Who'd have thought that it was nearly a year ago that we'd started discussing the Open Cycling Coast to Coast in a day Sportive. Well at some point an email from the club came round and I signed up for this epic 150 mile in a day ride. Couldn't be that hard...could it?
Over the winter – (remember how horrible that was?) Money was paid, Accommodation booked, transport sorted and a Training plan put in place (Alan Coom this didn't obviously mean you!) Richard Nunn doing a fantastic job in making this happen.
Roll onto June 22nd and I'm heading, bikes and gear loaded North to The Lakes with Richard N.
After a reasonable Journey there we arrive in blazing sunshine (who said it always rains in the lakes?) Check in, go and See Alba travel who were taking us to the start (Seascale) and back from the finish (Whitby). Back to hotel for evening meal and bed early ready for 3.30am departure from Penrith on the Saturday Morning.
With very little sleep, all 13 of us all climbed on the mini bus and off we went, breakfast on the go.
Hour and half later having experienced the sunrise over Sellafield, we get registered and at 5.45am head towards the start on the beach jetty.
The weather was a little overcast but promised to be warm and dry. We all (Ed!) looked splendid as we headed off into the Lakes in our Brighton Excelsior Kit (good salesmanship Rich N).
Biggest discussions through the year revolved around our first test at approx. 12miles in. Hard Knott Pass 30% plus gradient in places... many places...
As the route turned left onto the approach road my apprehension grew riding through the pretty York stone walled lane. Brief stop for a wee and Mark P to mend a puncture we were soon over the cattle grid and on the start of the climb.
Now the ride wasn't just about Hard Knott BUT! My word it is steep, and goes on and on, up and up. Quickly I slipped into small ring and easiest gear and started on the immediate ascent. Straight away I felt my front wheel starting to lift! “Calm down Richard, relax you can do this” I told myself. Shifting my weight forward further I tried to settle into the climb. At the first hairpin it ramped up again, out of the saddle and steadily started to battle the climb. Just me, the bike and the tarmac, don't focus on anything else. This was fine until the last section. I happened to look up and all I could see is the road disappearing up over 2 steep hairpins and over the top out of sight.
Pushing on I kept going, staying out of the saddle up until the last 20 yards of the climb. I started to wobble, no speed- foot out of the peddle... so close! Few steps to be able to remount, back in and up to the summit, meeting up with the mountain goats; Jake, Jim, Alan and Alan. Regrouped, all 13 of us over the hill and on towards Ambleside. If Only, The descent into the valley Scary as Hell for me at least. What goes up.... Very carefully I made my own down, finding my own line and safely into the valley and onto Wrynose pass. Not as bad as hard Knott but steep enough up and as horrible going down... Pleased to say we all made it safely through the hills. Congratulations all round and off we headed towards first feed station at Kendal.
The ferry crossing was closed this year so down and around Lake Windermere we headed on the rolling roads and into Kendal for a refuel. 39 miles done. It seems everyone was there as we spent a little longer there than planned as we filled water bottles and had some food, baguettes, cake, bananas- all the good stuff available.
Bit of a climb straight away, not pleasant (not the only time) and onwards through the lakes towards the Yorkshire Dales.
Weather warming up as work our way through the lakes and into the Yorkshire Dales. We’re in 2 groups at this part of the ride, steady rolling countryside through the hills. Able to enjoy the beautiful scenery including Dandry Mire Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle railway line at Garsdale Head. We are now coming up to 64 miles completed as we roll into Hardraw Feed Station where first group are enjoying their refreshments. Join them, have some delicious Leek and Potato soup and a roll plus a few pieces of malt loaf- well catered for on this ride.
Next section was a complete blast we managed the next 25mile to stay together. Great organisation of us from Jake and Alan C made this section fly by in a rolling chain gang. Past Bolton Castle and out of the dales to Tunstall Village hall feed Station. 100 k left now. We refuelled and were on our way.
The next section we rolled on fine, knocking the miles off, past Catterick Race Course, until we came to North Allerton. Here there had been unfortunately an accident and our route was closed by the Police. More cyclists on the ride were coming through now. Alan C reported the problem to the emergency support number provided to us whilst other spoke with the Police. Jake managed to plot a way round and we headed off. This threw me for a while until the route markings appeared again. Heading into the North Yorkshire Moors we encountered a lot of climbing and as a consequence we were spread out on route. Ed and I ended up riding together and were beginning to wonder we’d missed the final feed station. I was just about out of water as we saw sign posted Ingelby, our last scheduled feed stop. Feeling mightily relived we rolled in and I took the time to get myself together for the last 28 miles. Weather was hot at this time so plenty of water, cup of Coca –cola and some delicious Pork pie got me ready to go again.
Unintentionally we ended up setting of in two groups towards Whitby. Up on to the top of the North Yorkshire Moors we went. This last section was a lot harder than I thought it would be. As said earlier a lot of discussion had gone on about the climbs in the lakes, not much mentioned about the N. Y Moors. We had some great downhill dashes mixed in with some tough punchy climbs. The hardest being just passed the 10 mile sign to Whitby. Round a bend and straight into a short sharp 30% gradient- Limber Hill. Out the saddle and fight my way up. Levelled off just in time but still an average 16% climb after 140 miles. Found myself just with Richard N, so off we headed to Whitby.
With the North Sea (blue it appeared!!) coming into view it started to dawn on me that we were nearly there, 150 miles on from the 5.45 am departure this morning at Seascale on the other side of the country. A fast decent meant we got to the seafront quickly and through the barriers to the finish line, cheered on by a crowd of well-wishers waiting for their loved ones... and not BECC riders! Photographer to snap us over the line and we were done. Personally I found it a bit emotional, fool! This was the biggest, hardest ride I’d ever undertaken and to complete it filled me with a great sense of pride, made even better by riding with a great group. Congratulations, photographs, hugs and handshakes were quickly passed round to the tough boys already over the line, and it wasn’t long before we were all in. My actual ride time was 10 hours 5 mins. Total time 12hours 35 mins.
Pleased with that. 12000 feet of climbing, needed the feed stations but should probably have moved on quicker to stop that initial restart of legs feeling sluggish for a while.
Mini bus was due to pick us all up at 7.30 so we headed over to the leisure centre to collect bags and shower. No sign of Claire or Jim?? Argh yes here they are with much needed liquid refreshment we all needed... Legends! Deciding we needed to eat, Mark, Alan and Claire headed down to the front to find the famous Whitby fish and chips for all. ”13 haddock and chips please” Think they cleared them out. Delicious they were too.
Our Minibus driver decided he wanted to load all the bikes on the trailer himself- long story, so gave us plenty of time to enjoy our tea in beautiful sunshine. Quick phone call was made to ensure our Hotel kept the bar open for us when we got back. We had a 2 and half hour drive back to Penrith, but were kept entertained by Jim, Liam and Dan’s recital of ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ We were all knackered but still had time for a couple of well-earned beers, and then off to bed for a better night sleep.
Following morning breakfast (Birthday boy fry up for me) together, packed bags, more congratulations and then headed to our transport for the long journey home. Trip home spent listening to England thrashing the mighty Panama on the radio, talking about how well we’d all done and asking how Alan Coom could ride so strong and effortlessly without training for it!
What we doing next year BECC??
Personally I’d like to thank everyone, certainly made a lot easier riding with these great guys and gal. Richard N, Alan C, Alan R, Claire B, Jim M, Marcus A, Ed E, Liam H, Dan H, Domino, Mark P and Jake.
Richard Marjoram 25-6-18