Saturday 29 December 2018

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 6

Monsal Trail - Derbyshire Peak District + a cyclocross race

Kms ridden: 34
Running total: 376
Kms left: 124
Refreshments: 500ml water; nutella sandwich; raspberry jam on toast

Weather: sunny with cold wind; 10 degC

Highlight: Tunnels through the Monsal trail; Notts and Derby League cyclocross race

Rides on Strava
Monsal Trail

Cyclocross race


This was a day to look forward to, as I had heard a lot of good things about the Monsal trail. It appears to be one of the most popular rail trails in the country, yet for all my cycling in the Peak District I had never been on it. So it would be good to finally make it onto the trail.

One of four tunnels along the Monsal trail

There was also a cyclocross taking place. That's my favourite type of racing. Mind you, these days it's the only type of racing I do!

So after another longish drive cross country to reach Bakewell I checked out the Monsal trail. Again, I was limited on time because I needed to be back in time to sign up and prepare for the race. By prepare that just meant getting my bike out of the car and putting on my race number. There wouldn't be time to pre-ride the course, so I would be racing it blind - something that I quite regularly do!

Monsal Trail

At least today, I would be nicely warmed up after a quick blast along the 8.5 mile Monsal trail. Finding the trail was easy enough because it was right behind where the race was taking place. I just had to navigate around the various tapes across the field, which was fun and games given that racing was already in progress!

The start of the trail from Coombe Lane
The first section onto the trail involved a steep ramp and I feared that it would be this steep all the way along. In fact, this was the only ramp on the ride. There are many places to enter and exit the Monsal trail, and all of them will involve a steep ramp given that this trail is above the village and the dales.

Immediately onto the trail and I could see that it was definitely popular. This trail had more people on it than I had seen on any of the other trails I had done during the Festive 500. There were groups of walkers, groups of cyclists - leisure bikers and mountain bikers - even a group of horseriders. It seems everyone was on the Monsal trail, and those who weren't were at the cyclocross race!

The surface is compacted earth and gravel that drains well, so it was not muddy. Along the way were refreshment stops in the disused railway stations - notably at Harrop.

One of the main features of this trail is the tunnels. There are four of them, each being around 400m long. They are fully lit in daylight hours, though I think it woud be good to still have lights on the bike just to alert walkers. When travelling towards Bakewell the route goes slightly downhill so you can pick up quite a speed if you want. So from a safety standpoint a light would be a good idea.

Views over the Derbyshire Dales and the Peak District
I went through two of the tunnels and then turned back in order to get back to my race in time. In the afternoon sunshine the Monsal trail is a lovely place to be. There are beautiful views over the Peak District and the surface is very easy to ride on, and easy to navigate. This was definitely my favourite trail to date during the Festive 500 week.

Notts and Derby League Cyclocross race

Once back at the Bakewell Agricultural Showground I set about preparing for the cyclocross race. Although the temperature was advertised as 10 degC, the windy conditions made it feel a lot colder, and for the first time since I can remember I actually did the race in long tights. I didn't overheat either - not even on the testing climbs.

As with races in the Notts and Derby league, the women's field was pretty big. There must have been at least 30 women signed up for it. The level would also be quite high as I recognised a number of names of people who race the National Trophy series of races.

For me, this was just a chance to do a cyclocross race and get my pulse rate working a bit higher than the plod I had mainly been doing over the rail trails.

Conditions were nowhere as claggy as the two races I had done the previous week in Tonbridge and at Mendips Raceway. There were still a few sticky patches though. More importantly there were some tough climbs and a very tricky descent that was steep with loads of bumps. I have no idea how I managed to do it without crashing. In fact as I bounced down the hill with my body being thrown around like a ragdoll, there was a "whoa" from the crowds as they were expecting me to stack it. But somehow I stayed on the bike. I guess it's called focus and core stability!

Overall, the race was hard work and I languished near the back, as usual sparring with a couple of local women from Ilkeston and Derby, fighting not to be the lanterne rouge. I think I finished third last in the end, but I was just happy to have got round without any incident. I felt reassured to know that I could do this race even after all the other stuff I'd been doing.

It remains to be seen how much energy I have tomorrow when I tackle another cyclocross race as well as two rail trails! Whatever happens tomorrow, I can say that today was a good day.

Related Posts
Festive 500: Early morning rant!

Festive 500: Rail trials in England - Day 5

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 4

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 3

Festive 500: Rail trails in England  - Day 2

Festive 500: Rail trails in England - Day 1

No comments: