"Helpers Ride" - Ralph Cross

The heavy rain on Friday brought flooding to East Cleveland, Saltburn Rd in Skelton was impassable and the seafront at Saltburn was unrecognisable.  The following two photographs had been posted to the "Incidents on Teesside" facebook page.

With a little bit of trepidation four of us set out on Saturday 7th September to ride the Ralph Cross route.  The purpose of this ride was two fold, one was to check the route and make sure everything was fine for the audax next week (14th September) and the other is to make this a "Helper's Ride".  As I'm not able to do this audax calendar event because I'm the organiser, and as I have three cycling friends helping me on the day; Audax UK have in their rules allowance to ride the event on another day - the "Helper's Ride" and submit as though we'd cycled the event itself.  This day I'm riding with Stephen McNeal, Jonathan Prescott and Paul Morton.

I have ridden this event before in the planning stages and recorded the journey here.  So this isn't a full ride report of the route because I've given plenty of descriptions.  In this journal entry I'm more interested in noting some of the route observations for the benefit of riders next week.

Meeting up at Tesco we grabbed receipts to prove our start time and set off into this cold and misty September morning.  The rains from Friday had stopped, but the roads were exceptionally wet and our first challenge was the climb of Osmotherley in search of grip.  The climb of Scarth Nick is tough at the best of times, but with wet road and leaves it provides an extra test of bike handling skills.
The first section of the Ralph Cross will have riders wondering what they've let themselves in for.  Steep descents and steep climbs.  The recent rain has washed massive amounts of gravel into the road, so steep descents with corners become a lottery.  Also the sheep are much more mature and prone to wander into the road, or run along ahead of you on the climbs.  It is really just one road all the way to (and through) Hawnby, with a left turn for Helmsley just before the ridiculous climb of Murton Bank.
The B1257 descent into Helmsley is rewarding; wide and fast and after Helmsley the overall pace becomes much faster.  We kept to a fairly brisk 30kph paceline all the way along the B1257 to Malton.

This flat section from Helmsley to Malton and back to Kirkbymorrside is in very good condition and audaxers should be able to bank some time before heading back for more hills.
Once the climbing starts in earnest at Hutton-le-Hole, I hope you have either a westerly or southerly breeze to bring you up the incline.
  It is gentle and will surprise riders how quickly they gain height.  Looking back gives a view to the flats left behind.  To left is Bransdale and Farndale, to the right is Rosedale.  The road surface is in good condition.  So far so good on the route checking.
When the Lion Inn comes into view you've still got a kilometer or two before you reach the rest point.  It is about 16km from Kirkbymoorside to the pub stop.  Stephen McNeal and Jonathan Prescott will be ensconced inside stamping brevet cards for riders.  On this day we had some lunch.  Audaxes are so much more gentlemanly than Sportives.  The frequent stops make the riding seem so much easier.
Next was Fryup.  The wonderful descent with views to the sea.  I really hope the weather is good on the 14th September.  Ahead we had a reminder of what can appear from nowhere, a 4x4 dragging a horsebox.  This is a national park and while cycling you'll meet tourists, farmers and locals - usually taking up the whole road in front - so riders please take care!
I couldn't resist this sign post.
After Lealholm the next point of risk on the route is the ford or bridge on Lawns Road outside Danby.  With the flooding on the Esk the road was covered in muck - but both the bridge and the ford were passable.  On to Castleton and one of my nemesis climbs, Langburn's Bank.
Once past the steepest section we gain speed over the top and the drop to Lockwood Beck Reservoir.  I've mentioned the short busy section of A171 in the event notes.  Once onto Stanghow road though we faced a major hazard; the road was strewn with gravel and rocks washed down from farm tracks by the heavy rain.  Hopefully it will be swept away before next weekend - but take care here for "boulders" in the road.  I was also worried about the dip under the railway bridge on Saltburn road.  Fortunately the drainage is very good and we had only a small puddle to navigate.
It was a bright sunny day as we dropped down into Saltburn, wondering what damage the flooding had left.  Wondering if the "Cat Nab Cafe" was washed away.
The damage to Saltburn was significant, but council workers were out doing their best, and the good news is that the route is perfectly passable.  Also, even better news; the Cat Nab Cafe is undamaged and open for business.  They are looking forward receiving 200km and 100km audaxers next weekend.
With 150km covered, only another 25% of the ride is left, starting with the climb from the seafront.  We found traffic to be heavy and pushy today.  There had been road closures nearby and obviously drivers were experiencing higher levels of stress.  Meeting happy cyclists wasn't making it any better.  Please take care on the section to Guisborough.  Once past this and on to Great Ayton, past Roseberry Topping, the route becomes lovely again.
The rest of the route was fine too.  No problems with the roads and no problems with traffic.  It gets slightly quieter as the ride nears it's end with a trip up Ingleby Bank to Chop Gate, then Raisdale and the stunning views over the Tees valley from the top of Carlton Bank.  We rolled back into Ingleby Barwick with 8hrs 40mins riding time, and 10hrs 30mins total time at 5:30pm.
The light was beginning to fade, so if you are a full value rider please bring lights as the Controle close time will be after sunset.
Only 2.5 "easy" AAA points.
A grand day out in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

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