audax from train stations

Three Coasts…a DNF

First attempt at a 600 km.  Started a migraine about 50 km in, visual disturbance meant I couldn’t see where I was going properly.  I managed to find some paracetamol in a village and stopped for a while to give it a chance to work and for my vision to clear, then reached Pocklington and a petrol station control.

Impression of a migraine

Very fuzzy headed and probably rude to everyone there as I felt totally out of it.  Sparkly disturbance came back and I realised I wasn’t going to be able to continue.  I sat on a bench for a while, one of the riders came past (going the wrong way as I’d gone off-route to the high street), it was all could do to shake my head in a “sorry I can’t speak” gesture.  It was very hot and bright, I retired to Costa for a good while until I felt ok to ride out to York for the train.  My house keys and bedding were in Mytholmroyd, and the control wouldn’t open for several hours (the route is two loops and HQ is also a mid-ride control, with the opportunity for sleep and, I should imagine, packing), so I had to hang around Leeds centre for several hours, very frustrating being so close to home.  I’ll never leave my house keys again.

Not Quite the Spurn Head 400 km

27/05/17

I had originally registered for the Old 240 400 km, but after reading Chris Crossland’s ride notes (“the route will take you to remote and inhospitable places (e.g.Yorkshire)”) decided that it was a little ambitious for my first go at this distance, so switched to this flatter and less remote route.  I’d love to ride the Old 240 though, maybe next year.

Accommodation was provided in the Mytholmroyd Community Centre the night before although it didn’t seem that there were an awful lot of us taking advantage of it.

Mytholmroyd Community Centre

Many more arrived the morning and I met Raj and Osian from the Wiggy 300 km, plus Bob Bialek who always make a point of making sure he’s remembered both of my names whenever I see him, which is very nice.  He was doing the Old 240 of course.

A loose group of us rode together for a while, through the main roads and dual carriageways of West Yorkshire, eerily quiet at this time on a Saturday morning.  The first control was at Busy Lizzies Cafe in Castleford, a great place for it with just the right sort of food at just the right speed.  Shame about the bog though.  Two male cyclists seemed to be using it simultaneously before me; maybe safety in numbers.

Shortly afterwards, and probably due to the debris on this bridge, I had a rare puncture.  I noticed it not be feel but the noise of escaping air.  Probably because I don’t get them that often I’m not the fastest at fitting a new tube; Osian came past but I told him not to wait.

Old bridge over the Aire at Ferrybridge

We crossed the Ouse at Boothferry, from where the M62 crossing looks rather impressive.

M62 crossing the Ouse

A little lump over the south end of the Yorkshire Wolds then it was flat again all the way out to the Spurn Head; it’s Not Quite because some severe storms have destroyed part of the spit.  Nice to have ridden to the coast though, and a good cafe as the control.

Spurn Head Spurn Head

I really enjoyed the first bit of the return journey, riding past gas terminals on the lonely cost roads was rather eerie.  Soon though the wind made itself known, and it became a hard slog.  The next control was a petrol station and I caught up with a trio who would remain not far ahead of me for the rest of the ride.  Banter seemed strong here and I think kept them going.  Next I got lost in Beverly and spent ages going round in circles unable to find “L by Minster sp. Howden B1230”.  I don’t know how much time I lost, I even went to the train station to look at their map of the local roads to try and figure out where I should be going…maybe I was tired and would have managed under normal circumstances, although it must only have been around 8 pm.  Eventually I found a sign to North Cave which was the next place listed on the routesheet, and once on the road I realised it was the one I was supposed to be on.

After North Cave the route rejoined the one we took east, until near Goole where it diverged again and a 24 hour McDonalds provided a welcome control and feed.  It was hard going and I was really looking forward to this by now, not my usual diet but it was just the job.  The three other guys from the last control were here, one of them chatting to a member of staff who he recognised from doing the ride the year before; she was full of stories about wet damp cyclists (it sounded like another audax uses this place as a control too) and late night visitors on their way to the hotel over the road after nights out.  She seemed to really enjoy her job, seeing all sorts coming though the door, both regulars and randoneurs.

Control at McDonalds near Goole

The return leg was now south of the trip out, with an info control in Crowle.  It was properly night now, and I was riding on my own all the way.  It was a struggle, I felt like I was going really slowly although I’m not sure if I was.  Overall average speed was just over 20 kph so not the fastest of my rides.  I was easily spooked, I kept seeing shadows or lights up ahead, or noises from behind, that I thought were people – although quite who’d be sitting on a park bench in a village or lurking behind a tree at 3 am I don’t know.  I thought about stopping to have a nap but I didn’t think I’d be warm enough having nothing to lie on.  I did stop in a bus shelter but just had a bit to eat and a rest.  And got spooked because I thought someone was watching from the house opposite.  Eventually the sky began to lighten and the birds awoke.  This was my first experience of origin right through the night and I can’t say I enjoyed it, I just kept going as there didn’t seem to be any other option.  I also hadn’t appreciated before the decrease in speed because of not being able to go downhill as fast as in daylight, my light not illuminating enough of the road up ahead to be able to descend confidently.

Eventually the welcome sight of Woolley Edge Services, where I found the three amigos again.  I had something to eat from Costa and a sleep on their furniture.  I had managed to nod off leaving my wallet and phone on the table to anyone passing to help themselves too, but happily the two blokes who came over to ask about my bike and what I was up to were entirely trust worthy and just told me off for not being careful.  I think I misread my watch and thought I had less time than I did, in reality I had plenty of time for the last 30 km at this stage although I was feeling pretty knackered.  One of the others guys commented at the end that there had been a lot of ‘experienced audaxers’ having a good break here when with only 30 km left they’d normally be cracking on, and that the wind had really challenged all of us.

The final section had a sing in the tail for me in the form of Halifax, where I got lost having missed a turning.  More time wasted going up and down, back and forth…I don’t fully trust the map on my phone as th compass is dodgy so it takes a while for me to get my orientation even if I know where I am.  Eventually I worked out a way out and down some A road or another, getting onto the A646 back to Mytholmroyd. I pulled into HQ in a somewhat grumpy mood, with about 10 minutes to spare, another Lanterne Rouge for the collection.  One of the trio came over and we had mutual congratulations in a dazed way, he looked as bad as I felt (I didn’t venture near a mirror myself).  Also Osian was there and hadn’t finished much before me, he’d been feeling ill and I heard later he’d had several days off work with the large so he did really well to finish.  Raj was back too and about to head to Hebden Bridge with another rider to wait for the first train home.  I had hoped to be able to sleep a bit at the end before going home (first train back to Leeds was about 10.30 am it being a Sunday) but as the control closing time had come folk were packing up and heading off.  I ended up gingerly riding to Hebden too, for lots of coffee that didn’t seem to have much effect.  I don’t remember feeling particularly pleased to have completed a 400 km, just exhausted and still a bit annoyed with my two lost episodes.

