Mark Richmond, a first timer from Ilkly Harriers wrote this ‘blog’ on their forum. Good ride Mark. Oh, for that familiar judder of cyclocross brakes…. ho hum.
The day brought pleasant autumnal conditions, perfect for a day of cyclocross racing over three of Yorkshire’s three highest hills. The temperature was in the early teens with a light wind blowing in from the North-East.
MKII found himself alongside Stefan close to the front of the line up at Helwith Bridge with an unspoken sense of nervousness, anticipation and excitement amongst the assembled riders. The start brought five miles behind the commissaire car with a ripple of banter passing through the bunch. The narrow bridges in Horton safely negotiated and two riders went clear gaining about 10 seconds to no avail, as the lead car pulled off and the serious contenders forced the pace. The arrival of the first off-road section was greeted by the familiar squeal and judder of cyclocross brakes as the course narrowed into a farm track Gill Garth. A few riders touched wheels which brought the field to a temporary standstill although there was relief at the avoidance of a pile up.
The ascent of Inglebrough was unrelenting, and after clearing the first few fields, it was possible set into a steady stride up Simon Fell where a steady cross wind picked up. Some rideable respite followed the large “Rawnsley’s Leap” stile and, thinking that was close to the summit, set off again not realising that there was another portage to the col. After “dibbing” at the summit the route turned south on to a well surfaced stone track, giving way to a grassy decent down to Cold Cotes where a good crowd cheered on the riders. A quick gel and slurp of drink and it was time for some through-and-off in a group of seven riders along to Chapel-Le-Dale. One rider wasn’t prepared to take a turn, even after comments from a few riders and it was disappointing to see him try and get away on the ascent of Whernside.
Whernside is horrible. The steps are uneven in height and their tread comprises several stones laid end up making it difficult to get a rhythm. Severe back ache set in compounding the tight calves and burning lungs. To add insult to the discomfort, the light breeze at the start was now a strong headwind making the going tough. Eventually, the steps give way to a long rolling rideable summit after which a steady decent over York stone flags leads to a fast gravel track down to Ribblehead viaduct. Some riders opted for a more direct route over the grassy peak bog although the time gains looked minimal at best. This type of fast rocky descending seemed well suited to mountain bikers and it was possible to catch several riders along this section. Another good crowd was assembled at the road junction providing support to the now tiring riders.
A second through and off group formed on the run from Ribblehead to Horton this time driven along by Jason Hemsley of Crosstrax and a rider from the RAF. Turning on to the bridleway to start the haul up Pen-Y-Gent brought a near head on collision with Robb Jebb who was only minutes away from crossing the line to take another win. It was quite some time until we encountered other rider coming down which highlights the margin of his victory. Pen-Y-Gent differs to Ingleborough and Whernside as it is about 80% rideable on a wide well surfaced gravel track, with the main difficulty being the descending leading riders who were increasingly common along the upper slopes. Stefan blasted past just before the single hairpin bend and seemed to be making good ground on the riders around him. By now the lack of stamina was evident, although it’s remarkable to find the reserves you can draw on once the summit cairn draws into sight. “Dibbing” for the final time was a great relief, the only concern now was not puncturing on the many waterbars that litters the bridleway, and not colliding with the large number of riders still ascending the final climb. Safely back to the road, the final two miles were unremarkable with few other riders around. I pulled into the pub car park to cross the line with a time of 03h55 with which I was reasonably happy as a first time effort.
A wash in the River Ribble and it was straight off for a full Sunday roast with all the trimmings complemented by four pints of Timothy Taylors, the wife providing the necessary chauffering service. This had little impact, and a second tea was consumed on arriving back to Ilkley.
What a great event! I’m already looking forward to next year! I can’t recommend this event enough and would encourage other earlybirds to have a go next year.