Open Cycling Coast to Coast in a Day
Some of the best ideas and advances in science have been decided over a quiet beer down the local. It is a little known fact that Einstein loved a stein and developed his theory of relativity in a damp beer keller, Newton obviously theorised gravity when he dropped his phone in his pint. Gallileo discovered that our orbit was elliptical and Eddison had his bright idea whilst sat together in the corner of the Dog and Gun over goulash.
It is also true to say that my mate Richard McGuire's ideas (which include legendary statements like 'lets do Keilder 100 on single speeds') have certainly never come anywhere near close to the above in any way shape or form until one such January evening in the Fox and Rabbit.
To set the scene, we had just got in after a particularly muddy and wet MTB ride on the North Yorkshire Moors and settled down near the fire with a few other mates after narrowly avoiding last orders and the evil glances and notorious hostility of the bar maid towards mud clad shorts, winter boots and anyone who didn't want a meal apparently!http://www.cyclefit.co.uk/ At the time we were planning our list of cycling events that we would like to do in the coming year as family and work commitments meant that we thought it would be best to be a little more organised than the previous year (we even set up a Gmail calendar!).
Our main goal for the year, until McGuire had to sell his camper van, was to ride Acte 2 of the Etape so we knew we had to get some big road sportives into the mix in preparation, slightly reducing the amount of shorter distance MTB riding/racing we did in order to gain the base level fitness required for such distance and climbing.
We had both spent some time looking at various websites to research some of the toughest UK based rides and one new event in particular grabbed our attention, a Coast to Coast ride to be done in one day two weeks before the Etape- Perfect. This was both slightly unusual and no doubt a big challenge.
The event was organised by Open Cycling, the same company who, under the banner Open Adventure, have run the Open 5 adventure race series (5 hours off road running and mountain bike orienteering in a duathlon format) that we had both taken part in over the previous year. We know their events are top notch and knew that this one would be no exception with James Thurlow and his team running the show. We signed up immediately (after some piss taking for having my iPad with me in the pub!).
This is when Rich had his Eureka moment- "Well lets do it for charity yeah?!"
Due to recent goings on an obvious choice was a cancer charity and I knew from my mother that her favourite was Macmillan Cancer Support so it was decided unanimously that this was to be our chosen cause.
A week or so later, whilst talking to my cousin James at his home in Sheffield, we had a similar conversation about plans for the years cycling and mentioned the Coast to Coast. We had ridden a couple of northern sportives together the previous year and I knew he was developing his plan of riding for the year.
It seems like a good time to introduce James at this point. James is the father of my Goddaughter, a Bianchi lover and a cousin on my mums side of the family who started cycling proper 6 months to a year before I saw the light in early 2010. Due to the fact that he is connected in some way to my mother (quite how is still up for debate) means that he is hard. They breed them tough in the Steel city. He is also super fit and last year rode from Cardiff to Edinburgh in the space of a few days covering well over 100 miles a day for charity. He was the perfect companion for this type of ride and he agreed to join us without hesitation- once he had got a pass out from the boss of course!
The following few months passed by in the blink of an eye for various reasons- Rich had bought and done up his new family home to penthouse standard, James had been snowed under with his business in Sheffield making surgical tools and I had relocated to London and started a new job at Cyclefit- so it was suddenly time to start organising ourselves and start the fundraising process. A Just Giving page was set up and much self promoting ensued on various social media annoying people into sponsoring us with Tweets and Statuses! Rich's Mum even touted for sponsorship in her pub and we found out after the ride that she would often go round just before closing time when many of her punters forgot they had already donated a few drunken hours earlier!
The response was fantastic and I would very much like to thank everyone who has sponsored us already. It is the first time we have really done anything for charity together and it really lifted us to see that people were so generous in their donations and many who, like us, had been affected in some way by the issues that Macmillan Cancer Support deals with everyday. What more inspiration did we need?
Well I tell you what we certainly didn't need- a weather forecast for the week that read heavy rain showers, wind, fog and hail on higher ground. Great.
Open Cycling had arranged quite a bit of 'higher ground' for us. The route was to take in Hardknott and Wynrose Passes in the Lake District in the first 30 miles of the ride. Ouch.
I got the train up to York meeting my Dad and Rich before picking up James in Penrith on our way to Seascale, the venue for the start of the ride on the Saturday morning. After planning with Dad I assured the lads that everything was in order and that they only needed to bring some cycling kit, sleeping bag and clothes. Dad would do the tents. No problem. Former mountaineer you know.
Well we had two tents but only one set of tent pegs! Furthermore, my Mum had made one of the tents in the 70's which was now held together with various bits of repair tape. It had holes in it. The other was a 30 year old bright orange Vango. Not quite what we had in mind and far from the Team Sky bus but as the tents were only designed to fit 2 small children in each it was definatley going to be a cosy night.
'Where's your sense of adventure Morgan?'
'Somewhere along with the other set of tent pegs Dad!'
Once we had 'pitched' the tents, resorting to twigs snapped off a nearby tree for pegs Ray Mears style, there was only one thing for it. Where was the nearest pub/restaurant?!
Seascale was a strange place but had a surprisingly good Italian restaurant where we couldn't resist a couple of pints of the finest Italian lager and pasta all round served by Seascale's finest waitresses. Ciao Bella!
We woke at 5am the following morning, got kitted up, crammed some porridge in and a couple of coffees, had a few compulsory photos with our Macmillan t-shirts on (thanks Nicki!) and headed down to the start for 6:15. It hadn't rained in the night but its was blustery with that fine rain that soaks you right through on an incredibly grey day on the West Coast of Cumbria.
We were off!