Spurn Head 400 km route

415 km, 26 hrs 40 mins

Beyond the Dales we know and the Wigginton 300

29/04/17 and 13/05/17

Chalk and cheese in God’s own country.

“Right, piss off”. And so around 40 riders were dispatched on what is hopefully the inaugural Beyond the Dales We Know 300 km. Some of us had arrived the night before and camped at Mike and family’s farm, which they had generously opened up to us as HQ. The finer details had not gone unnoticed, including the provision of a cockerel alarm clock to make sure we were all ready for the 6 am start.

Waiting for the start of Beyond the dales we know Waiting for the start of Beyond the dales we know

[These two photos have been nicked from Facebook and I can’t remember who took them, sorry. I just like that either I or my tent features].  I had entered a more tame ride (complete with Travelodge before and after) to be my first 300 km; but my plans had been thwarted, as is often the way, by life (in this case in the shape of a brick though my living room window), and so it was that I found myself approaching this ride – which would take us over some 3,500 m of climbing – with some apprehension.

Beyond the dales we know

The route was pure genius, with flat sections at the start and finish and many lumps in between, over some of the best roads this part of the country has to offer. First we headed down to Ilkley, which was the nearest point to home for me, but I hadn’t been on these roads before. Next we turned north, passed Bolton Abbey and into the Dales National Park.

Beyond the dales we know

The Tour de Yorkshire was coming along some of these roads later in the day and there were lots of flags and painted bikes hanging out, however for some reason we didn’t receive any applause. The route turned up Littondale, and here was a section I recognised from a walk in the area a couple of years ago. I remembered that I’d always wanted to continue up this way, and here I was. A control at the Queen’s Head pub was a nice place to stop, just tea and crisps for me. I believe I missed a harmonica rendition. A few others were here around the same time; Andy and Rob (Rob doing his first 300 km too) and Steve? who’d started at 1 am from home that day on his way to yet another SR in a month.

After this it got lumpy. The road up from Littendale over Pen-y-Ghent Gill to Stainforth is beautiful. A tough climb, so I was quite happy to stop for a photo half way up.

Beyond the dales we know Beyond the dales we know Beyond the dales we know

Then a gorgeous ride down to meet the ‘main drag’ towards Horton in Ribblesdale. The majority of the roads on this ride were deserted, so it was a bit of a shock to arrive in Horton which was full of cars and people and tents, there being a big three peaks race on over the weekend. I’ve walked them on separate occasions but have never felt the need to exert myself over such a prolonged time, through darkness, cold, rain, in a limited time…oh.

My right knee became painful at this point, and I began what turned out to be a prolonged period of doubting whether I’d finish, and general misery. The route passes close to train stations along the Settle – Carlisle line but after Dent (England’s highest station) bailout option are non-existent. Well maybe you could try hitching a lift at the Tebay truck stop. Such things occupied my mind for quite a long time.

After the bustle of Horton the road quietened down a bit before reaching Ribblehead, again also busy. A burger van was mentioned on the route sheet and provided much motivation at this point; I promised myself a stop here as bribery to continue. The fried egg roll was one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten, in the way that just what you are craving is when you’ve been riding for hours. I saw a train leave the station heading south…the way home…no, keep going.

Now the road down through Dentdale is no doubt one of the ‘rewarding descents’ promised by Dean. Unfortunately I was at my most miserable here, my knee seemed to get better and I was fine for food, looking back I can’t quite explain it but I felt thoroughly unpleasant. I was conscious that if I was going to pack it had to be now, up the steep (of course) hill to Dent station. This is a beautiful place, but that was failing to make an impression. I thought about having to call Dean to tell him I’d quit, and would crawl sheepishly back tomorrow to reclaim my tent. I thought of how I’d feel instant relief now if I could stop, but that I knew I’d regret it later. My LEL dreams would be realised as a volunteer rather than a rider [thanks to Pete who later provided me with a kick up the arse by way of ‘I want to be stamping your card not having you stamp cards!’ I hope to be stamping in 2021]. I thought about that road along the Howgills on the east side of the M6 – when would I ever get the chance to ride it again?

At no point did my mind shift, I never thought ‘get over yourself and get on with it’; I just kept going and kept hating it.

Eventually I got to Sedburgh. On my previous two visits it was absolutely bucketing down so this was a nice change. As I prematurely took an ‘easy to miss’ turning Andy came out of a cafe and said a few of them were having a bite to eat, but I put my polite hat (helmet?) on and said “Thanks but if I stop now I’ll never get going again”.  Really I meant “don’t speak to me I hate you all why I am doing this”?  On finding the right road I followed Howgill Lane which, as the name suggests, is not an easy freewheel. At some point, and I’m not sure where, it stops becoming a green climb and turns into a moorland descent, full of sheep and grass in the middle of the road. About now and despite my best efforts I started to enjoy myself. I’d ridden up to JoG a few years previously and the route had taken me north up the other side of the M6. I’d loved it then, it’s a magical enough passage when driving or in the train, and being there by bike makes it even more ‘earned’. And now I was at the more remote side, dodging sheep.

Beyond the dales we know Beyond the dales we know

On arrival in Tebay truck services I was happy to see a few now-familiar faces. The cafe had recently closed but the shop was still open and the woman on the till was full of enthusiasm about our next roads, being a regular rider of them. This next section, from Tebay to Brough, was one if my favourites. Maybe I’d realised that although I might not ‘finish’ (be back at HQ in time) I wasn’t going to pack (really there aren’t any options) and so I relaxed a bit. I love riding over moors like this; very few (almost zero) cars, just snow poles and the unfenced road.

Beyond the dales we know

I reached Middleton-in-Teesdale still without full confidence and seeing the prospect of ‘hotel’ on a road sign I was again considering the options for stopping. Happily I followed the others in front and visited the Co-op, which offered no such distractions. Dean had asked that we report in at this point to give his crew in Staindrop an idea of their schedule. And the arrival there was wonderful! Cowbells, tea, and flapjacks. At this point with about 50 km to go, I must have realised I’d make it. I also knew there were at least a couple of riders behind me and some not too far in front, so I didn’t feel too out of it.

