Day 1 was hell! It was set to be by far the toughest day of riding anyway, through most of the mountains, but was made significantly worse by direct 20mph headwinds and driving rain. We started off nice and early at Morecambe. The weather was cool with a sea breeze but at this point still dry. After the customary photo opportunities and a quick briefing by my Dad (Mark Sr) we cracked on.
The first leg didn't prove much of an issue. We arrived at our first stop in Hornby more or less in one group. After a refresh (most people had skipped breakfast due to how early we'd set off) we cracked on for the second leg. This is when things started to take a turn for the worst. The inevitable start of the mountainous terrain was accompanied by an awful change in the weather. 20 mph headwinds blowing directly at us from the east and driving rain made the ride really hard going.
By the next stop at Clapham everyone was soaking and tired, praying for a change in the weather although some well needed relief was provided by Neil's camper van! We also realised we were a man down. My brother Mark Jr had not arrived at the stop. After a quick phone call we discovered he had cycled past the stop accidentally and so was told to head for Settle, as it was estimated that it was only 5 miles from where he was, and the support team would meet him there.
The next leg to Settle was more of the same. The higher we climbed the worse the weather got. As we rode into settle our suffering was pushed to the back of our minds as the support team broke the news that Mark Jr had not arrived in Settle. After we checked every pub, cafe and coffee shop in Settle to no avail everyone was beginning to get worried. His girlfriend Rachelle had been ringing him over and over to no avail.
After 2 hours, a decision was made that we would try and ring him one more time and if there was still no answer we would go to Settle Police Station and report him missing. As we were about to ring him my Dad’s phone rang with an unrecognised number. It was Mark Jr. It turns out he hadn't cycled past Clapham, he'd actually taken a wrong turning before hand and despite being told Settle was only 5 miles away had cycled 47 miles in the wrong direction and had ended up in a village called Dent, near Kendal in the Lake District.
He told us later that after not seeing a car for 20 miles he was stopped at a gate shovelling Jelly Beans into his mouth when a car came up the road. He flagged the car down and with a mouthful of Jelly Beans told the lady he was doing the Way of the Roses bike ride and asked her did she know where Settle was. She said she wasn't local and quickly wound up the window and drove off.
A few miles later he came across some walkers. As he stopped to ask for directions to the nearest town he fell off landed in a puddle and just lay there for a minute before being directed on. When he got to Dent he went into the local pub and with looks of disbelief explained his situation and after using the landlords phone to ring my dad bought a coffee and was sat next to the fire cuddling the land lord’s dog like a hot water bottle.
Although at Marks expense, the comedy of his situation provided a much needed morale boost in time for the infamous High Hill Lane out of Settle.
The hill is a 16-20% gradient which climbs 1000ft over 1.5 miles out of the town and is regarded as being one of the most challenging hills in the country. With great difficultly due to the wind and rain everyone made it up the hill although the Tandem twins (Alex and Sean) suffered their first mechanical trouble of the ride part way up the hill. Their chain snapped, forcing them to freewheel back down the hill to get it repaired at the cycle shop in Settle. On the way down they also suffered a puncture due to heavy braking. They then climbed the hill for a second time.
Once we had finally made it to the top of the hill we were able to freewheel down the other side for a couple of miles. Our next stop was due to be at the village of Airton but due to an unfortunate miscommunication everyone cycled past the stop and by the time we realised we had gone too far past it to turn back. This meant that the last leg was exhausting. By the time everyone reached our first stopover in Burnsall everyone was just relieved to be able to get out of the atrocious weather and get a pint in the Red Lion pub!
Day 2 started off as much the same. The first half of the day was through the last of the mountains. The hills were again tough and the weather was awful again with headwinds slowing everyone down. At one point the fog dropped so thick that I was just following my Uncle Jim's back light as it was the only reference point I had. I don't want to know what he was following!
We were accompanied by other groups of cyclists also doing the ride for various charities and began to form a bit of a bond with two lads in particular who we would see a lot of throughout the morning.
We had to descend into a deep valley into the Town of Pateley Bridge, down a very steep 20% gradient. Going down was epic fun with the highest recorded speeds of the ride. (I felt very sorry for the people peddling up it) However the tandem twins suffered another puncture due to the heat from braking on the way down and were forced to stop part way and make running repairs.
After a slightly extended stopover and a visit by a classic mini owners club at Pateley Bridge, we had to climb again over the last few hills of the Yorkshire Dales but by Brimham Rocks we had reached the top of the last hill of the Dales!
Once we descended out of the mountains and into Ripon the weather improved significantly and we were able to make a decent pace for the first time. On the descent into Ripon we passed through some of the most spectacular scenery yet. We passed through rolling fields and dense woodlands, passed a rather scary looking hilltop church and passed through the grounds of Fountains Abbey. We could just about see the ruins of the Abbey and the magnificent stately home. Passing through the Studley Royal Gardens and deer park we passed the picturesque St. Mary’s church in the middle of the park and had a close encounter with wild deer.
I passed through the park into Ripon with another group of cyclists, before being joined by Les, Jim, Sam, Rachael and Laura. We attracted a lot of attention in Ripon as our stop point was right in the city centre, meaning we got a few extra donations. We attracted even more attention when the Tandem Twins suffered another technical issue this time in the form of a tire explosion whilst their bike was leaned up against a statue, causing everyone to dive for cover.
After our stop in Ripon, with a quick stopover in Boroughbridge the terrain flattened out and the weather improved tenfold allowing us to push the speed up and make up some time, arriving at our second stopover in York only slightly later than planned although not without issue, with myself and Sean both suffering tumbles, with mine being filmed by the GoPro attached to my helmet!
Day 3 didn't start off quite according to plan as due to a few missing signs (I've read on a blog that people nick them as souvenirs) we ended up going completely the wrong direction out of York and had to turn back, adding 5 miles to our trip total. Sam also managed to get airborne on a bridge over the River Ouse.
The group made a decent pace towards our first stop at Pocklington but unfortunately there was yet another disaster for the tandem twins this time in the shape of a loose back wheel catching on the frame, meaning they had to stop and make more running repairs. On the first leg we passed through many small villages including Stamford Bridge (Not Chelsea’s ground) scene of the famous battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 were the Saxons defeated the Vikings.
The route took us over the famous Stamford bridge Viaduct, a large Victorian railway viaduct that carried the York to Beverley line and became disused in 1963 after the Beeching cuts, becoming a public footpath and cycleway. The Stamford Bridge station has been kept as it was and refurbished as a children’s park. Cycling into a railway station in between the platforms is a surreal experience.
The next leg took us through the Yorkshire Wolds, giving us a few more hills to contend with, but leading us through a spectacular valley winding between the Wolds. The hills were thoroughly worth it though, because when we got to the top we were greeted with our first spectacular view of the North Sea. The next two legs and stops at Cranswick and Burton Agnes were relatively uneventful with the exception of two near misses with level crossings, as, in proper Tour of Belgium style, they started to close as we where part way across. We passed through many small villages with weird and wonderful names, Wetwang and Nafferton to name two. We continued on and regrouped on the outskirts of Bridlington to all ride in together. We entered Bridlington making as much noise as possible to mark our arrival and had one last regroup just before the start of the promenade. We all rode towards the finish line together in one big group, again making as much noise as possible.
Everyone was waiting for us at the finish line including Gary himself and we crossed the line to cheers and applause. We were swiftly rewarded with a Carlsberg each for the lads and a glass of Prossecco each for the girls. The chippy across the road very kindly stayed open after closing time so that we could all get ourselves a well deserved North Sea fish and chips!