THE WAY OF THE ROSES, A BOLLARD & THE CONCEPTION OF ALAN BENNETT

CRC C2C WAY OF THE ROSES 6th & 7th JULY 2019

The club had arranged one of it’s occasional away day rides. This time it was to be the classic Way Of The Roses coast to coast ride from Morecambe to Bridlington over 2 days.  77 fun packed hilly miles on the first day from Morecambe to Ripon and 93 even more fun packed flat miles from Ripon to Bridlington on day 2.

Annette had signed up enthusiastically and as I was finding it difficult to see any actual fun in such an undertaking I had passed. When a space became available due to a late drop out Annette applied some subtle pressure.

“ You should do this ride “….OK it wasn’t subtle…” it will give you something to aim for. Don’t tell me you only have one functioning kidney, one is more than enough ! “

This was tough love. 

To be fair she was right although I would never tell her to her face or admit it in a public forum. 

Cycling had lost it’s lustre for me. I was continually on the hunt for the mystical MOJO.

I was in a vicious circle of no MOJO, eat, gain weight, get unfit and feel terrible on the bike….no MOJO, eat, gain weight, get unfit and feel terrible on the bike…..repeat.

So I made the assessment that if I committed to doing a challenging ride, something so obviously devoid of fun , with only 4 weeks to go then I would have to pull my finger out and get training or I just wouldn’t get round or indeed ever come back !

Annette would have to build a shrine to me.

………what could possibly go wrong.

THE RIDE 

The ride itself was very much all about the first day. Starting from Morecambe there were 7 flat miles into Lancaster  then along the banks of the River Lune before the reality of what was in store hits home with an invigorating climb up Halton Hill.

Then a descent back down into the Lune Valley through Hornby before starting a 13 mile stretch of rising elevation passing through Clapham and Austwick followed by plunging back down again this time into the Ribble Valley where a stop at Settle was planned.

The climb out of Settle up High Hill Lane ( the clue is in the name ) was billed as the hardest climb of the ride so I was especially looking forward to that one. That would be followed by a descent through Airton and Winterburn before climbing again through Hetton. On the way down from this climb we would tick off another valley, this time the Wharfe Valley.

From here we would wend our way over to the foot of Greenhow Hill which was the second real stinker of the day and coming down that one would be the death defying descent into Pateley Bridge where any survivors would stop for well deserved coffee and cake.

Any thoughts that the torture was close to an end would be quickly dispelled by a stiff climb coming out of Pateley Bridge and then a further stiff climb up Brimham Rocks Road before the Day 1 torture would actually come to an end via a glorious descent into Ripon. 

In total Day 1 would be some 6500 feet of climbing which is not so much for some but a hell of a lot for me. 

The most important thing about Day 2 was that it wasn’t Day 1. 

Starting at Ripon it would follow in a round about fashion the River Ure ( no I hadn’t heard of it either ) before it turns into the River Ouse ( heard of that one ) . Skirting around York there would be a coffee stop at Stamford Bridge before going on to Pocklington, Driffield and finally Bridlington.

Although billed as a “flat” 93 miles there was still 2300 feet of climbing which, when you are a MOJO-less overweight cyclist with only one functioning kidney,  is still a significant test…..did I mention I only had one functioning kidney ?

THE RIDERS

There were nine of us doing the ride. The vast majority were stalwarts of the Cottingham Road Club steady group.

Bill had organised the ride, co-ordinated all aspects of travel and accommodation and issued all necessary instructions and information in writing to the participants well in advance. 

Some of us actually read them.

It was like a military operation. There would be 3 ride groups code named Tom, Dick and Harry and the mission was to scatter riders across Germany to harass, confound and confuse the enemy…..sorry I am getting mixed up with The Great Escape. I love a good guys on a mission story.

GETTING READY FOR THE GREAT ESCAPE

Bill was doing the Way Of The Roses for the first time as was Annette, myself and Sergei. Those that had done the ride before included Geoff, Mike, Chris, Mark and Glen.

Last year’s ride had been eventful in that Glen had a carbon wheel disintegrate on the death defying drop into Pateley Bridge. Legend has it that the wheel was actually on fire such was the frictional heat developed in braking. If this is true then the temperature of the wheel would have reached 700 degrees centigrade which is the auto ignition point of carbon. I just want you to have all the facts.

