I had arrived early in Mytholmroyd, so headed to Hebden Bridge to relax with a pint in the sunshine. The aftermath of the flooding here was unavoidable; there was a lot of work taking place to repair shop floors and walls, but what struck me the most was the distress you could sense from families whose livelihoods had been destroyed. Visiting Hebden Bridge while the rest of the country was celebrating the opening of the Olympics demonstrated the duality of both celebrating and commiserating simultaneously. Back in Mytholmroyd the flooding had closed both of the pubs.
The Community Centre was completely different to the town, it was a hive of activity with cyclists arriving and a buzz in the air of excitement. There was a vast array of bicycles against the walls and people were unpacking and laying out bedding in the main hall. Food was available and the volunteers were guiding us through the facilities and helping us to get fed and sorted. It was here that I started to meet some new friends and began to get butterflies in my stomach.
Making new friends in Audax country is easy because everyone is so friendly, although remembering names was challenging as lots of people have two names; a “yacf forum name” and an “IRL” name. (In Real Life.) The first riders I met were, Peter (Peter), JP (JayP), Mike (Bikey-Mikey), and Tim (dooblood) and I also met the organiser, Chris. Everyone wanted to share good solid advice and reassure me that I’d be okay. Peter and Mike were especially supportive, Peter telling me that I’d be okay and Mike sharing his experiences too. Mike recommended an early night and the accommodation was perfect... I slept over near the fire escape on a foam mattress with my sleeping bag and a home-comfort pillow.
There were about 40 riders doing a combination of the “3 Coasts 600” and the “East and West Coasts 600”, and maybe 10 or 15 of us slept over on the Friday night. We were woken at 5am to a hearty breakfast all laid on for us and this gave us plenty of time to get the bicycles and gear ready for the day. I had a nice relaxed morning, starting with a muesli, OJ and black coffee. I gave my Spa Cycles Tourer one last check over and waited for Chris to give us the signal to go.
Not everyone was riding a bicycle...
6am. As we rolled en masse from Mytholmroyd one chap shot off immediately up the A646 like he was on a 10TT – I think he was back at the community centre by 10pm; 3hrs 15mins ahead of me! I stayed with the peloton as we kept a brisk but sustainable pace out to the first turn onto Rose Grove after 5km. Here it started to drizzle and I couldn’t read my route sheet easily due to the combination of speed over rough surfaces and water on the plastic holder, but I was in the group and not too worried. However, the “group” apparently had local knowledge and left Chris’ planned route almost immediately and took us onto the A6139 avoiding the canal path. I was lost. The route sheet no longer matched my location and it started to rain heavily. I stopped to put a coat on and hoped that I wouldn’t lose the pack, but I needn’t have worried, it was a cunning short cut which came effortlessly up to the same junction with the A629 eventually. Later I found that others had been in exactly the same frame of mind as me… embarrassed about having been “off route” and worried about “being lost”.
Once back on the route I was still in with a large group, occasionally help up by roadworks but generally staying together through coincidence of geography rather than together by design. There were clearly people who knew each other riding together, but there was a larger collection which made newbies like me feel like we weren't crashing a private party.
We had an early control at Mirfield after 23km (14 miles), a bus stop for a stamp and time-check in the Brevet card. We ploughed on using main roads to get to Dewsbury, but the early hour on Saturday meant the traffic was light. I was surprised to see fellow riders go in different directions in Dewsbury, I thought we were all following the same directions but I’ve found that everyone reads them differently and feels little need to explain their perspective to others. So with everyone following the same instructions we set off in different directions. I was confident in my reading of the routesheet and thankfully I was right (and so were the others I was riding with), we left Dewsbury uphill on the A653 towards Leeds but took the right hand turn on Hey Beck Lane to pass under the M1. We didn’t go to Wakefield though, we turned north towards Lofthouse and then east to Castleford.
We had traveled 50km (31 miles) and arrived in Castleford. The Bus Station café was very welcoming and I obtained a sticker showing I’d been there. I also had a carton of OJ. But I was surprised to see so many people sitting down to a full English breakfast, I didn't need or want to stop so headed straight off. Learning a new language; I discover I “bounced” this control.
