With a distance eye on Paris Brest Paris in August the North West Passage 200 was the first challenge of four that I will need to complete before I even make the journey across the channel.
Starting from the Spinner Inn located in Rochdale the route took in a number of challenges along the way…wait I think I’m jumping the gun a bit here to I’ll start from the beginning.
With the start of the event being a 8am I had an early alarm call (5.45am!) to leave the house at 6.30am. It wasn’t a bad morning all in all while packing up the car but on our drive over to Rochdale from Bolton the rain started. With the idea of a soggy all day ride I was glad I’d put a decent rear mudguard on to keep at least my derriere dry. By the time we’d unpacked the car and readied ourselves it had snowed slightly but only a light dusting so nothing to worry a hardened cyclo-cross rider.
We missed the mass roll out of riders and saw our toe slowly roll away down the road before we set off at about 8.15am.
Rochdale to Settle
The route to our first checkpoint in Settle was very urban, stopping pretty much every 10-15 minutes for a fresh set of traffic lights. we gradually started catching riders who had start earlier than us as we made our way onto the major climb over Blacko (a great climb with unbelievable views over Pendle Hill, highly recommended) where we saw some seriously dark clouds skimming past us. The descent into Gisburn was great fun with it’s sweeping bends fast bends and scenic views over the Forest of Bowland showing us the coming bright sunny weather.
Taking the “traditional” route
Soon enough we hit one of the stretches of road I wasn’t looking forward at all, the A65. This section of road goes from Skipton through to the M6 making it really busy. It didn’t help to be riding into the teeth of a gale all the way to Settle but I can safely say I survived!!! somehow.
Settle to Kirby Lonsdale
After a nice bit of quiet road upon leaving Settle we were back on the A65 for the whole journey up to Kirby Lonsdale. The least said about this the better. particularly as one of our group smashed their phone after it fell out of their pocket (sorry Sarah). It was just a matter of get your head down and ride into the brisk headwind up to the next checkpoint. It’s a nice section of road that would have been far more enjoyable with the views and rolling nature if we didn’t have lorry’s whistling past our ears!
Kirby Lonsdale to Scorton
This was the chance to relax for a bit on a quieter road through to Lancaster. We used it as a bit of a playground, sprinting (more pedaling quickly) for boundaries and setting a good tempo. We gradually picked up a few riders along the way which turned into a long tail by the time we’d reached Lancaster (seriously I looked behind from the front briefly and it looked like we had a whole peloton lined up behind me!).
We decided to stop for a Subway in Lancaster to refuel (only a 6-inch unfortunately) instead of stopping at a checkpoint or proper cafe more for speed than anything. It was a good idea in theory I just wish I’ve gone for the foot-long…nevermind 😦
We reached Scorton in one piece (just about) after a bus completely cut the group up. You could guess it was another A road we were on at the time leaving the biggest city in about 30 miles.
Scorton to the Spring Inn (The finale!)
The profile of the final leg of the ride showed two peak like vampires teeth before heading downhill all the way into Rochdale. We’d been blessed with a tailwind since Lancaster which was literally blowing us home helping tired legs in our race to beat dusk. I started to feel light headed and to be honest pretty weird on the return leg finally concluding that I had had far too much coffee and sugar so was as high as a kite! Unfortunately this didn’t last too long and the after effects of this was cramp. Thinking I hadn’t taken in enough water during the day I downed a decent amount of water and carried on knowing we had a could be steady climbs on our way through Burnley and over Haslingden Road (possibly one of the most picturesque roads in the area).
As we raced back into Rochdale we hit football traffic, Rochdale supporters leaving Spotland made for an ever changing labyrinth of cars and coaches on the final roads slightly ruining the whole days ride which had felt like a real adventure.
We rolled into the car park at the Spring Inn around 5.30pm ready for our pie and peas and definitely a pint. It was the end of the 200km on the way to qualifying for P-B-P but it felt like it was only the beginning.