15th May 2018
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This weekend I took on the biggest cycling challenge of my life. 79 miles of undulating Yorkshire roads, climbing a total of over 8,000 feet. The distance was manageable but the climbing was tough! 8,000 feet is the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis and Snowdon, the two highest peaks in the UK. Remember I come from Norfolk where “hills” are more like bumps in the road in Yorkshire terms. Here’s a link to the route map:
Here are my 10 main thoughts and feelings from the day:
Here’s me and my mate Will at the start line, ironically posing next to an ambulance!
What an amazing event
I had enjoyed the pros Tour de Yorkshire for the past 3 years and really enjoyed the volunteering earlier this weekend but despite signing up three times this was the first year I was riding the sportive.
The event was so well organised, to say there were 5,000 cyclists the start was well organised, the feed stations were amazing and the stewarding and signage was excellent.
Everyone was in great spirits and very friendly and chatty. I lost my ride partner, Will, within 10 miles of setting off so it could have been a very long and lonely day on the saddle but it certainly wasn’t. I spoke to lots of different people, including colleagues from work, people raising money for charities and a quite a few with sexy bikes.
The health and safety aspects of the event were superb. There were lots of ambulances, paramedics and St Johns crews around which made me feel quite safe.
We got to ride on two closed roads which was fun, being able to go full pelt and not worry about cars was great fun!
At the start line:
Wow, this weather
What a glorious day it was, we knew it was set to be a hot one but clear blue skies and mid twenties was a dream. A few people were worried I might pass out or something but on the bike over the Yorkshire Dales there was a pleasant gentle breeze so it could not have been better conditions.
Given how grim the winter and early spring had been it was a slight shock to the system being able to ride in warm sun but certainly something I wasn’t complaining about.
Here’s the view from the top of Greenhow hill near Pateley Bridge:
Even though the pros race was approximately 5-7 hours behind us for the 35 mile run in from Greenhow hill the roads were still lined with lots of supporters cheering on the amateur cyclists.
And lots of these were clapping and cheering which was a great boost, particularly on the climbs. Around Pateley Bridge area in the Dales the villages were beautifully dressed with bunting, flags, painted bikes and painted roads, it was great to see.
I particularly appreciated the kid with a super soaker water pistol who hosed me down on the way up the Otley Chevin hill!
First rest stop with some SB&G guys:
Sadly, I’ve not spent much time up in the Yorkshire Dales, but the scenery is absolutely breath-taking, particularly on a clear day. The rolling hills, big reservoirs, winding rivers and pretty little villages are just stunning.
I feel so lucky to have this sort of countryside on my doorstep and should really make the effort to get out and enjoy it more with the family.
View down over Thruscross reservoir:
I’ve mentioned the 8,000 feet of climbing already but it is hard to describe how relentless the climbs actually were. Even the pros were not looking forward to some of the Dales monsters. It’s not necessarily how high or long they are but how steep… At average gradients of 10% and more together with harsh ramp ups and hairpins pushing 20% it’s not hard to see why many of the amateur cyclists took to pushing their bikes up.
There were officially two categorised climbs – Greenhow and Otley Chevin which were shared with the pro ride later in the day. But for those that follow cycling, Strava informs me there were actually four category 4 climbs and two category 3 climbs. The organisers kindly sent us a top tube sticker so we could look forward to each of these hills and know exactly when they were…
Greenhow was long and steady at over 2 miles and 8% but it was just after I’d taken a 30 minute break and energy reload so it was manageable. Otley Chevin was brutal – dead straight and ridiculously steep. Straight hills are psychologically far more difficult and there was a lot of people getting off their bikes on this one.
The toughest hill of the day was actually the pros intermediate “sprint” up Black Hill road, this came after 70 miles of the sportive and was a nasty sting in the tail which was a bit unexpected. Having slogged my way up Otley Chevin and skipping the refreshment stop I was feeling strong. Then what was meant to be a 7% one mile sprint was like ascending a vertical wall of tarmac. A lot of cyclist had given up on this and were walking up it but I wasn’t going much faster at an average of 5 mph for most of it. To call it a sprint was a bit of a piss take really!
