When I logged on a few minutes ago I was disappointed to find that no one else had beaten me and already blogged a report for last Saturday's North West Passage. I usually like to add a few photos when I add a report to the blog - helps pad things out and sometimes people find them quite entertaining such as when I get a shot of one of our members riding through deep floods or pushing there bike through snow drifts. Alas, although I lugged my faithful Lumix (290 grams) around the 130 miles I had no time to think about photos (although that's not quite true - I thought about photos several times but unfortunately a sense of urgency always takes over when you've paid your 5 quid to enter an Audax - if this just happened to me I would be worried but the same appears to happen to 90% of people who enter these non-competitive tourist events).
There were about 60 or 70 cyclists lined up for the 8am start of the long course, the weather was spot on and most of the usual faces were there. The VS boys looking fit and fast, VC167's attempting to look like they weren't planning to get out of breath and a good turn out from the Condor, Melvin looking relaxed and confident, Vicar looking a bit anxious, Single Simon on the bike that gave him his nickname, Padiham Chris, a NWP virgin bursting with anticipation and enthusiasm, notable absentees being Brian and Robin. The Imps had sent along their top roadman Sean Smith to keep Mel in check and Paul Daly had filled his pannier with ham sandwiches to make sure there was no repeat of 6 days earlier.
I first rode this event in the 70's, possibly before AudaxUK existed and have learned that it is safer and easier to go straight to the head of the bunch whilst the pecking order sorts itself out behind. However its the first time Iv'e had the pleasure of being at the front of the NWP with Chris at my side (or half a wheel in front) and by Todmorden I decided it would be expedient to let someone else set the pace. However Chris told me he was staying at the front, he preferred being at the front would not be comfortable sat in, which I thought was a rather over magnanimous gesture considering that there were 50 or so cyclists sat behind us who had so far been having a gentle tap.
Sean was the lucky man to replace me at the head of affairs and together with Chris they did a sterling job winding up the pace through Cornholme and Cliviger scattering distressed cyclists throughout the valley as they spun their pedals towards Damians Drop Roundabout just before Nelson where a feeling of deja vu came over me as I witnessed the Padiham Peddler together with several others including Mel, hit the deck. Fortunately all were able to get up with no serious injuries or damage to bikes and we were soon on our way again although the once large (too large?) bunch was now split into small groups. Simon and I were pottering up through Blacko on the climb over Greystone when we were passed by Chris who assured us he was okay and set off up the road looking for Mel who he informed me was ahead. Mel and Sean then passed us and before long had caught and left Chris and once Paul Daly had rejoined us we got down to some hard work once again passing riders and catching Chris and staying together taking turns at the front till Settle.
After the Naked Man check Paul, Simon, Chris and myself set off together, Paul pulled away up Bukka' Brow and just on the brow of the hill Mel, Sean and the VS's overtook. Paul and I sat in for several miles,
unknown to us Simon had had to stop to make adjustments to his back wheel following an unfortunate touch of wheels earlier and Chris, who must have been suffering from a combination of working too hard at the front and falling off twice had become detached.
I Condor/Imp/VS train, more than ably assisted by Dave Leckenby of Ilkley CC was both organised and working very well, too well for me and I had to drop off up one of the many undulations en-route to Ingleton. Paul kindly dropped back to keep me company and we worked well together. We saw that Irish John had become detached and it inspired us to dig deep and catch him, trouble was I'd used so much energy to catch him I couldn't get past. We regrouped at the Kirby Lonsdale check where Paul and I decided not to loiter too long and set off down the Lune Valley, through the centre of Lancaster, with its magnificent displays of crocus' in full bloom and down the A6 to turn left to the Scorton check just before Garstang. We spent far too much time here, being the 1st riders at the check the well oiled machine had not yet been started up and we wasted time queuing at wrong locations before being sent to the OIC of stamping cards. However this had given time for Simon, who had had to disconnect his rear brake to stop it rubbing, to rejoin us and we left with the addition of Dave Leckenby and VC 167's Bob Johnson.
I always find the back roads between Garstang and Longridge sticky and Dave was setting a pace I knew I couldn't sustain so I drifted off the back, Simon stayed with me and Paul, who was looking comfortable, came back to us once he'd realised we had gone. The Condor/Imp/VS peloton caught us just after Longridge and we stayed together only untill the climb to Wilpshire and lost sight of them on the foothills of Oswaldtwistle Moor. Although this climb and the final climb, 'Owd Betts' could not be described as easy we all managed to keep the cadence going and were pleased to finish the event just after 4pm.
Best wishes to Mel and Chris who although battered and bruised still managed to be upbeat at the finish - hope it hasn't been too painful Sunday & Monday.
It appears that we had a very good turn out for the shorter route - I'm sure Ian or Nigel will update us.