The route took us onto much more rural roads now, heading for Pocklington via Sherburn in Elmet. I used to be a salesman in the northeast of England and covered many of these roads visiting customers. Cawood was no exception, and for a while I knew I was getting closer and closer, but the straight flat roads feel like they go on for ever. The more I ride on flat roads the more I don’t like them. I wonder who could possible like flat roads? Do they like “no hills” or do they like “flat roads”? I suspect nobody really actually likes flat roads, you cannot coast and you just end up grinding the trans-axel Ripley. What saved me on this stretch was the tailwind which whipped me along at 34-27 kph (21 to 23 mph).
The bridge in Cawood is an interesting interruption to the continuous pan flat roads.
I had listened to advice and was riding my own ride. This meant that I was not stopping at controls but I was riding slower than I could have. This had the interesting effect that I would appear to “charge off” from meeting points, but then be “caught” 15 km down the road. In this way I met Tim and Joe, both of whom caught and dropped me, but both of whom I left at the controls.
There were plenty of Audaxers in groups
After Cawood we needed to cross to significant trunk roads, the A19 (York – Selby) and the A1079 (York – Hull), firstly the A19 with a brief northerly ride to Escrick before taking more beautiful B-roads to get to Elvington and briefly some of the “Bridges and Beaches” roads to cross the A1079 and arrive in Pocklington. Once again I bounced the control with a very brief stop for Redbull. On the way out of Pocklington the roads were now starting to climb again and I passed a sign to Wharram Percy which is somewhere Carol and I used to go when we lived in Hull. Shortly after this on quieter roads I saw a chocolate brown deer skip in front of me over the road and off into the field. It was mid-morning when this happened; I hadn’t expected to see large wildlife at this time of day.
As the larger number of riders had spread out I was now starting to properly recognise people I was bumping into at controls. Joe came flying past me again on a stretch of the A166 just behind the rocket that was called “pink-bar-tape”. I did talk to “pink-bar-tape” but I’m sorry I’ve forgotten is name. He was seriously flying along!
There was an Information Control at Langtoft, and the directions humorously said something like, “Turn right where the sign is missing”. I got this wrong and added 2 km to my ride by going to the next junction and doubling back. I met Tim here and we decided to stay together for a while. It was nice to talk to Tim, he is just married and works for the NHS, we talked about work, marriage, life and stuff. After the 140 km (87 miles) of being alone I’m surprised Tim wanted to ride with me. I wasn’t very coherent. I might have been a bit rambling.
Our next target was The Boathouse at Bridlington, which was easy enough to find. The only thing that sticks in my memory of the route was saying to Tim, “I see the sea and the sea sees me!” Oh dear, I was reverting to childhood. We had climbed enough that we could see the North Sea and Bridlington Bay.
Bridlington was a mass of cars and traffic lights. I felt the freedom of cycling, free-wheeling past tonnes of metal and weaving through junctions to effortlessly arrive at the café.
It was even sunny enough for some to sit outside.
The Boathouse Café is the most unassuming place I’ve visited, but the staff were great, a stamp for my Brevet card and a plate of “Bacon on Toast with a side of Black Pudding”. I think that’s what Wiggo has at his café stops during Tour de France stages. Did you know that the Peloton has a café stop half way of each stage? It’s true. The UK riders have tea and cake while the continentals have escargots washed down with pastis. Despite this creative thinking, Tim and Joe still wanted to ride together and made the mistake of including me. Our tailwind was about to turn to a blocking headwind and we all agreed that working together was the right way to complete this return leg.
Before we turned back to the west, we quickly visited the seafront and persuaded a tourist to take a group photograph for us.
left to right; me, Joe, Tim
We now ploughed (it felt truly agricultural) towards Malton. Ahead of us was “pink-bar-tape”, solo-ing his way even though I tried to offer my wheel to him. He was clearly on a mission. We were suffering together as a group though. The headwind and dead straight, flat roads were hard work into the west through places like Wold Newton. Carol and I rode these roads on a previous Wolds cycle-camping holiday, in the other direction… with a tailwind.
I think it was here I spotted a flock of rabbits in the road. I pointed out the 6 or 7 bunnies to everyone just before they flew off. Joe told me they are actually pigeons. There is an explanation but it will be too complicated to go into.
