As you may have noticed my posts in 2019 were sporadic, at best!
2019 turned into a monster year in none cycling terms, in only the best possible ways. There were many weddings and many stag do’s, and many weekends away. All in all cycling took a back seat. I didn’t do any events but I did have some brilliant rides. There are two in particular that I will make separate posts about.
The year began in super low key fashion for me as I had a hernia repair in November 2018. This set me back a bit and I didn’t get on the turbo until late January let alone outside until February. Needless to say I wasn’t expecting much from the year.
My whole goal for 2019 was to do a century (miles) ride.
As mentioned there were many weekends away in Firenze, Paris and a week in Lisbon, along with the weddings and stag parties this was a year to rebuild.
Thankfully, in North Yorkshire the scenery is pretty damn good so when you are rebuilding and taking things a little bit steadier you are greeted by some killer views.
Like this from Lofthouse…
Thanks to my cycling buddies I could feel myself getting stronger and stronger through the year in the build up to my century and I was feeling like I was getting back to where I was pre-surgery.
Along with the century the only other thing I really wanted to do was cycle up Great Dunn Fell in Cumbria. Great Dunn Fell has a NATS service road to the top of the fell. It is known as the UK’s Mt Ventoux.
In other words: a must.
Last year Harrogate hosted the World Championships. Whilst the event was fantastic it was also possibly the wettest September on record (perhaps being over dramatic here) in Harrogate.
The Men’s elite had to be cut short due to the rain and there were multiple crashes during the time trials due to the rivers running down the roads. The weather will have inevitably had an effect on the visitor numbers but there was still a good turn out; particularly on Men’s Elite day.
I do have plans again for this year for something slightly bigger in terms of a cycling challenge but we’ll have to wait and see as to whether it comes off.
I will hopefully also be writing a little bit more in terms of reviews (as Christmas has come and gone I have a few more products to review) and also share some more rides.
Being from Cumbria and the Lake District you may expect that I have cycled many, if not all, of the Lake District passes.
Given that I started cycling a year or so before I moved away means that, unfortunately, I have not. I am keen to do all of them, if I can; as I have a base up there thanks to my Parents living up there. So I will be ticking them (slowly) off.
This June, when I was visiting the Parents, I took the bike up and decided to do a loop from Penrith over to Windermere and Ambleside. This meant I would be taking in Kirkstone Pass (which I have done before), down the A592 to Troutbeck Bridge, round to Ambleside, up The Struggle to Kirkstone again and then back down around the lake.
The route started out in Penrith and twisted along banks of Lake Ullswater through Pooley Bridge to Glenridding. The views along the lake road are stunning and it is relatively flat. It is better to head out earlier due to the tourist traffic but the views reward it.
Once you are through Glenridding you hit Patterdale and then Hartsop. Hartsop is where the climb begins properly with Brotherswater on your right. As you follow the road snaking along the valley Kirkstone Pass suddenly comes into view; in all of it’s glory.
When you look up Kirkstone, two things strike you:
This looks steep and long.
If we were on the continent this would have multiple hair pins instead of being a road that literally goes straight up.
The road signs as you begin the climb of Kirkstone show 20% to be the gradient when ascending but I think that is a touch optimistic as the Garmin didn’t go above 16%. Either way though…that’s still steep; as you can see from the pic above. The pic was taken mid-descent after being held up by a car. Definitely worth it for the picture though!
I like the climb from Hartsop to the top of Kirkstone for a couple of reasons:
The first being that it is the best side of the climb to take in the magnificent views. The climb is quite open and there are excellent views of Brotherswater at the bottom, the beck that feeds Brotherswater to the right of the climb and the scree filled fells either side.
The second reason would be that the end game is always visible. There are no nasty little surprises around corners waiting. I find that this really helps with pacing the effort.
Having said that the hardest part of the climb is towards the end, particularly the section from Red Screes car park to the summit, so make sure that you keep something in reserve.
As you crest the top of the climb there are views available out towards Lake Windermere and the Kirkstone Pass Inn on the left.
I then decided to descend via the Windermere road rather than The Struggle, as I would be attempting that later in the day. The descent via the A592 is a nice bit of respite after Kirkstone but the road isn’t in the greatest condition so there is a lot of road buzz. The descent is pretty safe and not technical so it is possible to work up a good speed when descending it. Using it as the ascent to Kirkstone Pass rather than the The Struggle is the easier option too as the gradients are relatively shallow. I also prefer the views from this ascent when comparing it to the The Struggle.
Arriving at the bottom of the descent, it is then a case of following the lake road round to Ambleside. Ambleside is a very bustling little tourist town, nestled on the edge of Lake Windermere. There are plenty of nice cafes to drop; but most importantly: Ambleside is where the ascent of The Struggle up to Kirkstone begins.
The Struggle begins properly at the round about on Smithy Brow, which then merges with Kirkstone Road. I must admit, I wasn’t 100% certain what to expect with the climb. Being born and bred in Penrith I knew what The Struggle was and how steep it is from when I have driven it; but nothing ever prepares you for when you actually tackle a climb on a bike.
