Cycling in Lanzarote

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I was allowed to hire a bike for two lots of 3 days on our holiday to Lanzarote (thanks Liz!) and so I contacted Revolution Bikes who were absolutely brilliant.  I’d highly recommend these guys – they are so helpful and the bike, a carbon Planet X, was great.  I did some research and came up with six routes prior to leaving.  A quick check with Revolution and I had to amend all of them – many of the roads I’d chosen were dirt tracks, even though they appear on google maps. So my first tip is stick to roads labelled LZnnn – and more than likely you’ll be fine.  Or check out my routes on strava – apart from when I went wrong or the mapping software played up a bit they are fine.  I’d last been to Lanzarote in 2003 and travelled the island in a hire car. I couldn’t remember it being hilly, and it isn’t alp-like, but it’s rarely flat.  I’d classify it as rolling.  The biggest hills are maybe 1,500ft, but the prevailing northerly wind is hard work!  Unless you are heading south, there are few free rides in Lanzarote.  It’s ideal for training.

Here’s the whole 340 or so miles I rode in a little under a minute!


Day 1 – I elected for a shortish route from my Puerto del Carmen base. This took me up through Timanfaya to Club LaSanta and then back down through Teguise

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Day 2 – I followed the cycle path from PdC for over 10 miles along the coast, through Arrecife.  This is completely separate from the traffic, it’s wide, well-surfaced and safe – something the UK could do with a lot more of.

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The cycle path also passes the very end of the airport runway!

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I met an Italian cyclist called Marco in Costa Teguise so it was nice to have company for the majority of the ride

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Day 3 – West to El Golfo and then followed the road down the Playa Blanca.  Then a monster headwind north plus a long and steep climb up to Femes – very hard work into the wind!

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Day 4 – Longest ride including a ride along the coast as far North as possible and up to Mirador del Rio, then a decent climb out of Haria followed by a tailwind all the way home!

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Coast road north

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View from Mirador del Rio

Day 5 – Similar ride to day 1 but a different route back.  Started to feel it in my legs today and my HR monitor packed in part way round so I got some very strange readings.

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Day 6 – Back up to Haria for my biggest day of climbing with rides up both sides of arguably Lanzarote’s highest profile climb – the road out of Haria.

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Top of the climb looking back at Haria

Pictures – some of the pictures I took

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Videos – some videos taken from the rear mounted GoPro camera on my bike

A Game of Two Halves

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Hopey New Year is a 104km audax with 1.75AAA points.  I was on my own for this one and was off on time and heading south.  The first 30 or so miles flew by and by the halfway point I was averaging 17.3mph.  It was really very pleasant, and I even had a fox running along the road in front of me for a short distance.  And then we left Ashbourne, climbed the big hill out and turned north west directly into a tremendous blocking headwind.

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Spot the turn into the headwind...

At that point my speed dropped to around 6mph going uphill, and on the flat it was barely above 9mph, grinding away in the small ring!  At one point I was pedalling hard downhill and managing 15mph.  The Windy Ridge Cafe (aptly name) couldn’t come kick enough for some welcome food and respite from the wind.  Each rider coming in was looking almost shell-shocked, but I took the opportunity to chat with audax stalwarts from Saddleworth Clarion and Derby Mercury.

Leaving the cafe it was a short push until a 90° turn made making headway easier but now meant there was a vicious sidewind.  At one point on a descent I thought I’d lost it as the wind started an oscillation in my front wheel that genuinely scared the living daylights out of me.

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5,664ft of ascent

About 13 miles out from the finish there was a massive bang and my rear wheel instantly deflated.  Fantastic.  When I got the wheel off I was pretty concerned as the tyre had a half inch split in it.  I changed the tube and put a couple of patches inside and outside the tyre.

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The final 13 miles was nerve-wracking, wondering if the tyre would split further.  This is the second Schwalbe Ultremo DD that’s done this to me and I suspect that the Speedracer mudguards I use rub slightly and then punctures actually tear the tyre.  Regardless, the mudguards are now off (apologies to anyone riding behind me) and I’ll be changing to a different brand of tyre.

