Last year this ride took place in torrential rain, and it was an ordeal to say the least. Today the weather was clear and bright, but with a strong easterly wind. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling particularly spritely after my Time Trial exertions yesterday evening and I started slowly. It was pretty tough going as we headed north through Settle, passing people parking and warming up for the 3 peaks cross race. The climb up towards Hawes ends in a descent, which is typically a freewheel at 30mph job. Today with the wind it was pedal and struggle to maintain 20mph downhill.
Darting through Hawes and out the other side, the route turned right up Buttertubs, into the wind again. Passing the 16% sign I passed a group of club riders struggling up and then the gradient eases slightly over the cattle-grid – but this is exposed moorland so the wind neutralised that! Of course at the top the views were excellent but I couldn’t help thinking that it’s a really narrow road, with a sheer drop to one side. Quite how 200 Tour de France riders are going to fit in that space in 2014 I’m not sure! Anyway, after a fast descent down the 25% north side it was cafe time at Thwaite – for a bacon butty!
Immediately after Thwaite there is a 25% climb up to Askrigg which then levels slightly and takes a single track road weaving up through moorland, covered with ferns and grazing sheep. The sun was poking through the clouds at this point, and the scene was simply beautiful. The hill was not.
A final ride directly into the headwind saw us turn at Pately Bridge – up the most god-awful climb yet. A main road, with multiple 16% signs, it just goes on and on, but at least the wind was behind now. A final stop in How Stean Gorge and the ride back was relatively painless – apart from my legs hurting, feeling slightly sick from hunger even though I couldn’t force anything down, and some pain in my left knee. I’m hoping that’s nothing more serious than overuse.
If you want a challenge, through some fantastic countryside, and the opportunity to ride at least some of the roads the TdF will ride next year, then get your name down for 2014.
Ride stats : 130 miles in 8hrs 22min at 15.5mph average. 10,207ft ascent, 6,501kcals used. Average HR 134bpm. Sore knees – 1.