Thursday, 1 September 2016

Yorkshire Dales 200, the 2016 edition

Skipton's that way mate.

"So where are you heading?"


"But, ..., you're going the wrong way!"

"Well ..."

So begins yet more explaining another round of madness instigated by the chief sadist, Stuart. To be honest I'm not sure who's madder, Stuart for coming up with these routes or us for heading out on them. Whatever, the resulting stares tend to be one of either incredulity or pity. I don't know which is worse.

Getting ready before the off

That morning nineteen of us had left Stuart's shop under bright sunshine. Actually eighteen, Emma was late, as usual. From the off the pace was lively and even before we had pulled out of the estate a group of five had a gap of a hundred metres. No point in me being there I'd just blow up, take it steady. Except that the pace wasn't steady, it was brisk and before long we've hauled in one of the five. A few kilometres later and we haul in another. "That's Mike". Now I'm worried, an ex-racer he normally leaves me standing, I'm going too fast.

At the top of the first off-road I decide to ease off and Mike slowly increases the gap between us. His place is taken by a couple of local lads out for a short ride. We leap-frog each other taking turns to open gates until our routes part. Now alone I head over the moor until a nature break and a drink allow another two riders to join me. For a while we are caught up in the Trailquest that is part of Malham show but soon we split, they are much faster than ourselves. On the descent to Arncliffe Cote there's a rider fixing his bike, it's Mike. "Hit a rock and punctured!" He'll pass me later.

Descending to Arncliffe Cote

I wait at the bottom gate for one of the two riders to catch up and we ride on up the dale. I've descended but not climbed the next bit of off-road and I stop at the bottom to get some food in me and a bit of drink. I think I might be walking this as it's quite steep, the other rider is on a CX bike and is already walking. Somehow I manage to keep going, it isn't that bad and by the time I'm at the first gate the other guy isn't in sight. By the next gate I stop to take a shot of some ponies and still no sign of him so I press on.

At the end of the track I surprise a roadie who thought for a moment I'd caught him up riding along the road! We chat for a while then he carries on to Stainforth as I turn right towards Penyghent and the descent of Long Lane. There's no-one in sight now and I push on towards Feizor.

Near the top of the track is a pile of cartons with water, bananas and packets of crisps put out by the trail faeries - one of the riders behind lives here. I see a rider dropping off the road, must be Mike catching me up. I grab a banana and head over to the cafe at Feizor. Coffee and a toasted tea-cake ordered, it's not Mike but Stuart that pulls up. "Care to join me for a coffee sir?", "Don't mind if I do."

Lunch at Feizor

The two riders who'd caught me earlier turn up and order a larger meal then the rider who we'd overtaken earlier rode through without stopping. "Four ahead of us" says Stuart. He's first away and a couple of minutes later I'm off. Except for a short meeting with Stuart again I won't see another rider in the event until I finish.

The first narrow BW has been strimmed so there's no dancing around avoiding nettles and briars. Not so the second and as I get to the clapper bridge I have to wait for a walker to reel in his extendable dog lead and then wait for his wife to dawdle across the bridge: "Only enough room for one way traffic love.". The next clapper bridge is one I've not ridden in this direction before and there's a slab missing which makes it interesting.

I'm in limestone country now and the heat of the day is making itself felt. I keep seeing Stuart about five minutes ahead of me which at the pace we are going is a kilometre or slightly further, no way I can catch him without going in to the red. Ride my own ride. Soon I'm heading round to Ling Gill and then up on to Cam Road. I ride for a while with a couple of guys touring on the northern part of the Pennine Bridleway: "I'm from Surrey, not quite so hilly down there!". Eventually it's time to move on and I take the descent down to Newby Head. I'm counting down the big climbs left, one is just in front of me and I take it steady knowing that it's basically downhill after this to the next refreshment stop.

Traversing Great Knoutberry Hill

Low gear, a bit of food and I'm dropping down to the top of Arten Gill. I walk the short climb up from the gate to start the traverse round to the Coal Road. This is an old cart track but one strip is hard packed singletrack and it's brilliant fun to blast along. A dog walker takes care of the last gate before the tarmac and then it's a blast downhill. I get to The Moorcock Inn just as Stuart is leaving, he'll gain time on me from here to the end as I take extra stops.

A drink of orange and some crisps then I'm on my way again and across the border in to Cumbria. I'm not sure where the bridleway back over towards Hawes leaves the road but it turns out not to be hard to find.

What looks from the map as being a hard climb turns out to be anything but and I just sit and spin until I get to "The Water Cut" a piece of art installed on the moorland next to the PBW. This is one of the few sections of the route I've not ridden before, Cath and I had ridden part way along from the Hawes end before turning and dropping down the PBW back to the Moorcock.
The Water Cut (with attention seeking bike in front)

Hell Gill looks an interesting limestone gorge, at least it's bridged unlike the other becks which provide a variety of entertainment in their crossing. (Cath bivvied at the Water Cut and there was heavy rain overnight, where I was crossing ankle deep water she had to deal with thigh and waist deep crossings.) Finally I'm back on familiar ground, it's still uphill but the angle eases. Finally I'm at the high point but there's no easing as the track soon drops steeply through old quarry workings then straight down the nose of the fell. I just manage to spot and count five tracks in the wet grass, I'm sixth on the road(trail).

Soon enough I'm on the road and heading in to Hawes. There's a big queue outside the chippy so it's the cafe and a coffee and panini - cheese, tomato and pesto, it turns out not to sit too well on my stomach. The plan is to be away by 1800 and it's a minute before that when I set off. There's a bit of drizzle falling but not enough to justify putting on my jacket as I'll overheat.

The only times I've done this climb have been on a road bike so it's a matter of just keep plodding along until I plunge down the descent to Semer Water and up the other side. This is the penultimate climb and the only other bit I've not done before. A bit of cramp forces me to walk short sections until once again I'm on familiar territory and an easing in the angle. Even with a headwind it's a quick blast across the top and down to Kidstones and time for a quick bite. It's now 1925, with luck I'll be starting the final climb in just over an hour.

There's 20Km of road before then plus a little detour around the back of Swinden Quarry and it becomes properly dark while I'm on that. Just the last climb to do now, no way I'm riding it my legs are too tired. Just before the top I put on my waterproof, better to do it now than in the wind. In the mirk I can't see the holes in the track and keep dropping in them so walk a section until the track improves. The beck is a bit deep so detour that and push on through the rocky section until I arrive at the sleepers across the boggiest section, just track now.

Push on in to the wind, even when the angle eases I still have to work at it then finally each pedal stroke gains more ground and I begin to move up through the gears. Suddenly everything goes black as I drop out of the cloud and my light isn't being reflected off the water droplets. The downside is that it's beginning to rain quite heavily. I know that I'm turning to be with the wind shortly so it's not a concern. Just the last track down to Halton East to negotiate and it's a bit muddy then it's just road.

As I get in to Embsay the heavens open, I really wouldn't want to be riding in the other direction it's bad enough going with the flow. Through town and there's no-one about, up the ramp by the station and in to the finishing straight. I pull up outside Stuart's workshop at 2225 It's taken 14hrs25mins, I'd an optimistic target of 14hrs so pretty pleased with that. The first rider back managed 12hrs5mins.

Here's the Strava bit ...

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