Peter has just given a great account of the long NW Passage, so here is a suitably shortened account of the short version.
Paul Gower and Ian from the Condor joined forces with Paul Hickey and Neil Dyson from the Imps plus another three or four others from parts hereabouts to form a sociable peleton. Setting off at the leisurely hour of 9am and even at a correspondingly leisurely pace, Paul H soon had us on the front of a big bunch of riders drawn from the 70 or so starters. We waived goodbye to Criss Crossland and fellow CTC-ers on the outskirts of Rochdale and settled into a steady rhythm of 14 to 15 mph which was to persist all day.
Maybe a dozen or so escaped up the road the Blacko climb and we happily let them go, although the majority were content to sit in behind Neil and Hickey still doing sterling work on the front. Gisburn fell just under 40 miles from the start and was time for a spot of elevenses in the cafe at the other end of the village - leaving the main bunch to continue on their way. This proved a good move. By the time we got to the control at Waddington cafe many of these guys were still waiting in the queue to be served, whilst we quickly had our cards stamped and set off again.
Owd Betts has never been easier for me. Usually I'm on my knees by this stage but this time round conversation didn't pause all the way to the top. The descent into Rochdale and a final bit of routefinding through those delightful streets saw us safely back at the pub for around 3pm. Plenty of time for a pint and the rather small portion of pie and peas (but I can't argue since it was free - included in the bargain admission price of £4). In fact we were just starting on a second round of drinks when the fast lads rolled in looking rather tired and pale in some cases, unless your name was Andy, Martin or Brian each of whom looked as if they had just stepped out of a car rather than ridden 200K. Brian's new non-training regime seems to be paying huge dividends!