The route took a right turn after West Lutton and that was the end of the flat riding, we now climbed to Settrington and past North Garrison, a local cyclist popped out of a junction in front of us and hurtled down the hill ahead of us with abandon. I tracked him but kept things sensible due to the loose gravel and wet road.
Arriving at The Yorkshire Tea Rooms, after 204km (127 miles) it was early afternoon and I was seriously tempted to bounce this control (collect the stamp but not stop), thankfully Tim and Joe talked me into taking things a little more easily. And the Tea Room sold beer... so I was happy. Beer and carrot cake.
Other Audaxers rolled up too. The field was not very spread out yet.
After this I was now on home turf, cycling on roads I was familiar with, staying with B-roads, through Hovingham and Coxwold. I like the fact that Chris Crossland has plotted a route that takes us through the scenic and historical parts of the country, I mentioned to Joe and Tim that we'd passed the church where an annual cyclists service is held to remember the cyclists who served and fell in the world wars. The weather was also playing a significant part, just outside Coxwold the wind whipped up into a frenzy and hurled great drops of rain at us. We sought shelter under a tree simply because it was daft to ride through this, it was obviously going to blow straight over. We only stopped for 5 minutes while it pelted down.
We came into Thirsk and stopped for refreshment at the supermarket there, and to collect some supplies for heading into the night, it was about 5pm and we had two information controls between us and the next place we could get food and drink.
At Skipton-on-Swale (254km, 158 miles) we answered the question on the Brevet card quickly as we were simply at the roadside. Moving on I was no longer able to take photos as the dusk was coming in and so to was the threat of rain. I kept my coat on now just in case.
From here we headed south via Asenby to cross the A19 again and further south to Helperby. Around us were signs of heavy rain and the roads were wet as we arrived at our next information control of Aldwark bridge (280km, 174 miles), this is an old wooden toll bridge and as we passed over it the planks lifted and fell, it seemed they were not fixed in place, it felt a little like riding over a piano keyboard... well, a big piano keyboard. (I imagine.) We had also passed some really nice looking pubs and I started to complain that there was beer we were missing. It was Saturday night, I was on holiday riding my bicycle and I wanted to drink a beer with some friends. The guys listened and we pulled in at The Sun Inn in Long Marston for a pint of real ale. This was a very friendly pub and we weren't the only Audaxers to stop for a fermented isotonic sports drink.
Outside dusk was falling, we prepared to go and set up our lights much to the amusement of the people watching from the windows. Reflective vests, extremely bright headlights, head torches strapped to helmets, flashing and steady rear lights - we looked gaudy, but at least no one could miss us. Someone, I think Bob (?), had a pot of sudocream - which I appreciated being able to take a little of.
Dusk fell rapidly as we were spinning along quite fast now, fueled by alcohol! We rolled in and out of Tadcaster as quickly as possible, the mixture of the smell of John Smiths brewing and the lively youths playing outside the bars encouraged us to just keep pedaling.
From Tadcaster we came back down south crossing the M1 to Castleton again, it was so dark now there was nothing to observe other than the line of brightly lit cyclists spread out on the road. The Shell Petrol Station in Castleton (324km, 201 miles) was welcome and I had coffee as well as topping up my water bottles with energy drinks. This was the last control of the evening, we were now on the final stretch of 50km back to the Community Centre in Mytholmroyd. Perhaps the coffee was talking to me, but I started to think about bouncing this control and heading for breakfast in Blackpool. Unfortunately at this point things started to go wrong for Tim. Firstly his chain became trapped in his front derailleur. Joe was up the road and didn't notice, others offered advice but couldn't help. I stayed with Tim and we removed the front derailleur to free the chain. This now caused Tim to be stuck in the compact ring as he could no longer change gear on the front. We set off again and I stayed with him keeping him company, but then another issue, a puncture. Tim could manage that on his own easily enough and would probably only be delayed by 10 minutes so I carried on.
It rained quite a bit during this last section and the 50km seemed to be taking a lot longer than it did on the way out. Finally I reached the bit where we'd detoured in the morning. I stuck to the route sheet and found myself climbing a 20% incline, narrow, with cars coming down, in the rain and the dark. I stood up to pedal and realised that I was too tired to balance, so sat back down and hit the smallest gear spinning really fast to just keep going.
