Today I did possibly the most difficult ride I’ve ever done. It was a real challenge. 71 miles of almost relentless climbing – some 2700m or 8900ft of it. There were long draggy hills and short (-ish) sharp and very steep hills. They just kept coming.
It was sleeting on the way to the HQ this morning which had turned to a light drizzle by the time we arrived. North Cheshire Clarion riders Anthony, Phil, Martin and Martin(a) were braving the elements. After a cup of coffee we were ready for the off – left out of the HQ, left again and then HANG ON A SECOND, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS! “This” was a 20% mile-long climb literally within minutes of the start. Cold muscles protested as we dropped down the gears and headed up the road, which looked like a wall with a line down the middle. My lungs were really painful as I struggled to get oxygen in – and they didn’t recover for the rest of the day, leaving me sounding like a 40-a-day chain smoker. I soon went past some people pushing their bikes until I reached the summit and then waited for the others. The ride went downhill (well, uphill) from that point on. A big climb up to Weir and then a drop into Bacup, followed by the climb out over the tops to another fast descent down towards Todmorden. Turn right and a climb up to Lumbutts and the end of the first loop, at which point Phil retired as his asthma was flaring up alarmingly.
Caked up we set off on the second loop dropping down from Lumbutts at which point Martin punctured
Off again and then up a big climb again – a half mile or so at a steep gradient.
Then a descent down to the start of Crag Vale – the longest continuous climb in England. Nearly six continuous miles of climbing but I got into a nice rhythm at between 10 and 11 mph and I trundled up going past a number of riders and feeling pretty pleased with myself. Then a guy in white went past me like I was stood still and put a quarter of a mile into me in a very short time. The top of Crag Vale is moorland and I thought I was catching him – the gap was closing. Then the headwind off the moor hit me too and the gap opened up again! A fast descent from the White House down into Littleborough and towards Todmorden and then turning right and up again back to our second visit to the church hall at Lumbutts. Sterling service (and an eccentric “pep rally” from the vicar – I think he was the vicar) saw us full of cake again and ready for the last loop. Phil had met us there so with his words of encouragement ringing in our ears we headed off again.
A fast descent from Lumbutts and then an absolute beast of a climb. At least a mile, maybe more, of gradients between 18 and 20-odd%. It was ridiculously hard work. At the top I waited for first Martin(a) to come up and then Anthony. And then… nothing. And nothing. And then a guy in a blue waterproof – that must be him. Er no, and the guy hadn’t seen anyone. But hang on, his mate was behind, he’d have seen him. Nope. Desperate phonecalls ensued to be met with voicemail. None of us wanted to ride down it, worried we wouldn’t get up it a second time. After 20 minutes, Martin rang. Somehow he was at HQ, having ridden past the right turn into the monster climb. 20 minutes later he was with us. The route now took us onto the same route as the end of Seasons of the Mist, but in the opposite direction. A real roller coaster of painful hills and then fast descents. And that continued pretty much all the way back.
Overall there must have been 10 climbs with a gradient over 15%, some of which must have been 20%+, and numerous smaller ones.
As somebody who likes hills by the end even I had had enough. My legs were like jelly, my lungs were sore and concentrating was difficult! Even my arms were sore from pulling on the bars up hill and braking hard on the fast descents.
All through the day we had criss-crossed a group of lady riders. As we limped into the HQ at the end as four broken men in a daze, they were sat there very chirpily chatting away. The final demoralisation! But then we realised that we’d done it, which was something to be proud of, and for my own personal satisfaction I didn’t stop on a single hill. Having said how difficult it was my HR did not hit maximum as much as it did last year, hence I guess I’m getting fitter.
The food at the end was welcome and tasty – another audax that puts the Sportives to shame. Chatting to one of the lady riders she mentioned she reads an NCC blog so if that was you Trio, then it’s probably mine. Much respect to her as we passed her in the car as she rode home up yet another hill over towards Bacup.
Yet again the Garmin let me down. The route that was provided was appallingly bad and despite the Garmin showing me my stats it refused to sync them across to the computer. Which meant no map or detailed analysis. I’ve upgraded to 3.3 software again – gulp!
Ride stats : 71.8 miles in 5hrs 58m @ 12mph average. 8900ft of climbing, 4998kcals of energy. Average HR of 137bpm