Another of Andy Corless’s forays into the Yorkshire Dales, I was looking forward to this one as I’d not ridden it before. That was until the weather took a turn for the worse earlier in the week, and it was forecast to have some rain, possible snow and the obligatory stupid wind. Indeed, on Saturday, Mail Online posted a photo of Middleham, the first control, in a sleet storm.
I was slightly late starting but the first 10 miles or so was up the A59 and I gradually reeled in most of the riders before we peeled off onto the country lanes. I realised I was on roads that were very familiar, albeit usually riding in the opposite direction, as I passed through Gargrave and Cracoe and could see in the distance the tops of the hills covered in a smattering of snow. I made good time to Kettlewell and then immediately hit the cliff-face that is Park Rash. The retro road sign “1 in 4” wasn’t exaggerating, and I huffed and puffed my way up the 2 miles or so of hard climb. My Garmin is set to auto-pause/start at 3.2mph and it was pausing and starting with irritating frequency. Even though my heavy Raleigh has a 30 on the back it was still a grind to get up, and my legs were complaining all the way. It’s safe to say I’m not the climber I was last year!
After a nice fast descent it was up again – Whipperdale Bank and Grinton into the wind before dropping into Middleham and the first control. The weather had been kind up to now, with the signs of spring everywhere. Daffodils, birdsong, lambs, blue skies – it was really nice. Apart from teh bloody wind. Leaving Middleham the route turned directly into the headwind and a steady and relentless climb for around 20 miles up the B6259. It was horrible, demoralising and painful. At one point I stopped to put a rain jacket on as it started to hail. By the time I’d got it on it stopped, and that was the last of the rain/hail for the rest of the day. I was running out of energy as I crested the peak at 1700ft – the wind dulling the speed of my descent towards the next control and food in Nateby.
More importantly, after I’d eaten, the route turned and the wind was behind me, making life a lot easier. There was one remaining big climb, up the Coal Road, where again the steepness, weight of the bike and my lack of climbing prowess meant it was a real struggle. It was a relief that the majority of the last 20 odd miles was downhill with a tailwind, with the sun shining, and I arrived back having only seen a couple of other riders all day – it’s getting tiring and boring riding 200km solo continually.
Finally, I have to say the weather was great and it showed the Yorkshire Dales in all their glory. They are going to look fantastic at the Tour de France.
Ride stats : 128 miles in 8hrs 39mins at 14.8mph average. 10,186ft climbing, 6,179kcals used. Average HR 138bpm.