The Tour de France Starts Today!

You have bad, average and good days. Sometimes something happens to make a good day great; well today was a fantastic day!

Yesterday Graham and I went for a quick spin before the rain to check out Unthank Bank in Weardale, a new addition to the Etape Pennine this year. Needless to say, half-way out the heavens opened and we got well-and-truly soaked. However, we now know it is do-able, and it actually wasn’t too bad riding in the rain (especially when you have no option).

We made plans for today to ride the top half of the first day of the Tour de France, but eventually decided not to bother, as the weather forecast was terrible.

So why a fantastic day? Well…

  • We decided to go for a ride anyway, acknowledging we’d probably be most of the day wrapped in GoreTex.
  • We rode the Swaledale and Wensleydale part of the Tour de France. (Did you know the Tour de France was coming to Yorkshire this year?)
  • The much forecast rain didn’t happen, and bar a couple of spots of rain near Hawes, we rode in sunshine and ca. 20°C temperatures.

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 20.29.30

Meeting in Reeth at 10am, time to pose my bike in front of the Tour de France Grand Depart sign (and the Swaledale Outdoors sign, best purveyor of outdoor equipment for miles around – OK, Rich, the owner, is a mate). The whole village is getting ready for the big event.

01 Reeth

02 Reeth

Then, with out a warm-up, we were onto the last King of the Mountains stage of Day 1, the Cote de Grinton Moor. This was steep(!) but possible – I wouldn’t want to imagine trying to race up it. Then near the bend it opens out onto moorland (where I guess I’ll be for the real thing), and then another savage kick up onto the moor top.

03 Cote de Grinton Moor

TDF Reccie 1 TDF Reccie 2

After a gradual ascent to the watershed, we descend rapidly into Wensleydale and through Askrigg towards Hawes. Even the villages off the route of the Tour are all decked out with bunting, posters and yellow bikes.

04 Askrigg

05 Askrigg

At Hawes we stop for lunch, and happen across a sportive that seems to be following the route of the Tour. Once our lunch is over, there is nothing for it but to face up to the ascent of the second King of the Mountains stage, the Cote de Buttertubs Pass. There’s a sign showing 17%, which reminds me of Crawleyside Bank two weeks ago, and also gives me confidence I can do it. There seem to be two steep sections, and then we’re onto a gentle(-ish) climb to the top of the pass; I even manage to pass some of the folk on the sportive. We take a picture at the top looking south to prove we were there, and then commit to the descent.

06 Cote de Buttertubs

On the way down there’s a sign warning of a 25% descent and bends. This is augmented by the sportive signs. This doesn’t stop the guy before me over-cooking a corner, hitting his brakes too hard and doing a front wheelie down the road leaving a streak of black rubber on the road. Before disaster strikes, he switches to the back brake and makes a nice skid-mark along the road towards the wall. He survives and I complement him on his bike handling “skills” and whiz by. At the bottom, for fun, I spray some of my water bottle onto the brake rotors and there’s a hiss and jet of steam from them.

The end is in sight now, and we have an undulating and fast ride along beautiful Swaledale, before reaching Reeth, and passing through for cake at The Dales Bike Centre.

07 Swaledale Fields

08 Dales Bike Centre

So why a fantastic day? Low aspirations, and an expectation of getting soaked, a beautiful ride in perfect weather, completing two Tour de France King of the Mountains stages, and having the memory of today to put it all into context on July 5.

Don’t believe weather forecasts!

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