About a quarter of a mile from the end the tyre started to go down but I limped to the finish and realised my legs were absolutely battered.  All good miles in the legs!

Ride stats : 66 miles in 4hrs 50m @ 13.7mph average.  5,664ft of ascent and 3,675kcals used.  Ft/Mile climb ratio = 85.8


Macc Monster 2011

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Remember - the camera adds 10lbs...

On Saturday I was having a bouncing competition with my youngest daughter (don’t ask – she’s a bit childish like that) when I had to stop because of a pain in my lower back.  I thought nothing more of it and it went away.  Until the first real climb of the Macc Monster when it started aching quite badly, and didn’t really stop for the rest of the ride.  Last year I rode the Macc Monster in bright October sunlight, riding in shorts and short sleeves and enjoying a really nice day round the hills of the Macclesfield Forest and edge of the Peaks.  This year it was windy and wet, but still as enjoyable, with the Kidscan charity organising another super event.

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7,087ft climbing

I mistakenly got up an hour earlier than I needed to having misread the registration time so I was there nice and early, with the weather damp but not too bad.  This is a well-organised sportive so we were off pretty much bang on time in a 200 strong peloton heading out from the HQ.  The field rapidly thinned out as we immediately started hitting the hills and I made my way through the field settling (and staying) in the first 30 or so riders.  We seemed to battle a headwind for most of the ride which somehow seems unfair considering it’s two loops but certainly as we hit the peaks the wind was blowing hard.

Not far from, and at the halfway feed station, I started chatting to a chap who introduced himself as Adam who had just joined North Cheshire Clarion.  He looks like the racing snake variety of cyclist and is apparently into time-trials so watch out Giles next year!  Adam, if you are reading this, welcome to the club.

The feed station had the usual basic, but very welcome, food such as banana, flapjack, malt loaf and water/energy drinks and I was soon on my way again.

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Photo does not convey how wet and windy it was

The last 2 climbs were pretty tough.  The headwind was now brutal and the rain was being driven into our faces and was actually painful, especially up to the Cat and Fiddle.  But this is a great route and soon we were sweeping down descents towards the finish, and a complimentary steak sandwich and cup of coffee.

I keep recommending these rides – this one and the Peak 100.  They are great value, with well signed and interesting routes, good organisation and value for money.  And any proceeds go to the charity.  Give them a go next year – I will see you there.

By the way, if you like the photos they were taken by Rick Robson at CycleSportPhotos – I think they’re good despite the subject model – especially given the weather conditions.

Ride stats : 64 miles in 4hrs 40m @ 13.7mph average.  7087ft climbing, average HR 150bpm and 4099kcals used.


“Who Brought the Budgie?” – 3 Loops Audax



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Another Sunday and another early start for a 200k audax.  This was one of John Perrin’s rides which meant that he opened his house to a bunch of audaxers and provided his usual fantastic hospitality – hot drinks, toast, croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast.  Graeme, Anthony and I set off, heading west and directly into a headwind that was gusting quite strongly.  The route took us out the Ice Cream Farm at Tarporley and then did 2 loops from there, one north and one south.  The final loop was completed by the ride back to John’s at Macclesfield.

Despite the headwind we made really quick progress, riding the relatively flat course pretty quickly.

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4193ft ascent

The stops at the Ice Cream Farm were pretty welcome to rest and refuel and it also broke the ride into easy chunks.

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The wind was great when behind but painful when riding into it.  Anthony had his aero wheel on due to mechanical problems with his other wheel, so sidewinds were “entertaining”.  The last haul back to Macclesfield was pretty tiring being mostly uphill, and involved several bits of offroad riding!  Anthony got a slow puncture that needed changing, and bizarrely when I got home I found my rear tyre had also gone flat.

Overall a good ride – we had a great laugh and it was nice not to have any hills of note!  And we beat 8hrs!

Ride stats : 132 miles in 7hrs 59m @ 16.4mph average.  4193ft of climbing, average HR 140bpm, 6217kcals energy used



World’s End Audax – 210km

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A wet and windy day saw us gather at the house of the organiser John for this audax.  With brilliant hospitality his family had been drafted in to serve hot drinks and breakfast to 30-odd audaxers!

