Tuesday 17 May 2011

Fred Whitton Challenge Sunday 8th May 2011

I started this blog two years ago with the FWC 2009 with no inkling that events would turn me into what the media types that contact me call 'a cycling campaigner' and this a correspondingly campaigning site.  It is refreshing to get several hundred miles away from the stressed out competition between roadusers in the London commuter belt, to an event where everybody is at least aiming to enjoy a long ride in idyllic lakeland countryside.
My club had a team of 6 (down from 7 due to a nasty crash in the Masters' Race at Hillingdon a few days before).  We had come ready for the hills but possibly not the weather.  There was steady rain in the morning but by the time I started at 8am it looked as though there may be some respite from the worst of it.  However I got the torrential downpour of hail with high wind as I was tackling the first really steep climb at Honister.  The wind was still howling and the rain lashing down as I tackled the first really steep descent off the same hill when I found to my alarm that my newly fitted Bonti tyres, while virtually puncture proof, were not well suited to these conditions.  The rider behind thought I was gone and it is true I more skied than cycled down much of this slope.

I left my two clubmates I was with to recover at the Buttermere feed; they would both have come in with much better times than I, had not both their chains broken; another indication of the taxing conditions of the day.  I cautiously picked my way around the hills losing control on several more occasions before the rain dried up in the early afternoon and the roads started to dry, thankfully before I reached the monsters of Hardknott and Wrynose passes.

Time did not really matter after all this but I came in at seconds over 8 hours, establishing a trend of a slower time for each of the past three years.

An equipment review for these harsh conditions: 
 - The Ribble winter bike was perhaps a little heavier than ideal for all these climbs but I really had no option as I have moved my triple chainset from my carbon (so as not to look quite so daft racing).  I had taken the trouble to remove the mudguards but it may have been better to leave them on.  Ideally I would have a light bike with a triple or compact chainset.
-  A chain tool.  I always carry a multitool that contains one.  I did not need it but two of my clubmates could have done with one!
-  Tyres.  Go for something grippy.  I nearly came a cropper as a consequence of my unwise tyre choice.
-  Good raingear.  Fortunately my club rainjacket is excellent and proved worth its (insubstantial) weight in gold.

Will I be back?  I am always doubtful soon after completing it but a clubmate and I have already made our hotel booking for 2012, and of course we do need to secure ourselves those sought after entries.

All credit again to the organisers.  They do a fantastic job even in challenging conditions.


  1. Well done, Martin. I can't conceive of doing anything as hilly as that.

  2. 8 hours sounds pretty damn good to me. Chapeu. I've been meaning to have a go at the FWC route for ages, just need some nice weather and some willpower, but whenever I get enough time, the right weather and transport to the lake district I take the mtb instead :-S

  3. Well done Mr M Porter. That's a great account of the horrors of the day. I was very pleased with my Bontrager tyres; puncture-proof and very grippy. However, even I had some wooooooaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh! moments on the Honister descent. I vowed to give up cycling about five times on the ride. *Cough* Just Giving page *cough*. :o)