As I said the beauty (ok one of then) of this route is the flat start and finish. I was feeling pretty good, knowing I was on target to actually complete the ride. In the last few km I had a route sheet confusion and ended up on a dark road, somewhere near HQ. Reluctantly (as I don’t like to rely on it) I consulted the map on my phone and figured out how to get to the arrivée. The map is all well and good but the compass function is not to be trusted and as it turns out I was about to head off 180° in the wrong direction. Fortunately the local constabulary passed at this point and stopped to check I was ok. Since there is a police centre at Newby Wiske they were able to point me in the right direction. Eventually I rolled in as lanterne rougue, to the confusion of Rebecca and Co who I’d been ahead of at the last control. I’ve never finished a ride to a round of applause before! As lots of people were staying over there was a certain amount of beer consumption already in hand, and I was lucky enough that a can of Green King had remained intact. After enjoying that and a bit of a chat with the assembled company I retired to my tent and left them to several more hours of revelry.  The next day (Sunday) morning was bright and sunny, and a spontaneous breakfast was cooked up by Mike.  I felt not-too-bad, and rode the few miles back to Northallerton station for the train home to Leeds. The next day was a bank holiday and very fortunate too, by then the ride had caught up with me and I slept through the whole morning.

 

Two weeks later, having recovered both physically and mentally, I found myself in the surreal situation of lying in a village hall on a Friday night before the Wiggy 300 km with three other snorers riders, trying to sleep while bathed in the eternal dawn from an emergency exit light. My accommodation of Thermarest and sleeping bag seemed fairly luxurious compared to Raj next to me (a blanket) and a chap who’d retired to another room and was sleeping on whatever soft material he’d put his bike on in his car. Andy and Rob from Beyond the Dales were also staying over, and a couple in a camper van in the car park. I had my ear plugs but didn’t sleep particularly well, no doubt being conscious that we would be up at 4 am kept my brain active. All good LEL practice I told myself. It’s great being able to stay over before a ride, I don’t have a car so would have to find a B&B otherwise. Someone’s alarm went off but I’d already woken and got up, and was busying myself ejecting a slug which was attempting to take up residence in my panniers.

It was gloomy but dry as we left, and within the first half hour the sun broke free of the horizon, briefly visible as a huge red orb before being partially hidden by clouds. This route was quite unlike Beyond the Dales, being fairly flat in the main but with a final hilly section of 66 km. The routes shared a short section near Boroughbridge but otherwise explored very different landscapes. The first control was in a cafe in Malton, approaching which and passing Morrisons I realised I’d stopped here before…maybe on the one previous ride I’ve done from Wigginton. The cafe was a lot nicer than the supermarket, and I was happy to discover that I really can do 100 km before breakfast, powered only by a strong Brownian motion producer.

Bike and signpost near Hutton Cranswick Food after 100 km at Malton

Raj joined me and we discussed our onward travel plans, he found that his last train home was going to be relatively early and so pushed on as quickly as possible; my last one back to Leeds was after 11 pm which at an average riding speed of 20 kph should have been fine, but if not I’d ‘only’ have to wait 3 hours in York for the next service, which wouldn’t be the end of the world, so I was trying not to feel any time pressure. The next section was due west to Ripon, a place I remember from touring the Way of the Roses because I ended up riding round the centre in circles attempting to follow the NCN signs (a classic, where signs for the route point both left and right with no indication of which is the east and which the west direction).

After the first long stage the route was nicely divided into ~50 km sections which I found ideal. The next control was a cafe in the park which was shared with riders on the Wiggy 100 km. Raj and I left and rode together for the next section, north to Richmond. Here we tackled the climb up to the historic market town; a pilgrimage to Greggs where I explained to the person serving why she’d had a large number of requests for receipts. Here I chatted to another rider (Ossian as I now know) who was also preparing for LEL, this was only his third audax so I think he’s on track! We discovered we’d both registered for a 400 km from Mytholmroyd a fortnight later, a first for us both at that distance. Raj and I set off for Stokesley, the last control and the beginning of the scenic section. We chatted about our riding experience; Raj is from a costal part of India where he said you can do a 600 km without encountering any hills, but that meant a lot of experience of riding into the wind! He’s also worked and ridden in a variety of places including Canada and Singapore, so when I asked what he thought of British drivers he was very impressed with the consideration and respect experienced – which certainly puts things into perspective. On arrival in Stokesley around 5.40 pm we dropped into the control cafe but the proprietor said he could no longer offer us any food, as it was a Saturday evening and he was booked up, having expected us all earlier. He was however happy to sign our cards and fill water bottles, which was excellent and I explained that we were the slower end of the field. Raj set off as soon as he’d had his bottle filled, but I was happy (and needed) to take a longer break. There was a Co-op for sustenance and as it was now turning into quite a nice evening I had a wander around the town centre while eating.

Packhorse Bridge in Stokesley Packhorse Bridge in Stokesley

Now the hills of the North York Moors that so far had been gradually approaching as grey silhouettes became real, with colours and shapes highlighted by the evening sunlight.

North York Moors

I hadn’t been around this area before, which may have been a good thing; I’ve found tackling hills in ignorance is often best! A few km after Stokesley we had a relatively steep drag, before an eye-streaming descent towards Chop Gate. The chap I’d spoken to in Richmond had left Stokesley just before me and mostly he was in sight, we were going about the same speed so it was nice to have company in that distant sort of way; experiencing the same roads but independent in our own little bubbles. It was now a cracking evening and for all looking at the elevation profile this was the section to dread it’s also (imho) the most beautiful and it was certainly my favourite.

Cyclist silhouette North York Moors, Bilsdale

On the next hard climb we caught up with Raj, and although I felt bad passing him I also needed to go at my own pace [edit: on LEL, which he finished and I didn’t, he commented that he’d learned to ride up hills since we first met on this ride].  Eventually arriving in Helmsley I recognised the centre having stayed in the youth hostel here a couple of years ago. A number of VC167 jerseys and their occupiers were taking a break in the town square. This leg was 66km and I thought I might need to take a break at some point, and my Greggs chocolate cookie was waiting in my rack bag if needed, but I pushed on. It got colder but I was just warm enough and reluctant to stop. As with every ride I found the last bit hard and felt like I was slowing, I don’t know if that’s real but it always drags. Beardy chap and two VC167 riders caught me up in the last 10 km and I managed to hang on to the back as they pushed fast for the Arrivée. I know I could never have put in that effort if I’d been riding alone. The two VCs (Denise and Les?) even put in a sprint finish. I was happy to be back, ahead of my guesstimate schedule of 10.30 pm, at about 9.15 pm, plenty of time to enjoy the copious tea and several species of cake on offer.

I thought I’d have plenty of time to get a train home but when I got to the centre of York (now full of Saturday night merrymakers) both road and pedestrian signs were useless; for a place with such famous rail heritage it would be nice if the train station was a bit easier to find. In the end I had to consult both a kebab seller and the map on my phone, and got to the station in time for the last couple of trains. The passengers consisted of a lot of drunk people; and me, dead to the world.  Some very loud blokes got on half way home, I could hear them between bouts of sleep and was vaguely aware that they were being pests but it was only when we arrived in Leeds that I realised they had entertained themselves by removing my bike from the storage space and bouncing up and down on it. I ended up with a lift home from the train driver (who cycles with a Wakefield club, what a star), and straightened my bike up the next week.

