A late surge in entries saw 627 cycling enthusiasts setting out from Markeaton Park on Sunday to tackle one of three different distances in the annual North Derbyshire Challenge Sportive.
Everyone headed out to Carsington Reservoir with the Radleigh Homes 40km turning back at Knockerdown. The 80km route went as far as Darley Dale, looping round Tansley while the 160km route extended up to Edale, coming back through Hope, Grindleford and Beeley before joining up with the 80km route again to return home to Markeaton Park.
The entrants included 40 teams of up to ten riders who took part in the Geldards Team Challenge - combining their distances in an attempt to travel the furthest over one sportive.
Back at Markeaton Park, there was a children’s bike challenge with the opportunity for families with children of all ages and those with disabilities to receive expert coaching and ride a mini circuit around the park.
The event was organised by Cycle Derby, which is part of Derby City Council and provides opportunities in cycling for people of all ages, and city-based HUUB Events, the company which brought the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon to the city in July. It was supported by Radleigh Homes, Geldards solicitors, MBS Derby, Jewson, Springs Cleaning and High 5 Nutrition.
Cycle Derby’s Mark Smith said: “The weather conditions were ideal for the sportive and, as the temperatures rose, I know that the riders were extremely grateful for the feed stations along the route.
“The forecast obviously encouraged people to enter right at the last minute and we were delighted with the support from the cycling community both locally and further afield for this challenging but fun event.
“We are already planning next year’s Spring Classic and North Derbyshire Challenge sportives in the spring and early Autumn.”
Claire Duffin from HUUB Events continued: “The North Derbyshire Challenge Sportive was undoubtedly more of a challenge than the Spring Classic due to the 80km and 160km routes taking in the Peak District hills but equally as enjoyable with some breath taking countryside to enjoy along the way.
“Meanwhile the Radleigh Homes 40km was planned along a flatter route – making it ideal for new riders and families.”
Three professional cyclists from Derby-based Team Raleigh joined riders on the Radleigh 40km route to support the event and, not surprisingly, were the first past the finishing line.
They were George Pym, Karl Baillie and Jack Escritt who were welcomed home by team director Cherie Pridham.
She said: “Joining the North Derbyshire Challenge Sportive has been an opportunity to be part of a more relaxed event and for Team Raleigh GAC to give something back to the county and particularly the local business community who have supported us so brilliantly over the years.
“The large number of entries for the sportive just showed that Derby and Derbyshire’s pedigree as a cycling city and county.”
They were followed by husband and wife John and Katie Cotton from Castle Donington who decided ten miles into the ride to stay on the 40km route due to illness.
Katie said: “I have been suffering with a chest infection and as the sun started to get hotter I realised that 80km was going to be a challenge too far.
“This is our fourth Cycle Derby Sportive and, despite my health, we have both really enjoyed it.”
John continued: “Sportives are a great way of getting out on the bike with like minded people. They are always very sociable and there is a great atmosphere as it is not a race and everybody is just here to challenge themselves but have fun at the same time.”
Robert Smith and his nine-year-old son Connor from Mickleover were the next to arrive in Markeaton Park.
Connor is a member of the Cycle Derby junior cycling team and also a keen triathlete. He said: “This was my first sportive and I really enjoyed it.”
Dad Robert continued: “As a family, we love getting out together on our bikes and this is one of the very few sports that we can all do together.
“I am very proud of Connor. He rode well and we are now going to wait to cheer on my older son Louis who entered the 80km event.”
The North Derbyshire Challenge Sportive is expected to raise significant funds for the Derbyshire Children’s Holiday Centre which is aiming to raise an additional £150,000 in this its 150th centenary year.
This will enable the centre in Skegness to take an extra 250 to 270 youngsters for five-day breaks on the east coast in addition to the 450 who already go there every year.