast can be a problem but we take a cool box and milk/cereal/nuts/ yoghurt. Shaun took packet porridge made with hot water from the kettle.


The headquarters is at the village hall in Great Witley and has enough parking. It is well organised by a very patient chap called Mike. There are sandwiches, cake and tea/coffee available at the hall (pay/donations) which cover lunch and plenty of eating places close by for evening meals.


For families, other than supporting, there is not a lot going on in Great Witley. It is in a very lovely area and probably has good walks. There is a walk to a magnificent disused church (with tea room), just over a mile from HQ. however, bear in mind, as a rider, you won’t have much time/energy for your family as, racing, getting de-smellied, sorting out your bike, eating and sleeping will take most of it.  Volunteers are always welcome so if your partner is willing to help it works well for couples.


Abberleys Scenery 2015 (42) (800x406)


By Mandy Dean with help from Neil Dean