Don’t Worry Mate – I’ve Got Your Back

So.  Last Sunday Sammy and myself did the “Wrynose or Bust” sportive starting in Lancaster and heading into the Lake District.  The big chap said that he would write it up.  As Diana Ross says, “I’m still waiting”.

Therefore, it’s up to me to do the work.  WHich should not be an issue as I surely was ‘invited’ to do much of the work last weekend.  Hence the title – in the first 90 miles, the Sam was ahead of me for about 5 of those miles.  Do the math for the rest.

Anyway.  A 112 mile route with 20+ mph winds forecast (gusting to 40 mph) and serious rain forecast for much of the day.  Pretty daunting.

On the Saturday, we did a recce of some of the course.  The weather was awesome.  Surely the forecast was wrong?  The recce showed some tough hills, with some steep gradients.  However, Wrynose itself did not look to bad (easy said from the comfort of the car).  Easy or not, there was not doubt that we were tackling the hill from the not-hard direction.  The descent would be brutal with 30% gradient and twisty turns on a road that “wasn’t great” (so say the locals.  Compared to a lot of what we ride up here, the roads were joyful).  In truth, we were both disappointed.  Wrynose is one of the climbs from the previously mentioned “100 Greatest Climbs” – but not this way round.  Anyway, it ensures that we will have to return.

So Saturday involved a large pasta lunch before heading to Lancaster and our hotel.  The hotel looked smashing on the website.  When we got to Lancaster we went twice round the block and missed the brilliant white exterior of the hotel.  On the third lap we spotted a rather less brilliant white and realised this was indeed the place.  Photoshop is a wonderful application is it not?  That said, the hotel was fine.

And so to dinner.  A half pasta starter (same size as a full pasta just about) followed by a bowl of pasta.  And to large pizza shaped garlic breads.  Carbed up and then some (young Tubs aka Novak will be reading this and will be aghast about the ingestion of bread).

Up in the morning at 5 am.  Not a bad sleep, with only two rude awakenings from Sammy’s turbo-charged snoring – he’s defo getting better.  As the belly gets smaller, so too do the snores it seems.  The lovely fruit-laden muesli filled the bellies (which were already full of the pasta that was finished about 25 minutes earlier it seemed).  Showtime.

The race started at the Halton Army training camp in Lancaster.  We entered the site and about 500 direction arrows directed us round to the completely obvious car park.  This was the best signposted quarter mile in the history of signposted routes – which would prove ironic.

Not long after 6.30 we were on the way.  I pushed on followed by Sam (‘get used to it Johnny boy’ was not something he uttered, but it would have been appropriate).  We hit the first hill after a quarter of a mile and passed a few riders.  The truth is that we were hoping to pick up a group to share the work load a little.  However, the pace of these riders was too slow for comfort.  At the top of the ride though, we noticed a chap had tagged on the back.  A nice chap (Mark) and we got working together.  3 beats 2.

After a few miles, 3 riders went past at a good lick – “I know those shirts – the Glasgow Nightingales”.  Sam seemed reluctant to follow them, worrying the pace was too tidy.  I urged him on and of course the pace was just fine – 6 beats 3, especially when they seemed happy to take more than their share on the front.

Not long after we hooked up with the chaps, Sam was caught in discussion with one of the nightingales.  The word got round.  The turn at the mini-roundabout, with the poorly positioned sign (remember Halton?) now had the GPS (the good old 800 version with maps that Sam and now Ian own) was telling us that we were off course.  So we turned back.  And met another bunch of riders.  And turned back again.  And rode till we came to a junction.  With no sign.  And turned back again.

Yes, our 112 mile sportive was now destined to be a 120 mile sportive.  However, the good thing was that we now had a good going group.  The peleton was on.  The nightingale boys picked anther route but we joined them after a few miles in our group, which was marshalled by a beast of a boy on a mountain bike who was knocking out a really tidy rhythm.

Now that wind.  The early parts of the course were hard going, but once we got into the group you really didn’t notice the effect so much.  This was a really enjoyable stage of the ride and the miles flew by.  Me and one of the nightingales seemed to do a fair amount on the front.  At one stage, the nightingale looked around for a bit of help.  “On you go Sam”, I said.  “There’s no point wasting energy” said the bold one.  So again, I went on the front.

