Descending into Dentdale

Worth going large

It's certainly been the hottest day of the summer. Indeed, I suspect it's been the hottest day up here in Yorkshire for at least three years. I experienced something I've not encountered in this country for a long while, namely riding on roads where the tarmac was melting. I could have done without my tyres sticking to the road this afternoon. It makes a weird sound too!

After this last hectic few weeks there was a good case for finding a stream on the moor, a little shade, and relaxing with a good book. But I'd paid £30 to enter the White Rose Classic and it had to be done. After yesterday's ride, where the legs definitely felt a little jaded, I wasn't intending to be very competitive but pretty much as soon as I left the start in Ilkley the adrenaline kicked in and I was intent on getting around as quickly as I could. I'd forgotten how much fun these cyclosportive events are, at least in the first half when your legs are fresh.

The Dales were almost surreally beautiful today. The skies first thing were crystal clear and the light was so intense. I had to turn my photography head off completely. I'd still be out there now if I'd stopped to take all the exquisite shots I framed in my head! When I got back home and told Roam that I'd ridden further and climbed as much as the riders in today's mountain stage of the tour he wouldn't believe me - but it's true. The cols aren't as high here as they are in the Pyreness, obviously, but the relentless ups and downs, which are pretty much continuous, add up to equate to just about the same total of ascent and descent. The only difference is that the riders in the Tour get nicely graded roads which rise over many hairpins. In the Dales we don't have that luxury. Our roads just go straight up and over. No messing about. The gradients are brutal.

The route is normally 114 miles but as luck would have it a tractor crashed on the descent from Fleet Moss spilling diesel all over the road. It had to be closed and we were diverted over another climb via Aysgarth, adding 6 miles to the route to bring the total distance to 120 miles. In the heat of the afternoon I struggled with cramp but it never stopped me riding. The worst time was getting off the bike at the feed stations. I would possibly have taken more photographs than I did if it wasn't for the fear of cramping up completely if I stopped.

I quite surprised myself today. I finished in 8 hrs 22 minutes. Taking into account the extra distance, I was slightly quicker than I was last year when I had done considerably more training. I was very slow on the last couple of climbs, especially Langbar, but that was mostly down to the heat. That last climb was purgatory. I'm on a bit of a high at the moment, feeling very happy that I can get around this route in good order without a huge amount of preparation. There is life in the old dog yet. Roam has been looking after me really well, to allow me to avoid using the stairs. I've basically blobbed out on the sofa, first watching Scotland's Andy Murray finally fulfilling his destiny winning Wimbledon with the best tennis I've ever seen him play, and then watching Ireland's Dan Martin win today's stage of the Tour de France. That was a superb effort. It's all about the will to win. Both men had more than their opponents. I had quite a bit of it too today.

I need to summon up a bit more yet, though, because I have some work to do before our visitors from the Netherlands arrive at the office tomorrow morning. There's no respite, but tonight I'm not complaining.

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