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.
2015 has been a year where my progress has continued in a “fairly average” fashion…
In all seriousness, this year I have completed my main aim for the year which was to complete a century ride. (More on that later in a different post).
In terms of my year though, looking back on it I feel reasonably satisfied. In all I have cycled 3881 miles, which is my most in year to date! However, I am a bit gutted I did not reach 4000 miles for the year. This is going on the list of aims for 2016!
As you can tell from the stats I do rather like a climb! The climb that is listed as my “Biggest Climb” at 1,614 ft is Hartside which is on the C2C near Penrith in Cumbria.
Within 2015 I undertook 2 sportives, one of the Yorkshire Magnificent 7 Reliability Rides and a couple of “Cafe Bashes” hosted by the local bike shop/cycle cafe.