As well as this scary event Mark had fallen off going through York resulting in concussion and him having to abandon.

We certainly didn’t want a repeat of any such scary events on this ride.

TRAVEL & GETTING READY FOR THE OFF

We travelled over to Morecambe on the Friday afternoon in a sharabang consisting of mini bus towing a trailer of bikes and another taxi for those who didn’t want to participate in group bonding or slum it in the mini bus. So obviously I was in the taxi.

We arrived in Morecambe safe and sound approximately 3 hours later and took in the town’s beauty, heritage and culture…which took about 5 seconds. No no to be fair it’s easy to knock Morecambe, so I will…it’s a dump. No no come on that’s a low blow let’s give it a chance.

If you google “ Interesting Facts About Morecambe “ you will discover that author and playwright Alan Bennett often holidayed in Morecambe and he speculated that he could even have been conceived in one of the local boarding houses…although it could’ve been Filey.

ALAN BENNETT – JUST EXACTLY WHERE WAS HE CONCEIVED ?

We de-bussed got into our bed and breakfast accommodation and after our evening meal hit the sack ready for the next day’s adventure. I lay awake for some time wondering how it would go. 

Would the weather be OK? Would I be able to get up the hills? Would I have the stamina to complete the ride at all ?…….but most of all I wondered whether Alan Bennett had been conceived in my room.

BLOOD BATH AT LANCASTER SAINSBURY’S

The day had finally arrived and after a hearty breakfast we got ourselves over to the official start point for the Way Of The Roses on the sea front at Morecambe.

Pleasantries were exchanged with passing runners…. “ Get out of the way ! “ …photographs were taken and we were off !

THE START – 5 MILES DOWN THE ROAD THE BOLLARD IS WAITING

The first few miles were along combined cycle and pedestrian paths that ran into Lancaster. Totally flat, very low speed and very pleasant as we crossed over the River Lune and wended our way along the river bank itself. You just had to make sure that you avoided the occasional bollard that had been placed in the middle of the path presumably to demarcate the separation between the pedestrian and cycle parts of the path.

One imagines there had been extensive meetings at the highways section of the local council on the placement of these bollards and that they had been sourced from recycled materials and were in all respects ethically sound and sustainable bollards. The health and safety guy must have been on holiday for these meetings as the chances of a cyclist hitting these recycled, ethically sound, sustainable bollards was quite high.

And so it came to pass as the sickening sound of carbon / aluminium frame, wheels and pink squishy human hitting the ground could be heard behind me. 

Sergei had crashed into one of these bollards and had suffered a deep cut to his forehead. His helmet was also cracked having done it’s job to save him from more serious injury. As he clutched a hanky donated by Bill to his head to stem the bleeding it was clear that he needed to get medical attention and go to hospital.

So that is what happened. After dialing 999 we got a first responder paramedic arriving quite quickly who, despite Sergei’s attempts to wander off, told him he was going nowhere but the hospital.

The incident had happened next to a Sainsbury’s in Lancaster and the staff were very helpful in storing Sergei’s bike until it could be picked up and to let the front of the store be used as an assessment and treatment centre for the paramedic. 

Sergei was obviously upset that this had happened so soon into the ride and was understandably disappointed that he wasn’t going to complete the challenge. In retrospect it was perhaps the best place for such an incident to happen as medical attention was available and arrived very quickly in the middle of Lancaster. I am not so sure that would have been the case in the middle of the countryside.

We left him in the care of the paramedic who had called for an ambulance to come pick him up. Sergei had a number of stitches in his forehead and subsequently developed shiners one of which basically closed one eye. This just emphasised he was in no condition to carry on and getting him to hospital was the right decision. His wife came to pick him and his bike up and he was safe at home that evening.

A traumatic experience Sergei…but it’s not like you only have one functioning kidney is it ?!  Have I mentioned that ?

LET THE PAIN COMMENCE …THE OTHER KIND OF PAIN TO DO WITH PHYSICAL EXERTION

When we got to Halton Green around the mile 8 mark the fun stopped ( well I guess there hadn’t actually been any fun up to that point ) and we started climbing.