Leaving Ambleside and it is immediately steep. At this point, I was thinking “what am I doing?”. However, once I settled in it became easier.
The climb itself is full of peaks and troughs (the widget for the segment is below):
As you can see there are three(ish) troughs and 4 peaks so the key to the climb is take the first part steady and then plug away. When I reached the top of the third peak I thought I was pretty much there but then I saw the final peak, which led to the main road and pub.
The final stretch of the climb is possibly the steepest, it certainly felt that way anyway! It is a real slog to get up to to the summit; and to top it all off there is a double switch back at around 14% or 15% just to remind you who’s boss.
Once at the top there is just the descent from Kirkstone to Ullswater to go. This affords great views of Lake Ullswater and Brotherswater again. I’ve never managed to get a clear run on this descent, there’s always been a car/caravan or LGV tootling down. As it happens I stopped due to the traffic to take in the scenery and grab a picture.
I was lucky with the weather as it was nice and warm with very little wind. Almost ideal conditions. I’m looking forward to getting back up in 2019 to take advantage and do the ride again; along with a few other passes.
2018 is motoring on by! (Excuse the pun, motor doping reference there). We are now in July and that means we are more than halfway through the year and Le Tour will soon be beginning.
Firstly a quick round up of my year: I did have a VeloViewer account to track my up miles on a week to week basis versus the previous year. However, this became rather addictive and sucked the fun out of my cycling as I felt this kind of guilt (in a weird way) for having a day of chill and falling behind the mileage. Therefore, I let that membership expire! Anyway; as of writing I have ridden 2038 miles. I aim to do 4000 miles or more a year so I think I am on target for that.
My big year goal was The Struggle.
Let’s just say that it didn’t go quite to plan.
The run up and the training went quite well but with 3 weeks to go: the dreaded common cold hits. This means that 2 weeks off the bike ensue as all energy is sapped. This put an end to the training and I was due to do a 70 mile ride on the first weekend of illness and then an 85 mile ride on the second weekend of illness with a nice taper for the following week until the event on the following Sunday.
Now, as I’m not the most patient person in the world I tried to work on through the cold to begin with but this just ended up digging a bigger hole for myself. I began to feel even worse and come the week of the event I decided to do a midweek ride after work. I think the guilt of not doing anything kicked in. Suffice to say; I felt shit the next day and was still coughing stuff up. The Saturday of the event (The Struggle being the next day) it was a case of getting the bike cleaned and setup. I took it on a short test ride of 20 miles to check that nothing needed adjusting and to open the legs.
I am glad to report that everything on the bike was A+. The legs and lungs however: C – and that was being generous.
Hopes weren’t overly high for the next day and my Fiancé thought that I should abort before I started. She was away though and getting back after lunch on the Sunday so I wasn’t listening to that advice.
The alarm was set for 5am and I got up feeling not so bad. I went down to the start area for 7.15am and started at 7.30am. It was quite a hot day but importantly there was no rain and the forecast looked clear for the day.
Off we go…
Unfortunately, as you can see I managed 60 miles before my lungs and head said no more. The heart and the legs were still keen but I was coughing up plenty of gunk still and, although I was was taking on plenty of fluids/food, I had a cracking headache. It got to the point where I was coughing up so much stuff and had a cracking headache, despite the fluids and food, with 50 miles to go that I thought it was erring on the side of stupid to carry on in the heat whilst feeling like that.
I felt pretty good up to the top of Malham Cove and, although there wasn’t a great deal of PR’s on Strava, I was riding sensibly and within myself. As you can see, the average speed was 14.6mph which wasn’t too bad as once you get to the top of Park Rash there is a nice long descent…unfortunately I didn’t get that lovely descent as I turned back to get picked up when I was about 3 quarters of the way up Park Rash.
I was running a Semi Compact (52/36) chainset but I changed it to a compact (50/34) prior to The Struggle and I am very glad I did as I would not have got as far as I did had I not changed it. It’s amazing how much a 2 tooth difference can make as I was sceptical having used a semi compact for the previous 18 months on both my summer and winter bikes that I wouldn’t feel the benefit. When doing a ride like this though, you really can feel the difference, for the better.
On this ride, barring the first 5 miles I was pretty much on my own. I managed to get chatting to a lady on the descent from Greenhow until Grassington and she was seriously quick. I think she may be doing the women’s National RR this weekend so good luck to her. She was from the Barrow Wheelers in Cumbria.
So yes; it was not to be this year and it’s always hard aiming for something and hoping to attain it; having done all the training that you can but falling short. It’s a kick in the gut not to complete it and as I am somebody whom is very competitive I am harder on myself when I fail then anyone else. However, I will be back to attempt it again and hopefully complete it in under 7 hours!
There is no question I have become a better cyclist but the climbs are still as tough. You just go up them quicker; so for the rest of this year I shall be adding to the miles and enjoying the summer.
