“Welcome to Calderdale” reads the roadsign. It’s 8.30 in the morning and I’ve been driving since 5am, so I’m feeling a bit tired. But the roadsign has given me heart that at least I’m in the right part of the country for the ride. Now… to find Mytholroyd (which I’m sure is twinned with Brigadoon). I switch the Garmin on and get directed up hill and down dale until, eventually, I see the town in the distance at the bottom of the valley.
The roads that lead me here are steep and narrow. A taster for the ride ahead I wonder? I’ll find out soon enough. I sign on at the reception desk, say ‘hello’ to Emma who has devised the routes, grab a complimentary Clif Bar and head off.
Within a mile I hit the start of the ascent up Cragg Vale, the longest continuous uphill gradient in England. It’s not hugely steep, but there’s a lot of it. About 6 miles in fact. I climb steadily, if unspectacularly, and reach the top happy to have completed the first of many personal challenges for the day. But something’s wrong – I can’t put my finger on it until the start of the descent into Ripponden, whereupon I am absolutely creamed by a couple of guys wearing the colours of local tri club on a club run. Then the penny drops… I check the brake calipers and sure enough, the rear brake pad has been rubbing gently on the rim for the entire climb up Cragg Vale. No wonder I found it hard going…
I adjust the brakes and begin my ascent up the next hill, Ripponden Bank. This one is 17% in places and features a wicked bend. It’s about a kilometre of steady climbing and I come to the realisation that ‘the only way is up’ on this ride.
Some wicked descending into Sowerby Bridge including a single-lane 20% hairpin that has my heart in my mouth, followed by another ascent towards and through Luddenden. The road is narrow, and my attempt at this climb isn’t helped by a 4×4 attempting to reverse down the single-lane road. So I unclip out of the pedals and walk the bike past the offending vehicle, cursing the fact that I’m unable to build up any pedalling rhythm for the climb. I remount the bike for the rest of the climb up Stocks Lane, but blow up after the 17% hairpin. It’s at this point that I realise that ALL of the climbs out of Calderdale are INSANE… truly INSANE. Oh, and that the rear brake block is rubbing again…
You know you get some days when you just know that the ride isn’t going to go well for you? Well, I reckon that this is going to be one of those days for me. By the time I reach the first feed station at Warley Moor I’ve decided to bail out of the long route and follow the signs for the short route back to Mytholmroyd. I have a bit of a chat with the guys at the feed station, and do the usual thing of explaining how me with my London accent ended up coming down from Sunderland for the ride (long story). They tell me a number of things, including how the reservoir that we’re stopped by is used by the Halifax Sailing Club. I find this hilarious – I mean – where else in the world would you bring a boat 900 feet above sea level to go sailing? Just goes to show – they do things different in Yorkshire, and in doing so they breed ‘em tough. Much respect!
The route to Mytholmroyd is (mostly) downhill, so I arrive at base earlier than I expected. I hand in my chip and get a voucher for a pie and peas supper in return. Now that’s what I call civilised! They even have a vegetarian option (and not in the Frankie Boyle NSFW sense) .
Despite the long journey, the slight mechanical, and psychotic 4X4 driver I really enjoyed the ride. The weather for an early autumn ride was perfect – bright, dry with that autumn ‘bite’ in the air. The event itself was wonderfully well organised and the choice of routes (including a cyclocross option) meant that there was something for most riders. However, if I were to attempt this again, I would definitely go better ‘prepared’ next time (but not in a Dr. Ferrari kind of way, y’understand). For example, some of the riders at base at the end of the ride were heard to say things like ‘mile for mile, there’s more climbing on this than the Fred (Whitton)’. Now I’ve never done the Fred, but if they say so, then that’ll do for me.
Special thanks to Emma, No Mean Feat, and everyone else involved in organising the event. Looking forward to next year!