From West to East. Second year running by bike for the Youth Chair

Completing in May 2017 the Lincsquad three day 170mile Way of the Roses ride from Morecambe to Bridington and having really enjoyed the experience I thought what next.

Then having read Tony England’s report on Coast 2 Coast in Day just over a month later, the seeds had been sown on what a great challenge this was but not really got any further until a colleague mentioned he was thinking of entering and we could possibly form a team from within the company. Interest was growing with an eclectic bunch slowing coming together and a critical mass had been formed willing to take part with some not even owning a bike at this stage!

Nevertheless, entries opened in July and we were booked in with a 13-man team plus support crew to look after the accommodation, we even had our own chef (how pro were we). And that was that really until late October.

The Lincsquad Ladies team for the same event had arranged Spin Classes to run over the winter period, piggy backing on some spare places this was my first go at these strange looking bikes and huge thanks go to Jeff Chappill on delivering these tailored sessions. In between, the time was spent on the turbo using British Cycling training plans as a base programme.

From the 1st January I had a countdown of days running on my office wall to maintain motivation, it showed 173 days to go at this point, ages that I thought! Best though to start thinking about the path to achieving 150 miles in a day coupled with 4500m of climbing and get some long rides under my belt.

So, on the 10th March with 105 days to go came my first ever 100 mile ride, the York-Leeds-York sportive. This was the first real benchmark test coming out of winter and it delivered its promise of a hilly Yorkshire. A very wet start and relatively flat section for the first 40 miles the route once out of Otley though is a climb that seemed to go on forever. At around 4 miles long with parts that attain 13% gradients I reached the top with some satisfaction of achievement keeping a constant cadence all the way up. Rolling in after 8hours 45mins and legs dying over the last 20 miles I was happy to have accomplished the course and first 100.

Next came the Paul Kirk on 1st April (83 days left) and a few of the team had entered to do the 100 mile route which for me turned out to be eventful. I got stopped at Walesby as this being Easter Sunday an egg race (with proper eggs none of that rubber stuff here) was to be held along the main street from the church. The result was bits of hard boiled eggs all over. Next came 3 flats in the space of a mile and a bike nearly being thrown into the verge, this was the closest I came to calling it a day but realised it was important to complete. 30 miles to go head down and onwards, nearly missed the last food station too before finally coming over the line in a prestigious last place.

I had intended to do the Tour of the Peaks but that didn’t happen and all to soon the day came to leave for Seascale. Off we set in convoy a bus loaded with 11 riders due to a couple of injuries which meant they had to withdraw and a van full of bikes and camping equipment. Arriving on site, camp was quickly set up and the evening meal prepared by Joanne Fish was exceptional with a choice of bolognaise or chicken curry (did I mention we had our own chef). So fully fueled, some with beer too, off to bed although most of us gained little sleep before getting up at 3:30am.

A cold start welcomed just under 1000 riders on the day. Pockets filled with flapjack and jelly babies to get me through to the first feedstation, at 5:15am we are through the start line and heading towards Whitby. The team which included Chris Spavin was riding in support of the Candlelighters Trust helping children fight cancer. For Chris this would be his second time in just over a month traversing the country from coast to coast. On the 9th May he ran, jogged and walked the 190 miles from St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay over 6 days and was now attempting to cross 150 miles on bike. The latter attempt was somewhat easier he commented at the end.

Hardknott what a climb and first big test. Mindful to leave a good gap before the person in front just in case they stopped with no warning, lowest gear was engaged and up we went. I made it to the sharp left switchback but at that point decided to walk like many others. On with the cleat covers which were a god send and stopped me sliding down the road as some were. As the top nears if flattens out, back on the bike just before the photographer and up over the top. The valley below looked majestic and the steep decent started. Onto the drops to gain maximum leverage on the brakes and backside hanging off the rear of the saddle to push the weight back and gain some stability. The next climb of Wrynrose came all to quick and I made this one all the way, happy with that!

The ferry this year had broken down a few weeks before and was unable to be repaired in time so a diversion via Ambleside was in place taking us along the eastern side of the lake before picking up the normal route again at Windermere.

39 miles in and Kendal was the first feed station, time to replenish the energy levels. A familiar club member was spotted in the form of Jeff Chappill waiting on the roadside for the arrival of Donna who came in not long after us.

There seemed to be a trend with this events food stations in that each one was placed immediately at the foot of a climb. Up out of Kendal then with the next stop some 25 miles away which would be Hardraw close to the popular town of Hawes and in between some real nice descents and rolling countryside. Listening to others who had gone before, like them I was only thinking of the next feed station distance and this certainly helped break the overall distance down. Reaching Sedbergh with around 49 miles completed, the first of a spate of mechanical issues for one member of the team commenced. Dave Hampshire who had never had a puncture whilst out riding he kept telling us after, ended up repairing four, three on the front and one on the rear plus his chain coming off twice whilst changing down. The support of group riding not only helped here in terms of assisting with the repairs and sharing of spares but also the resolve to get a team member going again.

Into Hardraw and 2nd stage completed, there was Donna now ahead of us. At this point we were made aware of Vikki Wilson’s crash on the descent from Wrynrose which sounded horrific and so pleased she is now on the mend. From Hardraw Donna became an elected member of the group riding all the way to Whitby with us.

The 24 miles of stage 3 to Tunstall again gave rolling countryside with the area looking in splendid form as we rolled through or even walked up a few hills (just to take in the full majesty of the scenery you understand).  89 miles completed in reaching Tunstall and then a reasonably flat section of 22miles until the North Yorkshire Moors.

On the outskirts of Northallerton the normal route was blocked by an accident to one of events riders and police were directing us into the town with some scant directions. Our wishes are with the rider who is reported to be in a serious but stable condition. Jeff who had been appearing at locations throughout the ride to support Donna was again present on the roadside shouting directions to help keep us on track and these were gratefully received.

Adding around 2 miles and now at 111miles completed we crossed the A19 and onto the N. Yorks Moors for the first time towards Osmotherly with views towards Teesside came on reaching the top of yet another good climb. Road conditions on the descent meant a very slow ride down and pleasing to note the organisers had placed a marshal at the very worst point to alert riders.

We reached the last feed station at 5:10pm, I had heard about the pork pies at Ingleby and they were every bit as promised, supplied by a local butcher in Stokesley apparently. Rola cola was also on the table and what a treat to wash down the pies with.

30 minutes later and with 28 miles to go we left for Whitby, its all downhill from here right, not likely this is the N. Yorks Moors. Average speed was down as the route presented hill after hill and then with just over 142 miles completed you go up Limber Hill. A short but steep climb where some locals stand on the roadside cheering but mainly watching the pain show on riders faces as their evening entertainment. A real nice gesture by the organisers that one!

As we reached the main A171 into Whitby at 8:20pm we regrouped for the final run in, hardly a leg turned on the pedals on that last descent all the way down reaching the finishing line at 8:30pm some 15 and a quarter hour after leaving Seascale, 12hrs 11mins moving time and 151miles.

The organisation is superb and having been on the other side of these events fully appreciate what it means to get risk assessment’s submitted, police and local authorities notified, roads closed, signs up, logistics for food stations and marshals to the right places so well done Open Cycling.

Couple of things I would say if you are considering this event. It is hard in places and that was expected but ease the pace a little from your normal riding speed, its more than achievable and more importantly enjoyable with some outstanding scenery. There are a lot of climbs which no one mentions plus it’s good to walk and stretch your legs isn’t it.

The effort given is well worth the reward of achievement.

Below is the British Steel team that took part. To date Chris’s justgiving page has raised over £5,400. Thanks to all that have supported with donations.