Sitting in the bar in January chatting & thinking what challenges to set for 2018 & someone mentions the infamous Fred Whitton !!
Pretty soon, 6 of us have signed up for The Fred, as it quickly & affectionately became known through the group.
And then the fun began.
It wasn’t just about the challenge itself, all 181kms (112 miles) including 10 climbs (felt like double that) and 3400m (11300ft) of climbing. It was also about the training together, encouraging and pushing each other and especially the hill climbing. Searching out all the toughest local and not so local climbs, looking for steeper and steeper hills to practice on. The training wasn’t helped by the poor weather and winter seeming to last forever that upset our planned mileage and climbing targets and made putting in the required miles a challenge.
Planning, logistics, travel arrangements, accommodation, early mornings, juggling work and family life (and golf 😬). All the while we were all thinking, have I ridden enough, have I trained enough. Have we got the right gears, have I ridden enough, have I trained enough.
Together with an overwhelming sense of of anticipation, “can we do it”.
When the big day arrived much too quickly, where had those 4 months gone, with a mixture of nerves & excitement, we together with 2300 other participants were blessed with perfect conditions, blue skies, warm but not too hot, little or no wind & thankfully no rain !!
The stunning hills and lakes of Cumbria didn’t disappoint & set the backdrop for a long day in the saddle, sometimes taking our minds off the steep ascents & sketchy, cliff like descents, of which there were many, that left our arms burning due to almost constant braking along with our legs.
The list of the 10 big climbs (there were many other unnamed climbs) Kirkstone Pass, Park Brow, Honister Pass, Newlands, Whinlatter Pass, Cold Fell, Bowerhouse Bank, Hardknott Pass, Wrynose Pass and Blea Tarn, all having maximum gradients of 11% and above.
With Kirkstone Pass done, there was a small sigh of relief, that wasn’t so bad guys !! Honister Pass was the next milestone ticked off when completed, this was the first really steep climb with ramps up to 25%, confidence in ourselves was rising although the wall of Hardknott Pass after 95 miles was constantly in the back of all of our minds. As officially the steepest road in the UK, with gradients up to 33%, this made our usual track of Beddlestead Lane seem like a walk in the park. So massive Kudos to those guys that managed to complete it without putting their feet down.
I think that we all went through some highs and lows mentally at times throughout the day, but we arrived at the finish as we started, all together as a team.
There were many many words and some expletives spoken, but there was one phrase in particular uttered by Dave Hemming as we were leaving the finishing ground for the short ride back to the hotel & a well earned beer or two, “I cannot ever see myself not riding a bike, I bloody love it !!” And we all nodded in agreement.
The sense of achievement that we all shared, silently and publicly will ALWAYS be with us.
We all have great memories that will never be forgotten and we forged even greater friendships with the team effort, all because of someone called Fred Whitton and the joy of riding a bike.
The next challenge, adventure is already being talked about, what will be next.