The big climb at Grizedale (I think) put paid to the large group.  I was climbing really well here.  Eventually, one of the nightingales came up and we chatted a bit.  He was a fair one for getting up on the pedals I had noticed earlier.  Because he wanted to or he had to?  Answer – he wanted to.  This guy was clearly class, and was holding loads back waiting for the other 2 who weren’t quite as nippy.

A fast descent, another couple of climbs and we regrouped at the first feed station (cracking chicken and stuffing sandwiches).  Sam came in and we decided to wait for the nightingales.  Our earlier friend Mark was skulking around, looking like he’d rather not hook up again – the hills had caught him out  a bit.  Waiting for the nightingales wasn’t the greatest idea as we separated from them pretty sharpish (yes, more hills).  However, we would meet up with them at various other parts of the route.

On we battered, seeing some familiar faces from the earlier group.  The miles ticked by, the hills rose and fell, and the wind really began to blow until eventually we were in the valley looking to the distance and Wrynose Pass – the easy way.  Not today, my friend.  In the valley, Sam and I worked together, taking very short bursts at the front.  The road was flat here and we couldn’t get to 10 mph.  And we were overtaling everyone on route.  The wind was now hellish.  Hopefully, the slope of the hill would prove some respite from the wind, or getting up without pushing would look to be an impossibility.

And so we go to the base of the hill – and the slope proved to be no respite.  This was hell.  I was up on the pedals and turning them sooo slowly.  Please let me get up here without coming off.  I looked round for Sam.  He was still there and suffering as much as me.  “One more turn, one more turn, one more turn”.  I looked up and realised it was too far, too windy, too steep, too hard.  If I was Ian I would be giving it full volume Sharapova grunting now.  But I gave it an inner “aaarrrrggghhh!!!!” and fought on – and made it.  The summit!  Oh Lord in Heaven, thank you so much.  This was a real sense of achievement.  Next time I’m struggling, it’s going to be the go too place in the memory banks – the day I stepped into the hurt locker.

Now the descent.  Absolutely daunting.  The roads are narrow and the occasional car would come up the hill.  It’s hard work gripping the bike so tense (I know I shouldn’t) and braking as much.  However, down we go, meeting up with the lead nightingale again, for the last time (they DNF’d – don’t know why).  After some remonstrations with some mad old lady in a car, trying to pass where there was absolutely no room, we ventured away from Wrynose in agroup of 5 that became 4 then 3 then me and Sam.  Alone again (naturally).  After a while we reached the 2nd and last food stop.  Here we put on our jackets.  I wasn’t going to, but decided to at the last minute – just as well.  We hooked up with another chap here (the 90 mile mark) and would stay with him until the end).  “At this point I asked Sam, have you enjoyed it so far”?  “Yes, it’s been tough but great” he said.  And till that point I would have agreed wholeheartedly.

The rain now came belting down and I took several miles trying to retrieve my thicker gloves to wear.  Signs looking ominous with the cold hands.  I only got one of the gloves out (the other would make an appearance at the end of the ride).  Sam was now looking very strong.  To the point that he took an extended turn at the front.  In truth, that turn lasted about 20 miles.  I was the 3rd man in the group and staying there.  Although my legs felt pretty good, it was tough keeping up and my hands were feeling very strange in a “is this frost-bite” kind of way.  Soon enough, I couldn’t really change gears and braking was torture.  The rain just kept belting down and this was serious work.  Let’s just get home now.

Eventually, we made it (although Sam missed the most obvious sign in the race, especially with a bunch of riders heading up the route).  Back to the training camp, into the showers for the agony and ecstasy as the warm water got to work on the hands and the rest of the freezing body, but mainly the hands.  A bit of hotpot and into the car and back up the road, convinced that Sam’s bike was going to blow off the roof – it was doing some serious wobbling).  Of course, once we hit Scotland, the wind had abated and the rain gone.  All just a dream perhaps?

in Retrospect?  A belter of a route with 2500m of climbing.  Average of 15.4 mph, which was commendable in the conditions.  The conditions?  What doesn’t break you can only make you stronger.  It’s all good.

Final verdict.  Awesome.  We’ll be back – probably.  Although, the Fred Whitton (Wrynose or Bust’s “Big Brother”) is definitely going in the diary next year.  Next stop Etape Caledonia.  Bring it on.  All right Sam, you can come out now.  It’s all over.


About myjhigh

I am the skipper of the "Do It For Dee" LEJOG team. Others may tell you this is not true. But it is so. The captain on the road, the inspiration of all.

Posted on May 5, 2012, in General. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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