For those of you who haven’t heard of the Fred Whitton ride, its basically 112 miles over most of the Lake District passes, ascending some 4000 metres at gradients of up to 30%. Last Sunday Derek and myself gave it a go. Starting at the sports centre in Coniston we set off at just after 8am. It was a cold start but the sun was shining and as long as it stayed dry we would be happy. So off we headed for 14 miles to the base of the first climb of the day, the Kirkstone Pass. But before we even arrived the route kicked up straight out of the centre and instantly we were warmed up and feeling slightly overdressed and apprehensive of what was to come. Always in the back of our minds were the monster climbs of Hardknot and Wrynose that we would arrive at after 100 miles. The Kirkstone Pass was then tackled and with our legs and minds now warmed up we headed towards Keswick. We were riding together at a reasonably brisk pace when a quick glance rearwards on the A66 would reveal that we were about to swallowed up by the Wheelbase team and all those who were also out to set a fast time for the day. So we seized the opportunity and slotted into the group of 30 or 40 so riders for about the next 10 miles and enjoyed a slight respite, even though it did feel somewhat like a road race. People were cheering from the sides of the road, and there was a great atmosphere and buzz within the group. We then arrived en masse at the base of the Honister Pass where the party would end as off shot the semi-pros to leave us mere mortals to tackle the near 30% incline. Unfortunately it was at this point an ambulance made its way past us to attend to a crash on the descent, reminding us to take things easy. The roads are extreme at the best of times and after a hard winter weren’t in great condition. Once back at lower levels we stopped for lunch in Buttermere at the feed station having completed 50 miles. Our backs were aching from the climbs and strangely so were our arms which reminded me that I really must do some exercise other than cycling! Straight out of the feed station came the Newlands Pass, another relatively steep climb before we headed over to Whinlatter. The climbs were more steady on this side of the Lakes and I think we were both settling into a good pace and not feeling too tired. The scenery was quite different too with the mountain ranges giving way to moorland and costal views. A brief stop at Calder Bridge for some more refreshment and a quick stretch saw us complete just over 80 miles. And then the apprehension returned as we knew the infamous Hardknot and Wrynose passes were not too far away. Again we set a good pace and headed for the base of Hardknot, crossing the cattle grid at the bottom and being wished good luck and well done from bystanders. At the first hairpin bend, and 30% incline I heard a cry of “cramp!” from Derek. I laughed, (sympathetically of course) as I plodded my way up. I thought I was doing quite well with my 39-25 gearing until I reached the second hairpin bend about two thirds of the way up when my head gave in and I had to climb off defeated. I pushed a few hundred metres before climbing back on to the top and then down the tricky descent to the valley below. On reaching Wrynose I wasn’t going to give in this time, and dug deep up the steep section past many other weary looking cyclists to reach the top. Pleased with myself, if only for saving my cleats a little I then descended quickly and enjoyed the fast run back into the centre, averaging what must have been about 25mph. I crossed the line just after 4pm with Derek only a few minutes behind. Back at Dereks camper van we bumped into Gary Date with all his usual enthusiasm before enjoying our “Wilfs cafe” chilli and a well earned pint of San Miguel. I would recommend the ride to anyone, especially of you enjoy climbing. I’ve never seen roads so steep, but the sense of achievement and stunning scenery definitely made it the most epic ride I’ve ever done. Next, the Dragon Ride in South Wales…
As a club, we’d like to wish Andrew Simpson @simmo_on_sport all the best for the future, with a heartfelt thanks for supporting WVCC all these years....
Club Meeting Times
09:30 - Winnington Park Rugby Football Club - see calendar for updated start times (Most runs 10:00 during the winter months)
Tuesday evening (informal - usually a small gathering!)
20:00 onwards - Winnington Park Rugby Football Club
10:00 - Hatchmere
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