 

Two very different 300 km rides exploring Dales, Moors, Wolds and Hills. Yorkshire has a bit of everything (plus coast, to be experienced in my next ride…). I found the second ride more ‘achievable’ than the first (never say easy, it’s an audax); it was certainly flatter but I think a lot of this is psychological – I’d done a 300 km before so I could do one again. The first time, it was a new distance with all the uncertainty that goes with it. The second, perhaps I let myself relax and enjoy it a bit more as there was less pressure. Many thanks to Dean and Co for truly making an ‘event’ and not just a bike ride for my first 300 km, for me it really felt like an achievement and the atmosphere was wonderful. And to Keith and Ann – who provided constant tea and cake despite sporting a sling from a recent off – for a splendid tour over some lovely wrinkles and then through the Vale of York, before a sunny evening through the Moors.

 

Beyond the Dales: 300 km, 18 hrs 20

Wigginton: 300 km, 16 hrs 30

 

Yorkshire 300 routes

 

 

Leap into the Aire

09/04/17

I was supposed to be on the 100 km Spring into the Dales (again) but rail replacement buses and getting lost caused me to arrive at the depart just as the Spring riders were being dispatched…the ever-accommodating Chris Crossland transferred me to the 50 km ride which was no stroll in the park.

Train lines and platform
Waiting for the train to Mytholmroyd on a sunny morning.
Towpath by canal
This turned out to be the slow/lost route from Halifax to Mytholmroyd.
Old cycle club building in Keighley
Keighley.
Cyclist at Calderdale sign
Top of Cock Hill.
Cyclists at the top of Cock Hill
Fellow travellers on Cock Hill, about to start a fantastic descent.

Leap into the Aire 50 km route

57 km, 4 hrs 30; 110 km all together

Port Navigation

01/04/17

 

I saw this event on the audax calendar some time ago when I was planning the year’s rides (with LEL training lurking in my mind). It was both on my 40th birthday and visited Mull, where I had a fantastic holiday a couple of years ago, so I couldn’t resist.  Clearly a long weekend would be required, and when I looked at train tickets an even longer one was needed to avoid the cyclists enemy, the rail replacement bus service.  If my LEL preparation had gone to plan I would have completed one if not two 200 kms by now, but life being what it is I only had my disastrous painful slog to go on.  But I had done one before, so I ‘knew’ I could do this.

Friday was spent travelling by train to Fort William.  Not the best of beginnings, as I had mis-remembered the time of my train from Leeds by half an hour and had to make use of my ‘contingency’ time; thinking that getting up at 5.30 am would allow me a leisurely preparation it became a case of having to forget about that second cup of tea.  It takes a long time in Leeds station to get up and down in the lifts so an early arrival is necessary.  Train one, Leeds – Edinburgh, was an old Virgin with those doors that need to be opened from the inside via the window, which although rather nice are also rather deadly and I thought had been outlawed some time ago.  Bikes in the ‘guard’s van’ which was also doing time as storage space for bottles of water, one of which was in the way of the bike rack and happily found its way into my thirsty pocket.  No problems unloading in Edinburgh and I had intentionally booked trains to allow plenty of time to change.  Then a short trip to Glasgow Queen Street for the connection to Fort William. There were a few other cyclists at Queen Street and I started to wonder how we’d all get on the train, but it turns out they have superior capacity with 6 bike spaces (per 2 carriages I think, certainly 6 to Fort William on this one).  I had an advance ticket and hence a booked seat, so I didn’t see the other cyclists once I’d sat down.  The journey north past Loch Lomond, on to Crianlarich and then across Ranoch Moor is splendid.  It was pretty wet but I did much more window-gazing than book reading.  There were lots of deer, mostly stags, not easy to spot as they are the same colour as the land.

Rannoch moor from the train Rannoch moor from the train Corrour from the train

Arriving in Fort William I did a decent amount of faffing but it still continued to rain as I left the station, which seemed rather a convoluted route through the nearby supermarket car park, and although I came straight out onto the A82 I was keen to make sure it was going in the right direction!  Riding out of town I was amazed at all the B&B and Guest House signs displaying ‘No Vacancies’ (how many people are riding this audax?), it was only much later that it occurred to me that they were still closed for the winter.  Not the nicest of roads as the traffic was quite fast, and it was raining quite a bit so just a case of head down and get on with it.  About half way the rain stopped and by the time I got to Ballachulish the sun was out.

Approaching Ballachullish

I spotted the turn-off that I’d need tomorrow to find the start, and the campsite I’d identified wasn’t much further on. Invercoe Campsite is open all year and the owners seemed very relaxed, I had to make a point of remembering to pay before I left.  Beautiful location and nice facilities.

Loch Leven from Glencoe Village
Loch Leven
Loch Leven from Glencoe Village
Loch Leven

My parents were not letting me entirely ignore my birthday so had planned to come up from their home in Dumfries and Galloway in their camper van and visit.  Usually anything involving timings goes to pot but they surprised me by driving past my campsite (they were staying at a different one) just as I had started putting up my tent.  Once they’d installed themselves we had a few drinks in the Glencoe Gathering pub before a not-too-late night.

I was woken a few times in the night by rain, which was still falling on and off when I left for Ballachulish Village Hall.  The campsite had a shelter, intended for barbecuing when the weather has other plans, but the owner recommended it as somewhere to keep bikes overnight and when I went in to get mine I found a couple of other randonneurs having a fight with a stove in an attempt to cook pre-ride porridge.  I hadn’t brought any food or cooking stuff with me, and had spent the past three weeks mostly avoiding carbs, so this was to be a ride without relying on sugar and starch if all went to plan (although I had emergency jelly beans and gel in the rack bag).  I was at the hall in plenty of time and had a couple of cups of tea, before heading off in the first batch of riders dismissed by organiser Graeme.  This was a logistically complicated ride but it had been very well explained by Graeme, with ferry times for fast, medium and full value riders indicated, however we were all supposed to get the same first ferry, the 7.50 from Corran to Ardgour (mainland to mainland).  When I heard that we’d all (about 70 riders) fit on the one crossing I was surprised, but there was plenty of room and the ferry staff, who had been well-informed of our arrival, were excellent all through the ride.

Riders on the Corran ferry
Corran ferry
From the Corran ferry
From the Corran ferry
Riders leaving the Corran Ferry
Riders leaving the Corran Ferry

Somehow I managed to be first off the boat, but keeping out of the way to let the few motor vehicles off I ended up towards the back of the pack.  And there I was to remain!  Graeme had come over on the same ferry by car and passed us before heading to Lochaline to sign brevet cards at the first control.  On leaving Ardour we had the option of following the routesheet, which directed us via the more scenic route towards Strontian before quite a climb, or taking a flatter coast road which we were warned was of very poor quality.  I didn’t see anyone taking the second option.

