This event is rarely blessed with the best weather and with temperatures at the start well into single figures the prospect of riding over such bleak and exposed terrain wasn't inviting.
I had arranged to meet Robin, who replaced his other half at the sign-on, and we located running Graham from Heptonstall sporting his retro Molteni jersey. The VS representatives of Dougie and John Dwarty were also ready to go - John getting back after a long lay-off due to back trouble. Emma from Hebden Bridge also joined us so we had a decent grupetto, trying to get warmed up on the back road to Kettlewell.
Up Langstrothdale and a blue sky was appearing, so was the Harrogate Nova group who are usually some of the fastest round so we tagged along, riding that bit quicker than was good for us. Inevitably we let them go at Fleet Moss as our group was now scattered over the slopes.
We re-grouped after a lengthy stop at Hawes but as we started on Buttertubs Pass things started to fragment again so in true selfish style I pushed on, the desire to post a decent time overtaking my responsibility to our group !
By now the sky was blue, the wind light and favourable and all was well with the world as I solo'd over Tan Hill which I don't remember ever being as pleasant. Things were not so good with Dwarty who had a puncture, thankfully just after the Buttertubs descent - but he had Robin for company.
This was a rare occasion that, despite still being bloody hard, it was a pleasure to see the stunning views on the road over to Nateby and from the Coal Road.
I rode on my own till Stainforth when I joined forces with a Harrogate Nova guy to share the work over to Halton Gill down Littondale and for the last gasp to the finish.
With such good conditions it was my best ever time. Robin and Dwarty were not long coming in, uncannily with the same time to the second ! - well inside Gold time, Dougie also gold just seconds inside 7 hours. Emma, unfortunately, was just 17 seconds the wrong side of 7 hours !
Graham discovered what Pete H has known for a while, competitive running and cycling often don't mix - he came in a while later, but not sure of his surname I haven't got his time - which he may thank me for !
Mel:6 hours 26 mins. Robin & John; 6hrs 46mins (photo). Doug: 6 hrs 59 mins. Emma: 7 hours.