I’d been looking forward to this audax because it’s one I’ve not done before and the weather forecast was for a nice day – which have been few and far between recently. It’s organised by West Pennine Road Club and starts from Rochdale, heading north through Todmorden to Settle and Kirby Lonsdale, before turning back via Lancaster, Longridge, skirting Blackburn and back into Rochdale via Edenfield. There were lots of road club and tri riders at the start, as well as a few Clarion sections – Bury, Calder, Saddleworth and of course, Neil and I from North Cheshire.
I spoke to Peter at the start and he told me that the pace would be fierce as the road club riders blasted off, and he was right. It was relatively slow getting out of Rochdale but then the pace picked up, with a very fast and large peloton turning towards Todmorden and then gently climbing out towards Burnley. It was cold, perhaps 1˚C, but the skies were clear and crisp. As we skirted Burnley we came to a roundabout. I was sitting near the rear of the peloton – a function of my heavy winter bike accelerating like an oil tanker – and as I approached I saw 3 or 4 guys on the ground and starting to gingerly get up. As I picked my way through them I noticed Neil on the other side of the barrier looking a bit beat up. I stopped and went round and it seems that somebody went down on the adverse camber, bringing several riders with him. Neil avoided them but was going too fast to make the roundabout and hit the barrier, going over the top. He was relatively okay, as was his bike, so we continued. By now we’d lost the fast peloton, with no chance of getting back to it, so we pushed on in a small group of 3 or 4 riders.
We picked up several stragglers as we headed north and there was one particularly long climb which was pretty testing. The bike I’ve been using over winter I’m starting to hate. It’s a Boardman Team CX cross bike, and as a training aid I’m hoping it’s going to prove valuable come the Spring. It’s very heavy, made heavier still by me fitting a pannier rack at the back. The wheels are rubbish, and shod with 700×32 Schwalbe Durano tyres, which stick to the road like treacle, and the Avid BB5 disc brakes are adjustable between always on and screeching like a cat on heat, and never on and me screaming like a big girl because I can’t stop. I managed to stick with everyone on the long climb but on the descent they dropped me, as my bike simply couldn’t keep up. I spent the next 5 miles or so trying to hook back on and failing, although I wasn’t too far behind at the first café stop in Settle. Neil decided to push on as he didn’t want to seize up where he’d come off, but Steve from Saddleworth and I stayed for some food. At this point we’d done 43 miles, with 2500ft of climbing and averaged 17.4mph.
The next stage took us up to Kirby Lonsdale, and was relatively quick and rolling road. A big chunk of it was on the A65 which although a fast road was also home to large HGV’s and at times a bit hairy.
We’d had the benefit of a small tailwind and now, as we turned south, that became a slight headwind. We slowed up a bit and my bike was making some terrible noises, which I thought cam from the front disc but turned out to be coming from the bottom bracket. Instead of heading through the centre of Lancaster we turned off at Caton via Quernmore, which cut both that out and a big chunk of A6.
The next control in Scorton came at the right time as I was starving. At 86 miles our average had dropped to 17.1mph.
The final section took us through countryside I know well – Longridge, Ribchester, Wilpshire and skirting past Blackburn onto the Haslingden Old Road, a long and painful drag up to Haslingden. The bike wasn’t making as much noise and up the hills I was going well, with Steve sticking not too far behind. The final big hill was up to Owd Bets at Edenfield which was painful. Lights on at this point as we rolled down into Rochdale, we hit a load of traffic. Not only is Rochdale being dug up to accomodate the new tram lines, but the football team had been playing at home and we were going past Spotland just as the match finished. Who knew there were enough Rochdale fans to create a traffic jam?
At the end the average had dropped to 16.1mph and I was pretty knackered, but it was a ride I needed to blow the winter cobwebs off, and hopefully kickstart the faster LEL training. You are very welcome to sponsor me here.
Ride stats: 128.7 miles in 7hrs 59m at 16.1mph average. 6472ft of climbing, 6559 kcals of energy, average HR 141bpm