Cyclist on Ardgour
Ardgour
Cycling on Ardgour
Ardgour

Having been warned of a ‘bastard hill’ I thought the first one wasn’t too bad, but I was soon to realise which was being referred to.   Once the road turned south-ish towards Lochaline it went up, and up, and up.

Looking towards Strontian
Highest point of the ride (272 m) and tough climb up to it

Eventually it must have started to go down but I don’t remember that quite so clearly.  I’d passed a couple of riders (unusual for me) but coming over the top and feeling a bit of rain (and not being very warm) I stopped to put my waterproof back on and they went by. Sometime around here I started thinking about the next ferry; I’d thought that I’d make the 10.35 am from Lochaline to Fishnish (Mull) based on my usual speed, but I could see it would be tight.  As it was the rear doors had just been raised and the boat started to move as I descended to the control…very frustrating.  But Graeme was there to not only stamp my card but impart relaxing words, and I was soon joined by Marcus, another rider.  It turned out that two people had made the early crossing, everyone else was on the one we’d just missed, and there would be two of us bringing up the rear for the remainder of the ride.  The folk running the cafe at the Lochaline ferry terminal were just getting their breath back after the onslaught of most of the field so I think were quite pleased that it was just the two of us now, and we had plenty of time to wait for the next boat.  I looked for a low carb something to eat so went for lentil soup, and a coffee, because I think I should need one at this point.  I had a marmite cheese that I’d brought along with me too.  It didn’t take long for me to start feeling sick, and there were moments when I thought I would suddenly reproduce the soup on the nice clean gravel outside the cafe, but it stayed down.

 

Once the 11.10 very arrived we were asked to board before the cars and put the bikes in a couple of wheel racks – goodness knows where everyone secured them on the previous boat.  We’d been instructed to buy a ‘hopscotch’ ticket onboard which would get us back to Oban later, at £5.60 this is the same price as a foot passenger.  Once on Mull I recognised the roads for a short time until we turned off for Salen.  I’m not very good at riding with other people and found I was going very sightly faster than Marcus, although he would catch me on descents, but after a while I had lost sight of him so I waited at a junction so we could continue together.  After Gruline the road clings to the coast and we were treated to some great clear views, although the wind was not exactly helping.

Shore of Loch na Keal, Mull
Shore of Loch na Keal

The Treshnish Isles were visible in the distance, some distinctive outlines which I recognised from my previous visit. The road then turned inland and we started playing hare and tortoise with a van full of birdwatchers for the next little while.  I lost sight of Marcus again but decided to press on and wait at the next control.  On the whole the descents on this ride were excellent, as the road ahead was in full view so no braking was required, but in this stretch a heavily pregnant cow and later some calves caused some cautious slowing down.  The road meets the shore of Loch Scridain and then the main A road.  Our control was at the Pennyghael Stores, and once again I recognise the road from my earlier bus journeys.  The shop had a very friendly ginger cat, as well as stickers to mark our passage and tea/coffee plus a roll which was included in our entry fee.  This is the sort of thing that I’d never ‘expect’ on a ride and is much appreciated.  As it was I just had the tea, and feeling better had some nuts and a bit of cheese.

Pennylghael stores, Mull
Pennyghael stores
Loch Scridain by Pennylghael, Mull
Loch Scridain near Pennyghael

I had previously travelled the whole of the next section to Craignure by bus, during which gradients are of course less noticeable, but the climb up Glen More was a pleasant one in the continuing sun.  I passed the lochs that I’d walked along on my previous visit and then Loch Spelve where I’d waited (quite happily) two hours for a bus.  I arrived at Craignure a little before Marcus, we’d both realised at the previous control that there was no chance we’d make the previous ferry so it had been a fairly relaxed leg and we had a bit of time for a cup of tea from the shop.  The ferry staff asked how many more of us were expected (none) and commented on how many riders had been on the last crossing.  We were entertained by watching the ferry approach, trying to work out which end was going to open and being amused by the technique of making contact with the jetty and using it to pivot around to line up with the landing stage.  There was a section for bikes in the centre of the vehicle deck, again I wondered where they had fitted everyone in on the previous crossing.  Marcus and I went upstairs for a comfy seat and discussed how we’d got into Audax, followed by discovering we have a few colleagues in common.

Craignure ferry, Mull
Craignure ferry

Back on the mainland in Oban and we knew we had 60 km to do in x hours, which was achievable for us both although we couldn’t hang about.  Out from Oban the route follows a road to a car park and then an odd section of cycle path to rejoin the A85.  The cycle path had the most crazy steep sections, including the final bit where a boy who saw us struggling opened the gate to let us through.  The final crossing of the day took us on Connel bridge over Loch Etive, then all the way along the side of Loch Creran to answer an info control.

Head of Loch Creran
Head of Loch Creran

Soon it began to get dark, and it was just a case of head down and keep riding. Sometimes I’d pass Marcus on a climb and then he’d catch me, eventually I pulled ahead but could see him not far off when the road allowed.  At last I arrived at the road works outside Ballachulish centre, and I thought Marcus would catch up while I waited at the red light, it would have been nice to finish together, but I rolled into the hall complete with fairy lights at 9.xx pm.  Marcus eventually arrived with literally minutes to spare, having had to stop for cramp near the end.  Graeme and crew fed us, I had some soup but still felt nauseous so didn’t risk the cake.  My parents who turned up to wish me happy birthday were generously looked after, and we celebrated properly the next day.

Loch Leven from Glencoe Village
Loch Leven
Daffodils by Loch Leven
Loch Leven

Birthday cake and champagne

At Glencoe visitor centre
At Glencoe visitor centre

An early start on Monday morning to catch the first train back home and another fantastic journey for window-gazing.  A different route home taking the Carlisle – Settle line which had just reopened a couple of days before.

Deer running from the train, Rannoch Moor
Deer running from the train
Railway between Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum
Railway following the contours between Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum
Garsdale station
Garsdale station

Route of Port Navigation 200 km ride

200 km, 13 hrs 50 mins

Three Fields

11/03/17

I don’t know what was wrong with me last time, as I found this – dare I say it – easy.  A pleasant enough ride if a little uninteresting.  The only section I was familiar with was Clumber Park, but in the opposite direction this time.  The day was very mild and after the first stage I didn’t wear my windproof, and even at the start I had changed into thin gloves.  The sun tried to come through the cloud with limited success.

