Road Ride – The Brian Robinson Challenge 2009

Today’s cycling feast was the first edition of the Brian Robinson Challenge – a cyclo-sportive event taking the riders on a very scenic and hilly tour of the Kirklees area of West Yorkshire, round the old industrial town of Huddersfield. I rode the event last year when it was sponsored by Kirklees council, and known as the Kirklees Sportive.

Brian Robinson is a very well-known figure in British cycling and is a local who used these hilly roads for training in his youth. He has given his name to the revamped event which raises money for local charities.

I’ve given you some background in my recent post Preparing for the Brian Robinson Challenge.

On with the show!

I set off from home at about 07:30 and met today’s riding partner John at 08:10 on the way to Huddersfield. We put my bike on his rack and drove over the hill to Huddersfield and round to the new event HQ at Huddersfield rugby club, in the Lockwood area. I have to say, I was rather grateful for the lift because I would have had to tackle that hill twice today, and it would have involved about an extra 8-10 miles on busy roads – not the kind of thing I like.

Today’s route took us through some splendid countryside, but I didn’t take a lot of photographs – sorry! John was doing a lot of hanging about for me as it was, and I didn’t want to hold him up every 20 minutes for yet another ‘photo-opportunity’.

When we got to the rugby club, we found that the car park was next to a splendid example of early Victorian civil engineering – Lockwood viaduct. I found out later that it was built in 1848. I tried taking a couple of shots while John was taking the bikes off the rack, but the sun was directly behind the viaduct and the pictures didn’t turn out. Yes, you read it right – sun! Last year we had been soaked by heavy rain for the first half of the event, but today we were lucky – it started off as a beautiful sunny day. Clouds did start to develop later on but the forecast showers never materialised – hooray!

There were just over 400 riders taking part today, and having registered, we all assembled for a safety briefing and a word from Brian Robinson himself. Unfortunately, Brian was barely audible at times, but I did pick out him saying that he’d loved riding those roads as a young rider.

And we were off! We had a police escort to see us round the first set of traffic lights and halfway up the first hill until we started to get spread out. Very sensible, given how impatient motorists are with cyclists these days, even at 09:00 on a Sunday morning! (Do you remember when Sunday was a ‘day of rest’? I’m old enough to recall how quiet the roads used to be on Sundays. Not any more, I’m afraid… :sad: )

I spotted someone I know drop his chain 50 yards after the traffic lights – he could do with fitting a Deda Dog Fang. Here’s a link to my Deda Dog Fang chain keeper review. [PS I’ve contacted him to make that suggestion, and he now has one on order!]

It was a nice gradual undulating climb up to Meltham, a village which I know quite well from my local rides. I normally drop down into Meltham and for years I’d never ridden in the opposite direction but I’d certainly realised how tough the fast descent off Wessenden Head would be as a climb. That was confirmed on last year’s event when I climbed it with a sore back – it was horrendous! It is nearly 2 miles of solid 10%. There isn’t any respite at all, you just have to grind your way up it. I much prefer shorter, steeper hills, or longer easier ones. It is these fairly long, fairly steep ones that really get to my back and after a few of them, even the easy hills start to hurt me.

The good thing about the new HQ for the event is that the toughest two climbs (Wessenden Head and Holme Moss) come early on when riders are still fresh. As a result, I found the climb bearable this year despite riding a bike with a 25% higher bottom gear. I clawed my way up it and found John waiting at the summit for me, chatting to a few other riders. He’d obviously said something to them about me, because they teased me a little about my climbing ability (or current lack of it!).

I flew down off the summit to Holmfirth, hitting 45 mph at one point and overtaking a lot of the riders who had passed me on the climb. John rejoined me a couple of minutes later and we began the long drag up to the foot of Holme Moss which rears up just after Holme village. I sent John on his way, and stopped to take a few pictures.

Holme Moss from the Holmfirth side

The road snakes left and right just off the left of the photograph, and finally reaches the summit just behind that transmitter tower.

