In a couple of weeks my sister, Suzanne, and I will be heading to the Alps to celebrate her Birthday by cycling up and down some French mountains. Suzanne's preparation has been very serious, a regime of dieting and training hard, recently she completed a 60 mile club run at over 17.5mph and has been pushing her 10 mile TT PB down to within 7 seconds of the 30 minute mark. She has metamorphosed from a leisurely cyclist into a genuine club rider. Today, in order to put some hills into the training, we spent over 6 hours riding round the North Yorkshire Moors, a couple of loops of the moors in fact. We've dubbed this the "More Moors" route, or the "Double Helmsley".
The alarm went off at 6:30am with bright sunshine and blue skies, but by the time we left the door at 7am it was already raining. We aborted our attempt and rode back to grab coats, but really we didn't need them later in the day and we could possibly have coped with the early occasional drizzle without rain coats. However, feeling equipped we set out again. The sky was broodingly dark as we set off between the new wind turbines of Seamer hill and we could see the NY Moors were drenched in black clouds.
Behind us of course was beautiful blue skies and sunshine...
The air was cool, and the slight drizzle cooled us further so we kept the pace fairly steady all the way through Stokesley, Kirkby and onto the climb of Clay Bank. Suzanne hit a good cadance and tapped a reliable pace to the top where we paused to drink and remove coats. I had managed to remove mine while riding up Clay Bank, but couldn't quite stuff it into my pocket, so the stop was appreciated.
We then descended Clay Bank southside at a brilliant pace and kept up a 20-odd mph ride all the way to Helmsley aided by a beautiful tailwind. There were only two cars out on the road for the whole length of the Chop Gate / Helmsley road and we climbed Newgate Bank in peace. Suzanne commented on how much easier Newgate is than Clay Bank and we nailed it down into Helmsley - I hit my top speed for the day at 73.4kph (46.2mph) as I passed into the 40mph zone so had to slow down. The sun was out and the air had warmed up significantly but the chill of the early rain demanded a coffee stop to warm us through.
We also chose to eat our homemade cheese rolls standing outside the cafe, they were very good cheese rolls and we were discussing the quality and flavour as Helmsley tourists walked past us into the shop. There may have been a slight rise in the demand for cheese rolls... hopefully the tourists weren't disappointed, but we did have the only two "homemade by Graeme" rolls in Helmsley that day.
We continued out on the Pickering road and Suzanne stayed in my draft through Beadlam and Nawton to the Hodge Beck turnoff and we left the A170 then to roll through quiet country lanes. The Ford at Hodge Beck was dry (thankfully) and the sun was beating down on us.
We were doing a loop of Bransdale today and ultimately would end back at Helmsley, we followed Westside road before turning left onto Bransdale road and all the time we climbed gently and were surrounded by brown heather and the rugged moors landscape. As I had the camera Suzanne had to settle for adding the human touch to my photography.
I liked this shot of Suzanne climbing in the distance...
And there was no denying this was an isolated ride we were on.
Curlews called in alarm as we rode past, swooping to warn us away from their nesting sites. Getting a good photograph while riding down a 16% descent was challenging, and I didn't quite get the focus right...
As we dropped off the top of the moors there was a treat in store for us, the views towards Cockayne and the turning point of our journey to the top of Bransdale. We passed a couple of cyclists riding Bransdale the other way and dropped down into Cockayne before immediately being faced with the climb up the opposite side of the dale. The road is gated and I chose to ride ahead of Suzanne to open each gate, let her through, close the gate and ride on to the next. This was a bumpy lumpy highway with a smattering of 15%+ sections.
The views we'd enjoyed all day were spectacular and the open moor road gave us long sweeping descents without having to apply the brakes; due to the open views and clear sight of coming traffic.
We came back to Helmsley to complete the "Double Helmsley" at 50 miles into the ride. The pace wasn't fast due to the length of the climbs, so we found a coffee shop and relaxed; Suzanne with a pot of tea for one and I chose the mocha coffee. I don't normally like milk in my coffee but I fancied something sweet and the chocolate came in a separate little pot. Mmmm.
The final leg was all that remained and Suzanne demonstrated how strong she is by digging deep for the return journey back over Newgate bank.
To keep a little safer we each took the primary road position on the descent, to prevent motorcycles and cars trying to overtake us on blind bends - but there was nothing to worry about as the descent was clear all the way down and I caught a shot of Suzanne sweeping round the final corner.
There really had been no need for the rain coats after the 7am shower, the sunshine was glorious and we had a fantastic warm and pleasant day - even on the final busy stretch back to Chop Gate, where we stopped so I could have a fermented alcoholic sports drink and Suzanne could have a caffeine boost from an energy drink.
The final climb was the south side of Clay Bank and the longer descent, which neither of us felt the need to brake on. The dry tarmac, sunny day, and lack of traffic allowed us to blast all the way to the bottom and back into Great Broughton. We retraced our tracks through Stokesley and over Seamer hill to arrive back home 6hrs and 25mins after setting off. 130km (80 miles) at 20kph (12.5mph), although the average speed is a meaningless statistic for this ride and we should really examine Suzanne's Garmin tracks for more useful data. I thoroughly enjoyed riding with Suzanne today and I'm looking forward to our Alps trip.
Well done on the climbing Suzanne; very "choppy"!
Labels: Long distance cycling, Moors, Training