As part of my preparation for LEL, this weekend I had planned 2 back-to-back hilly 200k audaxes as a test to see how well I could recover. The weather forecast for the weekend suggested that Saturday would be a day of cold and showers (what’s new) but that Sunday would be bright and sunny. In preparation I fitted SKS Raceblade Long detachable mudguards to my Canyon, as after last week I was determined not to be hauling my heavy winter bike up and down mountains for two days. Disappointingly, after the two weekend rides I discovered the front guard had split – which is pretty shoddy quality if you ask me – and I will be seeking a replacement.
In closer detail on Saturday, there was a line of cloud and rain that stopped just south of Manchester, which seemed to suggest I may get away with it as the first ride started in Willington and headed south-west to Wales, before looping back. In theory, it would be mid-afternoon before I got soaked! As seems usual at the moment, there was a strong westerly wind forecast.
It was cold and overcast on Saturday morning, but not too cold that I couldn’t get away with knee warmers and expose the bottom half of my legs to the elements. I’d put several warm layers on, and my winter weatherproof gloves. I saw a few familiar faces at the start – Mike, Steve and Simon from Saddleworth Clarion, Andy from Seamons CC, and regular randonneur Cecil – before I set off and headed south-west. Despite the wind, progress was swift. It’s a relatively flat route until Llangollen so I stopped at the Prospect Team Rooms for something to eat, before the first real climbs of the day. Riding round the Llangollen Panorama is a beautiful route, with stunning views down across the valley. The weather had brightened and I was actually feeling a bit too warm. The wind on the exposed panorama was pretty tough and I was thankful when we dropped down a very steep, narrow road into the valley below, and then pretty much followed it to Corwen. After another brief stop we hit the two big climbs of the day in the Berwyns. Both were relatively long but not too steep, and offered stunning views in the relatively nice weather. I could imagine, however, they would be pretty soul-destroying in bad weather so for once I count myself lucky! Some big descents allowed time to recover and by the time I hit Chirk most of the uphill stuff was behind me, leaving a pleasant, wind-assisted ride back through the Cheshire lanes. It was nice to meet Andy at the café in Chirk, who had spotted the name on my bike and reads this blog. And, to cap a good day, not a single spot of rain fell on me!
Ride stats: 128 miles in 7hrs 44m at 16.5mph average. 7,862ft climb, 6,254kcals used. Average HR 137bpm
On Sunday morning I awoke to tired legs and tired mind, and I wasn’t feeling particularly confident as I drove to Claughton to the start of the Fleet Moss 212. It included some big climbs – Trough of Bowland (although what I consider the easy side), Lamb & Tatham, Dentdale, Fleet Moss out of Hawes and Chaigley as the sting in the tail. After exchanging niceties with Nephy from Saddleworth Clarion I was running slightly behind schedule, and ended up setting off slightly behind the rest of the field. Luckily (!) the route started climbing almost straight away, so I soon caught up with the group. One of my favourite roads when it isn’t tipping it down, I meandered up the Trough of Bowland and then enjoyed the fast descent to Slaidburn and the first cafe. Most didn’t stop but I had a quick piece of cake and then pressed on over a series of climbs and fast descents until we came to Dent. For the second time this weekend somebody spotted the name on my bike and said hello! I rode with them for a while. I had a sandwich for lunch in the wonderful Stone Barn café before setting off towards Dentdale. As I rode along beside the stream lots of riders went past me – and I realised I’d got caught up in a sportive following a similar route. As we came to the bottom of the viaduct towering hundreds of feet above us I knew that the road would rear upwards over Dentdale. It’s a long and very steep climb and sees you looking back down at the top of the viaduct. The sportive riders were struggling – I passed most of those who had whizzed by on the flat and we parted routes as I turned left and took the long descent down into Hawes. The sun was out now so I dispensed with arm warmers and made my way up Fleet Moss. What a difference a week makes. No headwind and my good bike meant that although it was hard I got up it relatively easily – my maximum heartrate on the climb being 11bpm less than last week. The descent from Fleet Moss and the road that winds down the valley following the river into Kettlewell is probably my favourite cycling road in the country. In nice weather it is spectacular – fast, exhilarating and with stunning scenery. And so it was on Sunday. The only minor irritation is that nice weather brings the Sunday drivers and looney motorcyclists out. I followed a couple of riders into Gragrave and the Dalesman café for some more food and then set off on the final leg. My legs were starting to feel it now and although relatively mild, the westerly breeze made things a little bit more difficult as I was heading mainly west. The final climbs near to Longridge glider club, albeit small, were more of an endurance than an enjoyment and I eventually gratefully rolled into the HQ, whereupon I was served a cup of tea and some sandwhiches by the mother-in-law of Ian Clarke, the National Clarion secretary!
Ride stats: 134 miles in 8hrs 38m at 15.5mph average. 10,343ft climb, 6,152kcals used. Average HR 127bpm