I had been asked by Kredda Caribbean to ride this proposed route to see how it compared to those monster European sportives - La Marmotte and l’Etape du Tour and to give feed back and advice on running such an event. I was accompanied by fellow iCyclist Matt Chudley.
Who would turn down such an opportunity? The routes had been produced by the Barbados Cycling Union and on paper looked innocuous enough - nothing that a Sunday Club rider would feel intimidated by - 72 miles and 3000ft of climbing.
These statistics are way short of the 17,000ft of climbing on the Act II Etape and nowhere near the 120 miles - we should be home for lunch!
The first thing you notice about Barbados when the plane door opens, is that the temperature in UK and Barbados are somewhat different in October! The heat seeped into the plane as we waited to disembark.
It was Thursday afternoon and the ride was scheduled for Sunday - exactly a year before the inaugural event, scheduled for October 6th 2013.
Friday was taken up with meetings with interested parties regarding the event. Saturday was spent building the bikes and a quick ride to familiarize ourselves with some of the unique driving customs and roads. We rode for about 25miles down the South Coast but we just ambled along - referring to the map fairly often. Cycling on the left made it feel familiar, apart from the exotic landscape!
As a compromise to our support crew on the Sunday morning, we allowed them to have breakfast before we set off - this delayed the start till about 8.30 and it was already very hot. It was good to be rolling along with the constant breeze to cool us though.
The roads are varied from excellent, to scrappy to a few bad patches. Some of the roads are currently being repaired or resurfaced. There were some interesting raised ironworks which need to be avoided.
Carlisle Bay - opposite the start/finish
Leaving Bridgetown from near to Carlisle Bay we proceeded in an anticlockwise direction around the whole island, riding through all of the 11 Parish’s.
Oistins - home to the famous fish market
We followed the South Coast road, catching glimpses of the exotic beaches and the Caribbean Sea. After cycling through Oistins, we climbed the first of the hills (Thornbury) as we left the coastline behind but, being a small island (21 miles by 7 miles) it’s never too far away!
The contrast between housing is very stark at times
Once we had ridden past the airport we left the tourist hotels, bars and shops behind us as we struck out into the hinterland and the first real test - Stewart Hill. This is really two hills in one, with Three Houses hill preceding it. This hill just seemed to go on and on and on. I noticed as my speed dropped that I had slopes on both sides of me and the temperature rapidly increased.
Matt setting the pace
The heat become a challenge all of its own, our hearts were working so hard pumping our blood to the surface of the skin to cool it, there seemed to be little left for our muscles. Simple hills (typical short and sharp English type hills) became very difficult and, once bested the recovery time was huge. Water consumption rose and we were grateful for our backup vehicle keeping us supplied.
One of the many sugar fields
We made our way through sugar cane fields, with the occasional mongoose running across the road, Palm tress laden with coconuts and bananas hanging from the trees, locals carrying loads on their heads, all under endless blue skies and a refreshing breeze.
Looking down on Bathsheba
The fabulous East Coast Road
From our high spot inland we made our way towards Bathsheba with a technical and steep descent to the East Coast Road and the Atlantic Ocean. Big beaches, surf and a fantastic road only a few feet from the beach awaited. In the distance we could see the coastal cliffs and the very picturesque ‘Scotland District’.
Proposed stop at Barclays Park
A non typical stop after we left the coast road and entered the village of Bellplane followed (coke and chips). Coke for the sugar boost as we prepared for the next climb, Farley Hill, and the chips mostly for the salt as Matt had had a cramp attack. Copious amounts of water were being drunk regularly, as well as being used as an eternal coolant!
At the top of Farley Hill - proposed feed stop at the visitor centre
Farley Hill is not long or particularly steep; however it forced me to get off my bike and walk.
There was no way my legs could drag me up there! All this is in the context of a summer in France earlier this year where I rode up - The Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Galibier, Col d’Izoard, Alpe d’Huez, Mont Ventoux and then those in the Etape: Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde! A water stop at the top of Farley Hill from our back up crew and a quick refresh before the start of the long downhill section was most welcome. We had broken the back of the climbing now and looking forward to just rolling along for the rest of the ride.
The exclusive Post St, Charles!
The coast road on the west side of the Island
Almost a smile at Mullins Bay!
Having cycled into the North of the Island and the parish of St. Lucy, we dropped down to the coast at Six Mens, passing by the very picturesque (and expensive) Port St. Charles. Then on through Speightstown and, following the coast road, we passed by such picturesque points as Mullins Beach, the houses of the rich and famous, well heeled hotels, cricket grounds and a few very enticing bars!
Almost at Holetown - suffering now.
Emancipation Statue on the way back in to Bridgetown
At Holetown, we refreshed again in the shade of a large tree by Maple Cricket Club (including a couple of gels as we were on the HOMEWARD stretch) as we again climbed back towards the centre of the island. Another short climb up and over the hill past the University of the West Indies and we were back by the coast again before heading through the capitol, Bridgetown, and the finish in Bay street.
One of us looks like they have had a hard ride!
I have to admit, I was not in the best of condition by the time we finished but, a swim in the pool at the hotel, followed by some time back in the air conditioning sorted me out. I think I had a touch of the sun but was determined to finish.
In hindsight, a longer acclimatization time is really needed to get used to how hot it really is. The Garmin said in the 5 and a bit hour’s ride time the average temperature had been 97.6 degrees!
This ride, on that day, was up there as a real challenge but also a thoroughly enjoyable one. There is no better way to see life than from the seat of a bike, especially in Barbados! The diverse features of the Island is something to be seen to be believed (this was my first visit). The range of scenery in such as small area is quite incredible, from semi jungle areas, to cliffs to white beaches, all in the space of about 5 miles!
These slipped down rather well!