Yesterday I fell foul to believing the weather forecast, and spent the day ironing, waiting for the torrential rain to arrive (it never did). So today I vowed to make the most of the weather, and go for a short lap “around the block.” Next week I’ll be riding the Giro di Castelnuovo, and the following week the Slate Stinger, so I figured it would be a good time to get some hills into my legs, and living in the edge of Weardale, I had the opportunity to reccie the “Passo di Crawleyside” that we’ll be tackling next weekend.
Heading out from the house, I was quickly caught by a cyclist who’d been chasing me down since I came into his sights. Nigel was also from close by and was heading down to Wolsingham and then up the hill over to Hamsterley Forest and then home. We rode together to Wolsingham chatting and generally having a good time; however, when he turned off, I could also turn my pace back down to something more civilized.
Shortly further on it’s possible to turn off the main valley road to the back road on the south side of the river, which is beautiful.
Eventually the back road spits you out at Stanhope, and you know you’re soon in for some serious climbing.
As I dropped into the small ring and started the climb, I could see a couple of folk ahead on bikes. I know this is unwise, but I upped my pace, thinking it would be cool to drop them on the hill. Unfortunately, by the time I reached them at the steepest part they were walking, and I could see they were the back-markers of a group of about twenty on a collection of road bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes, probably doing their last day of the Coast-to-Coast. Only two of them escaped me by the first cattle grid (probably the only two who rode the whole thing), and as they stopped to rest and wait for their friends, the catch was made and I carried on upwards towards Park Head (and its great café if you’re ever on the C2C). I must admit, my heart and lungs were close to failure at this point.
As I turned off along the tops onto the minor road to Blanchland, a photo and Haribo stop was in order.
Across the tops, what goes up must come down, and even the descents were steep.
Avoiding the chance to loose too much height (and the temptation of the café), I avoid Blanchland by taking the little switch-back through Ramshaw that puts me on the road to Rookhope. There’re a nice little burn, a “relatively gentle” climb, and then at the top gillet and arm-warmers on for another steep descent.
The road from Rookhope undulates southward towards Weardale, and one of the nicest feelings is coming out of the trees and feeling the warm sun on my black arm-warmers. The road eventually rejoins the Weardale valley road at Eastgate, and after a few hundred metres there’s the opportunity to cross the river to one of the back roads back to Stanhope. The smell of fish and chips as I ride through Stanhope is too much to bear, so a quick stop-off in the sun. All that is left is to take the back road to Frosterley, and then along the main road back to home. The bike didn’t even need cleaning when I got back (but I did pop some new brake pads in the front).