With a weekend off racing, I decided to do something a little different. I cycled five miles to Bingley and got a train on the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line to Dent station. The line is a feat of epic Victorian engineering.
It never really made much profit and has, a few times, narrowly avoided been closed down by penny pinching bureaucrats. But, fortunately it survives and the early morning train was full of walkers and cyclists heading out into the Dales. It was a very different atmosphere to your usual commuting train. Their was a buzz of excitement in the conversation, you even got friends of the Settle-Carlisle line coming along to offer teas, snacks and handbooks. It may not be profitable, but it’s a good service for those wanting to enjoy the Dales.
Dent station happens to be the highest train station in England at 1,150 feet above sea level. Quite a convenient point to start a bike ride. The train journey had also gone into a strong north westerly, leaving an ideal tailwind for most of ride home. I started near the top of a fearsome climb from Dentdale to Garsdale. I took it easy to Garsadale and then plunged down into Hawes, relieving memories of the Circuit of the Dales earlier in the year. At Hawes, it was time to head into the high hills, climbing over Buttertubs pass (a climb featuring in the 2014 Tour de France.
Over the other side in Wensleydale, I took a nice tailwind towards Reeth. From Reeth I headed north to take my first look at the Stang hill climb. This years national hill climb course.
The Stang is a pretty tough climb.
- 3.8 km
- average gradient 7%
- Height gain:
At the start, there is a considerably long section of 16%, there are two downhill sections, which means going from your bottom gear into your big ring.
I took about 10 and a half minutes, though I was carrying an impressively large saddle bag with waterproofs e.t.c. I would estimate the winning time might be around nine minutes or nine and half minutes. I couldn’t work out where the wind was coming from, but perhaps a crosswind.
After descending the Stang, I went further north to Tan Hill. In Simon Warren’s 100 climbs, I seem to remember him saying it was a nice gradual climb. But, it proved one of toughest climbs of the day. It was into a strong north-westerly headwind. The bleak environment offering no shelter, just a long hard drag seemingly forever.
It was a relief to reach Tan Hill inn (the highest inn in England) 1,732m – 532 metres above sea level. I saw a few cyclists emerging from the inn looking pretty cheerful. It was tempting to stop. But, it was cold and spitting and didn’t want legs to freeze up – it was still 60 miles from home. I had to put my arm warmers back on because my hands were freezing. On the positive side, there’s a pretty good descent back to Keld. At Keld, I had Hobson’s Choice. Buttertubs from the north or go East and take the Askrigg climb. I choose the Askrigg climb because I thought there might be more of a tailwind. It starts off with vicious 25% hairpins, and then grinds its way through the moors to over 500 metres.
From Askrigg the next stop was Hawes and a final big climb of the day Fleet Moss from the north. I haven’t done this climb for a long time. It starts off gradually and gets harder and harder. Fleet Moss is 589 metres high – one of the highest roads in England – and highest in Yorkshire. From Hawes, there is a climb of 330 metres It was definitely a day for the ‘highest’.
From the top of Fleet Moss, it was a lovely run down the Wharfe valley. With a tailwind and relatively flat roads, it felt fast after all that grinding up 20% slopes. I was enjoying myself so much, I rather unwisely choose to finish off with one last climb over the Cow and Calf.
Total for the day was 107 miles, 3,000 metres of climbing at over 6 hours. Not perfect training for a flat 100 mile TT, but it was very enjoyable. I could get used to catching a train into a headwind and gaining a few free metres into bargain…