The route took us through many familiar lanes and roads directly into a headwind blowing from West to East.  There was the odd section of road new to me – for example a canal path into Chester – before we stopped at our first cafe, the Blue Moon in Chester for scrambled eggs or beans on toast.

There were 5 North Cheshire Clarion riders on this audax and at this point we split up, with Anthony and I riding a faster pace into the wind.  A longish but enjoyable climb took us up towards World’s End and the bleakest and windiest moor I’ve seen for a long time.

Waiting for us on the descent in a car park was organiser John in his camper van, serving tea, coffee, sandwiches and cake.  Suitably refreshed we pushed on (it was cold) crossing a very slippery ford at the bottom of the descent, before climbing back to Llangollen Panorama and some beautiful views.

The wind was behind us now and we made good time but were tiring.  Mentally anything over 100 miles is difficult and this one had a longish 20+ mile uphill drag at the end.

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5459ft of climbing

As we finished it turned out that me and Anthony were 2nd and 3rd finishers.  The first guy had finished 2 hours before us – unbelievable!  We were met with the same fantastic hospitality as at the start, with soup, chilli, apple pie, cake and rice pudding available for hungry riders.

All in all a tough but enjoyable day and yet another example of how audaxes beat sportives hands down.

Ride stats : 132 miles in 9hrs @ 14.7mph.  5459ft climbing, average HR 125bpm 5820kcals energy.

A Tale of 2 Halves

995ft ascent

North Cheshire Clarion training ride this morning with Anthony and Graeme.  On the way over I noticed that the car was getting buffeted on the motorway and the trees were swaying quite viciously.  Great, the wind again!

Today’s route was pretty flat albeit with one climb out of Alderley Edge (near Swiss Hill), however the northerly wind made the first half pretty tough.  The climb itself was good fun and we went past another group of cyclists, one of whom was riding a beautiful titanium Sabbath that he told me was on its maiden ride, and came highly recommended.

The stop at the Wizard cafe was welcome after the climb and they had a log fire burning which helped dry some of our kit as we sat there steaming.  Fortified with fruit loaf and some of Anthony’s home made flapjack we were leaving as the social group arrived looking very muddy – somebody obviously didn’t have mudguards!

The second half of the ride was somewhat wind assisted which meant we were able to blast round the lanes which were relatively traffic free, and we were pretty lucky in that it didn’t really rain at all.  An interesting statistic that illustrates the effect of the wind – the first 20 miles we averaged 15.2mph, the 26 miles on the second half of the ride we averaged 17.9mph.

Ride stats : 46.2miles in 2hrs 46m @ 16.6mph average.  995ft of climbing, 2269kcals of energy used and average HR of 144bpm

Blowing a Hoolie…

I have to say I have no idea what that means – I’ve just heard Adam and Eleanor use it to describe a windy day.  And windy it was today.

1361ft of ascent

It was the first North Cheshire Clarion social ride I’ve been on since Mark’s accident.  Cutting to the chase, since then I’ve avoided riding in larger groups, sticking to rides with smaller numbers.  I’ll not go into the reasons why but there were 12 out this morning and I was a touch uneasy, especially with the wind as strong as it was.

Anyway, there was a significant headwind for the first 20 miles or so and I got a good workout pulling a couple of big shifts on the front.  The rain, however, didn’t make an appearance and it was pretty warm so not too bad really.

The cafe we were meant to go to was closed so after threatening to throw Graeme in the canal for choosing the route, we made our way on and found an even better place called The Galley at Aquaduct Marina.  Great food and great service – I’m sure we’ll be back, probably in summer!

On the way back something happened that I’ve never encountered before.  We had to stop and allow a herd (flock?) of ducks and geese waddle across the lane to the pond on the other side!

The last part of the ride was wind assisted in a good way so wasn’t a big effort.  Most importantly we got everyone round safely.

For me this has been a good weekends riding – a total of 124 miles!

