So, the charity Coast to Coast bike ride is over. Looking back it was one off the hardest but most enjoyable things I have ever done. Looking at what we did it is quite impressive that a fat lad who hates hills managed to get from one side of the country to the other:
We started off in Whitehaven in the rain. After taking a wrong turn we headed out and into a very hilly Lake District. The first challenge came at High Lorton, a Category 3 climb up to Whinlatter Visitors Centre. What followed was an amazing decent on fresh tarmac that was spoiled by the torrential rain meaning it was anchors on all the way down. This theme continued for the rest of the day and continued into day 2.
After a stop for lunch we continued through Keswick and on to our final destination, Penrith, via a couple of Cat 4 climbs.
The day started off a bit finer but seemed to be all uphill. There was a nasty little climb at Salkeld and we should have took this as a sign of things to come. As the weather changed we edged closer to the fabled climb of Hartside Pass. Standing at 1904 feet, 4.5 miles long with an average gradient of 5.2% it was going to be a killer. It was, taking me an hour to get to the summit of the Cat 2 climb.
At this point we were only 16 miles into our ride, it was freezing cold and the rain was torrential. After a coffee we descended and stopped for lunch.
From this point it was total hell. Climb after climb sapped the energy from my legs and I struggled to get the bike to the top of each hill. The rain worsened and probably was at its worse when we reached the summit of Black Hill, the highest point of the Coast to Coast route. The climb to Black Hill stretched 1.4 miles with an average elevation of 7.6%.
After descending Black Hill I thought that would be it but another three climbs made the ride to Stanhope the most miserable time I have ever spent on my bike. I finished the day soaked and drained. My brain and body were exhausted. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Crawleyside Bank, the only climb of the day, greeted us first thing. A Cat 3 climb, 2.8 miles at 5.2% gradient, it was a killer. The legs were still stiff and the lungs not yet warmed up. We struggled to the top and turned right to be greeted by 35 miles of pretty much downhill riding on cycle paths!! It was a joy despite being cold at the start when we were a bit exposed. We cruised down and after a couple of hours ended up at Sunderland, or Roker Beach to be precise!
We had done it. Day 3 was easy – but it needed to be. It lifted the spirits nicely after a couple of days slog in the rain.
It was nice to end in the sun and even nicer were the two vanilla milkshakes I slurped down shortly after this photo!
In brief – 3 days, 136 miles, 9669 feet of climbing, 12 hours in the saddle, one puncture for Casper, one set of break pads for Robbo, one mental bed and breakfast couple, one sound bed and breakfast host, 9 pints, 2 steaks, lots of coffee and wet cycling shoes from the off. It was emotional.
Thank you to my cycling companions Robbo and Casper for dragging me through it, to Colin and Freda for providing the conversation on day 2, to John for being such a cracking host and finally to everyone that donated to my just giving page!! Oh, and thanks to Portugal…
And as a footnote the whole trip wouldn’t have been possible without Helen and her parents who provided us with pro standard support throughout the weekend (and got me a toothbrush!) – THANKYOU!!!