The Struggle was the season goal and what all the hours of training have gone into; so suffice to say I was very nervous in the few days up to the event.
The run up to an event normally goes like this for me:
Train for several weeks
1 week before event: check the weather religiously on the hour from the hours of 9am – 5pm everyday during the week
Thursday before event: Order any emergency kit that may be required
Saturday before event: Stew; stress and be restless
Day of event: “ARGH It’s here! I feel unprepared!” Then start.
In terms of my training for this event; it is a bit archaic. I try to do around 100 – 175 miles per week. I don’t train by power but I do use heart rate/cadence however, most of it is done on “feel”. Generally, I throw myself up hills. In all weathers. As I signed up for The Struggle during Christmas 2015 I have had ample time to train and prepare. The longest ride I had done as part of my training was 70 miles…and only 3300 ft of climbing!
I was either confident or stupid!
Leading up to the event, checking the weather religiously was not going very well. The weather when checking on the Monday was resembling somewhat of a hurricane. The bullet was bitten on the Tuesday and waterproof arm and knee warmers were ordered. Just in case. As it turned out; the weather was perfect. The extra kit wasn’t needed but the emergency sun cream made an appearance!
Sign on for the event could be done on the Saturday at Prologue from 12 pm to 5 pm. I went down for 12 pm and we were already queuing round the shop like a bad game of Snake on a Nokia 3310. When it was finally my turn to sign on we were handed an envelope with our wristband for the feeds, race number and stage profile.
This has just got. Real!
I studied the route, even though I had memorised it and could recite the climbs in my sleep, over lunch with my family and girlfriend.
On the morning of the event I was up at 5.30am and thankfully the weather was perfect. That’s the first challenge of the day out of the way!
I always aim to get up and have breakfast 2 hours before I leave for an event, due to the size of the this event I got slightly earlier so I could have my breakfast and coffee and then have a stomach settler; as today wasn’t the day for IBS to bother me.
I had arranged to meet some of the guys that I cycle with on a Saturday from the LBS at the bottom of the road at 8.00am at the start line. As per usual, I was pushing the limits about whether I would be on time.I rolled in at 8.05 and we left at 8.10am so I was cutting it very fine! Typical of me.
For some, un-be-known reason to me, I expected to see lots of people at the start. However, there was only the group I was starting with and the Harrogate Nova train. It appears everyone started very early and we were about the last. It was quite a scary prospect knowing I would be last on the road.
As we rolled out and got he first few miles in the legs it was really nice to be starting in a group. This group was probably quicker than me overall but the fact that we were working as a group made the first hour (until I got dropped) fly by. As we made our way along to the first climb we stuck as a group and then we splintered ever so slightly on the first climb; which was Bedlam Bank.
Climb 1: Bedlam Bank
Bedlam Bank was the first climb to get us underway. This was merely a dot on the profile of the course as it was very short and not overly steep. About a 7% average and it probably maxed at around 10% – 11%. Going up we stayed pretty much together as one group. I was mid group and this allowed me to cycle within myself a touch as I was effectively being paced up the climb.
After cresting Bedlam Bank we passed through Burnt Yates and then carried on towards Summerbridge. The road is quite undulating towards Summerbridge and it is a relatively busy road as it is the main one towards Pateley Bridge. However, at this time of the morning the road was pretty deserted…so we had plenty of time to contemplate the berg that lay ahead!
Climb 2: Hartwith Bank
Hartwith Bank was hit 10 miles in and as the road to Brimham Rocks was closed for resurfacing the diversion pushed more traffic up and down Hartwith Bank. However, once again, due to the time there was very little traffic on the roads.
Hartwith is a pretty brutal climb. Averaging about 10% but maxing out 20% and hanging around 15% – 18% for what feels like an eternity. The climb is only 0.9miles but as soon as you leave the main road, it ramps up to around 12% and stays there and then ramps up again past some houses. At this point it is very high banked at either side and quite enclosed, almost claustrophobic. It hovers around 17%-20% until a guest house three quarter of the way up, you then go round a hairpin and it goes down to a more manageable 15% and decreases further as you get out in to the open again. It is no understatement to say that if this was cobbled (as the road surface is that poor it may as well be) it would be the equivalent to the Koppenberg!
It was here where it got a bit interesting because although we tried to stay together as a group we, inevitably, splintered here. I was trying to ride within myself up the climbs as I was very aware of blowing up if I pushed too hard. However, getting up something like this didn’t allow me to ride within myself. Therefore, it was a grind. As we created I was 3 to crest from our group. However, I was now blowing…This was not good for Greenhow coming up in less than 5 miles…
The descent from Hartwith to Glasshouses was welcome. Some leg resting time. The group was also back together as we moved on to Pateley Bridge. In Pateley Bridge lay Greenhow. The next big challenge.
