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.
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. Never 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.
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.
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,