Chris and the author on The Old Coal Road
It was never a great forecast for yesterdays Delightful Dales 200k ride but in my experience the weather is usually far better than the forecast - this is what I told Steve T when he let me know on Saturday that, after seeing the weather report, he had decided to give it a miss. However Padiham Chris and Irish John were not dissuaded by the possibilities of snow showers in the high Pennines and joined me and about 40 others to set out from Pendleton Village Hall at 7.30am on a dry but windy Sunday morning.
With a south westerly wind it was a pleasure to be blown up to Kettlewell and over Park Rash, there were even short intervals of blue sky in between hail showers as we raced down to the 1st check at Middleham. The ride over to Swaledale from Leyburn was not as hard as expected but once we turned west in Grinton we began to feel the full force of the westerly gale. However cycling in Swaledale can never be anything other than a beautiful experience although the undulations made sure I couldn't shelter behind Chris and John and I was happy to watch them disappear up the road, settling in to my own constant effort.
Towards the head of the dale I was caught and passed by the 5 times National Hill Climb Champion, Jim Henderson, he'd set off 10 minutes late from the start and was ploughing through the field, it was interesting to watch him in the distance pulling back Chris and John over Birkdale Common on the road to Nateby.
Jim Henderson accepting his Hill Climb trophy from Eddy Merckx following his 2003 victory on Halifax Lane, Luddenden.
The 2nd and last checkpoint was at the pub in Nateby where after battling headwinds and hail I joined Chris, John and Jim. Unfortunately they not doing sandwiches but did a grand sticky toffee pudding and custard - I'm not sure I would have survived the next section without it. Jim declined to partake in the pudding fest and set off alone as we sat there, dessert spoons at the ready.
The hail was just beginning to turn to snow as we left he pub and it was surprising just how quickly it settled. By the time we got to the Moorcock junction at Garsdale, Chris and John were 100 yds ahead of me so any thoughts of taking what may have been an easier and lower level but slightly longer route to Ribblehead via Hawes were thwarted. The Old Coal Road over to Dentdale lived up to its reputation, I'd put a pair of new tires on the bike a few days earlier and they refused to offer traction even after letting some air out to reduce the pressure, this together with the cassette being jammed up with snow causing the chain to jump (excuses! excuses!) slowed progress.
However we battled on, I had to walk up Newby Head but was still making faster progress than several cars. Once back on the bike I had a couple of falls which began to make me ultra cautious. I was expecting conditions to improve as we dropped down towards Horton, they did, but only a little. John and Chris had a pint mug of tea and a toasted teacake ready for me when I got to the Pen y Gent café at Horton and once consumed we were off again. By Settle the roads had improved and by Wigglesworth we were on wet rather than snow packed roads making good progress again. It was good to get back to Pendleon. A few more observations of the days Audaxing can be seen here -
An ever smiling Chris waits for his team mate at Ribblehead
Thanks to John and his iPhone for the photos