To celebrate Stage 20 of the 2014 Giro d’Italia, we went all Italian for the day!
Saddle Skedaddle and The Cycle Hub organised a challenging guided road ride taking in some of the finest climbs in County Durham including the infamous Passo di Crawleyside. Previously they’d arranged L’Infer du Nord-Est, which was excellent, and had earned me an unbooked place on the Giro, so I was looking forward to a pleasant ride out at a relaxed pace.
The route was planned to start out easily enough, heading upstream along the Tyne to around Stocksfield, where things were planned to get tough, and it seeks out the hills of the North Pennines. The most severe would be the climb north out of Stanhope up Crawleyside Bank before returning back to the Tyne and then Newcastle.
The morning of the ride saw us having excellent coffee at The Cycle Hub, with Alistair and Jon from work also joining the ride. The start was a nice roll out westward along the north bank of the Tyne, a route I haven’t been along before. At Stocksfield we turn south, and the climbing begins. Over Stocksfield Burn and a lung-busting ascent to New Ridley. Descend, then climb to Whittonstall, then another climb to Kiln Pit Hill, followed by a fantastic full-speed descent down to Shotleyfield, the first half on the best of minor roads, then (almost without me noticing) joins the more major road coming in from the right (but the cycle way is still dead straight on and just enough downhill to make it fast). From Shotleyfield we descend to Snod’s Edge, then (you’ve guessed it), we have to climb up to Carterway Heads and cross the A68. At this point we’re told the real climbing hasn’t really begun, but already I’m suffering and hanging off the back of the group.
We now descend sharply to the dam at the end of the Derwent Reservoir and then ride along to Edmundbyers. It’s lumpy from there to Blanchland, and next we are heading over to Rookhope then Weardale and back via Crawleyside Bank. Now I know what this is like, having done it last weekend, so decide to skip this, and go solo for a direct climb up Edmundbyers Common to meet them at the Park Head café. This in itself isn’t an easy option, as when I last did it in October on the Etape Pennine, many people were walking it. The luxury of being on your own, and knowing the rest of the group have a stiff challenge ahead is that I can take the climb slowly and enjoy the view. When I finally land at Park Head, food is ordered, and I bump into Karen from work with her partner and some friends who have cycled up from Sunderland.
When the rest of the group arrive, they are in good form, though Jon has shot off up the hill to claim a Strava segment, and Alistair is late, having bonked on the ascent of Crawleyside Bank (I can understand why). After some consideration, we decide to let the rest head on back on the planned route, and Alistair and I follow the Coast-to-Coast route to Consett, and from there down to the Tyne and back to the Cycle Hub. A much more relaxing way to get back to the start, and the end of a great days riding.
In the evening, I’d got tickets for the Newcastle screening of “Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist,” being shown at the Cycle Hub, joined by Liz and her parents. A nice way to end a great day out.
With the weather still set fair, and having missed out on some of the climbing, I felt it was essential to get out for some more riding. I’d planned a direct home-to-work commute, so thought it would be good to give it a reccie. This was another climb-fest, with climbing up to Billy Row, then along the valley through Esh Winning, before another climb to Hill Top above Langley Park.
More climbing from Witton Gilbert and over towards Beamish, followed by nice fast (mostly) downhills to the back of the Team Valley. A quick look at the GPS to see whether the climb over Wrekenton in Gateshead could be avoided, but it didn’t look straightforward, so lots more climbing. This is the ridiculous spike in the profile at 40km.
Once over the top, it was a fast run down to work at Felling. Two hours and fifteen minutes and just shy of 45 km. Not sure it’ll be a regular commute…
After a quick whiz along the Tyne, I’m back at the Cycle Hub for beer, bacon sandwich and a well-earned rest.
After lunch I still wasn’t sure if I was going to retrace the route of the Giro di Castelnuovo, or just head back towards Consett via my normal commute route. In the end, it was a bit of both, as I followed the Tyne on the north bank to Blaydon, then got lost and ended up crossing the Blaydon Bridge and ending up on my normal commute route. Halfway up the old railway track to Consett I met a German lad on a tourer with panniers full of everything. As I was happy to take a break, I rode with him to Consett. He had come over that morning on the ferry from Amsterdam and wanted to ride the Hadrian’s Way cycle path, but had got lost. As he was a long way off-route, I persuaded him to ride the Coast-to-Coast (as he was half-way through Day 1), and ride back on the Hadrian Cycleway. After a good old natter, we parted company at Consett, and I headed for the track to Lanchester. Almost before leaving Consett you come across Knitsley Farm Shop, and even at 4pm on a Sunday they could fix me up with a toasted teacake and a coke. Suitably fortified I zoomed down to Lanchester, climbed the hill back above Langley Park and joined the railway track to Esh Winning. Really feeling tired now, I took the excuse on the climb to Billy Row to photograph the buttercup fields.
A final whiz around some of the local back roads sees me joining the A68 for a quick mile back home. Job done and 50% more climbing than yesterday!