I had brown rice the night before, then tea and a croissant on the train.  First control at 44 km was at a village hall with local ladies (very stereotypically the only males in sight were the riders and orgs) providing tea/coffee and cakes.  Nice but not cheap, I understand the proceeds go to a local church fund so it’s better than tax-avoidant Starbucks which furnished me with breakfast.  Shortly after leaving the control I passed a couple of riders sitting on the verge, next to a pick-up with trailer facing in the wrong direction and two inhabitants.  It didn’t look as if I could be of any assistance so I kept on going.  I’ve since read on yacf that there were actually four riders, knocked off when a 4 x 4 towing a trailer overtook and came back in too quickly.  The driver didn’t stop, one of those involved said they might not have even realised what had happened (it was a large trailer).  The vehicle I saw was passing and the two guys in it sounded very helpful.  The worst casualty had two cracked ribs.

On leaving Clumber Park a van slowed while passing me and the passenger warned that a wide load was coming up behind me and to watch out, always good to see considerate behaviour to balance the idiots.  It was indeed very wide and had a police motorbike escort, but I turned off before they caught me up.

The second control was a free one in Southwell, which seemed a posh place complete with a minster.  I settled for a sandwich from a small shop and a receipt, then found some public toilets.  On the final leg back to Alfreton I stopped for the only photo of the ride, an addition to my collection of strangely located trig points (SK616558).

Trig point near Blidworth
Trig point near Blidworth

I shared the ‘two’ bikes spaces on the train back with a couple from Sheffield who I spoke to on last years’ Colourful Clumber.  The station is very close to the start and even better the return there is downhill.

This was the first outing for my new luggage, a Carradice Super C rack bag.  I bought this partly to use with the rack when combining audax with camping, but also as an alternative for a large saddle bag as there isn’t much room under my saddle.  This also means that the rack bag needs to be quite far back which is a little inelegant but it seems very stable.  I think I prefer this to having most of the weight in the bar bag, but I must get a small cafe lock as the one I took is heavy.  I had no need of the full capacity on this ride (in fact I picked up 4 cans of Old Speckled Hen on the way home and had no difficulty fitting them in) but for longer/more remote rides it will be useful.

Super C rackbag
Super C rackbag

Three fields route

105 km, 6 hrs 5 mins

North West Passage

18/02/17

In which I DNF.

Unusually I got up early enough to have some porridge before I left the house.  The early Saturday morning trains contained the dregs of Friday night, although mine was quiet.  It wasn’t far from Rochdale station to the start (a pub), which was very busy and I just had time to pick up my brevet card and use the lav.  I waited until most of the pack had gone before leaving as they’d only pass me (often too closely for my liking).

This route is almost all on A roads which is unlike most audaxes I have done, but going around Pendle Hill and then the Forest of Bowland they are not the busy sort.  It also meant several long stretches with no turns, and as I often find concentrating on the route keeps me occupied (and stops me noticing if the kms are dragging past too slowly) I wondered how I’d find this.  We left Rochdale and initially headed the way I had come on the train, to Todmorden.  I don’t know this area very well so it was interesting to ride through and see the steep sided valleys.  We passed JJ’s Diner which was a control on Mellow Fruitfulness, then through Burnley and Nelson up to the Highest point of the ride.  There was a bit of sun at this point although visibility wasn’t that good, Pendle Hill could just about seen through the haze.

I hadn’t been feeling too good from the start, but this is often the case and I usually settle in to it.  The first leg was 70 km, the longest I’ve ridden in one go, and I’d planned to eat a couple of times while moving.  I stopped briefly once to take a layer off as it was a mild day, and again to take a photo.

Near Pendle Hill
Near Pendle Hill

Then down to Gisburn and on to Settle, where the Old Naked Man served as a control, a place I’d already enjoyed on the Way of the Roses.  Although it had been a struggle I was on my schedule, arriving around 11.20 am.  I had a fried egg roll and a large coffee, but as I was feeling like I needed more a went for a tiffin-type thing too.  I think this may have been a mistake; I soon started to feel nauseous once I got going again and had visions of heading back to Settle and a train home.

The Old Naked Man in Settle.
Back at the Old Naked Man in Settle.

The next section along the A65 to Devil’s Bridge in Kirby Lonsdale was probably one of the shortest I have ridden, at 26 km.  I could see more places I’d been through on the WotR and was glad to be on this flatter route here.  Devil’s Bridge was busy with bikers and cyclists, and after having had my card stamped by the controllers (operating out of a small van) I got a mug to tea from the mobile cafe, it being all I could stomach, and spent a few minutes watching the River Lune passing under the bridges.  Surprisingly the tea perked me up and I set off still on my rough schedule.  I exchanged a few words with some other riders here; a VC167 rider who rode slightly more slowly than me but stopped for less time so we were constantly passing each other, and a couple going slightly faster who I saw quite a few times (actually I don’t think they were a ‘couple’ because one didn’t know if the other took sugar in his tea).

The River Lune at Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale
The River Lune at Devil’s Bridge, Kirkby LonsdaleThe River Lune at Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale

Next was a fairly flat section, following the Lune to Lancaster.  Through the city I followed signs more than the route sheet but seemed to come out the right way.  I was feeling better during this section and tried to eat a little bit on the go.  Then down the A6, past Lancaster University and parallel to the M6.

The final control at 136 km was The Barn, a cafe and shop, in Scorton.  Some bits of it looked new, including a shelter bike storage area (including locks) which was rather good.  I felt hungry so had a brie baguette and a large coffee, which came to a slightly steep £9-something.

Bike racks at The Barn cafe
Bike racks at The Barn cafe

The final stage was another 70 km and I planned to stop a couple of times, approximately each 25 km, to make it manageable.  I had realised earlier that my fettling after the last ride had solved the difficulty I had been having of moving up from the middle to the top chain ring, but at the expense of the smallest ring which was now unaccessible.  I tried changing the cable tension but it wasn’t enough, and so I did more honking up hills than I usually do.  I’ve been on plenty of rides where this wouldn’t have been possible, so although this wasn’t flat I’m glad it didn’t have any stupidly steep hills.

After climbing up to Longridge on a section of unclassified roads there was a nice descent into Ribchester, a crossing of the Ribble and then the inevitable climb up the other side.  I’d been along here in the opposite direction on the way to John o’Groats.  I was feeling ok at this point, passed my VC167 rider again, and then stopped briefly on the edge of Blackburn for a bite to eat.   We went through places called Salisbury and Wilpshire, and I started to wonder if they’d run out of place names in these parts. Soon I caught up with another three who’d been in the last control at the same time, and had stopped briefly at the side of the road here.  They went on ahead and took a right turn earlier than the route sheet suggested; a wise move as I then had to negotiate a multi-lane roundabout by junction 6 of the M65.