Ride stats : 72 miles in 4hrs 52m @ 14.8mph. 1361ft of ascent, 3407kcals energy used, average HR 131bpm

High Intensity Weekend

I guess it’s all relative.  To many faster, fitter, younger riders it probably won’t seem like much, but this weekend has been pretty high intensity for me.  And that’s on top of a week where I’ve probably overcooked things.  Last Saturday I tackled the Hopey New Year audax which was very tough in itself.  I took Sunday off and then played football on Monday – on a side with a man down.  Tuesday I took off and then did my normal commute (12.5 miles each way) on Wednesday.  Thursday it was football (again a man down) and Friday my commute.  Geordie Graeme from North Cheshire Clarion had mentioned a Saturday afternoon ride so myself and Paul turned up.  I thought it would be a good warm up for Sunday’s new format “training” club run, which I’d volunteered to lead.  As it was Paul and Graeme drove a pretty fast pace into the wind, and as we didn’t stop, I got my nutrition horribly wrong and was bonking badly with 4 or 5 miles to go, slowing the guys considerably.

Saturday route - NO CAFE STOP!!

707ft ascent

Saturday evening was all about trying to recover.  My “warmup” had really hit my legs so I was into an ice-bath when I got home and then on with the compression tights, much to the amusement of the family.

There has been some discussion about the NCC Sunday club runs recently.  They are billed as social and open to anyone, fitting nicely with the ethos of the club itself.  The trouble is, fitness-wise, I’ve felt myself going backwards as they don’t stretch me at all.  Last summer and autumn it was okay because there was always an audax or a sportive that helped keep the levels up.  But after November, and coupled with the white-off that was December, I’ve gone backwards at a rate of knots.  So we now have sister rides to the social rides – currently known as training rides.  Today was the first and I was leading.  We set off 15 minutes ahead of the social ride, on the same route, such that anybody struggling can be swept up by the social ride.

Sunday route - cake at Lavender Farm

616ft ascent

Including me there were 6 riders up for the inaugural ride, and off we went.  If anything the weather was worse and the wind slightly stronger, blowing West to East – so into our faces from the off.

The ride went very well indeed, with people taking turns on the front and keeping up a decent pace.  As we arrived at the cafe stop after 30 miles we were averaging 17.6mph.  Some coffee & walnut cake helped refill the tank and we set off back.  By now we were turning back into the wind and the heavens opened with cold, driving rain directly into our faces.  As opposed to Saturday where I bonked, today I got within a couple of miles of the end and my legs had decided enough was enough, and I gradually slipped off the back .  Anthony sportingly dropped back and pulled me back on but my legs were shot at the end.

Saturday HR profile - average 156bpm

Sunday HR profile - 162bpm average

HR Legend

The two HR profiles show the level of intensity I was working at on both days.  To put it all into context, in the 603 rides where I’ve collected data, these were 3rd and 8th highest average heart-rate, which I think is either a measure of how my fitness has tailed off, or it shows that whilst I’m pretty good at long distance and endurance, I’m not so good at high intensity.  Put it this way, I feel a long way off the 18.6mph average that Anthony and I did on the Manchester 100.  It’s probably a mixture of both if I think about it.  I’m just not used to these higher intensity rides and therefore struggle when we get towards the end of them.

And that is what the training rides are all about.  Hopefully these will develop my fitness and help increase my ability to work at a higher intensity for longer.  That said, I also think I need to realise that I’m not as young as I used to be, and not get frustrated when I can’t do everything I want to do, at the intensity that I want to do it.

My legs are aching now, and my right knee is very, very sore.  I think I’ll listen to my body now and have a couple of days off.  Hopefully everyone else enjoyed the training ride and it will be the first of many.

Ride Stats : Saturday 43.6 miles in 2hrs 38m @ 16.5mph, 2512kcals used

Ride Stats : Sunday 42.8 miles in 2hrs 30m @ 17mph, 2517kcals used


Colomba Chemo Classic

Okay I’ll hold my hands up.  I underestimated this ride.  I thought it would be easier than a couple of others I’d completed recently and I was wrong.  More on that later.  The Colomba Chemo Classic is a charity sportive in aid of Cancer Research, starting from Richmond in North Yorkshire.  The very reasonable entry fee of £15 also entitled you to a £15 discount on the fine jerseys the Colomba Cycle Company sell, modelled by me in the inset picture.  These are quality Merino wool jerseys and I would recommend them highly.