This was the start of a 27 mile section that would see us go up and down …and up and down….and up and down …until we got to Settle.

There were plenty of short sharp stingers thrown in that were 15 to 20 % and a couple of longer climbs up Halton Hill and the climb out of Clapham.

Everyone would toil away in their own private world of pain and at their own pace and then we would get together at the top before moving off again. Downhills were good for recovery but had to be taken with a pinch of salt in that every foot you went down meant that you were going to be coming back up that foot later on. So you had to be in a good place mentally.

Unfortunately in the early part of the ride we still could not avoid incidents on the road.

We came across another cycling group that had had a coming together on a downhill and one of the riders was being tended to by an ambulance team.

In another incident a camper van went for a gap that was almost exactly camper van sized when overtaking our group with oncoming traffic. The driver cut the recommended 1.5 metre passing distance by approximately 1.5 metres. The vehicle came very close to Mike but at least he knew nothing about it until the vehicle sped past unlike the driver of the oncoming vehicle who experienced a major code brown.

CAMPER VAN DRIVER USING THE FORCE TO NEGOTIATE BLIND BEND, CYCLISTS & ONCOMING TRAFFIC

Also just before we encountered a flock of sheep blocking the road Annette got stung on the lip by an unknown insect.

“ I have just been stung ! “ she yelped coming to an instant halt.

“ Is my lip swelling up ? “ she asked with a bit of a chin wobble going on.

I looked and saw a second head starting to grow out of her bottom lip like we were in some kind of horror movie…..

“ No love it looks perfectly fine to me, you’ll be OK, don’t be touching it all the time “

“ Anyway “ I continued “ It’s not like you only have one functioning kid…..”

I bailed out of the wisecrack, my spider sense was tingling, I was in danger, it was too soon.

CLIMB OUT OF SETTLE – IF YOU HAVE TEARS PREPARE TO SHED THEM NOW

Luckily Annette managed to get some antihistamine tablets at a village shop and when we arrived in Settle she was feeling much brighter.

Settle was buzzing with activity, the sun was shining and we had an excellent stop for tea/coffee, sandwiches, cakes, traybakes etc etc.

GLEN – ALAN SHEARER GOAL CELEBRATION

We got talking to other cyclists at the cafe one of whom tried to extract the michael out of me for wearing my Dimension Data knock off cycling jersey made in China by small children. I think the inference was that I wasn’t worthy to be wearing such a garment.  That was until I told him my story of when Steve Cummins told me to get out of his way at the 2017 British National Road Racing Championships which practically made me his lead out man as far as I was concerned. That shut him up !

GEOFF & MARK – PUT IT AWAY GEOFF !!

Anyway after a great refreshing stop we all had to turn our thoughts to the killer climb ahead of us. 

In the build up to the ride I had found a number of YouTube videos of cyclists going up the climb, starting to tack from side to side and eventually stalling and keeling over.

According to Strava the full climb is just over 2 and a half miles long from where it starts to go up to where it finally flattens off and you can think about going downhill again. The problem is the first two thirds of a mile which just goes up very steeply with a maximum gradient of 20 % starting off on a cobbled street before transitioning into a pretty poor quality tarmac road. 

BILL & ANNETTE – CLIMB OUT OF SETTLE

It then slackens off for about a mile and then goes steep again over the remaining distance going back up to about 15 %

That first section is the killer though , with no bends in the road offering a few seconds relief you just have to have the leg strength to keep it going.

Annette and I set off a bit ahead of the others as we did not want to have an audience if we fell off. Annette knew she would have to walk at some stage and was happy for me to keep going….if I could. Shortly after the cobbles Annette told me she would see me at the top and I chivalrously left her behind.

Do you know when elite athletes are in the zone and it is almost like an out of body experience watching themselves perform at the highest level ? Well it was nothing like that for me . it just hurt like hell as I ratcheted my way up that first section. Bill would later describe that first section as looking up at a wall and I knew exactly what he meant.

Once over that first section the effort level went from extraordinary and unsustainable to just plain old immense and sustainable. 

MIKE CRESTING THE CLIMB OUT OF SETTLE

I made it to the top of the full climb without stopping in 2580th position on the all time Strava list and now all I have to do is find a podium with 2580 steps ! 

