On Sunday Simon and I rode the route that we’d had planned for a while. It was a somewhat shorter but all the nasty bits (well most of them) of the Fred Whitton Challenge that we’ll be doing in May.
After an early (like, dark) start in Manchester it was off to Ambleside after a rendezvous in Darwen. We were on the road just after 9 and immediately set the pace that we were to maintain throughout the day. The route included the Whinlatter Pass, Fangs, Swarth Fell, Cold Fell, Irton Pike, the Hardknott Pass and the Wrynose Pass.
The weather was brilliant – chilly with sunshine. Perfect, in fact. Everything was going well, no mechanicals, plenty of food and water, great weather throughout and we were belting along.
The road from Ennerdale Bridge to Calder Bridge towards the coast, sun beating down and Sellafield in the distance was one of those “memorable” cycling experiences that if you describe it to someone it sounds like “we were riding fast along a deserted road on a nice day” – however the combination of the sunshine, scenery, speed and tailwind just kind of gave it that “this is why I ride bikes” feeling that I don’t think there’s a name for. Apart from the usual adjectives such as “awesome” and “f**king brilliant”.
The climb up the Harknott Pass was immense. How people clean this all the way up is incredible really. Perhaps they’re using triple chainsets and not doubles (like we were). Perhaps they’re on drugs. Perhaps they’re stronger than me. My gearing was a bit more sensible than Simon’s but we were both off and pushing for portions of the climb, the air thick with the stench of burning car brakes and clutches. On the approach from Eskdale, the Harknott looks pretty much vertical. That’s because it is pretty much vertical.
The Wrynose was massive too, but a bit more rideable than the last one. Not much more though. There’s still some pushing to do.
The drops off the other side of both were terrifying…on the brakes all the way down and trying to maintain control on the poor road surface. Add to that the cars on their way up in the opposite direction, with drivers of varying amounts of bad attitude, you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster.
75 miles in just under 5 hours, and about three thousand metres of climbing. I’ve no doubt at all that I’ll be able to do the Fred and feel positive now that the training is starting to pay off.
Here’s me and Senor Sparkle (clearly having a sneaky kip) at the summit of Wrynose, not getting into our pose fast enough for the camera’s timer.