Ralph Cross Audax 200km

Ralph Cross

Ralph Cross

My visit to family in North Yorkshire coincided with this Calendar Audax event so it seemed like a good idea to enter. The organiser Graeme Holdsworth was meticulous in his planning and the route sheet was very accurate and easy to follow and there was a lovely GPX file which I put on the Garmin.

I decided to take the trusty, old Dawes Galaxy up North as I knew it would be better able to cope with adverse weather and road conditions, should they occur.

The days are shortening and it was still dark when I set off for Ingleby Barwick near Stockton on Tees.

The start at Ingleby Barwick

The start at Ingleby Barwick

There were only 25 riders registered for the 200km event, though the 2 shorter rides on the days programme had larger numbers of participants. 23 of us set off into the 7am chilly dawn from Ingleby Barwick. I was the only female rider and most of the others seemed in the dim, dawn light to be fit men on snazzy carbon bikes.  The exception to this was a young fit man on a snazzy carbon trike.

Aiden on his trike

Aiden on his trike

The weather was kind. It didn’t actually rain, it wasn’t very windy and it wasn’t very cold.  This was my first ride since April in long trousers, long sleeved top (thermal under) and full fingered gloves.  Definitely up North.

The ride begins on the relatively flat Teesvale and heads toward the North Yorkshire Moors which rise abruptly without much preamble from the level plain.  After Swainby on the North Western edge of the Moors the ascent of Scarth Nick, a ‘bank’ with a few hundred metres of 25% presents the first challenge.  No problem for the lovely, low geared Galaxy and we emerged at the Sheeps Wash road passing Cod Beck Reservoir to Osmotherley, where the distance to Hawnby was noted for the first Information Control.

The distance to Hawnby

The distance to Hawnby

Let’s just say that the next 25km ‘undulated’! The undulations were quite steep in places with gradient marks on the map indicating 20%.  About 5km after Osmotherley I saw in the far distance the fluorescent jacket of a cyclist.  I thought it unlikely to be anyone on the Ralphs Cross ride and continued my solitary steady plodding up and down across the moor towards Hawnby.  Slowly but surely I reeled in the 2 guys just before Hawnby. Shortly after Hawnby things flattened out considerably and on a bigger, straighter road we made rapid progress to Malton at 72km.  Sainsburys obligingly provided everything I required including the vital receipt to prove proof of passage.  I didn’t linger, and leaving my 2 companions from the last 20km behind, I got back on the bike – retracing a few kilometres (which is where I saw a few of the riders who were behind me) before another 15km of relatively flat easy riding across the Vale of Pickering.  The flat road headed north towards the Southern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.  It was at this point that I was given some respite from the headwind by two riders, Paul and Neil, from Hambleton  Road Club.  This was a fairly brief liaison as I was working too hard to stay with them and with another 110km to ride it was prudent to drop away and continue at a more comfortable speed for me. The ascent onto the Moor again went through Hutton-le-Hole before the long ascent of Blakey Ridge. From Hutton-le-Hole it took me 50 minutes into a headwind to ascend the 320metres of Blakey Ridge over 10 kilometres to the Lion Inn.  Nowhere was it particularly steep, it just went on and on.  The superb wild moorland scenery was a wonderful distraction with Farndale to the left and Rosedale to the right.  It was a good road and the traffic was light and generally sympathetic. I was pleased to arrive at last at the Lion Inn and headed indoors to have my brevet Card stamped.

The Bat approaching Lion Inn

The Bat approaching Lion InnLion InnLion InnBikes parked at the Lion Inn controlBikes parked at the Lion Inn control

I was hoping that Neil and Paul had decided to enjoy some food and drink but there was no sign of them.  There were several cyclists coming and going but they were all doing the 100k ride.

I continued up the road into the head wind towards the high point at 418m.  This is where the Ralph Cross is.  However I was now focussed on the second half of the ride as my GPS now showed I had ridden 106km of the 206km route. The road continued around the Head of Roseland with continuing wonderful scenery before resuming its northerly heading towards the Esk Valley.  I was ready for some downhill so although the descent of Fryup is hazardous with a steep narrow uneven road I really enjoyed it.  Once again I was solitary – I had the whole valley all to myself.  I saw no-one at all for the whole of Fryup – just lots and lots of sheep.

The Galaxy at Great Fryup Dale

The Galaxy at Great Fryup Dale

It’s always hard to go in the’ wrong direction’ but I had to go east to Lealholm to an information control before heading in the ‘right direction’ towards Danby.

Next stop - Danby

Next stop – Danby

The Esk valley is very beautiful and the undulating road constantly interesting.  Castleton was very busy as it was their annual Fayre but the climb up out onto Moorsholm Moor into the headwind soon concentrated my mind on the task in hand.  At the top it was with relief that I crossed the busy A171 Whitby Road and whizzed along through Skelton and down to the seaside at Saltburn to the next control at the Cat Nab Cafe.

The Cat Nab Fish Bar at Saltburn

The Cat Nab Fish Bar at Saltburn

148km done – still going well and having a very nice time on this lovely route.

It is steeply up Saltburn Bank from sea level but it’s not for very long and the road to Guisborough although quite urban and busy is quickly over and done with and riding out of Guisborough under Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping

I was once again on the edge of the moors. From Great Ayton to Little Ayton to Ingleby Greenhow  then up once again onto the moor on a cleverly graded little lane that comes out on the B1257 towards the top of Hasty Bank.  It’s only about 4k to Chop Gate

Chop Gate

Chop Gate

but it’s all downhill and although it was splendid to have a tailwind and a gentle descent I was just so aware that soon I was going to be going back to the northern edge of the moor and all this descent was going to have to be recovered.  Finally at 180km I reached the last control and turned up the Raisdale Road heading for home.  After some further loss of altitude a steady ascent of this very beautiful valley brought me to the top of Carlton Bank with its excellent views over Teesdale.

The view over Teesdale

The view over Teesdale

The final descent had it all – narrow, very steep, gravel on the bends, cattle grids, sheep in the road, horse riders and a van behind me with a glider on the roof. At the bottom Carlton in Cleveland is a very pretty village and there was a group of walkers enjoying a beer outside the pub.  Nearly there – only about 12km to go – still into the head wind but only the little hill in Hutton Rugby to manage. I sat behind a couple of riders returning from the 100km ride for the last 10 minutes and this served to remind me how much easier this ride would have been if I had had company.

On my return to Ingelby Barwick, Graeme was there to welcome us back and I handed over my Brevet card to be sent away for verification, before the 2 points plus some AAA points for all those hills are added to my season total.

Inside the Hall there was a wonderful spread of food provided by the church community of St Francis of Assisi Church. There were several volunteers working away and their friendly welcome provided a genial atmosphere.  I finally caught up with Neil and Paul of Hambleton RC and berated them for leaving me to suffer!  It was great to hear about all their varied adventures on bicycles and brought home to me once again just how much more there is to be done.

When I looked at my ride statistics I was pleased with my performance but a little puzzled as to why I managed to ride a hard hilly 206km with a headwind for what felt like most of the way – in a time and average speed almost identical to a similar ride on my carbon Specialised Roubaix. I don’t understand.  This is my 8th 200km in the last couple of months. I have definitely got better – physically and mentally and I am beginning to imagine that maybe I can go further – 300k – 400k – 600k – 1200k ?????????

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