Climb 3: Greenhow Hill (Where it all began to unravel)
Getting to the bottom of Greenhow Hill in a group was obviously a good thing. I thought at the start of the ride that I wanted to stay with the group until the bottom of Park Rash which was on 52 miles. This would have saved me some energy and also given the illusion of time passing quicker through sharing the pain and general chit-chat.
Greenhow, in case you don’t know, is a climb of several steep 16% ledges, punctuated with with some flatter (but not flat) sections.
Greenhow is 2.5 miles long with a 7% average, which doesn’t sound too bad; but, as happens in Yorkshire, they tend to build roads straight up hills rather than nice switchbacks that gives a more consistent gradient.
As we approached the first ledge I was feeling good. I was about 5 back as we hit it but then the chap in front of me lost his chain! Nightmare! I got caught behind him until he pulled off to put the chain back on. This had stunted my momentum though.
I made it up the ledge just ahead of the other guys in my group but behind the two super strong fellas. As we hit the first flatter section I used this to recover.
Then…BOOM! The other guys steamed past me. They weren’t recovering. I decided to hang fire and still take it easy as I would catch them up on the next 16% ledge because they would slow. Surely?!
The next ledge appeared and as I came round the corner I could see them on it. At this point I thought I would catch them up no problem. As I put the hammer down the legs did not respond. Coupled with the headwind, I wasn’t going to be going anywhere fast at all. I gave it one more dig from the legs but I just couldn’t make myself go any faster!
With that I could see them beginning to ascend the next ledge before I was even halfway along the next flatter section. That was the last time I saw them during The Struggle but as it is a Sportive and a personal challenge I would have done the same if I was in their position. Along with that I would not want to feel I was holding anyone back as it is a personal challenge and everyone wants to do the best time they can. Also, rather selfishly, I knew if I tried to bridge back on to them and then try and keep up with the group I would blow up before the end without question.
Anyway, back to the last half of the Greenhow climb. It was the most painful climb of the day physically and, without doubt, the most I suffered mentally. I have never been so glad to crest a climb and then get a full on headwind.
The next 21 miles were predominantly downhill, with undulations of course and the first feed stop was on mile 28. This was an opportunity to get the head back in the game; as, for the most part, the legs were more than willing.
As I descended Greenhow into the wind I was beginning to think that this was to big of a challenge for myself. I contemplated taking a left in Grassington and heading back to Ilkley and then Harrogate. Tail between my legs. Failed.
I don’t know what it was; stubbornness, bloody mindedness, stupidity, feeling of wasted training hours or the “I’ve paid for this, so I’ll bloody well finish it”. In truth, it was probably a mix of all of the above but we were going to the end baby!
As I approached the first feed stop I was passing riders again and this helped the morale no end. When I got to the first feed station there were LOTS of riders! A quick half a banana, a handful of jelly babies and comfort break later and I was back on my way. Mentally revitalised and ready to complete this event come hell or high water.
From here (feed stop mile 28 to around mile 70) I was on completely new roads and I hadn’t recce’d the next two big climbs; Malham Cove and Park Rash. Not doing a recce on such a large section of the course is very out of character as I normally like to know everything about the course I am trying to complete. However, life had got in the way.
Fast forward to the Climb 4: Malham Cove
This is one of the climbs I had never done before so I was completely in the dark about how it was going to pan out. Although, I wasn’t fearing this as much as Park Rash, the Queen climb of the day.
The great thing about Malham Cove is that it is absolutely stunning scenery to ride through and that really helps take your mind off the pain.
As we approached the bottom of the climb I was in a small group with some guys from a club. I didn’t get their names but they were good chat. Their jerseys also made me chuckle as their club slogan was “Probably the worst cycling club ever”. We all pretty much stayed together up the climb which was a surprise.
Malham is a bit of a deceiving climb because it is only an average gradient of about 6% – 7%. On paper when I saw that I thought…”won’t break a sweat going up here”; but then about a third of the way there is a sign with “1:7” displayed upon it. This, obviously, meant things were going to get much tougher. Probably, very quickly. As we hit the steep stuff there is a right turn and you get the most fantastic view over the cove.
To be honest, this climb was a bit of a grind whilst trying not to expend too much energy with Park Rash in mind. When we got to the top the rain began to spit but this was very short lived thankfully…as I only had a gilet! Bad packing on my part.
The descent from Malham is a typical Yorkshire descent. Steep, narrow, poor roads and lots of sheep! I’m a bit of a nervous descender, particularly on the steep stuff, so I was very pleased that the roads were dry.
For what felt like the first time all day we had a tailwind! Pure. Bliss. As we hurtled down towards Kettlewell, the next water stop and the fierce Park Rash.
The water stop was in the perfect place. Kettlewell, next to the pub. The best place just before the foot of the climb to take on some liquid, take stock and have a comfort break. Thankfully, there was lots of people at the water station so I wouldn’t be going up it alone. And, perhaps even more thankfully, most of them looked worse than I felt.
