Kirkstone Pass

First of my “Simulated Sportif Efforts” today. The route was as below

See what I did with the terrain map there? Looks good!

Anyway… I have never had such a soaking. 4 hours and 20 minutes of 116 kilometres of misery. The first hour from cockermouth was pretty good, chilly (but then it was 0830) but managable, indeed I took the windproof off round the back of Thirlmere. Up the easy side of Dunmail Raise at a decent clip (in the saddle 39X16 all the way) and then the rain started on the top. With nothing under my helmet and no glasses, descending at 65kph was both painful and dangerous. The rain felt like needles on my skin and I was literally glancing at where I was going. I was mighty relieved to get down get into a layby and put my jacket back on. After that a nice spin onto Ambleside where I again removed it (figuring that the rain had abated for the day). 50km at 29.6kph. So far so good.

On then, to Kirkstone Pass. The first big climb on the Fred Whitton and one of the most difficult. It’s long, the gradient is constantly changing, there are even some downhill sections in the first part of the climb. The surface is also atrocious. When you turn off at Troutbeck you are immediately pitched onto a ramp at above 10% which goes up to nearer 20 on a series of hairpins (some seriously nice houses up there too!), and then when the road opens out a bit you drop down a way through the village, and then go up through the twisty little road that takes you onto the main climb, before a final steep plunge which gives you some brilliant momentum for the next section.

The middle third of the Kirkstone cllimb seems to have been resurfaced since last summer and the really steep bits of the climb are now a joy to ride with smooth, fresh tarmac. At this point it was really starting to come down and I was cursing the way the climb undulates as it kept on killing my rhythm. Again, I felt pretty good. I can feel the last few days in my legs but even riding at a brisk tempo my heart rate was rarely above 170 and I felt i could have gone deeper, I seemed to be switching between 39×21 and 23 for most of the way, with the occasional foray into the 25 (oh the indignity!).

I stopped at the top to put my jacket on and have a bite to eat. The view back towards Windemere is fantastic from up there, and I could see a few walkers ascending into the mist to tackle Hellvellyn. The descent from Kirkstone down to Ullswater is one of my least favourite bits of road. It twists, the corners are off camber, it’s full of holes and there are, inevitably, loads of cars coming the other way. What I’m getting around to saying is I bottled it. On the brakes all the way down (to the extent my rims started to hiss), every time i looked at taking a corner properly there were two cars waiting around it. I didn’t even get on the drops. The rain can’t have helped, but i know I’ve never ridden that descent well in any weather.

The Descent that broke PD Malcolm

The Descent that broke PD Malcolm

The ride along Ullswater saw the rain get heavier and the wind pick up until I was just so fed up all the way over Matterdale end that even my favourable average speed and low average HR couldn’t cheer me up. The ride back to Keswick on the A66 was every bit as enjoyable, with the spray from about 6 caravans hitting me full in the face as I chewed on into the wind.

I was almost relieved to climb Whinlatter to finish the day. 12:38 today, which was, to be honest, expected given the 100km already in my legs and the awful conditions. I descended better than I did on Wednesday in perfect conditions however, go figure.

All in, I’m glad I’m doing rides like that and that they don’t detroy me. But today just wasn’t fun. I’ve got a housewarming tonight so the perfect excuse to skive off tomorrow… And if the weather doesn’t improve I’ll be doing just that.

Otherwise, join me for 3 hours and 3 climbs. Honister, Newlands and Whinlatter!


Reliability Rides Harder Than Racing… Official

Derwent Valley Wheelers Peter Taylor Memorial ride this morning, in memory of the gent who used to run Cockermouth’s long-established Derwent Valley Cycle Sport. The reliability format allows as many people as possible to get involved and also makes things much simpler insurance-wise. It’s basically a sportif kind of ride without the timing. About 5 of the local racing snakes turned up, meself included, so it was assured that the quick group was going to be pretty hardcore!

But i’ve never ridden a reliability like that… Usually they don’t go crazy until after the stop. Then the fast guys start competing for bragging rights. Today we rolled out at 20 mph and it never lifted off. There’s a big climb up to Overwater about 6 miles into the route and Garth and Sean attacked up it. On a reliaibility ride after 10km.

I assumed they were just testing each others legs, being brothers and all, and so didn’t respond. But no… On they went, quickly joined by Brian Payton (local king of the Time Trial scene) on a cobbled together bike with a 55 chain ring. So before we knew what had happened we were hurling ourselves down the other side at speeds of up to 65kph. I had closed the gap by the bottom but the front of the ride was down from 12 to 5.

All was calm for a couple of miles of gentle descent, then up a sharp little rise in Boltongate, Honister 92’s answer to the Schlecks gave it another almighty dig. This was about 20 miles into a 60 mile ride. I really cannot express how much a serious breach of reliability etiquette this was (etiquette rule no. 3490 No dropping PD Malcolm.), joined by Payton, they started to sail down towards the A595 with me and one of the local triathletes chasing hard. Their gap increased further after we got stuck at a junction they had just crossed and after that me and the Tri-Guy rode the first half together trying to keep them in sight, and failing. This despite riding the first 50km at 32.5 kph with a headwind for the last 20.

At the cafe, something marvellous happened and it had nothing to do with my caramel shortbread or double espresso. Me and Tri-Guy arrived to find we were the first there. The three who had gone shooting off up the road had missed a turning, arriving 15 minutes after us. You can be as fast as you like, you know, but you have to get round the course. They had evidently failed on the “reliability” part of the day.

