The Cat and the Fiddle, didn’t see any cows though and the moon was hidden behind the clouds.
Sunday saw me getting up at 5:30am to drive down to Stoke to take part in the 55 mile Cat and Fiddle Challenge in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Fund. Andy was originally going to be doing it with me but ill health forced him to drop out, I myself was full of cold and to be honest if I had any common sense I would have stayed in bed.
We signed on at Brian Rourkes cycles in Burslem ( Stoke ) and I was one of the first to leave – you could start between 8 and 10 am – it was pouring down and blowing a gale, I really wish I’d put my bib tights on instead of my shorts, oh well it would build carachter. Almost immediately I was climbing, as any one who knows Stoke will tell you, its very difficult to find a flat part. Out through Tunstall and on towards Cheshire and Congleton before turning towards Macclesfield. The rain was getting heavier and heavier and despite having thermal waterproof socks and my overshoes on my feet were already like blocks of ice and I still had 40 odd miles to go !!
I reached Macclesfield and turned right and immediately strated to climb up the Cat and Fiddle, the 7 mile long switchback hill that the challenge took its name from. Now its a tough hill because of its length and the open and windswept moorland but it wasn’t as steep as the hills of the Terrier. I was really pleased with my climbing and no one passed me going uphill, I passed loads of “proper cyclists”, I just felt very strong. I can see why its classed as one of the most dangerous roads in Britain because there are plenty of long sweeping fast bits that end abruptly in blind hairpins. All the way up the hill there were flowers where some unfortunate biker had left this mortal coil. I reached the top and jumped off the bike and waddled into the pub for a “comfort break”. Back on the bike and the very scary descent into Buxton. I was going at over 40 mph with my brakes on full, in driving rain…..lets just say it wasn’t my teeth that were clenching !!
Reached the bottom and I thought we’d be heading left through Burton, NOPE, turned right and up towards Leek. This was basicaly the parallel fell road to the one I’d just come down, and boy was it tough ! The road actually resembled a waterfall as the rainwater was running down from the fells. I couldn’t see the top of the fell because the clouds had dropped. Again I passed quite a few going uphill and then I managed to latch on to a couple of guys and drafted off them for quite a while as we went through Leek. This enabled me to get out of the wind and to get some free speed, and I was dragged along at over 20 mph on the flat.
The road from Leek back to Stoke was bumpy and as I climbed up the final long hill my chain jumped off, I couldn’t unclip both feet and fell over onto the muddy grass verge. Several blokes asked if I was alright as they passed me but there was no damage and I was soon back on the bike.
As I pulled back into the finish the sun was shining, typical ! Well I had hoped to try and get round in between 4 and 5 hours so I was very pleased to finish in 3:42 despite being full of cold……if projectile snotting had been an Olympic sport I would have won a gold medal that morning !!
I grabbed some food in the community centre, and got myself a very nice commemerative cycle shirt with the profile of the course on the back. I also got a “Good Morning” off the legend that is Sean Kelly, that made my day.
I’d definately do this event again, it was well organised and great fun, just next year I hope the sun doesn’t leave it till after I’ve finished to come out and play.