The next section was horrendous, crossing Oswaldtwistle Moor.  It was fully dark by now and had started to rain a little.  I was really struggling, all I could see ahead was the road going up with no shelter or even a place to stop.  I knew I had to keep going as stopping just at the side of the road wouldn’t be safe.  Eventually a track or small road appeared on the left and I pulled in.  Although going up hill I was getting cold because I was going so slowly, but first I had to take all my top clothes off to take a leak (cursing bib shorts).  Then I swapped the wind shirt for my waterproof, and made myself eat more even though I didn’t feel like it, especially anything sweet which was all I had.  Mr VC167 passed me at this point, he seemed to just be able to keep on going for ever.

Feeling slightly better and conscious that this was no place to get cold I started off again, and although I couldn’t see it I had done most of the climbing over the moor.  I’d thought that what I needed was a coke from a petrol station or shop but the sugar seemed to have kicked in so when I passed several places in Haslingden I stupidly didn’t stop.  It wasn’t long before I was feeling rough again, now my brain wasn’t working and I didn’t feel safe riding so I stopped and walked for a bit.  A couple of other riders passed me (including Pompino guy who I think was on one of the last two rides I did), they asked if I was ok and I said I just needed a breather.  I managed to start riding again just before Edenfield, where I hoped to find a pub I could stop in for a coke and to find the nearest train station.  This was at 192 km which sounds so near the finish, but it seemed so far at the time.

Edenfield, however, had other plans and everything seemed closed, so I somehow kept going, up the final climb over the moors to Rochdale.  I passed Ashworth Moor Reservoir, shining with the reflected lights of the surrounding towns, and as bad as I felt the lights spread out in the valley below looked rather beautiful from up here.  This also marked the 200 km point, and I knew that at least I’d get back to Rochdale.  Finishing seemed possible.  Once in the city I missed a turning (not sure if that was routesheet or my error) and had to stop to look at the map on my phone.  I worked out where I was and headed to the train station, having ridden from there to the start earlier I knew the way.  I still didn’t know if I’d finish.  The arrivée closed at 9.30 pm.  It was about 8.45 pm when I got to the station, and that was enough for me.  A train was due just then and happily was running a bit late, so I made it and called in as a DNF once it got underway.  The person I spoke to said there was still one person unaccounted for.

I could have finished, but I’m not regretting choosing not to.  I was still feeling sick at this point, it would have to have been a quick trip there and back so as not to miss the next (possibly last) train back to Leeds, but mostly I just had nothing left.  I’d actually left Rochdale station at 7.30 am that morning, so technically had done a 200 km within time, albeit not a validate-able one.

The train was quite full with a lively crowd.  What looked like a class full of A level students got on later, one of them voicing concerns that traces of powder were visible around her nose, as she’d snorted an Ecstasy tablet because she didn’t like the taste.  Happily they’d all got off by Mytholmroyd and I was able to put the bike in a more sensible place and get a seat.  On arrival in Leeds I got a bottle of Lucozade and had half of it before walking though the city centre, partly because that was all I felt like and also to avoid more merrymakers.  I cycled a bit where it was flat or downhill but walked most of the way, getting back after 11 pm, too tired even for a shower.

I’m not sure it was just an off-day, or perhaps I was still suffering a little bit from the hideous cold/flu that had kept me off work for the best part of a week a couple of weeks previously, or maybe I made bad food choices.  I still did 200 km and tried out a couple of new Appkit purchases which will be needed for longer rides.  I had a Gamma head torch attached to my helmet with some elastic chord, which did a great job for reading the route sheet just using its little white LED; the bigger one would be useful if road signs etc needed to be seen but as most of the junctions on this ride were in lit places it wasn’t needed.  The Fuelpod was great for accessing food while moving in thick gloves and didn’t interfere when riding.  My knees touched it when honking but it didn’t bother me, I’m glad I got the medium rather than the large though.

Nature notes: lots of snowdrops and the first daffodils.  The highlight was a flock of Lapwing performing aerobatics over a field at dusk.

North West Passage map North West Passage elevation

207 km, 12 hrs 50 mins

76 kg

A Mere Century

22/01/17

An overnight stop at my sister’s just a few miles from the start at Cheadle village hall meant I didn’t have to get up too early.  I decided to go with carbs, so had pasta the evening before and porridge before I set off.  The forecast was decent if cold, so I was surprised by the number of still-unclaimed brevet cards when I arrived about 8.15 am.  Time for coffee, then the usual understated ‘right, off you go’ start.

First we passed Gatley station, which I made a mental note of in case I needed to get a train back afterwards.  There are quite a few train stations on or near the route so plenty of bail-out options. After going through a bit of Wythenshawe (nothing I recognised) and around Manchester airport we were soon in the Cheshire lanes, passing a number of large houses.  Footballer-land indeed.  A few flakes of snow but nothing to be concerned by.

Around Tatton Park, and I think I recognised a bit from my John o’ Groats trip.  The first control was at Delamere Station Cafe, nice and doing a good job of accommodating as it’s not a big place.  I went for beans on toast, they warned that there would be a half hour wait for food which I decided to risk, it was more like 10 mins in the end.  It started to rain/sleet while we were here so I put my waterproof on as I left.  Of course it didn’t last long so I stopped to swap back to my windproof after a while.

Delamere station cafe
Delamere station cafe

Initially we’d been told there was a detour just after the control, and I had altered my route sheet to account for it.  Then at the start we were told the original instructions were fine, but since I had obliterated them I had to stick to the detour.  Unfortunately I didn’t go quite far enough for the turning, but thought I’d missed it and retraced, then spent a little while guessing before coming back on route.  Thereafter I was mentally adding about 1.4 km to all the route sheet distances.

There was an info control on this section which asked for the phone number of what could have been a business or a cafe.  There was no sign of the place named on the brevet card, so I took a photo of a cafe that was full of (other) cyclists and its phone number.

Cheshire lanes
Cheshire lanes

The control in Audlem was a cafe or receipt from the Co-op, there was space in the cafe so I opted for that.  There was a group of 4 at the next table, and one of them, Chris, said he might need to tag along with me as the others were too fast…I thought he was joking but as we were all leaving about the same time he asked again, saying he had the route sheet in his pocket but no holder, and no sat nav, so could he follow me. I was a bit apprehensive as I usually ride alone and find having other people close by a bit of a distraction, not to mention having to make conversation.  However it turned out that we were going about the same speed, and chatted on and off quite happily.  The route was fairly flat here and I felt quite comfortable.  At one point I could feel myself starting to struggle, but managed to eat a flapjack on the move and was fine afterwards.