Without realising it in our sleep deprived state we soon found ourselves at the foot of one of Britain's hardest road climbs 10 miles in. Hardknott pass has been given 10/10 in Britain's 100 most difficult book and we soon found out why! It was unrelenting with 100 metre sections of 1/3 followed by brief stretches of 1/5 'respite'. Despite it being the first climb of the day we passed many riders walking. It was one of those climbs where you have to focus, get in the zone and just think about every pedal stroke. 'Just keep the pedals turning.' At times like this I often resort to singing the Welsh hymn 'Men of Harlech' to myself as it fires me up. I was humming furiously the whole way up.
We made it to the top and had kept each other going the whole way up mostly by laughing at how ridiculously hard it was. Why we found it funny I have no idea but it seemed to help!
Shortly after the descent from the top of Hardknott, which was pretty treacherous with potholes and streaming water, we hit Wynrose pass which was tough but just a speed bump in comparison to what we had just encountered!
After these monsters the route became flat-ish for a while until we arrived at the banks of Windermere Lake. Before the ride we had estimated that we should stick at an average speed of 14mph but already this was creeping up. When descending down a short hill close to where we would get the ferry across the lake we all realised that maybe we should slow it down a little. The roads were very wet and I went far too fast into a sweeping left hand bend and ran wide onto the other side of the road, just hanging on, thank god there was not a car coming in the opposite direction. Moments later I heard a horrendous scraping noise from behind and turned round to see James and his bike sliding around the corner and very close to a stone wall separating the road from the icy Lakeland waters. James had slid on his left leg and had road rash from hip to ankle, ripping his shorts and skin to pieces. As I told you earlier though this man is nails! He got up, made sure his beloved Bianchi was ok (superficial wounds only) and got straight back on.
'Bloody hell mate you nearly ended up in the pond there!'
We got the ferry over the lake and came across a Cyclefit client, Baden Campbell, who is 'tapering' his training ready for doing both the Etapes!
Baden is a bear of a man who rides his custom Serrotta like he stole it! We rode to the first feed station together where James got patched up and thankfully was OK to continue.
The route was fantastic. Very little main road and some beautiful scenery to keep the mind off the slowly increasing mileage. We were all feeling really good and the average was maintained at around 16mph without really having to work to keep it up so we started doing some through and off and helped each other out a bit up the climbs.
Rich was flying! He will admit that work has got in the way of his training this year and he getting his excuses in before the ride as usual but he had no need for them as he was powering on.
I was riding Cyclefit's Guru Photon frame and, since starting with the company a couple of months ago, have been experimenting with my bike fit with the view to designing a custom frame at some point after a Cobra fuelled 'eureka' moment in a Covent Garden Indian, committing myself to an Etape or Marmotte for next year.
My long legs, short torso and long arms meant that I was able to ride the 58cm frame comfortably despite being 6ft 1". I had an 11cm saddle to bar drop, something that usually isn't recommended for someone with limited flexibility particularly for 150 miles!
The set-up was superb. I changed my saddle which significantly eased discomfort and tweaks made by Tony and Julian really worked. I felt powerful and the bike handled effortlessly. The frame is astounding. I didn't realise a bike could feel like the Photon does. I will not go on about the bike here as far more qualified bike reviewers than I have already done this with far more authority. All I can say is that, after 150 miles on a wide variety of terrain, I wholeheartedly agree with them. Wow.
Anyway, the weather was baffling. Jacket on? Jacket off? Gilet? Arm warmers? Who knows. All that we were sure about was that we were wet. Very wet!http://www.cyclefit.co.uk/ When we got to the top of one brutal climb near Caslteton on the North York Moors we were met by horizontal hail stones from the right side that felt as though they would draw blood! Amazing. When they finally stopped we all turned to each other and said how in a strange sort of way we had enjoyed that! Maybe it took our minds off the pain in the legs or maybe it was just another thing that was sent to challenge us.
Spirits were good throughout amongst all the riders we passed or chatted to at feed stations. Our spirits certainly improved further by the news that we had reached our fundraising target on the ride of £1000. Victoria Annis, a physio friend from Whitby, joined us for large stretches between feed stations. She is such a strong rider and kept pace with us with ease which, along with a bit of friendly banter, helped to keep us motivated (although none of us would mind being beaten up any climb by a rider of Viccy's calibre).
We were met at the final feed station by my Mum, who lives not far away from our finishing destination in a little village on the Moors, and some hot chilli prepared by Matt and Jen of the Open Cycling team. We were fatiguing slightly now. 20 miles to go. 20 miles in which Rich would curse in his West Yorkshire yammer when he saw every climb 'oh look exactly what we need right now, another bloody (or significantly worse) climb!'
We finally arrived in Whitby and were greeted by quite a group of people that had gathered to cheer their loved ones over the finish line. Great atmosphere and we all felt very pleased with our days work. There is something quite unique about doing a coast to coast ride or any long ride where you end up somewhere new. It makes you quite reflective I think with a real sense of satisfaction by overcoming a challenge.
The ride was a huge success and despite the inclement weather we had managed a half decent time. The course was very well signed, the route was stunning and, as usual with Open Cycling events, the whole thing ran very smoothly. The feed stations were well stocked, something that is very high up on my list of priorities and I know James would like to thank the first aid team who really helped to keep him going with their expertise.
A big thank you again to all those who donated and please see the link below to our Just Giving page where you can sponsor us if you have enjoyed reading this. Thank you also to our families for their support throughout as usual:
Please also see below the link to my Garmin data with map of our route:
Please see Open Cycling's Website for details of future rides and for the results of the Coast to Coast ride:
Follow James on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/woodxilla
Follow Richard on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/richard.mcguire.161
Follow Me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/morganlloyd8
Follow Cyclefit on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/CyclefitUK