Whenever a storm has a name you know the conditions aren’t going to be great for cycling. Last weekend I took part in the ‘Beyond the Dales we Know’ 300k audax, and Storm Hannah joined in too. It was the second of my four qualifiers for Paris-Brest-Paris. My original plan had been to ride a 300 a couple of weeks prior, but I was unwell and wasn’t able to manage it. The route for this one looked good, if somewhat hilly.
I stayed with friends near Ripon the night before, but it was still an early start to get to Newby Wiske for 6am. Roughly 40 riders set off into the wind and rain. The first 50k was nice and flat, so we made some decent progress. The rain was on and off, but when it was on it was pretty heavy. My first proper stop was at the control at Ilkley, a Tesco garage. My front brake had been rubbing, and I didn’t have the right tool to fix it, thankfully a fellow rider helped me out.
After Ilkley it was up into the Yorkshire Dales. Stunning scenery, but the constant wind and occasional heavy showers made this hard-going. Despite the weather I felt in good shape heading up Wharfedale, and it was great to reach the control at Halton Gill. The organisers had parked a van by the side of the road and were serving us food and hot drinks – all very welcome. It was raining hard at that point, and there wasn’t much that could be done except embrace it, and carry on.
From Halton Gill the road rises steeply, skirting the side of Pen-y-Ghent and over into Ribblesdale. After a slow climb up to the Ribblehead Viaduct, I was rewarded with a bit of sunshine and a rare section of tailwind. After a little more climbing it was a long and welcome descent down Dentdale to Sedbergh.
By this point my chain was making weird noises, and I realised that the rain had stripped it of lube and the relatively warm sunshine had dried it out. I did intend to buy something to lubricate it in Sedbergh, but didn’t pass anywhere that sold anything suitable, so I squeaked my way on to the control at Tebay.
As I approached Tebay the sky ahead grew darker and darker. I got to the control just as it started to rain heavily. It was good to stop. Vegan options were limited at this garage, but I manage to find various things – some bread, crisps, Kendal mint cake, sticks of liquorice – all good. I also got some oil and lubricated the chain.
There was a moment at the Tebay control when I really didn’t want to go outside again. I had dried-out and warmed-up, but outside it was cold and lashing down with rain. I was also concerned that the wind was turning round – was this going to be 300k of headwind? The moment didn’t last long, and I set out into the rain.
Within 10 minutes everything got better. The rain stopped, and I turned out of the wind. It was such a relief to have the wind behind me! Tebay to Brough was straightforward, then out of Brough there was a long strenuous climb back up into the Pennines to take me over to Middleton-in-Teesdale. The climb was fine, I’d recently put a smaller chainring on my bike, so was able to spin up fairly comfortably. From the top of the hill it’s a great descent to Middleton where I made a quick stop to control at the Co-op.
There was a bit of a climb out of Middleton, but after that it felt fantastic to be flying along straight flat roads again, assisted by the westerly wind. I really enjoyed the last three or four hours of this ride – mainly because of the contrast to the first ten hours which had been so challenging.
This was a great audax. The route is brilliant, and despite the weather I really enjoyed it. It was also lovely to see cycling chum Graeme. I didn’t take any photos on this ride (too wet!), I guess I’ll just have to come back and do it again in better weather!