As Annette and I had set off ahead of the others I could now get some great photos of the rest of the guys triumphantly getting to the top of this brute.

CHRIS AT THE TOP OF THE SETTLE CLIMB

First Glen with Alan Shearer goal celebration, then Geoff and Mark, Bill and Annette and finally Mike and Chris. Great stuff although I could have done without the Geoff shirt unzipped to his naval shot which I will never be able to unsee. 

GREENHOW HILL – THE HILL THAT NEVER ENDS

At the top of the climb out of Settle we were well and truly on the Yorkshire Dales. Treeless, austere yet beautiful countryside.

The most beautiful thing about it at that moment however was the fact that it was pointing down for the next few miles at least.

So we started a 5 mile downhill section that finished crossing the River Aire appropriately at Airton before starting more infernal ups and downs around Winterburn that would end when we descended into the Wharfe Valley at Burnsall.

We took a break under the shade of a random tree along this stretch were I took a few photographs which unfortunately did not include Glen and Mark showing off their sheep whisperer skills. The ladies were mesmerised. 

MARK AND GLEN – SHEEP WHISPERERS
CHRIS, MIKE AND BILL

We were at mid afternoon now and we really couldn’t have been luckier with the weather. It was fine and sunny (but not too hot) with a moderate Westerly wind to our backs. Bill took a couple of great shots showing the now lush countryside we were passing through in the valley bottoms. I attempted the same using the Panorama function of my iPhone and got a picture of a 6 foot section of tarmac road. So I’ve put Bill’s photos on.

However we were now approaching the next big challenge of the day which was the ascent of Greenhow Hill that would start just outside of Appletreewick ( great name ) and would run for just over 4 miles.

For me the most significant bit was right at the bottom, a tight left hand bend with a seriously steep gradient on it. It forced you to go wide on the right hand side to make the gradient manageable and even then I had to get out of the saddle ( always a last resort for me ) and drive hard to get up, over and round. 

You are of course at the mercy of any oncoming traffic in such situations and totally in the wrong being on that side of the road. You just have to hope you will encounter sympathetic souls on the other side of the road which sometimes can be problematic. 

As we were all going up at our own pace I did not witness what happened to Bill on this tight left hander but it has been recounted to me several times now by those who witnessed it and I feel I can convey it to you accurately and truthfully.

It seems that Bill got his approach to this corner all wrong in that he stayed well left. Whether this was because he underestimated the prodigious amount of strength and the phenomenally high power to weight ratio required to get round this corner on the left or whether he thought he possessed the prodigious amount of strength and the phenomenally high power to weight ratio….I don’t know.

GEOFF AND ANNETTE AT THE TOP OF GREENHOW HILL

Whatever the reasons when  Newton’s Laws of Motion began to take effect he found himself going slower and slower until he was basically doing a track stand. He had now accepted the fact that he was about to fall over but he still had a choice on which way to go. To the right would mean falling into the road and potentially any oncoming traffic and to the left would be a relatively benign fall into the grass verge. So he expertly adjusted his centre of gravity to be on the left of the bike and like a giant redwood being felled he toppled majestically over onto the verge.

Now at this point Bill was probably thinking, OK I have fallen over , it’s a bit embarrassing but I am unhurt and at least I have kept my dignity.  He then tried to unclip his shoes from the pedals which being in a horizontal position he found extremely hard to do . So he now resembled a crazy person wriggling on the floor trying to get out of a strait jacket whereupon his dignity was all shot to hell.

There are no pictures of this or the aftermath as his ride companions carried on riding and left him to it.

CHRIS OVER THE TOP OF GREENHOW HILL

After the tight left hander the most memorable feature of this climb was that it never seemed to end. 

There would be a ramp that went up followed by a flatter bit and then you would go round a corner and there would be another ramp up followed by a flat bit and then you would go round a corner and there would be another ramp up ….you get the idea

We had a regrouping around half way up and then carried on to the top where I attempted another panoramic picture of the terrific views of the countryside from this elevated position only to get another 6 foot section of tarmac road.

