Guest Post. The Fred Whitton Challenge

This weekend, the lovely Mr B&T has been up in the Lake District with his bike, taking part in the Fred Whitton Challenge again. For those who know the Lake District you will appreciate how hilly this is. ¬†Also what the weather is likely to have been like! For thse who don’t know, it’s in the North. Nuff said. This is an epic 112 mile ride, taking in some epic hills, and has been rightly called the toughest Sportive in the UK.

The Route
The Route

I’m waiting for him to return home, I only know he rode well yesterday and was pleased with his time. He was too tired to tell me anymore. However, he rode this event last year for the first time, and did a fabulous write up of it. I’m now cheekily pinching it as a blog post to show that (a) apparently there is more to life than running, and (b) I’m incredibly proud of him and want to share how hard he works at his cycling and his training for events (even if I do wish he would be at home some weekends to tackle the long list of jobs I have waiting for him..!)

So, over to Mr B&T and wind back the calendar to this time last year…

Dear Friends and Family,

So three days after completing the Fred Whitton Challenge I am finally 
coming back down to earth, not with a bump, but with the glowing 
satisfaction of completing the toughest physical challenge of my life 
and knowing that, thanks to your generosity, I have raised over £500 
toward Macmillan Cancer Support.

I have thanked a few of you already but wanted to say to everyone how 
grateful I am for your support. It is amazing what you can do with some 
determination and the added support of those around you. Here is a photo
 of me climbing the 30% slope to the summit of Hardknott 
Pass. IMG_3392ANever did I think I could do that. I had fully expected to be 
walking up that road, so thank you for your support which motivated me 
to give it everything. I'm the one in the Chippenham Wheelers jersey, 
not the chap in red.

My day started at 4.30am, waking up in my Ambleside guest house, excited 
about what the day would bring but so apprehensive about the weather and 
the ride that I could barely manage to eat my porridge. After a short 
drive up to Grasmere, lining up at the start with hundreds of other 
nervous cyclists, my 112 mile ride finally got underway at 6.30am. It 
rained all morning and the wind blew constantly all day. The first climb 
up Kirkstone Pass was a hard slog, but it helped get the blood pumping 
and I certainly didn't feel cold by the time I reached the assembled 
crowd of supporters up at the top by the Kirkstone Inn ringing their cow 
bells and cheering us along. I went over the top and started the 
first slippery descent of the day, taking great care to control my speed 
in the tricky conditions. I was soon flying along the valley base and 
then onto the next climb at Matterdale End.
Kirkstone Pass Inn
Kirkstone Pass Inn
The rest of the day was pretty much like that all the way......... hard, 
long climbs and phenomenal supporters shouting encouragement. The climb 
to Honister Pass was the first really serious climb of the day, with 25% 
gradients, followed by the first really steep descent. Then onto 
Buttermere Youth Hostel for a long and much needed re-fuelling stop for 
cheese and jam sandwiches (a Cumbrian delicacy I believe), flapjack and 
the obligatory banana. Another 30 odd miles later up and down Newlands 
Pass, Whinlatter Pass, Cold Fell and a few other lesser hills and then 
another long stop at Calder Bridge Village Hall feed station for a hot 
cup of tea and more cheese and jam sandwiches. There was only one 
subject that everyone was talking about and that was the final two big 
climbs of the day - Hardknott and Wrynose.

I arrived at Hardknott determined to give it a go. The first section 
kicks up to 30% immediately on a really narrow road with tight bends. 
Halfway up and it was just too congested with other riders and pushers 
so I put a foot down and pushed the next couple of bends. I got back 
onto the bike when the gradient eased a little and gave it another go, 
only to be almost wiped out by another rider losing his chain in front 
of me. Luckily we both unclipped our shoes quickly enough to stay 
upright. After a second re-mount I then rode all the way to the upper 
steep section, and astounded myself by pulling all the way through, with 
marshals and supporters shouting encouragement all the way. A quick stop 
for a breather, a push-off from a marshal to get me going and I arrived 
at the summit.

Then the truly terrifying descent. 25-30% downhill. Brakes on all the 
way. Push the weight to the back. Slowest possible speed. I reached the 
bottom, over the bridge passed a guy with medics tending to a badly 
gashed leg and then straight up to Wrynose and over the top, which 
seemed easy by comparison to HK. At this point my ride halted as a 
marshal cautioned me to stop part-way down the descent due to an earlier 
accident. A rider had fallen, was unconscious and being recovered by the 
air ambulance. I waited on the hill with 2-300 other riders looking down 
on the helicopter and mountain rescue teams doing their work. The mood 
was sombre, everyone thinking the worst. Eventually the rotors powered 
up and it lifted off rushing its patient to Preston hospital.
Top of Wrynose
Top of Wrynose
We were all then released to continue our last 10 miles back to 
Grasmere. Everyone's mood gradually lifted and thoughts turned towards 
finishing the last 10 miles back to Grasmere.  Somehow the legs 
discovered a new lease of life and I powered through the last miles. 
The rain made a final appearance for the day, but seemed a minor 
inconvenience after what had preceded.

Finally I arrived in Grasmere, turned the  corner into the Showfield to 
be greeted by a huge cheer form the supporters, 3-4 deep behind the 
barriers waiting to greet family and friends. "Go on Chippenham" someone 
shouted, as I crossed the line.

My overall time was 9 hours 31m, although my actually moving time was 
8h32m. I hadn't set a target but was very happy just to have completed 
the ride, safely, which had been my objective for the day. The fastest 
riders (two chaps from the Lakes Road Club) finished in an astonishing 6 
hours 1 minute. The slowest riders finished in over 12 hours.

There was much celebration in the finish arena, some much needed hot 
food and the best ever pint of beer enjoyed in the company of so many 
fellow cyclists. Every person I spoke to said it was the hardest ride 
they had every done, including seasoned sportivistes, who had said it 
was harder than rides they had done in the Alps.

The good news to eventually filter through after the event is that all 
the accident casualties are back at home, nursing injuries but 
thankfully okay.

I'm now back at home and getting back to normal, after the greatest 
cycle event I have ever ridden. Wondering what on earth I can do next to 
top that........?! I'm having a bit of rest from sportives for a while 
now. Well, for a few weeks at least.

Thank you once again for supporting Macmillan on my behalf,