When I first mooted the idea to my club mates around 6 months ago the club trip to the Peak District at the end of March 2012 was cunningly timed to compliment my build up to the big goal. Fast forward 6 months and the club trip to the Peak District looked rather more like a crash course in getting back up to speed than the triumphant display of strength I’d hoped for…
Although my own take on hilly riding is a fairly niche approach to cycling there is no hiding the fact that, for some perverse reason, roads that wind inexorably up into the sky tend to attract cyclists on a regular basis. For me the weekend away at Edale YHA was a chance to head back ‘home’ to the area where I spent my formative years (although sadly not my formative years as a cyclist). A handy by-product was the opportunity to take on some well-known climbs: Holme Moss and Snake Pass and, thanks to my local knowledge, some lesser known but equally challenging stretches of tarmac: Strines Moor, Stanage Edge and, the final sting in the tail for our longest ride, Abney Moor. For the rest of my clubmates who made the trip North from the flatlands of Essex it was the chance to tick off some big name climbs and, in some cases, settle old scores from the trip the previous year.
Thanks to the solidarity that wearing matching lycra creates, the club membership had managed to yield a van for mass bike transportation and a number of willing drivers with luxurious estate cars who jetted up the M1 early on Friday morning to allow us to cram three rides into the weekend.
Friday: With an eye on the big ride the next day Friday was marked down as an acclimatisation day without any significant climbing. Eager legs turned over as we descended from Edale, quickly overcame the sharp climb through Bamford, crossed Ladybower Reservoir and turned up the Derwent Valley. At the weekends the road which leads up to the tip of Howden Reservoir is closed to traffic but even on a Friday it was deserted, allowing for a pleasant, long and steady, climb to be ticked off as a leg loosener without any interruption. Over enthusiasm got the better of me at this point in the ride and the return to Edale was diverted via Stanage Edge much to the chagrin of those riders who had deemed it unnecessary to fit alternative gearing from that which usually sufficed in Essex….
Saturday: The main event. Largely a reprise of the route which had been so well received during our clubs inaugural trip to the Peaks in 2011, but with a ‘bail-out’ option added after 55 miles. The ‘marquee’ climbs of Holme Moss and Snake Pass were the big hitters, both taking me around 35 minutes to ascend, but legs and arms were softened up with repeated ascents and descents that took in the Strines Valley and Langsett before we reached the base of the first significant climb out of Holmfirth.
Trying to keep over a dozen riders of varying abilities together for the ride was challenging and regular regrouping at summits was a feature of the whole day. Perhaps the most galling moment of the whole ride was, having suffered up several miles of climbing already, the point was reached on Holme Moss where some kindly soul has painted “1 & 1/4 Miles To Go!” on the tarmac, followed by updates every quarter of a mile. Thankfully, as ‘road captain’ for the day, I had the excuse of ‘waiting for the last man’ allowing me to take the slowest pace possible. Once the summit had been crested the descent off the south side of Holme Moss was frankly terrifying, the majority view being that those of us who’d been going for it had just about topped 50mph at the steepest point. A drawn out refuelling stop at Glossop Cafeteria allowed for some recovery before taking on the ‘short’ (7km) ascent of Snake Pass followed by the rather more enjoyable ‘long’ (14km) descent of Snake Pass. Our ascent followed the route used by Glossop Kinder Velo for their hill climb events which laid down a comparative marker for our performances. Sadly the 35+ minutes it took me to reach the top won’t be troubling course record holder James Dobbin who, in the colours of Arctic Shorter Rochford RT, stopped the clock after 12 minutes and 16 seconds in 2007. That said, I may make the effort to put myself on the start line when the event is staged later this year.
With legs rapidly turning to jelly the majority of riders opted to take the bail out option and return to the YHA. It was left to a small core of determined but weak (me) and determined and strong (the rest of them) riders to tackle the final climb: a little known gem that I discovered when I was first finding my feet as a cyclist and rode the Crich Tramway Audax event in 2004. The extra loop pushed the route up to 76 miles in distance and almost 5000ft of climbing.
Sunday: Unlike 2011, where the trip had been curtailed by snow, the final day of our club trip dawned with clear skies. Sadly some ebullient consumption of recovery drinks during the Saturday ‘apres-bike’ meant that a gentle and, above all, quiet ride was required. A reprise of the route we had followed on the Friday, including a traditional cycling cafe stop at Fairholmes Visitor Centre, was in order. Tired legs were stretched out, aching muscles eased into motion and the miles gently rolled away in some beautiful surroundings.
Then, as suddenly as a Peak District descent flashes past, we were back at the Youth Hostel, packing the bikes into the van and heading home. In a few days i’ll be heading back up to the Peak District to take on the Buxton CC Mountain Time Trial. Hopefully the trip to the hills has started to put me back on track in fitness terms…
For anyone who hasn’t travelled to the Peak District to ride, there’s no need to take my word for how good it is. The British Cycling write up of the main climbs we picked out for our ‘big ride’ is equally glowing, as is the narrative on the helpful Cycling in the South Pennines website. The Edale YHA is a great base for cyclists who wish to explore the area, well tucked away but handy for the loop we rode out to Holme Moss but also on the doorstep of Winnats Pass for those with a penchant for self flagellation. The area boasts a wealth of cosy pubs with friendly staff, not least the Travellers Rest at Brough who happily catered for over a dozen thirsty and hungry cyclists for both nights of our stay and didn’t mind our excitement when the apres-bike took a turn towards the tequilla and sambuca on the Saturday night…