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Sunday 11 March 2012: The Long and Winding Road

It's been the most totally fabulous March day. In the early afternoon the sunshine was warm, the skies deep, deep blue, and the roadside daffodils were coming into glorious bloom. There were times when it felt like summer had arrived overnight. I had originally planned to go out with the club today on a 50 mile hilly training ride, but when I saw the forecast last night I decided to head off on my own into the Dales. I so cherish the first long ride of the year, which I always try to do on the first weekend of good Spring weather.

Just after setting off at 10am I must admit that I thought I had made a big mistake in respect to the kit I was (not) wearing. There was quite a stiff breeze and it was decidedly chilly. I was in shorts with no overshoes and my feet were soon frozen. It took until the climb out of Kettlewell, up the infamous Park Rash, before I got properly warm. After Grassington I had joined up with three riders from a local race club and hitched a bit of a ride. They were going up the valley, but when I started waxing lyrical about this climb, which a couple of them hadn't done before, they decided to make a detour. Trouble was that they weren't really geared for it (it's very steep: 25% in places!), and they were also wearing far too many layers. I had to leave them half-way up with one of the group expired! I think they were silently cursing my enthusiasm!

Shown here is the just the very top finish to the climb, which takes you over a col between Buckden Pike and Great Whernside. It's one of my very favourite places. Once over the top there is really no going back. It's quite committing. About 10 miles of magnificent rolling descent down Coverdale, then along to East Witton before tackling a series of sharp climbs over the moors to Lofthouse and Pateley Bridge. It's then another good steep climb to return to Ilkley the most direct way via Blubberhouses and Askwith. The ride was 75 miles in total with over 250 photographs taken! The light today was extraordinary and I've caught so many wonderful trees, but I've resisted the temptation to blip any of those in favour of a shot which most represents my day.

I've followed the sinuous thread of this narrow strip of tarmac up hill and down dale for a bit over 5 hours in the saddle, completing a huge circuit of the most beautiful countryside imaginable. This is my favourite route in what I believe is the best place to cycle in the entire world. I don't think there is any other route of this length that could offer such continuous beauty and variety of scenery. This happens every Springtime. I fall in love all over again with this very special and unique corner of the world.

Any plans for a comment catch-up have gone completely out of the window this weekend. I was overwhelmed by the response to yesterday's Steadfast. It looks likely to become one of my very most popular blips. Thank you so much to everyone who conferred a heart, or stars, or left a comment. I went to bed last night a very happy chappy indeed, and, following today's ride where I finished in really good shape, I think I'll retire ever happier tonight. It's been a great weekend - and I don't feel so bad now about having wimped out of the blipmeet in Edinburgh. I guess you guys are not going away anytime soon. Hope not anyway.

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