Top of Otley Chevin:
Ooo, nice bike
Some people love druelling over fast cars, well I’m the same for bikes. And with 5,000 to stare at there was a lot to take in. There were a lot of serious looking cycling clubs and a lot of them had £5,000 to £10,000 bikes. Cervelos, Pinarellos, Bianchis, S Works, Giant, Trek – almost works of art, particularly those with high end carbon wheels.
What I was interested to see was the take up of disc brakes, this is a relatively new concept on road racing bikes but there were lots out there, especially on the high end bikes.
Having almost average one bike purchase a year for the past decade I think I’m probably due one later this year and I’m thinking this might be the year to replace my beloved Specialized Tarmac Pro that I wrote off last year. Whilst Geri, the Giant TCR is a lovely bike, she is only entry level carbon with a 105 groupset so next to these sexy superbikes looks like an old banger. And poor Geri has been properly batted on the harsh winter commutes this year. To say she is only 10 months old she’s already looking and feeling past her best.
I’m pleased to say that I felt really strong on the day. I was a little scared and nervous going in to it having put a bit of pressure on myself with the blog and raising money for charity. But I felt amazing, the 10 weeks solid training really paid off and only a handful of super fit looking cyclists came past me all day which I was pleased about.
I didn’t just feel physically strong but mentally as well. I pushed on up the last two big hills more with my head than body and watching people getting off around me to push just spurred me on to push harder and harder, there was no way I was getting off!
Showing off at the top of Greenhow:
Being pretty strong I also felt quite fast. I had set a fairly conservative target of 6 hours riding time which would have been 13.2 mph average, a number that was fairly standard for my hilly training rides. But feeling so strong on the day I managed to complete the course in 4:46 and an average speed of 16.6 mph which I was really chuffed about.
Riding with groups of other riders and drafting close behind the wheel in front does save 15-30% of energy due to reduced wind resistance but I don’t think I was drafting for more than 20 miles of the ride. I felt strong so was happy to ride solo or alongside someone else for most of it.
I did really enjoy dropping people on hills and even more so on the flats and downhills where I could fly past at anywhere between 25 and 50 mph. That’s the competitive side of me coming out right there!
The overriding emotion of the day was one of pride. I’m not often proud of my own achievements but I had lots of time to think about those weeks of being laid up in bed struggling to make it to the toilet a few metres away. And that was only 12 months ago so to be back on my bike and cycling the toughest ride of my life was actually quite momentous for me.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel doing the ride or particularly crossing the line and whilst I didn’t quite shed a tear the pride and joy was overwhelming.
Seeing Oli Newton, of Run4YourMind fame, who was doing the medium route thanks to me twisting his arm was a special moment. We bumped in to each other in Otley and due to stop-start traffic got to have a few minutes chat and a quick selfie. Oli has helped me through some really tough times over the past year and seeing him smiling happy with a friend was fantastic.
Distance – 79.1 miles (127 km)
Total climbed – 8,136 feet (2,480 m)
Highest point – Greenhow Hill @ 1,307 feet
Average speed – 16.6 mph (26.7 kph)
Max speed – 53.5 mph (86 kph)
Average heart rate – 151 bpm
Max heart rate – 188 bpm
Average cadence – 81 rpm
Estimated average power – 215 watts
Estimated max power – 1,281 watts
Calories burned – 4,115
Food & drink consumed – Sausage roll, pork pie, flapjack, brownie, 4 bananas, an energy bar, 6 energy gels and approx. 8 litres of energy drinks (including pre/post ride) and one alcohol free beer!
For anyone interested, here is my ride on Strava:
I’m already desperate to go again and potentially with a bigger challenge. I’m eyeing up a few 100 mile plus sportives but also keen to take on the challenge of an Olympic distance triathlon so watch this space…
Thanks for reading, supporting and donating. We have so far raised over £2,300 but would love to get to £2,500, so if you haven’t already please support 3 fantastic children’s charities (Danceaid, Candlelighters & Give a Duck) by donating: