Lakeland Loop 2009

I wrote this piece for Cycling Weekly – Which, to my appreciation, they published.

In July, a number of colleagues and I were scheduled to cycle from Newbury to Newbury via Spain and France. On the way, we would be tackling the Tourmalet. So what better preparation, I thought than doing a few sportives, especially the Lakeland Loop. On reflection, and having now encountered the infamous Hardknott and Wrynose passes I think the Tourmalet would have been better preparation for today.

I’ve cycled the Pyrenees and even the Ventoux in the past but I just don’t seem able to accept that this old codger isn’t what he used to be. So having convinced four of my younger, and fitter, friends to take part, we found ourselves leaving a frozen Ambleside at 06:30 to cycle to Great Langdale for an early start. Kick off was at 8.06am.

It didn’t take long for the Lake District to remind me of my age. The first climb was a category two, heading over to a nice but steep descent into Grasmere: Then there was the long drag up Little Poggio before dropping into Keswick.

Every climb that I encountered took its toll on me and I found each climb harder than the previous; and I won’t deny it, on some hills I found out why bicycles were called push bikes. Winlatter Pass came sooner than I had expected as did the welcoming tea and cake at Lorton Feed Stop with friendly faces dispensing water, tea, coffee and more cake than I knew existed.

After here, the ride settled down and became a pleasant ride though the Lake District until reaching the next stop (more tea and cake). Not long to go now: Just a couple of climbs left.

I have experienced nothing like Hardknott and Wrynose before. Words, nor pictures, can describe these climbs or the views. They are stunning on both counts. But, I resigned myself to walking up and even down the other side, they were so unbelievably steep. Walking while pushing your bike up these hills is not easy but I did it.

I did finish the ride, but everybody had gone home by then. But I didn’t care. I’d completed what I set out to do. All in all, a great, well organised and structured day which I shall no doubt repeat when I’m older.

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