Having ridden past Ewood Park during my previous weekend outting, it set my mind thinking about the next ride which could take in a few other football grounds around Lancashire and Greater Manchester. With my mileage having to increase and me not being used to large amounts of time in the saddle, I thought such a mission might help break the ride into a number of chunks and give it a bit more purpose.
I plotted out an intended route which ended up being a little longer than I really wanted but passed by 7 league football grounds, or stadiums as they like to call themselves. As with all my weekend rides I like to start as soon as it comes light in order to avoid traffic and so as not to lose out on too many hours of my children’s waking day. I wanted to wake about 5am but over-slept nevertheless I still arrived outside Bury’s Gigg Lane at 5:41am. The next leg was a longer 14 mile run but on good flatish roads, and having quaffed a pint of SIS Go before setting off, my blood sugar levels were already soaring. I found Accrington Stanley’s Fraser Eagle stadium without any problem. The word ‘Stadium’ is stretching things a little as it has a capacity of 5,027 (smallest in the league) with seating for just 1,200.
The next leg was a quick 6 miles over to neighbouring Burnley’s Turf Moor. This was the first proper looking stadium with cantilever stands and a capacity over 22,000. After today’s play-off win over Reading the odds of Premiership football gracing that pitch may have shortened slightly and the stadium wouldn’t look out of place in that division.
The ride to the next ground was always going to be the toughest with a 14 mile run to Rochdale climbing over the West Pennine moors via Bacup. I had done part of this climb about a month ago but with starting from the town centre this time there was an extra couple of miles uphill before picking up the familiar stretch. I also ducked out of the last mile of the climb to the top of the moors last time, so today I did 5 miles continuous climbing although the gradient was nothing extreme. Up on the tops it was a bit blowy but a few miles of gentle down hill gave me some momentum. I found Rochdale’s Spotland ground without any trouble, having ridden past it a couple of times recently. I eventually rejoined the A671 and continued on to Oldham and this is where things went a little pear shaped as I overshot Boundary Park by a couple of miles and had to stop to ask for directions. Once at the ground I also took the wrong road out of Oldham, and although I realised this fairly quickly I was too subborn to retrace my steps so added a bit more onto my journey. The last couple of legs to the City of Manchester stadium and Old Trafford were to destinations that were far easier to find and I then took my familiar commute homewards to complete a ride of 70 miles or so.
The weather was kind to me again and my head was distracted by a mix of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ and a bit of Bossa Nova which always lifts my mood. The 7 stops kept at bay the boredom I have suffered from during the last couple of training rides and I also found the mix of dried apricots and fig rolls I grazed on beneficial too. All in all a great ride and not one that I will be looking to top in terms of mileage having completed around 70 miles in 5 hours 20 minutes.
Less than a month to the big ride and I’m definately on track to complete it comfortably, please sponsor me at: http://www.justgiving.com/holmesinho