For once it looked like we might have decent weather at the weekend so I planned to do the bottom half of the Etape du Dales route. This includes one bit of road that I've only ever driven over once before and felt it was quite steep even in the car - The Coal Road. In fact up until a week or so ago it was still blocked by snow, at least for cars.
Well the weather may have been fine but there was a strong headwind all the way up Wharfedale and for most of Fleet Moss, really quite depressing when you have to pedal the downhills! However I didn't need to get in to bottom gear for the climb so feel as if I'm getting stronger. On top of Fleet Moss the checkpoint for The Fellsman was being erected so I had a quick chat with the guys before the descent to Hawes. Normally you can let things fly but today there was a cross wind and you needed your wits about you.
Tea stop at Hawes - it was actually colder in the cafe than sitting outside! - then rather than head over Buttertubs (never biked this yet) I rode straight to Garsdale Head and the start of The Coal Road. All the way down the gears and under the railway then hit the first bit which is the steepest part. Once round the corner the worst is over and I was able to sit down and pedal the rest. Not as bad as I thought it would be. We'll see what it's like with 70 miles in my legs rather than 35.
The descent in to Dentdale is not one where you want brake failure, there's a lot of it and the road surface isn't the best. Dentdale itself was out of the wind and really warm. The lead runners in the Fellsman hadn't reached the checkpoint at Stonehouses when I past so I didn't get to see any go through. So it was on up past Newby Head and then down to Ribblehead and then Horton and another cafe stop - I was taking things steady rather than pushing.
Rather than head up over Halton Gill and back in to the wind I decided to head down to Settle and back via the roads to the south of the A65. By the time I got back to Skipton I'd done 78 miles which is my longest ride of the year so far. A bit on the tired side but things will get better.
Yesterday was both fine and still so took the opportunity for a ride over in to Lancashire (yay!). My strength is getting better as I got a few PRs on Strava, most by a good margin. I also seemed to be keeping bigger gears going which is good. I did have a bit of a worrying moment dropping in to Colne when my front wheel began to shake from side to side. Don't know what was going on as it wasn't loose or out of alignment but not the sort of thing you want to happen at 37mph! I got home feeling quite fresh which makes a change.
Just over two weeks to go until the Etape, let's hope I can improve a bit more in the interim.