MIKE AT THE TOP OF GREENHOW HILL

DESCENT INTO PATELEY BRIDGE AND GEOFF GOES AWOL 

After the top of Greenhow Hill was the much heralded descent into Pateley Bridge or to give it it’s full name “ Death Defying Descent Into Pateley Bridge. “

Now anything with a descriptor starting with the word “death” gets my attention. I am a very nervy descender, I do not like going downhill and once my speed gets to about 30 mph it’s a full on code brown and I start yelping like a little girl. In fact that does little girls a disservice, there are plenty of little girls that are braver than me.

The descent is about 2 miles long, steep with gradients up to about 15 % and with numerous bends and twists in the road. If you do not have good bike handling skills and you let your speed get too high you will come a cropper at one of these bends. 

Annette and I most certainly do not have good bike handling skills and so we hung at the back of the group and went down the hill with brakes nearly full on all the way down. Even then I still got up to nearly 30 mph but that must have been at the bottom where the road straightened out and I released my death grip on the brake levers.

I am pleased to report that everyone got down safely and no-one’s bike or parts thereof spontaneously combusted.

We had a great cafe stop in Pateley Bridge and after 63 miles I stupidly thought that it would be the end of the hills from here to Ripon.

I was to be disappointed as immediately we left Pateley Bridge the road pointed skyward again with a 1 mile climb that hit 10 % at the bottom and at the top.

Just after this climb was a left turn off the main road that would take us to the final climb of the day. I got there first and positioned myself at the turning to point people in the right direction so they didn’t miss the turn.

Glen, Annette and Bill, Mike, Chris they all came through, but no sign of Geoff and Mark. I peddled back down the route to see if I could find them but no sign. There was no way I was going to go back down the hill to try and find them. My concern for their wellbeing was not greater than my desire to avoid doing that hill again. 

HAS ANYBODY SEEN THIS MAN ?

So I called Geoff on his mobile and after a couple of attempts I got him.

They had taken an earlier left hand turn which was signposted for Ripon or to be more precise Geoff had taken this turn and Mark had made the fatal mistake of following him.

“It’s Ok Alan “ said Geoff “ We will carry on and see you in Ripon “

So I returned to the route to catch up with the rest of the group who were waiting for me close to the top of the final climb of the day which was the Brimham Rocks climb. This was a little over a mile and a half climb with a tough 15/16 % section at the bottom and then some more minor ups and downs until you got to the top.

I explained the situation with Geoff and Mark to them and there were eyes raised to the sky as Geoff has form with regard to getting lost.

As regards his familiarity with his Garmin….well, let’s not go there.  To be honest we had done well to get some 69 miles down the route before we had a Geoff problem.

It didn’t really come as a surprise therefore that about 10 minutes later after we set off again we came across Geoff and Mark going in the opposite direction to us heading back to Morecambe !

Mark was shaking his head ruefully and I knew what was going through his head. I shouldn’t have followed him, I just shouldn’t have followed him.

And so that was how Day 1 came to an end with a glorious 10 mile downhill run into Ripon followed by a night in the pub where we pulled Geoff’s leg about him getting lost twice and peddling back to Morecambe and he tried to kid us he knew exactly where he was going at all times.

Somewhere between those 2 extremes lay the truth……but it was closer to the getting lost twice end.

DAY 2 – THANK GOD IT’S NOT DAY 1

When Day 2 dawned we were all thankful it wasn’t Day 1. I for one was sore, stiff, tired and just wanting to get this day over and done with. It’s a pity that would require us to cycle another 90 miles…….Hmm maybe I never really thought this whole coast to coast thing through.

Still we all put our “I’m really up for this “ faces on and gathered for the obligatory starting photograph. All except for Chris who having checked out had gone back to his room to look for his Garmin.  I don’t know about you but I am more likely to leave my arm in a hotel room rather than my Garmin.

DAY 2 – EVERYONE IS REALLY UP FOR IT

The ride was nominally “flat” but 2300 feet of elevation was not exactly insignificant due to the terrain around Pocklington, Millington and Huggate.

On the whole though it was predominately pan flat and therefore not particularly interesting from a blogging point of view. One flat country lane with greenery on either side is pretty much the same as any other.

So mile after mile rolled by and it was pretty dull. We did start to get a bit ratty with each other if I’m honest. Cycling clubs and groups are like families and like all families little irritations can start to grate until the dam bursts and you might hear someone go so far as to tut.