Climb 5: Park Rash
Park Rash was the other climb I hadn’t ridden before the event so I had no idea what to expect. I only had the myths passed on to me by other cyclists I knew. All I had they referenced was a 30% hairpin. The picture below doesn’t do it justice but this is the hairpin in question…
Leaving Kettlewell there is a smaller single track road around a corner. Up a hill. You can see where this is going can’t you?
This first hill, according to my Garmin (which is before this elevation above), touched 21%. Once up that there is respite as you roll by the river on your right. In my inexperience, I thought that first 21% section was “it”. It wasn’t and as I rolled down by the river, basking in the sunshine and taking in the views into focus comes the dreaded hairpin.
Hitting the foot of the climb “proper” it goes from 0% to 7% to something astronomical in the blink of an eye. Thankfully the hairpin area of the climb, just prior to it and just after it had been resurfaced. Result! No avoiding potholes whilst trying not to fall off through lack of forward movement.
When I made it round the hairpins I thought the worst was over. How wrong I was…
I expected the gradient to relent quite quickly after the hairpins; but it didn’t. It sat around the 20% for what felt like an eternity. As I came around another corner there was an ambulance parked up. Very fitting for how I currently felt! As I came round another corner with the gradient still pretty high there was a photographer just waiting to catch me in all my pained glory…
Trying to look tough…
Not looking as tough 2 mins later…
Arriving to the top of this I was euphoric! The road tailed off to what I thought was the top…again. However, I was wrong yet again! The peace that my legs felt as it tailed off was amazing; but, then I look up and it begins to climb again in the distance.
The road, once again, climbed and hit about 18% at it’s peak. I’m glad it didn’t go on 200 meters further otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it up on the bike!
Dragging myself up this whole climb was probably the toughest thing I’ve done in cycling climbing wise. I think that although I could probably go quicker up if I wasn’t 50 miles into a ride, I don’t think I would actually be that much quicker. It’s amazing what a bit of adrenaline and some people to target does to the little voices in your mind.
As with every great climb there is (hopefully) an equally great descent. Going down the other side was a great feeling.It was a nice steady descent instead of going down a wall. The only things you had to be careful was the moving (and sometimes unmoving) obstacles of sheep! I almost hit two. At speed.
Thankfully, the next 20 or so miles were downhill punctuated by a few small climbs. Within this 20 miles I managed to jump on to the back of the Cappuccino CC train. This club is local to Harrogate and more of a social club than a competitive one. Thankfully they didn’t mind letting me sit in.
After leaving the Cappo’s behind and getting into another small group of riders we ended up a Fearby and the final food stop at the village hall. After a quick comfort break and some food and re-hydration I was on my way again…on wards and upwards!
Climb 6 – Trapping Hill
Trapping Hill was a climb I first stumbled across when I was doing some recon for the Ripon Revolution. Now, it’s a climb I know very well and rather enjoy! The climb is broken into two distinct climbs with a breather in the middle.
The above profile is the second part of the climb, I cannot recall what the first part is called. As you can see, as is the case with most climbs in Yorkshire; it is pretty much “wall like” from the get go and eases off. As you crest the top of this climb you are greeted by views across the Nidd Valley and to Pateley Bridge in the far distance. In the forefront is Lofthouse village and reservoirs stretching out in to the distance. Once you take in those views it is time to knuckle down and concentrate the descent down Trapping is very steep and reasonably technical (for someone that cannot descend, Me!) descent.
Whilst ascending it was amazing to still feel strong and keep on passing other riders. Going up there was quite an eye opener as there was quite a bit of zig-zagging from other riders. This served two purposes: 1) It made me feel extremely strong as I didn’t feel the need to zig-zag, and; 2) Took my mind off my ordeal and filled with a bit of confidence for the final climb.
Going on to the final climb of the ride, it is reached by cycling along the valley floor from Lofthouse through to Pateley Bridge. Unfortunately for me, this could not be enjoyed due to knowing what was awaiting my legs…
Climb 7: Two Stoops
Two Stoops is quite a formidable climb with only 30 or so miles in the legs so to hit this at mile 95 made it nothing short of a monster. The climb starts with a sharp left hander which is off camber and very steep. To try and equalise the gradient I moved on to the other side of the road and got out of the saddle; safe in the knowledge that there wasn’t much further to go. Getting back into the saddle once it flattens off slightly allowed me to get to get my breath back…before the show piece:
The main showpiece is a 20% ramp followed by a vicious switchback/chicane. By this point I was just about on my knees and the only thing getting me through this climb was the fact that when I crested it; it was pretty much all downhill back to Harrogate and the finish line.
When cresting Two Stoops there was two overwhelming feelings. Firstly: elation, I was elated that I had finished climbing and, unless there was a catastrophe, would finish comfortably and secondly; relief. Relief that I had managed all of the climbs and didn’t have to call the girlfriend to pick me up and feel the shame of failure.
Crossing the line my time was 7 hours and 8 mins.
This was pretty much bang on my 7 hour – 8 hour estimate. I was a touch gutted that I could get a 6 hour 59 mins but all things considered: longest ride, most climbing in one ride and riding the majority of the ride on my own.
