Friday 11 May 2007

Lakeland Adventures

So here I am getting myself ready for another bike trip. It's not to do something as world renown as the Tour of Flanders, or to find some early season sunshine like in the Tour of the Amalfi coast - far from it. I'm off to do the Fred Whitton Challenge in the Lake District. And challenge it most certainly will be. This is one of the oldest cyclosportives in the UK, and it is also probably the hardest. Just hearing people mention Hardknott Pass gives me a sense of fear and loathing !

People often talk about famous climbs that are really hardcore - Alpe d'Huez, Mont Ventoux, the Muur etc. You feel a sense of apprehension once you arrive at the foot of this intimidating climb. You start off modestly, and then you realise - this isn't too bad. There's usually one, possibly two moderately difficult sections but they're over and done with quite quickly. You realise that it's do-able as long as you're properly geared and reasonably fit. Once you've finished the climb you feel a huge sense of achievement. You may even wonder what all the fuss was about !

Well, I was very apprehensive about riding Hardknott Pass when I went to the Lake District three weeks ago, I was intimidated when I saw the climb, I was on the rivet when I started the climb, I nearly maxed out at the top of the climb, and was shell-shocked when doing the descent. I did it, but with great difficulty, and just felt relief when it was over. Having to take on a series of 30% climbs with horrendously steep switchbacks for more than a mile is no laughing matter. It doesn't matter what gearing you have on your bike - whatever you have, you will be over-geared ! I know exactly what the fuss was about - in fact I wonder why there is not more fuss made about it ! More importantly I wonder if 3 weeks has been enough time for me to recover from that awful cycling experience !

When we rode it we had already ridden 50 miles. This Sunday when we ride it
during the Fred Whitton Challenge we will have 100 hilly miles in our legs, after having done Kirkstone, Whinlatter, Newlands and the dreaded Honister passes. Oh, my God ! Well I'm not even bothering with racing pedals - spd's for me so I can walk up the road easily - as I will inevitably have to do at some point ! I've also packed wet weather gear, and have put my Continental 25mm Gatorskin tyres on, for added grip - a necessity for when coming down one of the many infamously steep descents in the rain.

Apart from that small detail of the 112mile cyclosportive, I am looking forward to the trip. This will be my second time in the Lake District this year. Before this year, the last time I had been there was in 2003.
The Lake District may have ridiculously steep roads to climb, and damp weather, but the place is still beautiful. I really loved the views of the mountains and the lakes last time around - I particularly liked the views around Lake Coniston. There was a great sense of tranquility, riding through the forest, with the Lake just beside me and the mountains just beyond the lake. The sun even made an appearance, which revealed the various colours of the mountains in all their splendour.

I shall look forward to seeing all that again, and possibly doing some walking. I might even manage to fit in a boat trip.

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