Saturday 26 May 2012: Dent Station (Afternoon Rush-Hour)
I was up very early this morning, at 5am indeed, and realised that at this time of year, from my desk here in my studio, I can watch the sun set in the evening through one balcony window and then watch it rise again the following morning through the other. I'm so rarely up at that time of the morning that I hadn't appreciated this before. Just as the sun never gets very high in the sky during the winter, from this vantage point it is easy to appreciate that the sun never dips that far below the horizon in summer. The sun both set from and rose into a completely clear sky. The air has been utterly devoid of moisture for two whole days now. A few tiny clouds formed late this afternoon but they soon disappeared again. It's the most amazing weather.
The reason for being up so early was to get to a Sportive event, a new one on the calendar starting from Dent in the Northern Dales, called Beauty and the Beast. Naturally enough, I did the Beast, which was an 80 mile figure of eight course. I only found about it on Wednesday and when I realised that I could catch a train to the start I decided to give it a go. It meant cycling 10 miles into Skipton to catch the 6.56, and it was another 5 miles from the station here to the village of Dent, but I was still one of the first to arrive!
The route was superb, and it actually retraced in reverse some of the climbs from last Sunday's Etape du Dales. It also involved the climb of Deepdale and the descent of Kingsdale, which I'd only ridden once before. The wind-assisted descent was amazing, before the final strength-sapping climb from Ingleton to Newby Head into a wind that had been freshening all day. Unlike the previous weekend where I rode well within myself all the way around, I pushed harder this time - and paid the price a little. The legs are far more tired after 107 miles today than following my 135 and 142 mile rides the previous two weekends. But I had more of a buzz at the finish today. As a new event the numbers were modest. It looks like only about 70 riders did the Beast, and I finished just in the top 10 of those with a time of 5.21. Fairly pleased with that in the windy and sunny conditions.
There was a free pint of bitter on offer at the end, from the local Dent Brewery. I'm not sure if a pint has ever tasted so good! Just wonderful to sit in the sun on the grass drinking a pint and scoffing some food, soaking up the post-race atmosphere and chatting to a few mates. I actually soaked it up a bit too long for I didn't really leave myself enough time to get back to the station to catch the train home. Stopping to take a few too many pictures, I had to put one last big effort in on the hairpins at the bottom of the Coal Road to make it in time - with a minute to spare. Just enough time to take this shot.
While all this was going on I was getting updates from Roam from the second team's game. Forrest had opened the batting and I'd heard that he'd just got his fifty. Then I went out of mobile reception. On the train, once back into civilsation, a tranche of texts arrived, the last saying that he'd got his hundred, hitting a six to move to 101 from 95! I missed his first ton, and now I'd missed his second, but I think me not being there is a good omen for him. I kind of knew it was going to be his day today. He was eventually dismissed for 136, his highest ever score. I'm so proud of him. All those thousands of overs I bowled at him as a kid has reaped a fine reward!
By the time I cycled back from Skipton and got down to the cricket club almost 30 overs had gone and the run chase was looking ominously on track. We had only taken two wickets and the batsmen in looked well set, flailing the ball to all corners of the ground. But then a wicket fell, and another, and another ... and the opposition collapsed to give us a very comfortable win. I was really pleased for Forrest that his hundred was in a winning cause. The only downer was that the run of the game denied Roam a chance to get in on the action himself.
Point of information: This is the highest mainline railway station in Britain at 1,150ft above sea level. It's on the famous Settle-Carlisle line and this point is just a few miles from the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. It's quite amazing to get off the train here and find yourself literally in the middle of nowhere!