So it was a 6am start for me this morning to drive there where I met two other North Cheshire Clarion riders – Andy and Martin.  After last nights gales I was hoping the wind had died down, and it had – it wasn’t gale force but still strong enough to be worrying.  The starting organisation was excellent and we were soon registered and off and running.  Straight into a fierce headwind!  Which lasted for about 30 miles, and then died down as we turned for home and it should have been on our backs!

Parts of the route were quite familiar from the Tan Hill Challenge Audax I did in August, and as usual the Yorkshire Dales never fails to impress with beautiful scenery and relatively quiet roads.  Once the wind had died, the odd shower subsided and the sun started shining.

5655ft of ascent

The wind took an awful lot of energy out of my legs, and I felt sluggish and heavy.  The first big climb started at about 15 miles into the wind.  We hit the summit at 26 miles, including a couple of 8-9% sections and culminating with a final push up a 14% incline.  This was Park Rash the other way round.  Scary moment number 1 came on the descent which included a -21% section into a tight bend.  I seriously thought I wasn’t going to scrub enough speed off and that I’d end up over the barrier.  After what seemed like an age, but was clearly only a few seconds, the Swisstop Green blocks managed to slow me enough to get round.  Scary moment number 2 was losing the back-end on another descent as I tried to scrub speed off.  Thankfully, despite my dad’s moans about my tyres, years of skidding practice as a kid mean I’m quite adept at controlling them.

The first couple of climbs I went up with Andy, but by the end he was putting considerable distance between us on the up bits.  He’s a strong rider but I’m normally a bit closer than I was today.  Martin did himself proud being very close behind and getting up every hill.

Another big 11% climb and then we dropped into the feed station at 40 miles for a welcome respite.  Again, very well organised with plenty of free food and drink.  Straight after this it was climbing again with a 2.5 mile 12% hill.  Descending from that we were faced with 2 direction signs – labelled Easy and Hard.  Of course we took the hard one which took us almost immediately up a 16.5% hill.  My new Speedracer Mk2 mudguards sheared off at the front halfway up which was nice.  My legs were stiff with cramp at this point too – something which has never happened to me on a bike before.  One final 12%-er and we descended back into Richmond to the HQ.  Hot and cold food and drinks again free and great organisation meant it was a good finish to a challenging ride.

So to the stats.  Total time out was 5hrs 25m with ride time of 4hrs 39m to give a riding average of 12.9mph for the 60 miles.  5655ft of ascent and  4307 kcals of energy used.  I genuinely thought this ride wouldn’t be as hard as Seasons of Mist or the Macc Monster and I guess the wind had something to do with it.

Colomba HR chart - 156bpm average, 192bpm maximum

Season of Mist HR chart - 140bpm average, 186bpm maximum

Macc Monster HR chart - 148bpm average, 186bpm maximum

You can see the effect the wind and conditions had.  Both SOM and Macc Monster had more climbing (1400ft and 900ft respectively) and were slightly longer and yet my HR was in the red far more today, with both a higher average and a higher maximum.

Scary moment number 3 came when cleaning my bike.  I put the bike on the stand and spun the rear wheel via the crank.  Hitting the brake to stop it I noticed that the brake pushed the wheel off axis and then it stuck against the brake blocks.  It seems when I swapped to my winter wheels I hadn’t quite tightened the QR enough.  I wonder if some of the problem today was a rubbing  brake block at the rear?

My lesson from today is that the NCC social club runs are not providing me with enough of a challenge to even let me stand still.  I feel like I’m going backwards fitness-wise.  So I’m going to have to have a re-think about what rides I attend and when I need to go out on my own for some hard training work. It’s clear I need it again.

On a more positive note, I’ll probably do this again next year and recommend it highly to others.  A good, challenging route, great organisation, a worthy cause and money off a great jersey.  What more could you want?

