Bowland Badass – Toughest Sportive EVER?

HAVE you ever queued miserably with hundreds or even thousands of other riders on a chilly morning to register or set off from the start point on a large, commercially-run sportive?

Youv’e probably also tonked your way round the first 90 miles of a 100-mile sportive and found yourself immolated in an incandescent rage at having to weave like a total loon through clumps of roly-poly randommers rolling slowly six abreast around the 30-mile version?

If the last two have applied to you, then you’ve probably also waited an eternity for that goodie bag and had to consign almost all of its contents to your recycling bin upon getting home?
Yeah okay, you got a water bottle but you can’t see inside it because some company’s got their damn logo plastered all round it, and that t-shirt will just go in the bottom drawer along with all the others you’ve picked over the years or are too embarrassed to wear.

Anyway, what’s a 100 miles these days? Even your gran has done the C2C in a day on her shopper…and you’ve ticked off all the harder sportives on the calendar multiple times. Done that, done that, done that…yeah, yeah, done that one too. What’s left to do for the dyed in the wool, completely-certifiable cycle-nutter?

Ever heard of an ultra-sportive? Eh? What’s that? Put simply, an ultra-sportive is an organized ride that is far, far longer than ordinary sportives. As a minimum qualification, it has to be over
150 miles in length and have at least 15,000 feet of ascent. Do the maths. That is a huge, hilly humdinger of a ride. There surely can’t be anyone who is mad enough to want to do that, can there?

Well yes, there are plenty of damn, crazy fools out there who just love that sort of thing. You heard it right. You’re not alone. It’s a field of dreams caper. Build it and they will come. We’ve got the demand. Where’s the supply? Step forward the Bowland Badass. Billed as this country’s first ever ultra-sportive, the Bowland Badass is a torturous, 167-mile, cloverleaf-shaped route that begins and ends in the small town of Garstang, Lancashire.

It dips and dives up and down an almost seemingly endless succession of climbs, all within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (including Pendle Forest). With 18,500 feet of climbing, this fiendish route criss-crosses some of the most scenic countryside that Lancashire has to offer in a relentless series of punishing climbs, the rare flat sections few and far between. Here are some statistics for you to digest: total distance: 166.58 miles; total ascent: 18,534.8 feet; total descent: -18,538.1 feet; total ascent distance: 70.53 miles; total descent distance: 72.52 miles; total level distance: 23.43 miles; 42.4% of ascent, 43.6% of descent, 14.1% of level.

Can you imagine what it is like to cycle uphill for 70 miles? The organizers of the event have listed 30 categorized climbs in order of appearance – though they only represent 50% of the total climbing on the route: Catshaw Fell, Blea Tarn Hill, Littledale 1, Littledale 2, Jubilee Hill, Trough of Bowland, Long Knots, Hall Hill, Marl Hill, Beacon Hill, Knotts Hill, Bowland Knotts, Cross of Greet, Merrybent Hill, Waddington Fell, Pendle Hill, Barley Hill, Sabden Fold Hill, Nick of Pendle, Whalley Nab, Little Town Hill, Birdy Brow, Longridge Fell, Chipping 1, Chipping 2, Beacon Fell, Brock Bottom, Delph Lane, Harrisend Fell, Long Lane.

Now read this carefully – it costs just £10 to enter. That’s right, £10. The Badass is a simple, grass-roots event, run on a shoestring by cycle-nutters for cycle-nutters. With the help of a local sponsor and a dozen or so volunteers, they’ve kept costs low, and this is the beauty of the event. It’s not done for profit. They don’t give a flying fandango about the money.

The Badass is run out of a small, industrial estate on the edge of town. There are no showers, only a single toilet, no special parking facilities, no massages, no dancing girls, no blary-scary PA system, no sag wagon, no police cover, no medical assistance, no VIP area, no massive queues, no stupid timing mats, no fake closed roads and no useless goodie bags.

The feed stops comprise of a couple of vans parked at strategic points along the route. Virtually all the entry money is spent on getting food for the riders, with a small amount for insurance. Other costs are absorbed by the sponsor.

The Badass is organized by a small, knowing group of lunatics, who send their punters out with a smile on what for most of them turns out to be the ride of a lifetime.

For the inaugural running of the Badass back in July 2012, the organizers spent 12 hours driving round the route in the planking rain the day before putting up signs. Of the 70 entrants, 44 were brave enough to turn up on the day and 35 had the legs to finish.

On the actual day of the event, there just happened to be wall-to-wall sunshine. The fastest time was just less than 11 hours. Getting home in less than 12 hours is considered a seriously quick time. Most riders took longer, with the last rider home arriving back in the dark with a ride time of 15 hours and 43 minutes.

The Bowland Badass is a route for all riders. It’s a tough training ride and a chance for hardcore racers and endurance specialists to pit themselves against the clock and other riders. It’s a hard day out in beautiful, car-free countryside for those habituated to churning out big miles on long rides.

But it is perhaps the ‘ordinary riders’ like the final finisher of 2012, who exemplify most precisely the spirit of the Badass.

It’s a fantastic challenge for those who dare to dream that they can push themselves further and harder than they have ever been before and somehow find they have the strength and courage to do it.

So, have you got the legs for the Bowland Badass? There’s only one way to find out –

About james 65 Articles
Editor of Spin Cycle Magazine

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