Coast to Coast in a Day
By Malcolm Fisher
This ride is organised by Open Cycling who advertise this event as “a stunning 150 mile road ride from the mountainous Western Lake District, through the Yorkshire Dales, across the flat Vale of York and finally the Northern Valleys of the North York Moors, finishing by the sea in Whitby. What better way to tick off this iconic cycle than by doing it in one day?”
From when Alan first mentioned this ride to me in early 2016 I really wanted to “tick it off”! It’s a popular ride and books up early, so as soon as 2017 registration opened Alan said he would register us both. He went a step further; “I’ve registered a 16-man team! I’m sure between the Fat Bellies and Nomads we can fill the places”. It was in my calendar!
Alan’s also done the Tour of Wessex before and was keen to do it again, so we booked that as well. The Tour of Wessex is the biggest multi stage cyclosportive in the UK. The challenge of riding 324 miles in 3 days back to back was another challenge I was well up for.
Approaching the end of 2016 I started thinking of personal challenges for 2017. I decided I wanted to ride at least one century ride in every month of 2017. I didn’t realise until close to the C2C event what fantastic preparation the century rides and ToW would prove to be.
The C2C is advertised as 150 miles with 4,500 metres (14,763 feet) climbing. My Garmin actually finished the day on 148.3 miles, 11,693 feet. Anyway, my longest ride ever and most climbing as well in a single ride. It just trumped the Dragon Ride, which I’ve done twice. That ride clocked 142.3 miles, 11,631 feet. C2C is tougher because the climbs are steeper.
We set off from Ditchling Village Hall about 10am Friday morning; one mini-bus full of Fat Bellies & Nomads and one van full of bikes. I knew the journey would be long but nine hours was longer than I imagined. We really didn’t need the van driver to lock the keys in the ignition at Warwick services. Thankfully the AA were close-by and the van was back on the road in no time.
We arrived, registered, shoved down some pasta bolognaise and headed for the nearby pub for a couple of much needed pints. We stayed at Wasdale YHA, 14 guys in one dormitory, with a generous three feet between bunk beds. It was the worst night’s sleep of my life before the longest ride of my life!
Early next morning, we ate porridge and toast at the church hall courtesy of the Women’s Institute and then made our way to the start, which was literally on the beach! This is June, this is the Lake District…..it was freezing!
We discussed the four groups we were going to ride in with myself, Ian and Yuriy forming Group two. We were the first through the start after Brian, so we immediately cracked on.
The first 12 miles were relatively flat and we had a good pace on. The Group one boys caught us after a couple of miles but we managed to hang with these guys more or less to the ferry at Windermere. This was at 29 miles.
What happened between miles 12 and 29 was brutal… HARDKNOCK PASS & WRYNOSE PASS… arguably the hardest two cycle climbs in the land. Corners and switchbacks at 25% and 30%, if you can get up Hardknock, you can get up anything. I didn’t! Gutted, I got so close but got off for twenty yards before getting on again. As consolation, I was fifth quickest up there in our group of 15. The descent is tough as well, ridiculously steep, I was on the brakes the whole way down.
You barely get your breath back when you get to Wrynose and at 2.5km, 278m height gain, it is comparative to Hardknock, but a little easier with maximum gradient of only 25%!
From the ferry, at 29 miles, to Hardraw Feed Station two at 64 miles there were four more significant climbs after Wrynose. The temperature had also dropped, it was cold and drizzly. The soup was very welcome but with a lot of climbing in the legs already we were still facing a tough five to six hours ahead.
Hardraw 64 miles Elapsed time: 3:34hrs.
After what had preceded, the next 25 miles to feed station three were relatively flat and we managed to work well as a team. Our average speed between feed stations two and three was 19.6mph. It was at Tunstall when I began to run low on electrolyte drink and gels. Although the feed stations were well stocked with different foods at each station, there were no gels, energy drinks or energy bars.
Thankfully Clive, who was driving the mini-bus, had managed to navigate round Lake Windermere and was parked up and at Tunstall to meet us. He grabbed some energy drink powder for me and I was very thankful for that.
Tunstall 89 miles Elapsed time: 5:14hrs
The temperature had warmed up, our legs had recovered after the early climbs and I said to Ian at 90 miles that I felt better than I had at Hardraw (64 miles).
Queue Yuriy time. The terrain remained fairly flat again, until Feedstation 3 at 122 miles, and Yuriy turned into a machine spending most of the time on the front. Our average between feed stations three and four was 18.2mph.
The Feedstation was great; full fat Coke, coffee, quiche and pork pie. We were there for ages! This cost us a lot of chip time but it was worth it!
Ingleby Greenhow 122 miles Elapsed Time: 7:18hrs.
I felt good, recharged and ready for the climbing across the North Yorkshire Moors. We knew this would be tough and certainly not flat. There were six significant climbs in the last 28 miles, none to compare with Hardknott; much shorter but still with some ridiculously sharp gradients.
We’d been warned about a very steep, but relatively short climb (0.26 miles) at Glaisdale, which I came to learn is Limber Hill. I was ready for it and ignoring the 33% gradient road sign, already in the lowest gear, decided “to smash it” to the top which I pretty much did. I like this screenshot although Jason was probably in the big chainring smoking a cigar!
The last four miles into Whitby were all flat or downhill, so this was Ian time, leading the sprint to the finish on the sea front. The sun was out now and there were lots of people cheering us in. Passing the finish line was a great feeling!
The Finish 148.3 miles, 11,693 feet, average speed 17.4mph, moving time 8:32:14, elapsed time 10:08:19.
A great ride and if you haven’t done it then sign up now for 2018.