Tuesday 11 May 2010

Fred Whitton Challenge Sunday 9th May 2010

Photo Courtesy of Kirkstone Inn

This year my club sent 10 riders north to undertake the hardest UK sportive ride, 112 hilly miles taking in all the Lakeland passes and 3,600m of climbing.  This is my fourth successive ride at this event and (as with last September's Ronde Picarde) the first time I have failed to improve upon the previous year's time.  Since I abandoned a sedentary, rather portly, lifestyle about 6 years ago the first 5 years saw a steady year on year improvement by just riding the bike.  Suddenly though further improvement or even standing still is getting more and more elusive.

Quite a major part of the challenge was organising a train.  Carrying bikes is just not profitable for railway companies and I can testify that they do not go out of their way to make it easy.  To Virgin Train's credit they did not throw me and the bike out of the passenger lounge; which is just as well since the persistent drizzle had made me abandon the plan to ride from home to Euston in favour of a train instead and I arrived with an hour in hand.  A Pendalino train takes just four bikes and so it was Alistair, Dom another Martin and I who had secured the precious places on this train; all heading to the Whitton.  Anyway those hurdles surmounted, I rather enjoyed the journey up to Windermere and then the ride and ferry across the lake to my B&B in Hawkeshead.
Relaxing in the passenger lounge at Euston....and waiting a few hours later for the Windermere Ferry

On the day (which despite the forecast was generally dry with only gentle wind) I opted for an 0800 start which was a bit later than the rest of the Thames Velo team who waved at me as I made my way over Hawkeshead Hill to the start in Coniston.  I actually got to the Kirkstone Inn faster than last year but things deteriorated rapidly from there.  My descent of Kirkstone was impeded by a car that had overtaken me at the top and gone down on his brakes and I was 10 minutes behind by the Buttermere feed stop.  I covered the ground to Whinlatter in a similar time but really lost time over the ups and downs to Coldfell.  Hardknott and Wrynose went better for me though, with no falling off and no need to put a foot down.  The unanticipated good weather meant there was mercifully little motor traffic on those narrow steep passes.  On the run in towards Coniston was the welcome sight of a Cumbria Police Officer supervising the stopping of traffic by marshals to allow us to make an uphill right turn without stopping - a sight that I fear would leave Thames Valley officers chewing on their truncheons in distress at the momentary inconvenience caused to real (ie motor) traffic.
I made it to the finish in just under 8 hours; a hugely disappointing 30 minutes longer than last year.  A celebratory pub meal followed; then it was up at the crack of dawn (literally) for me to ride round the lake to Windermere in the pouring rain to get the first train back to London and work.