Richmond Sportives 2010
I’m at Hawes with just over 50 miles and over three hours and something in my legs, so just over half way and now I’ve got to make a decision. It’s a decision that I’ve been thinking about for the past 20 miles since we left the last control point at Keld. I’m not having one of my better days and even though I’ve found the climbs of the Stang and Tan Hill reasonably comfortable the section into the wind along Mallerstang Common was really tough going and my legs feel pretty drained. My options are to ride the thirty miles back down the valley to Richmond to complete the 80 or to tackle the two hardest climbs of the day – Fleetmoss and Park Rash – and complete the 100.
Fast forward 25 miles and I’m at the top of Park Rash, the last major climb of the day, I’m soaked through, my legs are devoid of energy and I’m under no illusions that even though these 25 miles have a net height loss they will test me to the full. And so it proves to be, so much so that I have to take on an energy gel with only three miles to go to make sure that I don’t finish the ride in a heap, yes it was that bad, every minor gradient is a hill and every breath of wind means a change down in gears.
So why did I opt for the hundred? The night before the ride the forecast looked grim, persistent rain and 10 degree temperatures, and this at the end of May? Talking to Dave, Rob and Steve before we set off we reckoned that we could set off prepared for the 100 and take the option of the 50 or the 80 if conditions deteriorated. We left Richmond in light rain and all the way to Hawes the conditions weren’t too bad meaning we turned right at Keld committing to one of the two longer distances. At Hawes I thought about the cassette I’d bought with 29 teeth and the regret I’d feel if I opted for the 80 and still had something left in the tank at the finish. Rob and Steve were by now long gone having pressed on at their normal speed from Keld – Rob would later finish well within the gold standard and 10th fastest on the day – leaving Dave and myself. Dave had already made his mind up to do the 100 so I chose not to think about it at the Hawes control stop and after quickly taking on board some liquid said ‘right let’s go’ and off we went up to Fleetmoss. I’d not done this climb before and it carries before it a pretty fearsome reputation. With over 50 hard miles in your legs it is certainly a test regardless of what gears you have available to hand. Part of the problem is that you can see it all laid out before you, rising gently to start with it then rears up ferociously at the end. At first you think it doesn’t look too long, this is an optical illusion that is cruelly broken when you realise that the tiny slow moving dots in the distance are cyclists not ants. We get up the best way we can, just enough to reach the top without pressing on too hard so as to risk the rest of the ride. Once over the top it starts raining properly and never stops for the rest of the ride. Kettlewell is the next stop, I still feel okay at this point but the wet and cold is starting to have an effect.
As we start the climb out of Kettlewell I recognise it immediately having driven over it in a car, general wisdom has it that Feetmoss is the hardest climb, I would disagree, Park rash is a brute of a climb, especially after 70 miles. It’s certainly steeper, Dave likened it to the climb out of Commondale x 2, I’d say it’s worse than that. It starts steep and as we pass two riders who have given up the ghost and started to push I find it difficult to get traction on the wet surface forcing me to weave across the road to get some grip, it must be at least 25% if not more at some points. I lose a bit of ground to Dave but manage to get back as it flattens a little, but we still have a bit to go. There is a final ramp of around 20% up to the highest point, which on legs that haven’t quite recovered bites into my resolve, in the saddle or out of the saddle it makes no difference. This really is a tough climb and I’m glad of the 29 sprocket.
Throughout the ride Dave has been treating me to his analogies most of which relate to steam engines. Coals on the fire to keep your boiler up to steam is one of them, if that’s the case the fire in my boiler has just gone out and now I’m running on empty. A special mention is needed here for Dave who could have gone round at least 15 minutes quicker if he didn’t have to wait for me on the last section after Kettlewell, he even had to get the energy gel out of my own pocket for me with three miles to go as I was too cold and fatigued to do so, thanks Dave. Saying that I did save him from the embarrassment of missing his own wedding. We passed John Carr from the club just before Leyburn while he was fixing a puncture. We stopped to see if he was okay and he wished us well as we set off on our way, ‘see you at the Thursday night TT’, he said ‘Yeah see you there’, said Dave. ‘No you won’t’, I reminded him. ‘Why?’ he asked ‘Cos you’re getting married?’ I replied. ‘Oh yeah’, he said.
The organisers of this event liken it to the Etape du Dales or the Fred Whitton Challenge in the Lake District in terms of its seriousness. I’ve not done the Fred Whitton but have ridden most of the route and the climbs at one time or another on various excursions to the Lakes and would say that this ride is not quite in that league but it’s certainly very tough. As well as the named climbs there are also lots of shorter steeper digs and heavy rolling roads to contend with that eat into your reserves. It certainly feels like all its 100 miles. The 50 and 80 mile routes are also challenging and anyone who completed any of the distances can be proud of their achievement. It was good to see a fair few Wheelers’ riders completing one of the circuits, great rides from Andrew and Vicki Howe and Richard Lilleker in the 50, Steve Ward in the 80 and John Price and John Carr in the 100. We were supposed to meet up with John Price at the start but somehow failed to do so as we were a bit late setting off, we must have passed at one of the control points somewhere along the route or when John was having a ‘natural break’.
I have listed the times below:
100 mile route
- Rob Carter, Velo 29 – 5.48.36 (Gold – 10th fastest on the day)
- Rob Dotchin – 6.37.24 (Silver)
- Dave Kirton – 6.45.27 (Silver)
- Paul Christon – 6.45.40 (Silver)
- John Carr – 7.01.09 (Bronze)
- John Price – 7.10.41 (Bronze)
80 mile route
- Steve Ward – 5.51.59 (Bronze)
- Richard Wetherill – 7.01.49 (Merit)
50 mile route
- Richard Lilleker – 3.05.11 Gold – 3rd fastest on the day)
- Merrion Hughes – 3.47.56 (Bronze)
- Andrew Howe 3.49.38 (Bronze)
- Vicki Howe 3.49.43 (Bronze)
Paul Christon – June 2010