Thursday, August 21, 2003

Phil and Friends - Part II

The tea stop at Holmefirth is a popular one as it provides the fuel for the big glamour climb of the day - Holme Moss. This hill has been tackled in the Tour of Britain and the rumour was that the pros had been clocked going up it at about 17mph (~30 km/h). I was actually looking forward to this climb as I've always been attracted to the brutal glamour of the mountain stages in the big races. The climbers have always had more of my respect than the sprinters and I wanted to have a go at something comparable (i.e a lot smaller) to an Alp or Pyrenees stage. Holme Moss was a climb that could be tackled in one gear - the smallest one - and I was able to find a rhythm and twiddle up a steady pace. (Not 30km/h) The view from the top was worth the effort but I wasn’t really doing for the view. That said, it was uplifting to look down at Holmefirth and know I was able to propel myself and the bike up the 500 metres to the top.

Albert and I were able to get some speed up after the descent and were soon blasting through the gently rolling hills and reservoirs as we followed the valley. This made a nice change from the "slog up, fly down" sections we had been through and had yet to encounter.

The climb outside Edale started as a typical low-gear grind but it had a definite sting in the tail. Just as the road levelled and it seemed like the only way was down, the route took a sharp left and introduced the sort of gradient we had seen for some time. The hill was mercifully short and it was impossible not to appreciate the setting as trees spread out either side of the road. Before opening out to reveal the valley spread beneath us.

Albert had no luck selling his bike to some passing ramblers so we had to press on to Edale and it was on this descent that the speedo ticked over 80km mark. The mood in the tearoom was buoyant with those who’d done the ride before telling the first-timers that the worst was behind us. It was also pleasing to see the now-familiar 20 or 30 riders who we had regularly passed and re-passed on the road.

After tea we had a couple of climbs to further test the legs including a sweeping right-hander. I’d been whirling up it for a while before I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere. The gradient was constant, as was the curve of the road and we couldn’t really see where we were going or where we’d come from. But even this hill eventually ended and once at the top Albert momentously told me we could get onto the big chainring and power home. He was once again true to his word. I had expected us to arrive at Stannington by climbing the hill we’d flown down at the start but we were approaching from the other side. The last 5kms are a circuit high above the village and this gives a feeling of triumphant expectation as well as a few moments to reflect on the ride before the end.

And then, after five and a half hours in the saddle and with 106kms on the clock we took the last corner and approached the hall. Victoria was waiting for me with a big smile and the means to provide more tea and cakes and the encouraging comment that I didn’t look too bad.

Albert and I had stuck together for over 80 kilometres and he was the perfect pace for me. If I was a bit slow for him then he was too much of a gentleman to mention it. We said our goodbyes after our tea with Albert heading home to York, Victoria hopping on the 83 bus to Sheffield and me climbing back on the bike to coast the 4 miles back to the station.

So my first century ride had ended well. I'd had a great day, met some good people and managed the distance with a combination of steady pacing, full gear utilistaion and frequent refueling. My appetite has definitely been whetted and apparently there's another on in Sussex next month....