The Struggle was excellently organised and the food stations were brilliantly stocked. We also lucked in with near perfect weather.
It was the perfect day for the perfect challenge.
Would I ride The Struggle again…? Most certainly, without hesitation. After all, I have to get back in under 7 hours next time!
So, it’s been a little while since I have posted. Work, life and riding my bicycle has got in the way unfortunately!
On the weekend just gone though I did the Evans Cycles Leeds RideIT! sportive that was based out of Harewood. (Route below)
The run up to the event had been a bit weird…on the one hand the cycling was going well and I think I benefited from having an early season goal to aim at as it made the grind of winter riding more bearable when I knew I would have a good size ride with a good amount of climbing. This has spurred me on to up the mileage and do some mid week rides under the bright lights of Harrogate! These have been 20 – 25 miles with around 2000ft of climbing…Harrogate is hillier than it seems! Anyway, the training was not the weird situation it was the weather…In the week up to the event there was heavy snow and the event had a changed venue and was very close to be called off.
I’m glad it wasn’t!
On the morning of the event it had frozen but wasn’t snowing so the usual ritual was resumed. Up 2 hours before I need to be at the venue and then breakfast (scrambled eggs and then some cereal followed by a coffee). Then packed the car and was out of the house for 7.30am to arrive at the venue for just before 8.00am. When arriving I had the mundane sign on and wait for the start. Sadly the Clio was not overly warm.
I set off in the second group just after 8.45am. The group was quite large and it was a downhill start. Bearing in mind what the route profile was like I decided to take it easy on the start! Sometimes the adrenaline gets the better of me and I go hard from the start!
I like my cycling hilly so this suited me but there was a few climbs I hadn’t ridden before. I normally like to recce the climbs before hand but didn’t have time before the event. The climb I was worried about was out of Appletreewick which is steep to begin with then exposed on to the moor just before Greenhow Village. As this climb was over halfway in the importance of pacing was not lost on me.
The first third of the event was on roads I knew so I knew exactly how much effort to put in. It was good starting in a large group as for the first 20 miles I managed to stay within a couple of groups which helped and made the miles pass quickly. It was particularly interesting watching others in the group as they would bomb on when on the flat then appear to try and recover on the hills. This seemed foreign to me and a little bit bizarre.
Approaching mile 20 ish (around Norwood village light snow began. Brilliant I thought. Head down, gloves off and carry on. Spring Classics style.
The first real climb started at Low Lane, just off Darley Road. This was a climb I had never cycled before. This was quite a nice steady climb to start with and then ramps up to around 16%. This broke the already splintered group I was with and my only way up the hills is to get nice and comfy and try and find a rhythm. Then stick to it. I dropped the people that were in my small group on this climb and would only reacquaint myself with them at the first feed station.
The snow then turned to hail when we reached the top of the climb going over Greenhow Moor to Thruscross. Excellent.
At the first feed stop, I thought about stopping but decided I felt good so would not. This was a big mistake (more later). Although, I did bunch up with a couple of guys who had been in the group prior to the climb.
The legs were feeling good still around 33 miles in so…onwards and upwards!
After the feed stop, we had the roller-coaster-esq run down to Thruscross reservoir, on the other side we had the climb over Kex Gill Moor which would then lead us on to the A59 and a long descent to Bolton Abbey. The climb on Kex Gill was a nice steady climb, there was still a bit of ice on the top so I had to be careful. However, with that safely negotiated I thought that I would have the enjoyable descent to Bolton Abbey with no problem at all.
How wrong I was…
It will be worth saying now, if you are of a nervous disposition skip the next three paragraphs…
It is worth mentioning that I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). This is normally not too bad. However, when cresting Kex Gill I felt a rumble which was not good. Up until this point all I had had to eat was a banana as I am conscious that too many gels can facilitate, what I have christened as, “Gelly Belly”.
So flying down the A59 was not much fun at all. Imagine Thibaut Pinot in the TDF when he dived into some parked up Camper Vans for a “comfort break”. Unfortunately I did not have this luxury! Luckily, I knew we were passing the Devonshire Arms so I had a quick pit stop there and then onwards and upwards!
After the unscheduled pit stop the next climb was out through Appletreewick (below)
As you can see Appletreewick is 6.5% for 2.0km. As I had never ridden this before I was going in a bit blind and because of earlier stomach problems I had eaten 1 banana in around 2.5 hours of riding. As I was climbing the first section I began to feel the dreaded “bonk”. I frantically grabbed one gel and a piece of flapjack and guzzle this along with water to wash it down with. I was now quite aware that I was playing calorie catch up which is never a good position to be in.
The climb was quite enjoyable, by the foot of it I was very much on my own however; there were dots on the horizon. I like being in the position where I have targets to aim for. Climbing up and out of Appletreewick and onto New Road to join the Grassington/Greenhow Road greeted me with simply stunning views! The Dales (or Fells where I’m from) had a dusting of snow and these views really took the feeling of pain out of the legs. As I climbed up to the main road I picked off a number of other riders and dropped them which felt good. I had a new feeling of energy now the food had kicked in.
