I’ve always fancied doing a coast to coast but the logistics of getting to the start and returning have stopped me, so with the double whammy of entering my first Audax for a laugh the 3 coasts 600 kilometres seemed an ideal way of killing 2 birds with one stone.
This was also a test on whether I do have any interest in doing the qualifying rides in order to enter Paris-Brest in 2015.
To spice it up I went self supported and got the train to Sheffield and rode about 50 miles over the TDF stage 2 route roads to the start venue in the Calderdale valley.
Using a community centre as base it was possible to sleep here, and grab a pre-start breakfast making the 6am start that bit easier. Also as the route returned here after the first leg, sleeping kit and mid ride food and spares could be handily left.
The first leg set off to Bridlington on the East coast, very much like a Sportive in a group, but it soon dispersed due to the checkpoints, or controls as they are called. First up was a cafe, several ordering breakfasts, while I learnt a new term, just getting my Brevet card stamped; I’d “bounced” the control. And so a theme continued, arrive at petrol station in the calm with a few others, need a reciept, then a group arrive en mass and its nuts busy.
A lovely calm section ensued when I passed apparent Audax legend Bikey Mikey after the A1 crossing and it was a calm solo ride to the superb checkpoint cafe in Bridlington, after a self imposed trip to the seas edge. Full breakfast and a chat with others ensued and by the time I left the whole place and garden was packed; its a definite bonus being up the front to avoid the crowds.
The next leg was up to Thirsk and a Beverly wheelers local passed and pulled away easily on the climbs. I was on the On-one CX frame, brought out of semi-retirement and on test before my first big French tour. Its no lightweight and having a 38mm halo treaded tyre on the dynamo hub wheel although comfortable was dragging down the speed.
Thirsk was roadrat garage food time, where a few others had just stopped, I was surprised to see Yellow Brompton man, you get confused as who’s on the road ahead after food stops if others bounce. Setting off I passed new friend Joe who had a better idea and had sat on a nice piece of grass for his snack, must remember that.
Enroute to Tadcaster I had a familiar goal to aim for, having spent many hours up here on motorbikes. Joe and Bev man came by, I refused to follow, and then Brompton man being paced by Irishman did too. Sticking to my no force style I watched as they big ring hammered up the inclines, thinking that not all of them would be so fluid come tomorrow.
I was really tempted to go off route and surprise a friend by just appearing at his door by cycle after Tad, but on reckoning it was possible to just get back to the start by midnight at this pace, so sorry Indian for passing you by.
At dusk the target was the next control a petrol station on Leeds outskirts. I started dreaming of a big coffee and lots of food and chocolate milk. Then I caught Bikey Mikey again, it would appear his stop time is minimum, he just keeps plodding on. We arrived at the Petrol station together, where a reciept for control was required, and started raiding the shelves, I joked to the assistant he should have kept the other 4 guys here longer, and he said he had seen no-one else…weird!
The 4 other guys duly rolled in with tales of getting lost, garmin failures and Joe had eaten in Tad.
This this was our rag tag head of the field then. As we set off I discovered a puncture so off they went. Into the darkness now and the terrible potholed urban roads of Leeds and Halifax. With the Use Rivo blazing away I soon picked up Irish and Moulton, who by now had killed their Garmin 800 batteries. We mainly stuck together and hit the hall just after midnight after passing the pubs on the way packed with groaning England fans as they were being dumped out of the world cup by Uruguay.
5 men then set about the absolutely superb trays of hot food and home made puddings laid on by Chris and his helpers. This really is the bonus of doing this event to a foodie like me, that and the fact it was head down time, and even a shower.
Mikey headed back, the rest of us laughed as overnight rain was forecast, and headed for some brief sleep. The Couchette master (no seriously) took your name and what time you wanted waking, and back to the now empty big hall.
Four hours comfy sleep later I was having another huge breakfast amongst the thousand yard stares of people who had ridden all night just for section 1. They are the true hero’s struggling to make the cut off time to claim a finish.
Back off West down the Calderdale valley next stop a petrol station. It was soon apparent I was back of the field as I passed weary riders I’d not seen before. A second breakfast at a busy Audax rider filled Texaco I learned a new skill of triple shotting a small coffee, Max boost for less money.
Blackpool Pier was a question control, then off up a nice coastal road to a promised nice cafe control South of Lancaster. Great motorcycle country and I’d have liked to have stopped in a convenient pub garden and watched them go by, at this point I started to doubt the whole Audax proof of riding thing. What is the point, why not just complete the ride, why do they have awards when the long ride experience is the reward. Anyway, the full meal outside at the cafe was great, many riders rolled in while I ate, again it was apparent many would be out all day to finish.
The final push had me stepping up the pace, I wanted to test myself and felt good as it got lumpy over the M6 and into Trough of Bowland country. The final control is at the third coast, at Hollingworth lake that was built as a resort for the locals way back, then it was a final long climb up and over Cragg Vale. It rained to add to the toughness, its quite an exposed place but ripping down the side Le Tour will ride up was a great way to finish.
More great home made food and chatting with the few finishers including a very tired looking Mikey, a great sense of personal achievement and a great event. Just writing about it makes me want to return some day.
380 miles from 25 hrs saddle time, an average of 15 mph, so the old dinosaur did good. I’d love to do that on a lighter racer.
The epic weekend was not over, I rolled into Halifax to a BnB and a MacDonald’s snack before well and truly collapsing. Then Monday back over a few more climbs another 42 miles to Sheffield for the train home.