Review: Velothon Birmingham

The Velo Birmingham was one of our last events scheduled into the year, and almost took us by surprise by the time it came round. The weather for the weekend was favorable and put the team in good stead as we headed out to the expo to collect our race packs.

Inside the arena were stalls dotted all the way round the exterior, and a large stage in the center showing off one of the Ribble bikes up for grabs for completing the Ribble Mountain climb on the day for those who completed the hill whilst using Strava.

The morning of the race we went through our usual routine of packing plenty of gels, energy bars, electrolytes and fluids onto either our steeds or our jerseys before forcing some food down and heading out to the road. The course was exceptionally well market out from start to finish, so much so that we had to shuffle a barrier over to get onto the road and access the start pen since there was no end to the barriers in sight. After a brief spin to warm up we entered the starting pens a few minutes ahead of our allocated time.

An unfortunate display of protest from the locals meant a delay of 35 minutes for everyone on the start lines. It was reported that razor blades, tacks, oil and other sharp objects had been laid on the course to try and sabotage the event, but this was promptly discovered and cleared away by the marshals, and the efficiency and authority with which these dangerous protests were dealt with is a testament to how well the event was organised.

Starting off cold didn’t matter for long as the short climbs slowly started rolling in, even within the city; a theme that would continue for the first 50 miles. The route itself was a very pleasant ride, taking participants out of Birmingham and into the countryside and villages of the surrounding areas – a picturesque view which I never would have imagined seeing in Birmingham – and the support from the vast majority of locals over the entire course was fantastic, especially through some of the little towns and villages; some of the climbs even having an air of Tour de France about them with people leaning in over the barriers cheering you on and calling your names off the racer number on the front of the bikes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the majority of the first few hours, the bike did all the work using it’s aerodynamics to pull some speed off a descent and float up the next climb, and despite the odd large climb here and there, the elevation stacking up seemed to be going unnoticed – that was until the feed station at around 70 miles where the cramp started setting in. Training in the home of the IronMan Wales prepares you for some of even the most grueling climbs you can face, but a complacency for hills is something to leave behind if you’re considering the Velo Birmingham. Climb after climb they take their toll until you begin to realise your tank is getting empty and there’s still some big hills left.

At the foot of the Ribble Mountain was a feed station brimming with food, water and consequently cyclists all cramming themselves with food and stretching out before taking on the signature climb of the day. After doing so myself I rolled out and spun my legs up in anticipation of what Birmingham had to offer.

Unfortunately, with the aforementioned training grounds the climb was over almost as soon as it began. There were those not as fortunate who were either walking or draped over their bikes at the top, and although the climb wasn’t the largest we’ve ever come across, after 84 miles of constant climbing it definitely still remains a challenging climb.

Once the mountain stage was passed a second wind began to blow and the finish line (and free beer) was in sight. The crosshairs was set and the legs began to turn away, closing in on the finish line. Turn after turn the city started to slowly emerge and before long the final miles were ticking away courtesy of my best Froome impression, and once the sign for the final 250m was in sight the final sprint for the finish began, crossing the line at a cool 25mph across the flat.

For the first of it’s kind, the event was a resounding success. A very well organized, marshaled and supported ride really gives you a feel for how well the teams who set up the Velothon events really know their stuff. The route may have been a little easier than the Velothon Wales, but was still a really enjoyable ride and not a challenge to be taken lightly by any means. Pricing is yet to announced for the 2018 event, but is expected to be around the £65 – £70 mark, and we hope will include some of the great features it did this year including a goody bag, medal, free event photos and free beer at the finish line. One this that is for sure though, is that Velo Birmingham, we’ll see you next year! Hopefully we’ll see you there too.

You can pre-register for next year’s event here: https://velobirmingham.com