It started to get gloomy, and I had to strain to read the route sheet.  I had forgotten to bring my head torch, bollocks.  Chris and I stopped at the third info control at Henbury for a break, and a few others joined us.  I wolfed down my jelly beans without noticing the flavours.  The question had us all stumped; ‘what sort of flowers does Flora sell?’  Well it seemed to be a garden centre, so presumably all sorts of flowers, and a coffee shop, alas closed.  We wrote down a selection of information (e.g. ‘no idea but she’s been selling then since 1954’).  Apparently the answer was silk.  Neither this nor the previous mystery info seemed to be a problem for the organisers, I guessed they hadn’t checked them recently.

Now I couldn’t see my route sheet at all, but Chris knew where we were and so it was his turn to lead the way.  Another missed turning had us nearly heading to Prestbury, but thankfully one of the others on the road near us noticed.  Once we got back into built-up areas I was able to see the route sheet again by the street lights, but I had no idea if we were still on the intended route, fortunately Chris was confident and we started seeing signs to Cheadle.

Tomato soup and rolls at the finish was just what I needed. I wasn’t too bad but decided I didn’t want to ride all the way back into Manchester centre so thought I could take a train.  By this point my sister was in a pub in Didsbury, so I rode there (only a few kms) and rehydrated before getting a train into Piccadilly, and then home.  Unlike last time I had enough energy to ride the mostly uphill journey without issue.

Mere century route

155 km, 9 hrs 55 mins

76 kg

Goodbye Yorkshire Christmas Pud

08/01/17

LEL training starts here.

Entering rides at this time of year is always a bit of a gamble, but the weather was pretty much perfect; reasonably mild, dry, still. The route was also ideal for those of us who hadn’t been near a bike for about 3 weeks, being kindly flat.

The start time was 10 am which is fairly late for an audax, the idea being that if it was frosty/icy the sun might have melted it by then. After a leisurely coffee in Leeds station I got on the almost empty train, which then sat at the platform for an extra 15 minutes because of some overhead line problems. Although I had a little time in hand I had intentionally not left too early, knowing there would be no warm village hall to wait around in. I started to think about getting some cash out at York station for a statement to show my start time if the start had closed by the time I got there, or thinking that since I had the route sheet I could always just ride it and not worry about the brevet card and validation…but in the end it wasn’t a problem.

bike on train

The ride was originally to start and finish at York train station (more like this please!) but the numbers expected at the start dictated a move a mile or so along the road, with the organiser’s car boot serving as an office.  Eventually leaving the train station at 10 am I followed the instructions to Knavesmire road, missed the turning (according to the route sheet the was a kebab sign which I didn’t see) but quickly realised that the 20 or so cyclists crowded around a car probably marked the depart, so a quick u-turn got me back on track. Once registered I set off across the racecourse as instructed. Not 100% convinced I was going the right way I was relieved when some other riders caught me up. We followed the river Ouse for a while although it couldn’t often be seen. Some great pace names around here, Acaster Malbis was a favourite. Then west to the Wharfe and the first visit to Tadcaster before skirting the Thorpe Arch industrial estate. This was the only section of the route that I recognised, having visited a friend who works here a couple of months ago. I always like having little familiar sections as it helps the geography connect in my mind; when I visited my friend I took the bus and remember thinking the roads looked like they’d make a nice bike ride.

Approaching the first control at Boston Spa I could feel myself struggling, and coming up the small hill to the main street it was bonk time. Before the christmas lull I had been (mainly) avoiding carbs and although I’d eaten some on rides I had managed pretty well without emergency coke etc. The holiday diet had clearly allowed my body to get back into the blood sugar swinging habit though, so I did the only thing I could and got a bottle of cherry coke and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps for my receipt at the free control. Then I also ate the section of tortilla (i.e. Spanish omelette) that I had brought with me as a low-carb option. The coke did its thing reasonably quickly, but I know that once you start with the sugar you have to keep going.

bike at Boston Spa

I had pencilled in some vague times to work to, based on a riding speed of 21 kph, and I think I was about 15 minutes behind, which wasn’t bad as I’d effectively started a bit late. My pace might not have suffered during the cycling break but my neck, hands and most of all backside were certainly out of practice. My hands/arms were not helped as I’d spent the previous day hacking at the garden. I have at least developed good habits of moving fingers and toes periodically throughout rides to prevent pins and needles, and coming off the saddle and moving about to stretch back and neck. Must get back to pilates though.

Back through Tadcaster (now the West Riding part, the north-east of the town as passed through on the first stage is in the Ainsty of York, according to the definitive source of knowledge) and its brewing heritage became clear passing the Tower (Corrs) and John Smith’s breweries.

Tadcaster brewery

A short stretch of A road out of Tadcaster brought us to the B1223 which would be followed for the next 20 km, through Ulleskelf (a native Yorkshire-person required for pronunciation) and along Boggart Lane for some more great names.  The next control was Selby, a garage was suggested but all that was required was a receipt, and seeing many cyclists in the forecourt and not really fancying a limp sterile sandwich I continued into the town centre.  Everything was closed apart from a couple of pubs, but I had glimpsed a ‘retail park’ sign and found a Sainsbury’s, unfortunately without a cafe but with toilets and slightly more lively sandwiches.

The route sheet instructions for leaving Selby were not very helpful, and having stopped where no other audaxers were I had no reassuring sight of others, but it soon started to look right.  After negotiating the crossing of an A road (actually fine, probably the large number of cones around roadworks helped in slowing people down) the route followed the B1228 more or less to the outskirts of York.  Looking at the map this was nothing out of the ordinary, but riding it felt like a very long, featureless stretch.  I tend to find that concentrating on the route sheet/map occupies my mind and so when there are no instructions required, no junctions, and in this case no features, the ride becomes rather monotonous.  I was uncomfortable too, mainly on the saddle, which didn’t help.

Coming up to a big roundabout junction with the A64 a few of us bunched together, the rest scraping through an amber light while I was glad of the rest for the next green, only to pass some of them as a GPS had tried to send them down a slip road to the dual carriageway.  We rode together from here on to the finish, the route sheet sort of gave up at this point so I was following road signs for the city centre, figuring (wrongly) that the train station would be well signed.  The others mistook me for someone who knew where I was going, although now I look at the route as recorded by Strava it wasn’t quite the circuit of York that it felt like at the time, and my timing was still 15 mins off planned so nothing lost.  Happily one of the company got to a point that he recognised and gave us directions to the arrivee – he wasn’t bothered about validation as he had a dog waiting at home.  Once we got to the station my core skills proved invaluable and I was able to direct the others to the correct pub where the organisers were waiting.  Although a pint was inviting I knew that I still had to get home so settled for a coffee and a bit of cycling chat/flirtation with William in Starbucks, then the next train to Leeds.  Another rider was on it, going home to Huddersfield.  The ride uphill in Leeds was a struggle, a combination of saddle-soreness, zero energy and slight nausea as I regretted the coffee.

xmas pud route

103 km, 4 hrs 33 mins

77 kg