And that was the first section over - I arrived back at the control in Mytholmroyd after covering 375km (233 miles) at 1:15am, and sat down to a huge dinner of pasta. I then laid down to sleep on the floor of the darkened room. It was now 2am and I intended to set off again at 6am.
Bicycles everywhere in the morning...
I woke at 4am, there was some noise from people arriving and settling down to sleep. I didn't know what time it was, but I made the decision to get up and get ready to go. I was pleased that I'd managed 2 hours of good sleep and knew that I was going to be fine. Coffee, OJ and a banana were what I had to eat. I found that Tim had finally arrived at 3:45am, which surprised me - I wondered if he had decided to sleep a little in the bus shelter when he fixed his puncture. Actually he didn't.... here are Tim's words about what happened...
Had a whole string of disasters, which kinda went like this: rear light would only stay on flashing mode (annoying folk behind), rear mudguard chewed up by rear wheel, front mech menace (grr), rear puncture, followed by second rear puncture, followed by third rear puncture, followed by puncture to front wheel, (Grr now out of tubes), followed by further puncture, walk until kind souls provide tube, blow tube up and bang, the valve is stuck in pump, more walking, another tube provided, 6th puncture to rear. Walk, hail taxi, abandon. Never did fix the mechanical. ... Grrr!
Sorry to hear all this Tim.
I saw Peter, he'd just come in with a group and was having his evening meal, there were only a couple of others getting ready to leave, most were probably sleeping for a 6 or 7am start.
I went outside and gave the Tourer a clean, checked the brakes, wheels, tyres and then cleaned and olied the chain. Everything was looking good so I set off in the first light of dawn, but I'd forgotten my Brevet card so retraced my steps and set off again fifteen minutes later.
The road rolled out to Todmorden and a quick ATM Control, before climbing significantly on the A646 to come through Holme Chapel before descending again for ages into Padiham. I met up with Robert on this section and would see him several times during the day. He rides a beautiful Ragley Cragg Vale and would be descending on that road later the same day. (More of that later.)
The morning was beautiful and I was all alone on the road. There were possible three riders ahead of me and only a couple behind - but none of these riders was within sight. I stopped to enjoy the view at a bridge between Whalley and Ribchester, on the B6245, the light was getting better and there were blue skies. The wind predicted for the day hadn't started yet, so I'd had a really pleasant morning so far.
Chris' route was keeping me on my toes as once or twice I misunderstood the directions and was adding unnecessary distance to this ride. I arrived at Whitechapel (435km, 270miles) for an information Control and as it was just a junction I kept going, my first real stop was in Fulwood at a petrol station. On the way I passed under the M55 near Garstang, and a hotel I've stayed in for business meetings. I never thought I'd be cycling past it. The roundabout under the M55 is a busy nightmare, but this early on a Sunday it was completely empty.
At Fulwood there was a meeting of Audaxers, all the early guys. I had a horrible bacon and cheese pasty. Even though it was greasy and horrible, I had another one. I was now really hungry but I also want to have breakfast in Blackpool, which was my next target.
The wind had picked up a lot now and I was feeling sore in my knees so I took a couple of ibuprofen. I also was thrown because Blackpool seems to be at the top of a hill. Um? That doesn't make sense. I asked Chris about it later and he tells me that it was the headwind. But seriously, I'm sure I was actually climbing a hill and I expected to have to go over a hilltop and come down to the seafront. But I didn't; Blackpool is at the top of a hill. Weird.
But there was nowhere obvious to have a nice breakfast and no other Audaxers around, so I bounced this control (474km, 295miles) and headed straight back out to find Glasson Dock. The Lantern o'er Lune cafe was beckoning. On the way out I was flagged down by Robert who'd run out of inner tubes due to multiple punctures and was happy to pass him one of my spares.
I rolled on, leaving him to sort himself out, knowing he'd probably catch me. Everyone seems to catch me.
This was a very flat section of road and it was nice to have Robert to talk to and keep me company. A really friendly guy.
