So I’ve got a ride programmed in, meet the Velo lads n lasses in Alston Cumbria for 09:30 sharp; the ride is from Alston up to Hartside Pass (1904ft) down the other side to Knock and then up the private road which is known as Great Dun Fell back down and up Hartside for a second time and down into Alston c50 miles and a planned 6000 plus ft. of climbing
Its recovery week and I’ve just finished a hard week of training and come off night shifts, the problem is “ I just cant be ars@d”, mojo has gone and Id rather not be up this early to take the dog out in the rain just so I can fuel up with a big enough breakfast for what lies ahead. I feel guilty not going but know if I don’t bother Ill probably regret it.
After turning to my other half I have a little moan and guess what she is feeling the same, last weeks training zapped us both, a hard week at work and here we go again. The decision is lets turn up and if we feel the same when we get there we just come back home, agreed.
So we get there, set the bikes up and six of us head straight up and up some more from Alston to Hartside, its now that time when there’s not much chat, sit in a rhythm, spin the wheels at as a high cadence as I can muster and chillax, the roads are great, the weathers ok (for now) and to be honest I feel good, the clouds over my head are lifting.
We summit Hartside, home of leather clad fat saddled bikers and C2C challengers, I look up from the tarmac and feel a sense of achievement and take in the magnificent views across the Solway Firth to Scotland Helvellyn, Great Gable and Skiddaw. We regroup and start the ascent, smooth, twisting switchbacks and no pedaling, I’m enjoying this, a nice boost of adrenalin which is more effective than the caffeine gel I took before the first ascent and I’m smiling again.
We continue to ride over rolling landscape for about 15 more miles and spot the big white golf ball on the top of the summit known as Great Dun Fell. Great Dun Fell is recorded as one of the best climbs in England, frequently referred to as the UK’s Mont Ventoux. It runs for a length of 7.45 km, with a height gain of 2093ft. It starts out difficult right away and only gets worse as we progress. There’s one hell of a headwind, the mist has come down and it is wet and slippy underneath, chatter and bravado that previously filled the dales is now being used up to push the pedals round, absolute silence. That is until we hit a 25% climb when my heart decides to ask my brain why didn’t we stay in bed, its bouncing out of my chest and I’m puffing like an asthmatic, keep going, seriously keep going!!
The summit is in sight, its not in reach but its in sight, half of me is saying you’ve nailed this the other is cursing and asks if can I keep going? Last few hundred meters and boom I’m thinking this is good, we’ve done it, one final push and I’m there.
I can’t wax lyrical on views from the top as the mist interrupted those and it’s freezing cold and blowing a wholly. None of this detracts from a team photo and we pose accordingly knowing that the descent will be dodgy but at least we won’t have to pedal. Brakes screech on carbon rims as we edge are way down like beginners on a red run but then the mist clears and the roads look drier and with a bit more confidence, here we go; what an amazing descent flying between fields of sheep on a narrow road in the middle of nowhere. We regroup at the bottom with tales of, rear end skids, skip lorry appearances and a broken spoke which made the rider just a tad tense on the descent. Class!
Its sunny and dry at the bottom and I’m feeling just a tad smug that I got up and down in one piece, now lets head over to Hartside for that last inevitable big push. The roads are silky smooth and the scenery again fantastic; we are climbing at our own pace and I feel totally in control and alone (that was until 20 bikers roared past looking menacing and hard), one last switchback and I soon pass the summit sign pulling into the car park for a regroup and deserved cupper; the menacing bikers are already having afternoon tea.
Refuelled everyone is feeling good, everyone has climbed one of England’s toughie climbs, so all that is left is a cracking four mile descent on some great traffic free roads back into Alston; its tuck position and pedal as fast as possible, the corners are smooth enough to take at speed and the sheep stay well back. I’m tempted to unclip and stick my legs out Dick Van Dyke stylee’ but I know it will slow me down!
So am I glad I did this? Hell yeah! A brilliant ride in brilliant Velo company, with brilliant scenery and a brilliant achievement for all concerned; maybe mine and the missus two negatives really do make a positive and maybe next time I feel like crap Ill just turn up and give it a go!