The Etape de Yorkshire was the third of my big challenges in three weeks, after the Etape Xtrem and the Coast to Coast in a day. The sportive goes over the route of the first stage of the 2014 Tour de France (the stage ending in a nightmare for Cavendish, and the tour a nightmare for Froome).
I was hoping to do a lot better than I did last year, being more experienced on the bike and in better form, and generally less clueless about bike maintenance and gear – I think I probably did last year’s ride on very low pressure, and I was also very pessimistic with the weather (it turned out to be a sunny day) leading to the decision to wear bib longs. All told last year I only averaged 15mph.
I also rode last year’s sportive solo, but this year having ridden with my club Alba Rosa for the last year I’d be riding with a bigger group. With lots of people needing to get to the club barbeque (that I wasn’t going to) I chose to jump on a group that was starting at 7am. I was also aiming to tack a loop on after the end of the sportive to try and get some points for promotion in the club Strava ‘segment of the week’ competition. All told this meant a leaving the house time of 6am, and a 165-170 mile day in total.
The first part of the ride was in horrible wet conditions. Our Alba train, a quite large group of almost twenty of us, chainganged through Pool, Otley and Ilkley with spray flying everywhere and flying along at 20mph plus. Through Skipton ‘the gateway to the Dales’ our group split up into a few smaller groups as some of us felt comfortable at a higher pace, but I was riding in a nice strong group as we rode up into the Dales through Grassington, Kettlewell, and on to the first climb of the day up Kidstones.
Kidstones is the easier of the two climbs going north up the Dales – it is nothing compared to the savage Park Rash further to the East, although the modern Tour caravan would have struggled to get up the narrow poor surface. That said the steepest left hander up Kidstones is eerily reminiscent of Park Rash, although with my 28 tooth sprocket on the back I was gently spinning up Kidstones, rather than straining as hard as I could just to keep on going. The visibility going up was basically non-existent – the thumbnails of the event photos show literally none of the landscape behind.
We had skipped the first feed station, but stopped at the one in Hawes. Once we’d eaten at the brilliantly stocked feed stations, full of chocolate bars, bananas, flapjack – but also gels and bars, we set off to get up Buttertubs. After being stationary for a while I was shivering by the time that we head off again, a pretty miserable moment before we headed up the climb which started to warm me up.
After rolling through the valley towards Reeth we started up Grinton Moor, an annoying little series of climbs going steadily upwards, with a series of false flats. During Grinton Moor the sun suddenly came out – and it was to stay blazing for the rest of the day. Our group got back together at the final feed station at 90 miles, so we had a decent amount of riders to work together for the final 35 miles to try and maintain the 18mph plus average we were managing at that point.
It was an absolutely sweltering day – I’d shed my warmers and shoe covers at the last feed. I’d got rid of my arm warmers before Grinton Moor, and I was to find at the end of my ride that even that amount of time out in the sun was going to give me some fairly impressive tan lines. Last year’s route took us through some little back roads from Masham to Harrogate, which were up and down with a few little sharp ramps. This year we were on the main roads through Ripon, which although busier, meant that we could keep the pace up a bit higher.
Running back into Harewood we were all pretty hot, hungry, thirsty and tired – I finished the sportive in 7h25m – and immediately wolfed down the free burger at the finish.
I was just about able to psych myself up for an absolute crawl over to Ilkley to roll through the Strava segment for the weeks competition – a thirty mile loop home, rather than a simple ten. I got a few points just for turning up, which annoyingly hasn’t promoted me but put me into a three man play off.
So the end of a big three weeks – each weekend featuring a day with at least 150 miles ridden. I treated myself to a rest day on Sunday and plan to do so again this weekend!
It’s nice now to have all of my goal events for 2015 done and out of the way. It has felt a little bit like my body has mentally shut down this week – I’ve felt very weary and tired even though I haven’t done very much. I’ve been able to start reprogramming and looking ahead to my 2016 goals, preparing my training plan for the Manchester Marathon, entering my preparation races. I’ve won an entry to the Great North Run as part of a Lucozade competition, but I’m undecided yet how much training to put in for that.
But for now – time to relax, and not to worry about having to prepare for events!