Monday, 9 September 2013

King of the Pennines

There's been a huge increase in the number of sportives (timed road rides) in recent years. Some, like the Fred Whitton or the Etape du Dales, have been going a number of years and are a good test of a rider's fitness and might be considered in the "classic" category. Others seem as much a money making exercise as anything else.

Of course there are many that lie between these two extremes and there are new "rides" appearing all the time. First run/organised two years ago, the King of the Pennines is a pretty tough ride starting out from Skipton and taking in 100 miles and some of the bigger climbs in the southern Dales. It's nowhere near as tough as the Etape though. I did the first event and suffered towards the end getting cramp at 90 miles and just 200yds from the finish (!) mainly because I hadn't got the base miles in.

Cath had entered for the long event and there were several club members who planned to "bootleg" the shorter event. The roads aren't closed during most sportives so there's nothing stopping anyone riding all or part of the route whilst avoiding or ignoring the food stops. There was no point in entering the short event as it wasn't much different from one of our standard club runs - £27 to do what we can and do ride over most weeks.

My plan was to see Cath away then ride the short route but with a cafe stop in Kettlewell then back to town. Things didn't start out too well - Cath got a puncture within ten metres of the start! Fortunately we were stood right next to her at the time. The event's mechanic came out with a spare inner tube as well so she was soon on her way again.

There were six of us on the club run so not a lot of waiting around. The route is initially a bit strange going through housing estates on a loop that is surprisingly hilly but it's to avoid a busy roundabout on the bypass. The next section to Malham is straightforward rolling lanes but then the fun begins with the Cove Road, one of the 100 best climbs in Britain apparently.

This is where you reach the conclusion that overweight middle aged men should be banned from wearing lycra - as we pass one such gentleman we are treated to what might best be described as the cycling equivalent of "builder's bum" with a white panel of lycra stretched over corpulent buttocks. Cathy (different Cath) got a bit too close and reckoned it was spotty as well!

The short route then continues over Malham Moor to Arncliffe and on past Kilnsey down the dale. We turned right at this point to Kettlewell and our cafe stop. Actually this was on the long route and after we'd finished in the cafe I decided to find out how far Cath had got from the event's Kettlewell food stop. "About ten minutes ahead" was the consensus so I decided to try and catch her up.

Just one little bit of the climb of Fleet Moss to do!
It took until the start of the final climb up Fleet Moss before I picked out the Skipton jersey ahead. All I got when I reached her was a grunt. By the time she'd decided that she'd like me to carry on with her we were at the summit. I've never really liked the descent from Fleet Moss down the north side, usually there's a cross wind and it feels very insecure so we just took it steady.

The route doesn't just head straight down Wensleydale but does an awkward loop round Burtersett and Semerwater just to get the vertical ascent figures up. Then once you are at Bainbridge it's mostly a long gentle downhill to the next food stop at Redmire. This is just over 60 miles in to the ride but you still feel as if you are heading away from the finish as you continue down the dale towards Leyburn.

The climb up Gayle Bank to get to Coverdale is more awkward than you might think but the loop around Middleham High Moor just seems unnecessary. Then it's Coverdale which I hate. It's a long deceitful drag of a climb with lots of descents to take away your hard earned effort and the wind is nearly always in your face. Today the wind had picked up again, not as bad as our first ride up here some years ago but still annoying. The steepest part of the climb is the last bit and as the gradient eases you are exposed to the full force of the wind so even the flat summit area of Park Rash is hard work.

Finally it's the steep descent down Park Rash back to Kettlewell and the familiar roads down the dale. Cath decides not to use the last food/drink stop but continue straight on as it's only an hour back to Skipton.

Cath at the top of Black Park.

Of course there's a sting in the tail in the form of Black Park. It's a long drag from this side but being local I know the effort needed and soon I'm passing riders who passed us earlier some of whom are walking. Finally it's the top and the blast in to Skipton. A couple of club members are out cheering us on.

So well done to Cath for her first 100 miler for a while. Not an easy one, I reckon there's only a handful of sportives that are harder. With the lack of food (not officially entered so couldn't use the food stops you see) my legs definitely felt it as well.

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