Let’s Get Going
This year’s autumn Flyers trip set sights on the Northern parts of the Yorkshire Dales, aiming for roads that even the Elite riders didn’t reach during the world championships just a month earlier due to the roads being washed away by floods. Our riders are made of sterner stuff, however.
28 riders – 15 youth riders, 13 adults – met up at the Buttercross and Askwith Arms, luggage strapped to their bikes and all champing at the bit ready to get going…but first, the all-important best-presented bike competition. Tim Howcroft spent some time inspecting bikes, checking for hidden grime underneath front mechs and around spoke nipples, as well as interviewing riders to make sure they had all cleaned their own bikes – it must be said that some of our younger riders looked a little uncomfortable at this point! After careful consideration, the prize was awarded jointly to Emily Middlebrooke and Lucy Ellmore – well done to both. And this was the last time that clean bikes were seen for the rest of the weekend…
After a brief discussion between all of the riders, it was agreed that we would all take a westerly route via Hawes and two groups set off – one group of 10 riders heading straight up Langbar as a warm-up, while the other group of 18 headed up the Wharfe valley, with a plan to meet up at Kilnsey Fish Farm for a first cafe stop. A measured pace was set by the larger group, with all riders getting used to the increased weight of their baggage-encumbered bikes, as we headed through Nessfield and on to Bolton Abbey.
Staying on the main road through to Barden, the larger group continued up the back-side of Burnsall Fell and after dropping into Burnsall village itself, climbed to Grassington, Threshfield and on to Kilnsey for the first refreshment break. The smaller group took some time to arrive, and smug smiles were seen in the cafe until, when they finally arrived, it was discovered that not only had they taken in Langbar, but also a bonus trip to Embsay and Eastby Brow too!
Into the Hills
After getting some calories in, the groups, now staggered on the road, headed North to Kettlewell, Starbotton and Buckden. The larger group experienced their only mechanical on the descent into Kettlewell, when a mis-adjusted brake block wore through one youth rider’s tyre, causing an explosive blow out as he entered the village. This was taken entirely in the stride of the rest of the group, who rapidly stripped his bike, assessed the damage, made an interim repair of the tyre (which was later replaced once we reached Hawes), re-adjusted the blocks and were back on our way in 10 minutes!
Heading North, and taking the Westerly route at Buckden, both groups started the climb up to Fleet Moss. This legendary Yorkshire climb has taxed many a rider over the years – the 12km run from Hubberholme isn’t too challenging, but it takes endurance to keep going to the top and the final 2 miles is taken at 8-10%, with a 17% sting to the final summit! The first riders from the chasing group caught the larger, lead group at the top and dropped first into Hawes down the magnificent 3.5 mile descent from the top of Fleet Moss. It takes nerve and skill to descend this quickly and all of our riders, young and old, relished the experience!
Both groups enjoyed a leisurely break at the Wensleydale Pantry in Hawes, while all of the riders stuffed themselves full of food ready for the next climb which wasn’t far from anyone’s mind. Once remounted and after only a short run out of Hawes both groups started to climb up to Buttertubs Pass. This iconic road, unquestionably the star of 2014’s Tour de France Grand Depart (and arguably the whole race!) is 4.4km of constant pull from the Wensleydale valley floor to the top of the pass overlooking Swaledale, peaking at 20% in its midsection. And it was at this point, that the rain started…
In the larger group, riders naturally formed into smaller protective groups for the climb, matching their pace up the climb. One of the younger riders broke from the front and arrived at the top as third wheel, with a big smile! Normally, groups will wait at the top to regroup for the descent, but with driving rain being much in evidence, noone wanted to hang around so the riders immediately descended to regroup at the foot of the descent, outside Muker, enjoying some much-appreciated, carb-heavy snacks from back pockets!
A Rainy Finish
At this point, the two groups split once more – the larger group stayed in Swaledale, heading up the valley through Muker, Gunnerside and onwards to Reeth. The smaller group, still feeling that more challenge was required, headed up the brutal 25% climb past Oxnop Scar to Askrigg Common, descending back into Wensleydale, before doubling back, reascending the moor and then finally dropping back into Swaledale for the final dash to the finish. With the wet weather persisting, both groups finished the ride in capes, heading up the final pull to Grinton Lodge, avoiding (not always successfully!) slipping on the new cattle grid heading up the hill.
Day 1 stats
Group 1 – 115km, 2400m climb
Group 2 – 100km, 1700m climb
An excellent Chicken/Vegetable Curry dinner waited for all of the riders, followed by a cycling themed quiz night in the hostel lounge. Well done to everyone who competed, but especially to Ian and Chris for acting as quizmasters, and Jonny Hodgkins for ably leading the winning team!
Pointing South Once Again
Some weary legs were apparent the following morning (especially amongst the adults!), but all were brightened by the prospect of a cooked breakfast to start the day and some better weather to set off in.
An early shower threatened, but entirely failed to dampen spirits and after the obligatory team photos, the two groups set off – in opposite directions – with a plan to meet at Masham for an early refreshment break. Group 2 crossed the moor to Leyburn and proceeded briskly to Middleham and Masham as a tightly formed group and after a brief soaking, decided to press on to Ripon and ended up stopping at the excellent Sun Parlour Cafe. On flatter roads, strong group riding skills were much in evidence as riders looked to keep out of the wind and the group set an excellent pace. Group 1 meanwhile took a more challenging route across the terrain, first heading to Castle Bolton and then into Coverdale (passing the Forbidden Corner) and onwards to Masham for tea and cake.
A Difference of Route
Group 1 now headed back West, climbing back to Leighton and onwards towards Trapping Hill (downhill, today!). Turning South once more, the group headed to Pateley Bridge and, for many riders, a second go at Nought Bank which featured recently in the OCC open hill climb event. From here, a familiar route took the group home via Thruscross, Blubberhouses and over Askwith Moor back to return to Otley.
Group 2, meanwhile, stayed West and headed South from Ripon through Burton Leonard, to Knaresborough. With legs still working well, it was decided to eschew another cafe stop and press for home via another familiar route: Rudding Park, Kirkby Overblow, Weeton and Castley Lane, returning, still as one group, back to Otley by 3pm – tired but very happy with another day’s great riding.
Day 2 stats
Group 1 – 98km, 1600m climb
Group 2 – 100km, 1200m climb
Well done to all of our riders, young and old, for an excellent weekend and particularly to Chris Radcliffe for organising the event.
Group 1 – 213km, 4000m (13,000ft) climb
Group 2 – 200km, 2900m (9,500ft) climb