Yes that bad, it can get pretty nasty.

My bugbear was that we did not exactly cover ourselves in glory as far as group discipline was concerned.I would characterise our performance in this area as somewhere between very bad and atrocious. So a bit of an improvement really.

We had people miles off in front and miles off behind. Sudden unannounced stops, people putting their wheels up on the left hand side. Shouts of “Car Back ! “ that went unheeded until you screamed “ Car Back Geoff !! “

There was one occasion where the brakes were put on suddenly at the front for reasons I couldn’t fathom. A few hundred yards further on it became apparent why as the brakes were applied again and 4 men of a certain age sprinted into the bushes to relief themselves.

I will call that the Prostate Pile Up on the blog I said to myself…..and then I went for a wee.

ANNETTE HELPING BILL WITH HIS GARMIN AT THE SCENE OF THE PROSTATE PILE UP

We did a good 40 miles before we came into Stamford Bridge where we stopped for a cafe break.  

Here we met up with Mark Wilson who had taken a ride out to meet us and to ride some miles with us. At last a grown up.

MARK W – A GROWN UP

It was noticeable to me that once Mark joined us things got a bit better on the group riding front. Kind of like when you have someone from outside come and visit the family home. everyone is on their best behaviour.

After we went through Pocklington things started to get lumpy again up to Millington where I had a bit of a hissy fit over not following the route on the Garmin. Perhaps in retrospect I was being a bit of a prima donna in saying

“ Well we’re through the looking glass now, it’s the twighlight zone as far as I’m concerned. Anything can happen, god knows where we’ll end up ! “

200 yards later we were back on the route so maybe just maybe I over reacted.

GLEN – MAKING IT LOOK EASY

After Millington we had the usual ride through and then out of the valley bottom that finishes with a stinger of a little climb just before Huggate.  I got some great photos of everyone in their own hurt lockers finishing that one off. Well done everybody. 

GREAT DETERMINATION FROM CHRIS
MARK AND BILL PUSHING FOR THE TOP

Then came the “This Is Not Skerne This Is Driffield” -gate scandal. 

We were all very keen on having a cafe stop around this area and Hutton Cranswick had been identified as the ideal spot. Then at the last minute we were persuaded by the Sheep Whisperers to go for a cafe stop in Skerne.

I had never been to a cafe stop in Skerne and it turned out no-one has ever been to a cafe stop in Skerne.

On arrival at Skerne there was no sign of a cafe and we were informed that the cafe was in fact on the outskirts of Skerne, otherwise known as Driffield.

When we finally got to the cafe located in a garden centre ( in Driffield ) some of our party found this difficult to accept.

“ This is not Skerne……This is Driffield !! “. Let it go Bill, let it go.

All these episodes just showed that we were all very tired and the best thing that could happen is that we got to the end of this ride as soon as possible. My opinion was re-inforced a few miles after the Skerne/Driffield cafe stop by my wife’s description of a tractor driver as, and I quote , “ a twat “.

So imagine my relief when Bridlington finally hove into view and we made our way to the seafront and the official end point of the Way Of The Roses ride.

YOU ARE AT YOUR DESTINATION
ANNETTE AND ME – THANK GOODNESS THAT’S OVER !

There was a bit of an unseemly tussle to get photographs at the finish point with another group who had just finished the ride but after that we got our particular money shot several times over.

HAS THE MOJO RETURNED ?

Well we did it and overall it was a trip to remember and I am glad I did it.

Well done to all the riders involved and thank you all for your good humour and good company over the 2 days. Best wishes to Sergei of course who I’m sure will return to do the ride again with a much better outcome.

I hope you are all still speaking to me after this blog.

Would I do it again or something similar ?……I am not so sure. I may have to accept that I am different to a lot of people who get really fired up for challenges of this kind and indeed much harder ones.

Perhaps I should just accept that I am a miserable bugger and I much prefer a 30 mile flat round trip with a cafe stop after 15 miles for coffee and an all day breakfast.

Maybe if I get asked again I can use my ready made excuse…..well I do only have one functioning kidney you know.

…….P.S. Take a look at this slideshow and have the sound turned up.

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