We arrived at the Lantern o'er Lune in time for lunch. I asked if they served beer and instantly made friends with the staff serving me, even though they couldn't oblige. I had a coffee and then followed it with my Audax Special... bacon on toast with black pudding and brown sauce. Mmm-mmmm. The symmetry of this and the same lunch in Bridlington was somehow fitting.
I spent about 30 minutes here, I'd now covered 508km (316 miles) in 30 hours with only two hours sleep, and this was a nice place to stop. Lots of bikers and also the arrival of many of the "Good Companions 200" Audax. These were the first guys from the 200km Audax starting at Mytholmroyd on the Sunday morning and they'd caught me. I kept telling anyone who'd listen what a brilliant time I was having and to prove the point I planned to find the next pub and stop for a pint.
This was just outside Glasson Dock and I persuaded some cycle tourists to take my photo, pint-in-hand.
Suitably refreshed with food and beer, and with water bottles refilled, I set off again in the sunshine for the last 100km, knowing that these 100km had all the climbing in. I got a little lost here but found myself again quickly and only added a few more km to the overall route.
Climbing away from the coast the road snaked away into the hills and offered long views back as far as Lancaster, Fleetwood and the long stretches of sandy beaches on the coast.
I was being caught by another rider, Stuart, and we stuck together for a little while over the hills. I found I could cycle a lot faster when talking to someone else, keeping his pace was okay for a while until I wanted to stop and take more photographs so let him drop me.
This was a much more hilly and diverse section of the overall route than yesterday's Yorkshire sections, I was impressed with the beauty and challenge of Lancashire on the way back to Whalley. When I got to Whalley (551km, 342 miles) Stuart was still there, but I was stopping for ice-cream and waved him off. I found a nice space in the sunshine by the road so I could watch out for others coming along. It was about 10 minutes before anyone else arrived, it looked like a group of 6 or 7 of the "Good Companions". As they arrived I finished my ice-cream and set off for the final leg.
The climbing was now getting much harder, the long long drag from Padiham to Holme Chapel was very hard work, so the descent to Todmorden was thoroughly earned. Then I turned right on the A6033 to find Hollingworth lake, this was to be the 3rd of the 3 coasts, "an inland sea" and I was looking forward to the long descent from there to the finish back in Mytholmroyd. I looked at the time and as I set off it was 5:08pm so I doubted I could finish by 6pm. That actually was less important than enjoying myself so I stopped for a drink at the top of the climb, thinking all I had left now was downhill.
I stopped at the Summit pub in glorious sunshine and sat outside to enjoy my last pint of the weekend.
This was it now, the last tiny bit of riding. Down to the A58 and a left/right to climb up to Hollingworth lake. Stunning, I realise I've seen this from the M62 before and now was getting a photograph looking up at the M62.
I know I was looking tired by now.
Hollingworth lake was the 589km point (366 miles) and there was only 16km to go (10 miles). All of it downhill I thought. But no...
The A58 climbed and climbed, an alpine like gradient which went on a long way up to the Blackstone Edge Reservoir and the "White House" pub. I wasn't stopping here though, it was just about 6pm and I wondered if I could really get to the finish before 6:30pm. The views on this climb speak for themselves:
Blackstone Edge Reservoir was like an infinity pool stretching out to the horizon, with nothing above it and the sun glinting off the black shadowed waves whisked up by the strong wind at the top of this hill.
And the descent... this was all that I had left.
I finished the 3 Coasts 600, I was the 5th person back out of 40 riders and I found that several people had bailed on Sunday morning. Tim due to terrible series of mechanicals, one chap because of a fall and broken wrist and the others I don't know. I do know Peter made it and I'm looking forward to hearing his story. Mike made it, as did Stuart and Robert... Joe I don't know. But I've met really good cyclists in all of them and I'm looking forward to meeting them all again on another event.
625km (388 miles)
Ride time: 26 hours, 48 minutes and 17 seconds riding time averaging 23.3kph (14.5mph) and maximum of 70.7kph (44mph).
Total time: 36 hours and 20 minutes. Average of 17.2kph (10.7mph)
The time allowed was 40 hours, the minimum speed was 15kph.
Thank you Chris Crossland and team for a brilliant route, wonderful weather, and organisation which fed me, helped me sleep and kept me company. It was brilliant. Thank you.