As I cycled up to Greenhow the main road was sandwiched together by snow on the verges and all over the the fells. It really was a beautiful site. At the same time though, I have never been happier to get to Greenhow and begin the descent to the final feed station. The legs were finally wanting a rest and what better place to rest them than going down Duck Street.
As I knew I was now on the home stretch and they were known roads for me I began to relax. As I approached the feed station I suddenly got the munchies…Thankfully there was plenty of flapjack and jelly babies to give me a sugar rush! For the home stretch the bidon got a refill and off I went.
Stopping is one of the worst thing I can do as the legs do go a bit stiff so the first mile or so were getting the circulation going again. I needed the legs to get going as we had the “Blubberhouses Wall” upon on us very soon. It starts at 10% and kicks to about 15%. Once I was over this I knew I would be home and dry!
Cresting that we had the run through Timble and over the reservoirs, then up and over Norwood and down the steep side. After that it was flat until the bottom of Harewood Hill.
Climbing Harewood Hill was a “put it in a low gear and spin” but I felt like I had something to give so cranked it up and gave it one last push.
Crossing the line I finished in 4 hours 46mins with an average speed of 16mph. The ride had 6800ft of climbing. I was very happy the time and the ride in general especially as I was on the Scott Speedster which is my aluminium winter bike.
The winter bike will now be going away as long as the snow and ice stays away and I will hopefully be getting the summer bike out!
Next blog post will hopefully be pretty soon as I want to write about the Tiagra 4700 groupset I’ve been using all winter and also further training posts!
With the goals for 2016 having been set the training must now begin!
Christmas and New Year have now passed and with that a return to normality which means that the over indulgence now has to be kept under control and the focus must be regained. (Although it is far easier to focus after letting your hair down and having a good time!)
I had planned to get back on it on the 2nd/3rd of January however holiday high jinks had got in the way (illness) so the bike was put on the back burner until I felt better.
The weather has been nothing short of horrific and due to the dark nights I have been jogging in the evenings rather than cycling. Due to a fear of cycling in the dark. Well, not standing out enough to car drivers enough in the dark. I had joined a cycling club that went out in the evenings but it just didn’t feel right cycling the dark even in a group. I think it was due to the, sometimes, erratic cycling of club mates.
It was great to get out on the bike for a couple of rides this weekend. The first was with Prologue, who are my local bike shop. They head out on a Saturday morning. The second was on my own.
The Prologue ride headed out through some small villages to Brimham Rocks and then down to Glasshouses and up “The Raikes” over Dallow Moor to Laverton and then to Ripon. We would then head back to Harrogate.
This ride was great fun and thanks to company on the ride kept the motivation high. Looking outside at 8.45 it was very grey. Getting down to the shop at 9.00 it was spitting. It was clear that this ride was only going one way and it wasn’t the nice, warm, dry way.
Once we got going I warmed up quite quickly and had opted for the Gabba due to the hope that it would be a passing shower we would get caught in.
No. Such. Luck.
Reaching Burnt Yates, just before Brimham Rocks, the heavens really opened up and it became quite foggy. As we got over Brimham Rocks the Gabba was soaked but at least it was keeping me warm!
We then descended into Glasshouses which was quite a sketchy descent in the rain. Not especially technical but plenty of ramps followed by relatively sharp corners which needed concentration and some good braking.
Once we got to Glasshouses we had The Raikes to climb. I had never been up this particular climb before. Well, when I say “climb” it was a short sharp rise. The steepest part of the climb is around 16% and during the ride it was more reminiscent of a river due to the channels flowing down the road. Needless to say it was nice to have something to take my mind off the rain. The climb then continues over the road, at a more relenting, gradient to the top of Dallow Moor.
Once we got to the top of Dallow Moor there was a nice, long descent into Ripon.
However….One of my friends hit a mechanical reaching the top and we had to stop.
On the top of the Moor it was around 1 degree C and freezing! Being so exposed the wind was catching us too! The body temp dropped and the remaining half of the ride was horrendous due to not being able to warm up and my overshoes and gloves acting like sponges!
It was the first time I thought hypothermia was a real possibility on the bike!
On to Sunday.
Today I decided to wait until the weather cleared which was the correct decision as the wind was strong today so going out in that and the rain would have been soul destroying on my own!
The loop today took in Leathley, Pool, Arthington (up a little gem of a hill called Black Hill) and then down to Weardley, KO, Sicklinghall, Wetherby and back.
As I don’t train by power I find it quite difficult to judge how hard I am working. I normally just go on feel and heart rate. Today I was just taking it easy and trying to get some base miles in.
However, it turned into a struggle due to the wind as I was needing to keep pushing to make any headway. As this was the case I threw caution to the wind (excuse the pun) and just decided to go as hard as my legs would allow.
