SATURDAY 13 JUNE – NEWCASTLE CYCLOSPORTIF – 102 MILES 6h 19m 1880 metres climb 16.4 mph
Leaving the delights of the new Loch Lochy Hill Race for others to enjoy, I headed to the north east for the Newcastle Cyclone – a 100 mile cycle sportif. Based at Newcastle Falcons rugby ground there were 3 routes, a 32 miler, 63 miler and the big daddy a 102 miler. The route promised miles of quiet scenic Northumbrian countryside and it certainly delivered. I headed off at a steady pace through Ponteland on quiet roads up to Rothbury in the Cheviots. I managed to hang on to the back of a few fast moving "trains" which kept the pace up near 18mph for the first few hours, including one cracking open descent where I reached a scary 43mph!!
Heading west I then cycled through lovely Cocquetdale to Alwinton and over to Otterburn on the busy A696 where I tagged on to 6 local riders who got me through the then wet and miserable weather as we headed over towards Kielder on high windy moor roads. One of them punctured so I headed off solo for a while, going through a bit of a flat patch until Bellingham, where a pack came past me and I tagged on to them over the undulating roads here. The rain stopped, the sun came out and I started to get that final adrenaline rush that would push me on over the last hour or so. I really started to crank up my speed, helped by another cyclist who I had overtook at speed, but tagged on behind me. Together we hared away at 25mph, pulling out all the stops to keep the pace barrelling along. I was on a total high this last part, zooming past the 32 and 62 mile cyclists who had now joined our route, mountain bikers and families all over the place.
I was dead chuffed to pass the 100 mile mark in about 6h 15m, and then ease off for the last 2 miles, totally knackered, but equally enthused about a great day out. Effortwise my heart rate average was 136bpm, about 75% max, pretty high for 6 hours of cycling, as I find the heart rate usually lower cycling, and about what I would expect for a long hill race – that explained why I was drained but euphoric.
SUNDAY 14 JUNE-ROUND THE ROSES CYCLOSPORTIF – 77 MILES 6h 23m 1685 metres climb
Not content with the 102 miles on Saturday, I headed further south for a 77 mile tour of Lancashire and Yorkshire on the saddle again. Yet another beautiful and testing route and more great sunny warm weather, brilliant. The pace however, was understandably slower, with a lot less cyclists, and Moira and I joined up for a very pleasant ride together. We set off from Tosside on a clockwise loop – out to Slaidburn and on to great wee roads just on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. There was a great drudge of a steady climb up to 427m before a cracking open descent past the Great Stone of Fourstones, before turning right and along beautiful country roads to Giggleswick, near Settle, for the first tea and scone stop of the day. Things were hotting up now and the road headed steeply up out of Stainforth on an amazing road up to the east of Pen-Y-Gent grinding up to 436m. The views though were amazing and helped take the mind off the tired old legs below. A steep descent followed down to remote Halton Gill, before miles and miles of fast gradual descending along lovely Littondale, bounded high on either side by high escarpments. Down past Kilnsey Crag and Conistone and then on lovely wee roads into more tea and scones in beautiful Grassington, a tea stop also last year on my JOGLE cycle. Out of there we headed off for Bolton by Bowland via outstanding rural scenery, undulating but very rewarding. The last few miles were a bit of an uphill drag back to Tosside, but the pint of Blood Sweat and Gears in the local pub made it worthwhile. We headed back in the beautiful sunshine to our luxurious guest house in the village of Austwick – www.austwickhall.co.uk – where we had a great meal and fine ales in the village pub – http://gamecockinn.co.uk . Great not to have to head back on a Sunday evening for a change.