Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Etape du Dales or '80 miles of headwind'

That's how most riders described this years event, and bloody cold as well. It was the hardest edition I can remember or perhaps it was just that I suffered more than usual. I started with a local friend but I suspected he would be too strong for me and I waved goodbye to him at the start of Buttertubs. As he rode away with the fast lads I settled down to chewing my handlebars for the next 5 hours or so.
The wind whisked us down Swaledale but Low Row is always painful and after turning for Tan Hill it was almost down to walking speed. I wasn't for hanging around in the freezing gale at Tan Hill to queue for a bottle re-fill so carried on towards Keld where the cross wind threatened to whip the bike away. I passed Chris Smith on the climb over to Nateby as he loyally shepherded his mate 'Stu' round, pity because I could have really done with some help from him !
I re-fuelled at the Moorcock after a vociferous reception from one of the West Pennine lads who was manning the feed station and then ground my way over the Coal Road, finding I still had to pedal hard on the descent to make any progress.
At Stainforth the wind got behind us making the run-in quite enjoyable but I was very relieved to get my sausage butty and a pint in my hand. I also met Chris Sylge, the only other Condor who had braved the day as well as VS's John Doherty and Eric. My time was exactly one hour behind my best, which seemed to be the norm for most. Tough, but a bit of an epic.

Times: Chris Sylge 8.11.27,   Chris Smith & Stu' 8.13.32 (I think),      
Mel 7.12.20.  

(I found some pictures but they are too distressing to publish !)    

Fred Whitton report 2015

It has been a quiet couple of weeks on the blog, but that's probably down to it being 'sportive season' and time to put all of that early season mileage into action. Hopefully this post will encourage a flood of further news reports. I see that Chris was in action mid-week after this ride and again on Sunday for the Etape. Does he ever get tired?

On 10 May we had the Fred Whitton Challenge where I saw Chris at the start for about 5 miles, until we got to the start of Kirkstone Pass and he shot off like a rocket on target for a time of 6:49:23. My scouts at the finish reported a minor fall during the ride but Chris was still smiling at the end. Here are a couple of shots of the youngster in action, which I trust will also encourage a legitimate purchase from Steve Flemming!

This first one is taken on the way up to Hardknott, on a bit of road that normally would be considered a tough climb. Looking up you can then see the 'wall' section ahead, and Chris seems to be wearing an appropriate expression of 'were going up there?'

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The second shows our man successfully riding the steep bit. The photo just doesn't quite capture the 33% angle, or the way that this comes after 98.6 miles of hard riding.

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Of course, some riders simply  took it sitting down. But a bottom gear of around 30" does make that easier.

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And finally, flying the Condor flag but rather over-geared (or under-powered) I made it up. With Robin doing the hard work all the way round and waiting for me at various times we made it back in a reasonable 07:45. Though I'm sure it could have been faster if we'd been served quicker in the cafe ...

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