Back in the cold winter when I was pulling together my training plan to ride Land’s End to John O’Groats, it seemed a great idea to fit in the Daffodils Sportive in late April, and why wouldn’t you do the long distance? More miles in the legs for training, and an ascent of Blakey Bank from Farndale. What’s not to like?
That wasn’t the feelings I had on the morning of the event! A 5:30 AM alarm call to get out of bed, a weather forecast for cold, windy, rainy weather, and a rear hub that sounds like the bearings could give out at any time. The only thing to stop me turning over in bed was that Graham from work had bravely joined at the last minute, and I’d be letting him down if I did a no-show. I was still bearing a grudge that in fact he had let me down, as he’d only signed up for the middle distance, and wouldn’t have to climb Blakey Bank.
On arriving at the start at Thirsk, met up with Graham, and ran my plan by him that I would downgrade to the middle distance and we could ride together. Unfortunately, he’d beaten me to it and had already upgraded to the long distance!
The route, I have to say, was beautiful: a part of the world I knew about, but had never visited. Great little villages, quiet roads. I’m guessing they’d planned the route on the basis of our normal winters of late, as the mild winter meant the famous Farndale Daffodils were already past their best, but the blue bells were out and the views were amazing. My fitness is clearly improving since last year, and I can go longer out-of-the-saddle on short, punchy climbs; I did this to good effect passing a guy looking quite “pro” but issuing a stream of profanities from his mouth as he tackled the climb. My approach had it all over in the blink of an eye (but a further five minutes on the flat for my heart to recover!)
I’d been religiously checking the weather forecast, and the predicted rain did indeed arrive at 9 AM, but wasn’t the heavy variety predicted, so not too bad. The pace was pleasant, and plenty of opportunity for side-by-side riding chatting with Graham. The first feed stop arrived at Church Houses, but this meant an imminent ascent of Blakey Bank. It’s one where having the Ordnance Survey map on your GPS isn’t helpful, as there is a progression of chevrons marked on the road, meaning steep, steep, steep. For these long hills, no out-of-the-saddle work, more select an easy gear and spin (or grind out pedal squares) to the top. Some of the athletic riders passed me, but it made my day when they eventually get off to walk, only to be passed by my slow pedalling.
The top of Blakey Bank was another world; in the cloud, fully exposed to the wind and the rain had turned up a notch. Time to put on water/wind-proof tops, switch on the lights and run around the top of the moor before dropping into Rosedale. Once back out of the clouds, the wind died down, and we just had to cope with the constant ups-and-downs of the route. I told Graham that sunshine was forecast for 1 PM, which was met with derision.
Once out of the North Yorks Moors, we had a long run south towards Malton (and the sun did come out). Graham did excellent work on the front, time-trialling into the wind. It was all I could do to stay on his wheel. We then made the turn westwards and got the benefit of a big tailwind for around 20 miles, and at that stage of the day we needed it.
Before joining the route we’d taken outwards, we were back on the course of the short route in the Howardian Hills AONB. I’d never heard of them, and while pretty and not too high, they were certainly rolling enough to cause a grimace late in the day.
The final 5 miles into Thirsk were pan flat, with a great tailwind and made for rapid progress.
Top marks to the organisers Velo 29 Altura Cycling Events, who had great folk who genuinely seemed interested in how the ride was for us, and what they’d done well, and where they could improve. Certainly one of the better things I saw was motorcycle outriders helping with tricky junctions, and with a copious supply of inner tubes and assistance for anyone with mechanical issues; they even stopped for us to check if we were OK, when all that was happening was I needed a breather!
So another training milestone is over, the day after the legs feel actually very OK. Next major milestone is the MITIE London Revolution, which will see whether my legs are up to two 100 mile days back-to-back.
Needless to say, this was part of my training in the run up to September’s Land’s End to John O’Groats attempt, which I discovered is at least psychologically as challenging as doing nine back-to-back marathons! What have I let myself in for? As part of Team Dulux we’re raising money for The Outward Bound Trust. Support me by helping me reach my sponsorship target! Thank you!