My “Wiggish 300” was a DIY by GPS variation on the Wiggy 300 audax, and by starting from my home town of Ingleby Barwick I was able to get the hills out of the way early. Based on my experience of route I would heartily recommend the Wiggy 300, it follows ridges and valleys and gives a very gently rolling experience, with only the climbs at each end of Bilsdale to contend with. I think this would be a particularly nice way to spend a day with audaxing friends.
Despite a 5:30am start, the sun was already shining above the hedgerows as I took to familiar roads south through Stokesley and on through Bilsdale to Hemlsley. The forecast was for bright sunshine all day and I was carrying two essential items: sunblock and lip salve. These would be applied regularly because experience has taught me that surviving a long distance ride in good shape means taking care of myself. Zero traffic was to set the tone as I had one of the loneliest rides I've done. I stood in the square in Helmsley shaking the life back into my forearms, and there was no one around to point and stare me; a salt-caked loony.
I played a brief game of tag with a bus between Oswaldkirk and Wigginton along a section of the B1363; the driver good naturedly waved as he passed me safely, and waved again as I inevitably caught and passed him at the next couple of bus stops.
I stopped in Wigginton for a refreshing cup of coffee and watched as a rider with an original design Audax UK jersey called in at the supermarket opposite. I thought he was collecting a proof of passage, but when he returned the way he’d ridden in, clutching a newspaper to the handlebars I changed my mind. [edit June 6th: I've been clued in that this is actually the organiser of the Wiggy 300 and chairman of the Veloclub 167 - so I've met him before, nay, ridden with him before! I'm such a dunderhead at times.]
I had a copy of the Wiggy 300 route sheet and I followed this to Pocklington, skirting round York on yet more quiet lanes. The hedgerows were filled with birdlife and the sun was shining on the yellow fields. Was it really 30 years ago that I recall my father complaining about this new crop “rape” taking over the landscape? He was right, but in an odd way I enjoy the bright yellow fields against the green hedgerows and clear blue sky. It felt fitting to be riding into the Yorkshire Wolds surrounded by the colours of the Yorkshire County flag.
The petrol station in Pocklington has changed hands since the last time I was here, it was (and will be) a control on the 3 Coasts 600 audax. I kept to the route sheet and headed further east, to Garton-on-the-Wolds. I was feeling lonely. I had barely seen another cyclist, very few cars had passed and there was almost no one to talk to. I arrived at Helperthorpe and was completely out of water, so I stopped by a garden where a telephone engineer was fitting a broadband connection and the home owner was tending his garden. I politely asked if I could trouble him for a refill of my water bottle. “Of course, it is a hot day” he replied. But when he returned with my bottle he merely gave it to me and returned to his gardening. I thanked him but he only smiled. The engineer finished his work without a word and drove off.
The light Yorkshire-sirocco, which had accompanied me eastward was beginning to strengthen as I turned back to the west looking for Malton and the Yorkshire Tearooms. In Malton a group of young men shouted something hilarious about bicycles as I passed them, then shuffled their feet in embarrassment when, a few minutes later, they found themselves entering the Yorkshire Tearoom with me sat comfortably by the door. No words needed to be said, they skulked off to the far corner away from me.
Lunchtime had arrived and as riding on an empty stomach will only get me so far, I opted for the full English breakfast and a pint of beer. What an awful combination; bereft of decent human interaction I had lost all sense of propriety and was drinking beer while eating bacon and eggs. Before this combination could yield the inevitable gastric results I set off again into the now strong breeze.
Ploughing a lonely furrow to the west my next target was Ripon. Turning off the B1257 at Hovingham I passed a sign warning motorists that there was a cycle event taking place. It was nice to know that although I was in complete isolation, barely seeing a cyclist or motorist all day, someone had gone to the trouble of putting up signs to let others know about my DIY event.
My spirits jumped when I found myself retracing a part of the B1363 and I sang, “On the road again”, joyfully muddling up the lyrics of both the Canned Heat and Willie Nelson versions.
As I was coming into Easingwold I felt a warming sensation in the ball of my right foot. The warmth grew and grew until it was scalding hot. With this intense pain I had no option but to pull off at the first convenient ice-cream parlour and remove my shoes. The pistachio ice-cream went into my stomach and cooled my foot by a complex internal redistribution of heat. I think it might be time for new insoles in my cycling shoes.
Powered by sugar and fat, I set off again.
I stopped again in Boroughbridge because I was tired, the headwind from Malton was making me ride slowly and I felt like my tyres were made of sticky toffee pudding. I was also out of my preferred energy drink, the High Five 4:1 mix recommended to me by Mike, the 2013 Audax Points Champion. I bought some blue drink by a brand name drinks manufacturer despite my reservations about ingredients which my Grandma wouldn't have recognised. I'm not sure day-glo blue is a good colour for a drink. I bought it anyway. Yuck. Between Boroughbridge and home I had maybe a dozen sips and was thankful to throw the rest down the sink when I got back.
Ripon was still there on my target list and I careened into the town centre the wrong way down a one way street, totally bemused by the system and keen for a proper drink. I had decided to grab a nice lukewarm beer and a sandwich for my teatime treat. Not seeing anywhere worth stopping I found myself out the other side of Ripon as quickly as I had arrived.
My route and the Wiggy 300 route diverged at Ripon. Because my start point was Ingleby Barwick, all I had to do was ride to Catterick, Stokesley and back to Ingleby to complete this DIY 300, so I was now ‘off piste’ and navigating from a map. However, when I found a hamlet with an open pub I stopped for a pint of Blonde Ale and a packet of crisps; looking at the map I saw that I could stay west of the A1 all the way to Catterick and then turn east again for home.
I was very hungry by the time I made it to Catterick. One cooked breakfast, two pints of beer, some energy drink, some crisps and an ice-cream: not an athlete’s diet I agree. I sat at the foot of the crucifix over the war memorial by the main road, ate my sandwich and drank my water. I quietly said a prayer of thanks for the unrelenting beauty of the day, the quiet roads, the delightful countryside of Yorkshire and for those who have given their lives for others.
Only 50km remained and I took it all in one go, skirting north of Northallerton, and crossing the A19 at East Rounton. One last climb of the day in Hutton Rudby and then a tailwind assisted sprint for Stokesley. I looped back for Ingleby Barwick at about 8:30pm, still in glorious sunshine and glided back to my house before 9pm. That was 310km completed in daylight and total loneliness. While I do think the Wiggy 300 is a great route, I was glad I’d started with the Clay Bank climb instead of facing it with 220km in my legs, but the downside to my approach was that I did it alone.