The best laid plans.
August was always going to be a funny month this year. Back in January I had been invited to join my friends from the US on a trip, firstly to Switzerland to provide technical and general support while they took part in an endurance race. The plan then was to spend a fortnight in the French Alps, returning to some of my favourite climbs, that I had not done since 2011.
Well, we all know what happened there: They are stuck in the US and the situation there doesn’t appear to be getting much better, and travel to France currently requires a 14 day quarantine as cases rise over there, just prior to the Tour de France.
Plan B: I had a hotel booked in the Yorkshire Dales, with routes planned and a chance to catch up with friends there.
That was the plan, but as we got closer to that, Lancaster and West Yorkshire started to lockdown again, plus we were having difficulty finding anywhere in or near where I was staying that was open for food in an evening. Rather than mess people around I pulled the plug and cancelled the accommodation.
So, what to do with August? Plan C?
As you probably know by now, if you have read the blog before, I run a café ride each Saturday, usually only about 50km, which has been going for a few years now. Each summer I have made a point of plotting a longer route with a lunch stop, which have been extremely popular. This year we chose 1st August and headed north up to Wymondham Windmill, where there is a cracking café.
From Market Harborough it was a lumpy 50km to the coffee stop, which we did as two groups of five and six riders. After a top up we headed further south west across the north side of Rutland Water, and at this point, with the wind behind our right shoulder. Once we hit the turn at Empingham and started to head south west, we were hit the wind full on, where it remained until we got back to the start. At the 100km point a few people were starting to run low on liquid and food, which under normal circumstances would not have been an issue. However, since lockdown we have seen more shops close at unusual times, midday Saturday, for example.
We grabbed some water from a pub, which kept people going back to base. Then some of us took the opportunity to dive into a pub and get some proper food. A great end to a great 120km ride.
The upshot of this extended ride was a request for another before the summer ends, so that has given me something to look forward to.
The weather in the middle of the month went completely off the charts, 300 for several days, which was great, but called for some serious refreshment stops, including an end of day pub stop with my friend Mark. Even I had a beer…that is how hot it was!
I took a drive up to Yorkshire to look after my granddaughters for a few days this month and took the opportunity for a couple of spins, one 100km ride with the aim of getting to York via the back roads. This was scuppered by a bridge under repair just outside Melbourne and with so few bridges over the river, other than the main A1074, I chose to loop back via Pocklington and over the Wolds back to Beverley. Even in the torrential rain, this proved to be a really nice route and one that I will be trying again, hopefully in better weather. There are no photos as it was seriously wet and despite the rain being warm, I just kept rolling.
I got back home late on the Friday and got ready to take the Saturday gang on another 100km round trip, this time to the Kings Head in Wadenhoe. The pub has gardens running to the edge of the river Nene, which is a great location to watch people as they kayak along the river.
During one of the rides this month I was invited to join a group doing a specific two-day ride next month, which brought back memories of doing the same ride with them back in 2008. More of that in September, providing nothing happens between now and then.
Back at the beginning of the month I had been discussing a possible trip to the Peak District for a gentle wander round the Derbyshire Dales, from Monsal Head. However, come the 26th the forecast was windy and wet, so understandably two of the group took the decision to postpone, whereas Simon and I had a chat and suggested taking the gravel bikes, so we set off.
We got to Hassop station car park for about 10:00 and on the road by 10:30. We had absolutely no plan, but I had an OS map stuck up my jersey, just in case.
We set off up the Monsal Trail dodging the leisure cyclists until we reached the off ramp at Blackwell Mill. A sign for the Pennine Bridleway (PBW) ticked the box so we jumped on it, and it went vertical, which on soggy mud and shiny rocks meant a bit of a bike-hike.
Once we had gained some altitude, we took to the road through Tunstead and on to Tideswell. We then headed off in the direction of Little Hucklow, right and through the village down to the main road. Straight across the main road us a byway, a broken up single lane road that took us through to Great Hucklow.
Once back on to the road it was through Follow and on to Eyam for coffee and food. It hasn’t been far, but it has been a chunk of steep climbing and it’s cold and wet.
After lunch we head back out into the rain heading south. Where the road meets the A623 there us a bridleway directly opposite, Black Harry Lane. Word of warning, engage a low gear early as it goes vertical (26%), so much so we were back pushing for a short while. Once over the hump the gradient drops to 16%, which becomes rideable through to the next junction, 120m above the A623. The trail continues south from here until you hit the byway, then left along the edge of the quarry. A nifty right turn and you’re back on single track, a cracking 13% drop down on to the road to Rowland and on to Great Longstone.
Here we jumped back on the Monsal Trail and headed into Bakewell for another coffee break, prior to getting back to the car and the journey home.
Despite the rain and the cold, it was one of the best days out on the bike for a long time and a reminder of how good the riding is up there.
With next months’ challenge in my mind I headed out with Martin on the Friday, in the pouring rain for what turned out to be six hours of riding, most of which was wet. The route was very boggy in places and just a slog, but it helped me thin about clothing choice and what luggage I am going to need.
I rounded the month off with my biggest distance of the year, at just under 1400km and 15,000 metres of accents. It will soon be time to start backing down a bit as the weather closes in.