Second half saw the five of us and traning buddy Mike leave together (he had forgotten to put his clock forward. Most funny) to ride down the Cumbrian coast towards Allonby, into the teeth of an evil headwind. Down there, the wind doesn’t just force you to grind your way along, it blows sand in your face too. Horrible riding. Payton’s 55, my brute force and ignorance and Sean looking disgracefully smooth powered the group along before we turned back in land to climb over the bank of hills that lie just inland. A good pace was set here too, passing people who’s left the cafe before us, rolling along in conversation, trying to attack 25 miles from home (hem hem hem). Mike pulled off at this juncture, sensible man, and Brian had punctured, leaving myself and the Schlecks.

If I do say so myself, we worked fairly steadily over the last 20 miles. Partly due to recognising we were pretty evenly matched, partly due to being knackered. Grinding into a headwind was really tough and I could feel cramp starting on all the little steep climbs that dotted the end of the course. The final rise saw me try to use what little I had left to get away (see? These always degenerate into a race). Sean got dropped, but Garth steamed away for the “victory”, leaving me “second”. Pleasing ride on a good course.

I am, however, destroyed. I’ve cramped 3 times whilst writing this, which is what motivated the title. Seriously, if those boys ever get it into their heads to pin on a number, they could do some real damage. I plan to take tomorrow to recover and then get into the Sportif training plan I outlined on Friday.

Two Lakes Loop And Many Near Misses

Late today, but that was due to a visit to Trotters World of Animals. Seriously folks, if you can get that close to a Gibbon anywhere else in a national park, call the rangers.

A Gibbon, yesterday

A Gibbon, yesterday

Anyway, finishing off transition and priming myself for the training plan I outlined yesterday this weekend. So planned two hours at an easy pace over Whinlatter, round te back of Derwent, back up Borrowdale, round the back of Bassenthwaite and back home. Like so…

It seems winter has made a comeback to the lakes this weekend, Snow was visible on the top of Grisedale Pike and there was some sleety stuff blowing around on the top of Whinlatter, which I crested (from home) in 30 minutes at an average of 25kph. It’s a nice climb from the Cockermouth side, Alpine type gradients apart from one 400m section of 15% S-Bends with holes all over them. The stuff the lakes is famed for!

Over the top and my day of near misses started. Theres a viewing point across Bass lake and Skiddaw halfway down. So here comes I at 45kph out of a corner, with nothing behind me when some dolt decides thats the perfect time to pull out. Arse goes back, brakes go on, back wheel steps out, just about stay up… New Shorts Please!

I’m not the worlds best descender, hell I’ve been dropped from a bunch going downhill before now, but incidents like that really knock my confidence even further. So the rest of Whinlatter was painful after that.

Over Catbells next and two vans come round a blind bend, in convoy, at 40mph in the middle of the road. Swift foot out of pedal job. Getting over the top some tourists wander like sheep into my path and scowl at me for daring to go anywhere near them. Descent there was nice… Quiet road, for a change and, although I was a little heavy on the brakes, I rather enjoyed it.

Turning back to ride up Borrowdale to Keswick and the icy wind hit me.. Now this was why the first hour was such a breeze! I wasn’t quite grinding but it was certainly enough to annoy. Fortunately, I reach for music at moments like this… below is a selection of the tunes that I recall listening to today

1. The Hold Steady- Two Handed Handshake
2. Billy Bragg- The Short Answer
3. Afghan Whigs- John The Baptist
4. Rocket From The Crypt- Shy Boy
5. Mogwai- Teriffic Speech

Also, the Slipstream kit I bought last October and debuted outside today has an MP3 pocket in the back (Gore to keep the sweat off!) and a headphone hole just above it. Design genius.

Anyway… Round the back of Bassenthwaite to finish off whereby a bus driver in an effort to avoid some pedestrians drove his bus right at me. Other than that and the headwind I felt pretty good though, big ring and still spinning well up past Dodd wood so that augers well.

Even on the way through Cockermouth a child sprinted in front of me prompting me to remind him that were I driving a car… he’d be dead. That Slipstream kit is hardly subtle, how the hell do these people keep missing me?

Fangs Brow Ride

As part of my Transition week, all the literature said I was permitted to exercise but not train. I took this to mean that pootling was acceptable and set out to do something last night that I never do anymore, ride just for the sake of it. No thoughts of it being preparation or training for anything, just an hours easy spin after work.

I picked a nice route, out from Cockermouth to Lorton, through the vale, over Fangs Brow and home on the A-Road. The outward leg was excellent, spinning really easily for 30kph over some gently rolling roads I thought to myself that my two races must have kicked me right on, the trees practically bent double dismissed this notion however, giving the lie to the massive tailwind I was enjoying.

It was good to pay some attention to my surroundings for a change too… There were plenty of that old Newsround staple Lambs-In-Coats on show, and the daffodils going up to Loweswater School were most pleasant too. Climbing in this mindset is a breeze as you simply have to get up the incline, speed and intensity are just not an issue.

Sadly, Fangs is a different beast. Those who have ridden the Fred Whitton will know that it’s not the advertised climbs that kill you, it’s the little hills between them and for me this is the worst of them. It’s a mile long, starts with a 1 in 8 ramp that is about 2/3s of its length and then levels off a bit. After a couple of hundred metres of flat you’re kicked up the gradient again until it ends on a 17% hairpin past a farm. There used to be a dog that lived there that, I swear, waited for cyclists. It got so bad that every time I planned to ride there I took a biscuit with me to distract him.

While I think on, this is something I’d like to do more of… using my local knowledge to help out people riding the Fred, let me know what you’d like to see as always.

After that, a pretty simple run back home, nice descent into Mockerkin, nice ride back along the lumpy A-Road. Could get used to this not training lark. I did, bizarrely, have the theme tune from long sicne dead kid’s show The Family Ness in my head all the way round… Answers on a postcard please.

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