Macc Monster

Around 140 riders gathered in Macclesfield for the Macc Monster; a ride organised to support KidsCan, a very worthy  cancer charity.  The entry fee was a quite high £25 but it very quickly became apparent that this was very good value  indeed. Prior to the day, the  organisers had sent out an excellent set of information including route guide, profile and  description of the hills (more later) and  instructions about the day.  A GPX file was also made available for those of us  who are Garmin-enabled.

Plenty of parking at the HQ, ample facilities and sign-on was very smooth indeed, with each rider being given an Alpen  bar and a  choice of SiS powder or Energy Gel.  In addition, we were given a voucher for food and drink at the end.

The mass start at a fraction after 9am saw us turn immediately into the first hill of the day out of Macclesfield.  I have to say that the  route was absolutely beautiful. Although it was a windy day, it was bright and sunny and the route took in some amazing countryside and breathtaking views – some of the best that Cheshire and the Peak District have to offer.  And, added bonus, considering it was a really nice day the roads selected had little traffic on them.

The first feed stop was equally well organised.  More gels and powders, loads of water, tea/coffee, bananas, malt loaf and cake – a really good selection. As I mentioned the hills had been set out in a  document that was emailed before the event – I’ve included the relevant details here.


Start @ mile 0.1 Finish @ mile 2.0 Distance 1.9 Elevation at start 450ft Elevation at finish 8000ft Vertical ascent 350ft An easy start to the day.


Start @ mile 4.7 Finish @ mile 6.7 Distance 2.0 Elevation at start 660ft Elevation at finish 1200ft Vertical ascent 580ft First proper climb, selections forming.


Start @ mile 8.2 Finish @ mile 10.2 Distance 2.0 Elevation at start 870ft Elevation at finish 1544ft Vertical ascent 675ft Stunning, unbroken views to the right, famous Windgather Rocks to the left.


Start @ mile 12.4 Finish @ mile 15.1 Distance 2.7 Elevation at start 960ft Elevation at finish 1550ft Vertical ascent 590ft Our favourite, this climb has everything.


Start @ mile 19.6 Finish @ mile 20.8 Distance 1.2 Elevation at start 780ft Elevation at finish 1150ft Vertical ascent 370ft Surprisingly difficult for such a short climb.


Start @ mile 25.1 Finish @ mile 26.7 Distance 1.6 Elevation at start 390ft Elevation at finish 945ft Vertical ascent 555ft Through the trees, then hugging the escarpment to the summit.


Start @ mile 38.8 Finish @ mile 39.9 Distance 1.1 Elevation at start 995ft Elevation at finish 1532ft Vertical ascent 540ft A brute. Featureless and open, broken many a poor soul.


Start @ mile 50.0 Finish @ mile 53.6 Distance 3.6 Elevation at start 930ft Elevation at finish 1680ft Vertical ascent 720ft Varied, limestone gorge to start, giving way to moorland and the (in)famous Cat and Fiddle PH.

6541ft of ascent

Max gradient 13.7%

The hills came thick and fast and were somewhat relentless.  They were advertised as 7,400ft of ascent but my GPS software made it 6,541ft.  Either way, it was a lot!  There were some tricky sections but the worst was No. 7 above, Thorncliffe.  You actually start going up at around 37 miles and don’t actually stop until 41!  As the guide says, it is very open and the wind was howling down it directly into our faces.  The worst part of the climb is nearly 14% and into a headwind it was perhaps the most unpleasant experience I’ve had on a bike this year.  Horrible, horrible, horrible.  Still, I made it up but at great cost to my legs, which felt like someone else’s for about 5 miles afterwards!

However, with uphill comes downhill.  Today’s ride had some of the best descents I’ve ridden.  Absolute screamers and I hit 45.8mph at peak, but the best one was between mile 17 and mile 19 where my average speed was 34mph!  Brilliant!

At the finish there was a burger van waiting for us – so I used my voucher for a steak sandwich and diet coke.  Like I said – great value.

Overall, an excellent ride.  Somebody at the end told me that the guy who organised it, from PEAK cyclesport, had only organised one before.  If that’s true then chapeau to you sir because it was really well done.

Ride stats : 63.63miles in 4hrs 43mins at 13.5mph average.  6541ft of climbing and 4,018 kcals used