Brutal, just brutal.

That’s how I would describe yesterdays bike race, the Le Terrier. It was just one killer hill after another, I think the organisers must have scoured Lancashire and Yorkshire to find the steepest and longest hills they could find. I think it was probably the toughest thing I’ve ever done but I managed to ride up every hill apart from one where I fell off the side of the road, but more about that later.

I rode with Andy and my cousin Mike. Mikes only had his bike for a few weeks and is still recovering from major surgery on his achilles so this was a venture into the unknown for him. We set off just after 7am from Dalton Square and immediately started climbing as we went past Williamson Park and across the M6. The weather was dry at that point but looking over the hills the sky was an angry mix of grey and black. The real climbing started as we headed up out of Quernmore and past Jubilee tower, that never gets any easier, Mike and Andy waited for me at the top as we made it to the first checkpoint of the day at 6 miles. A quick descent through Abbeystead and Marshaw before heading back up Harris End Fell, Mike and Andy were again well ahead when John Krug caught me and we chatted for a bit as we climbed. John climbed away and it would be another 60 miles before I saw him again. Again Mike and Andy waited for me at the top of the fell, something that would be a pattern for most of the day, and I’m grateful they did as it would have been tough riding on my own.

We went through Oakenclough, and Chipping and eventually on to Whitewall, we went right at the Inn and were faced with a hellishly tough climb, it really ws a quad killer. It was a deserted road back down as we headed towards Slaidburn and Gisburn, and I just went for it because it was a straight road and I could see it was clear. I managed to set myself a new speed record of 51.9 mph as a freewheeled past Mike going up the next hill. Dead chuffed with that.

The scenery round Gisburn and top of the fells was spectacular, it was worth the pain to climb up there and feel like you were on top of the world. As we climbed towards bentham and Wray Andy was having gear problems and was manually having to change the gears down by getting off the bike. We then got lost on the fells and missed a checkpoint, we were going in the right direction and then we met a group of half a dozen other racers who said we’d missed the turn so we turned round and followed them down into Wray. It was a mistake that meant we were 1.2 miles short by the time we finished. The climb out of Wray and onto Roeburndale was unbelievably tough and it was now pouring down, Mike and Andy were suffering and were having to dismount and walk. I stayed on my bike out of sheer bloody minded determination but couldn’t catch Andy who was walking faster than I was riding !!

Coming out of Roeburndale was the nearest thing to vertical I think you could ever be on a bike. The road isn’t actually a road and is just a gravel track, it doesn’t even appear on an OS map. And its two very steep hills one after another. I made it up and over the first one and got half way up the next. I was standing on my pedals when suddenly my back wheel spun on the very wet gravel and hailstones and I went toppling off the side of the road still clipped into the bike. Luckily a fence broke my fall or I would have been over the side and down into the ravine, my bike landed on top of me. I struggled to unclip and got to my feet, a passing rider asked if I was ok, I mumbled a “yes”. I walked for about 20 metres until  I could find a place to remount safely. Got back on and gingerly pedalled to the top of the hill. I opened the farm gate and waited for Mike and Andy, and then John came along again. We had a quick discussion about where we got lost and John told us where we should have gone before we set off over littledale in driving rain. John disapeered over the horizon as he’s much faster than us three. One last brutal climb over little dale, through the last checkpoint and we were almost done. We were all knackered as we got back into Lancaster and agreed that we probably wouldn’t be doing it again.

Mike and Andy rode really strongly and I’m grateful they waited for me, as I’m really not built for climbing.  It would have been a very lonely and mentally challenging experience without their company,so thanks lads.

Mike when he gets the confidence to descend at speed will be a great rider because he can climb really strongly, and after this baptism of fire I’m sure anything else he does on a bike will be easy.

It took us 7:20 which we were really pleased with because we thought 8-9 hours would be about right.

I don’t ache too much today, feet and triceps ache but my legs feel fine. Probably do some light training this week, swim etc… as I have 6 days to recover before the Cleveland Steelman ( Half IM ) this coming Saturday. As my dad said to me last night on the phone “You don’t bloody learn do you, doing two tough things so close together”, ha ha I know he’s right….but I have nothing else planned then until the 10th August. Who knows one day I might just become sensible…..

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9 responses to “Brutal, just brutal.

  1. Andy I agree it was brutal but, I wouldn’t say never again! I’m feeling remarkably good today bit of a sore back but otherwise OK
    I checked it on memory map and it was in fact 3031 metres or 9945ft of ascent!! Next yaer they’ll need to include some ‘junk miles’

  2. I know I said I would never do it again but I have already thought about doing it again next year! I still have unfinished business on that climb up to Roeburndale. It beat me this time but I will be better prepared next time.

    It was very tough but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t think we did too badly to miss only one check point. If we had been reliant on my navigational skills we would still be out there now.

    Thank you both for your company on route I don’t think I could have completed it on my own.

    Andy, I notice entries for the 2009 Fred Whitton Challenge on 10 May open on 6th January 2009. Sadly, I will be doing something else that day!

  3. ha ha what are you two like, so ok then maybe we might just do it next year. Almost 10,000 ft of climbing is scary.
    Glad you are both feeling ok today.
    And Mike what the hell are you doing even looking at the Fred Whitton website !!??

  4. I don’t think I have fully recovered. I must still be suffering some form of mental impairment. How quickly the memory forgets the pain!

  5. it certainly does….like when you finish a marathon and say never again but the next day you are looking on runners world to find your next one.

  6. Well, we’re all agreed it was extremely tough and we all may be tempted to do it again. We must all have masochistic tendencies I think!
    I’ll come back next year hopefully better prepared physically and technically with at least a 27 tooth ‘granny’ ring fitted . I couldn’t believe people (ok they were younger and lighter than me) doing those climbs on a standard double (53/39)! It must be that power : weight thing I’ve read about?

  7. Ok so it looks like we are back next year, great !

    I wouldn’t even contemplate doing it on a double.

  8. On Tuesday I went for a very gentle spin with Pam from home to Glasson and along the coastal path to the Quay and back, about 12 miles really nice no problems apparent after Sundays ‘beasting’. Last night I tried a gentle 4 mile jog along the canal and really struggled, my legs felt leaden. Hopefully you’ll recover better (being significantly younger) and I hope you have no ill effects going into your ‘Steelman’event

  9. Thanks Andy, hope your legs are feeling better today. Have had a really easy week, thought it was for the best, been for a couple of swims mainly to sort out my goggles. And played basketball for 90 minutes on wednesday with no ill effects.
    Just been packing for tomorrow, it never ceases to amaze me how much crap you need to do a tri !!

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