Having missed the rain the sun (yes, that thing we do not often see) decided to make an appearance.
To build upon 2015 I have set myself the following goals for 2016:
Ride “The Struggle”
Complete a ride from the Lake District to North Yorkshire
Cycle 4000 + miles for the year
Climb more than last year
The Struggle (http://www.ridethestruggle.com/) is the big aim for the year. This event is a 110 mile ride through the North Yorkshire Dales and bills itself as the UK’s toughest, newest sportive. It takes in some of the toughest climbs around North Yorksire such as Park Rash, Malham Cove and Two Stoops.
It will be my biggest ride to date and most amount of climbing within one ride also so I am looking forward to giving it a go.
It will certainly be…interesting.
Lake District to North Yorkshire – The route is still currently being planned so it there will be a proper write up when I eventually decide when it takes place and the route it takes.
There’s no pressure on this ride. I can just enjoy it as I only really need to be back by the time it gets dark. Or I get hungry.
This post will be updated sporadically during the year.
Well, let me clarify. I did one (and only one). I realise that opening sentence makes it sounds like I did a few.
No, one was enough for me.
But what an event it was!
Having started cycling in October 2012 and then starting on Strava mid way through 2013 I would see people do a century ride (or more) and think they were crazy! I had just started out and thought 15 miles was an achievement. This just goes to show how much progress has been made and how goals evolve.
Anyway, back to the ride…
The Ripon Revolution begins in Ripon (unsuprisingly) at the Racecourse.
The ride then meanders to Masham and along Fearby Lane up on to the top of Trappings Hill and then drops (off what feels like the edge of a cliff) to Lofthouse.
This first part of the ride felt very comfortable. I deliberately took it quite steady and tried to see whether there were any groups I could get into. Unfortunately, at this point there were no groups to be seen. People were either too fast or too slow.
Not to worry though…steady pace was required.
When unpacking and getting set-up at the car at 7am I had two split second decisions to make. The first one: Which door do I go through to get changed? And the second: Do I put on a water proof gilet?
Unfortunately, I made the wrong call when I went in to the Ladies toilet to get changed BUT I did put on the waterproof gilet.
What. An. Inspired. Decision. That. Was.
As we made our way onto the bottom of the ascent of Trappings Hill the wind got up, there was a fog and some rain. With it being so open up there I was glad of the extra protection that this provided. Going up and then down Trappings Hill was quite straightforward apart from the wind, rain and fog.
Once we dropped in to Lofthouse we had the run round the reservoirs, through the Valley to the village of Pateley Bridge and the first feed stop. I had a quick stop at the feed stop to restock on water bottles and then it was onwards up Greenhow Hill.
Greenhow is quite a fun climb out of Pateley Bridge and hits about a 16% maximum gradient. As I was ascending it there was several other riders ahead of me whom I could focus on and try and catch. I always think I climb better with someone ahead to focus on.
Mid way climbing Greenhow the most annoying thing happened…The Garmin started telling me the gradient was only 5%. Even though it was well over 10%. The rain must have affected it. I have never been more irritated when on a bike! It must have been the OCD kicking in!
When reaching the top of the hill which is around 2.5 miles in length you appear at Greenhow village and then have the descent through Duck Street and Padside until Summerbridge is eventually reached.
At Summerbridge my girlfriend was awaiting me with food and drinks! This was very much appreciated.
Little did I know that I was about to start to hit the wall for the first time. On the third climb which is up Blazefield Bank and then another left up on to the top of Dallow Moor I hit the wall.
It’s a weird feeling to describe as my legs felt sore but we were only at mile 50. However, I didn’t feel like I was about to “bonk”. This was all psychological.
The next feed station was in Grantley. I took the opportunity to stop and fill up the water bottles and have a few jelly babies! When I pulled up there was a group of other cyclists so I decided to hang on and leave with them so I could get into a group.
When we left the legs were sore but at least I had company!
The last “climb” was the ascent up to Brimham Rocks. This isn’t a steep climb by any stretch of the imagination but the wind was in our faces which made it very tricky! It was at this point I again hit the wall! Thankfully there was a group of people with me who looked like they were suffering more than me so it took my mind off my pain for a little bit.
Once we reached the top of Brimham Rocks it was all downhill or flat for the last 35 – 40 or so miles.
In this group we managed to tick off 25 miles pretty quickly and reach the 3rd and final feed station. I decided to stop and use the toilet whereas my group carried on.
It was then back to solo riding for the last 20 miles. However, there were many people around as the routes had merged again.
Although the remainder of the route was pan flat around the Vale of York, I actually found this the toughest part because there was nothing to aim/focus on but the legs!
Upon finishing the event I found that I had completed it in:
6 hours 21 mins.
I was more than happy with this time as in training the most I had ridden was about 70 miles. My longest ride previously was 85 miles so there was a bit of “Cycling in to the Unknown” with this event.
Having finally completed a century I am coming round to the idea of doing another…