Cycling events are, at long last, opening up after Covid. I took part in an 'Epic Events' sportive in the Lake District on Sunday 11th April. It must be one of the best days I've had on a bike....ever!
The HQ and start of the event is situated in the picturesque Great Langdale at the new Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. Arriving at 7:15 am, the sunshine was already bathing the Langdale pikes of Pike of Stickle, Harrison Stickle and Pavey Ark. Fortunately there was hardly a breath of wind as the temperature was -2.
700 competitors had entered and over 500 took part - from Michael Hutchings to the the far more modest veterans like me. Lining up for the start we glanced back at the head of Langdale with Bow Fell and Crinkle Craggs topped off in light cloud.
I chose to ride my Trek Modane 4.7, now 11
years old, but fitted with a triple chain ring with a small ring of 30 and a rear cassette with a big ring of 28.
Because of Covid restrictions there were no food stops en route, so I was loaded up with bacon sandwiches, a few gels and bars and 2 bottles
After a delayed start, I think because of icy roads, we are away.
Starting off individually every few seconds to avoid bunching.
The 69 mile route takes in Red bank, Dunmail Raise, Whinlatter, Fangs Brow and the Infamous Hardknott and Wrynose passes.
After an undulating ride down the valley we met the first short but stiff climb over Red Bank to Grasmere. The icy stretches had been gritted and marshalls warned of nasty pot holes on the descent.
Travelling north out of Grasmere we came to the gentle climb of Dunmail Raise (not what it was 60 years ago!)
Helm crag (The Lion and the Lamb) to the left with Steel Fell beyond and out of view to the right is the Helvellyn range.
On the descent we took the left turn at Wythburn to follow the quiet road along the west bank of Thirlmere, glinting in the sunlight through the birch trees.
Then on towards Keswick past the ancient stone circle at Castlerigg with Blencathra in the distance.
Down to Keswick with Lake Bassenthwaite in the distance, Skiddaw to the right and the Whinlatter fells ahead.
Keswick was quiet and easily negotiated. After a short ride along the A66 we took a left turn through Braithwaite to start the Whinlatter pass. The steep part is just through the village, but soon settles to a steady climb, in this offical photo with Bassenthwaite and Skiddaw to the right, up to the visitor centre at the summit. Then follows a fast descent to Lorton.
Then some respite with the only flat part of the course. Here, travelling south now in the direction of Crummock Water and Buttermere with Mellbreak ahead and in the far distance High Stile and Haystacks with a sprinkling of overnight snow.
Then a right fork to .........
Loweswater with Carling Knot........
Loweswater, looking back towards Hen Comb and Mellbreak.
After Loweswater the climb steadily gets steeper and steeper culminating in Fangs Brow. Then on to Lamplugh and Kirkland with the Scottish lowland hills visible to the north.
View of the the central Lakeland fells, again with a light dusting of snow, beyond Ennerdale Water: Pillar, Steeple and Haycock ....... from the road between Kirkland and Ennerdale Bridge.
The fell road from Ennerdale Bridge to Calder Bridge stretches for 10 miles. Here the full length of the Isle of Man with Snaefell clearly visible (though not clear enough for mobile camera shots!) sprang in to view.
Then on to Gosforth and in to Eskdale to the foot of the big one here at Hardknot pass.
I managed the first steep section of 25% beyond the cattle grid before walking a short distance to ride the middle 10 to 13% section and then walked the 33% top section before riding the flatter top section. The descent is hazardous and one rider had come off. Medical support was already in attendance and I met the ambulance...
.....here at Cockley Bridge.
This is the head of the Duddon Valley which has special relevance to me as it is thought my ancestors farmed this valley several generations ago. Hardknot descent is behind us in the the photo, but it is onward we go to Wrynose which is not so difficult from this this side. At 25% I thought it wise to walk this short section of the climb. Then followed another dangerous descent to fell Foot farm. But the climbing was not over. The Langdale Pikes with the finish seemed but a short distance away, however in between was a final steep climb out of Little Langdale via Blea Tarn to Great Langdale and then....................
Distance 69.11 miles
Time 7:40:00 (9.00mph)
Riding time 7:04:54 (9.8mph)
Ascent 7,235 feet
This was an absolutely fabulous day out on the bike. The organisation and support services from Epic Events was fantastic.
I'm looking forward to more days like this with your company.