It was hard work and I’d have preferred the lower gearing on my Basso but I managed to ride the whole climb this year – that’s more like it! There was an event photographer at the summit and I’ve checked the two pictures that he took of me – aaaaargh, they aren’t flattering! I don’t look or feel good on a bike. The 15+ pounds I’ve lost so far have certainly helped, but I have at least 30 to go.

I found John chatting to some paramedics at the summit. I assume that they had been stationed there just in case…

  • anybody had a heart attack climbing Holme Moss!
  • anybody crashed on the descent!

There was a headwind on the descent which I was quite grateful for. Sometimes there is a gusting sidewind which is really dangerous when you are descending quickly. If there isn’t a wind, I’d be potentially getting up to about 60 mph or having to use my brakes all the way down. As it was, I hit 45 mph again and was overtaking other riders all the way down. One guy pulled out to overtake a third rider just as I was about to go past. Fortunately I’d anticipated that he might do that and had checked to make sure there were no cars behind me or coming the other way. I shot past on the far side of the road and probably gave him the fright of his life – always look behind before overtaking, mate!

I waited for John at the bottom of the descent. Last year, he’d almost crashed when his bike developed a violent shimmy (vibration) at high speed so this year he was watching out for it and guess what… yep – it happened again! 😯 He was ready for it this time and got it under control much more quickly. Scary stuff…

I really don’t like the next section – Woodhead Pass. It is a very busy road carrying traffic between the big cities of Sheffield and Manchester. Without the traffic, it would be a nice long drag in pleasant surroundings. Having heavy good vehicles overtaking at speed and cutting in immediately afterwards soon loses its appeal…

That’s enough of that. We soon turned left onto nice quiet roads and headed for Dunford Bridge. There were some great views up there.

I almost took us off course because I’d programmed last year’s route into my GPS. I hadn’t noticed that the second visit to Holmfirth had been cut out. It dawned on me later that the siting of the new HQ was further from the event circuit than the original, so something had to go or the ride would have become significantly longer and it was obviously considered long and hard enough. No problem – a couple of other riders came along and we followed them on the new route to the first feed station.

Suitably refreshed, we saddled up and continued on our way. Soon, we could see the transmitter at Emley Moor looming up in the distance. It’s an impressive sight, visible from large swathes of West Yorkshire (which is obviously why it is located where it is!). I had to get a snap of that.

Emley Moor TV mast

Soon we did a long fast descent through Denby Dale and Clayton West and then turned off to our left to climb back up through Emley village. I realised that I felt irritated that we’d lost all the altitude, and were now having to claw it back. That was a sure sign that I was starting to tire. I suddenly realised that I hadn’t been drinking enough and was almost a bottle down on what I know I needed to have drunk by then. After that John called out drink reminders from his bike computer which he had set to beep at him every 15 minutes.

Like last year, I found the next section of undulating roads quite tiring.

Eventually we descended to the outskirts of Mirfield and began a long drag up towards the second feed station. And again, just like last year, it really got to my back! I don’t understand why – it’s a very gradual climb. Perhaps it was the headwind we encountered? More likely, I was just stiff and sore from what had gone before, and I was a bit dehydrated. I had to stop and stretch a few times, but eventually we spotted the feed station. Several people didn’t, apparently, but they couldn’t have been paying attention. I saw two very obvious signs put up by the event organisers warning that the stop was just ahead.

It was good to get off the bike for a few minutes and have a little chat with the female volunteer who provided us with flapjack and water. It was time to get our picture taken and she did the honours.

Left - JohnB, right - Me (ColinJ)

Spot the cheapskates… Yes, we turned up wearing matching Aldi gilets!

John (on the left) is looking pretty cool, whereas I look ‘a sandwich or two short of the full picnic’. Fatigue setting in, you understand! By the way – John is only about an inch taller than me and is the kind of weight that I’m aiming to get down to, about 175 pounds (12 st 7 lbs, 79 kgs). You can see that he is pretty slim, and it shows when he is climbing. I’ll find that event a lot easier when I’m slim again.

The stop had done me good. I seemed to have got some of my strength back and soon we were making good progress up towards Ainley Top, when suddenly John waved to one of my old work mates who was standing at the other side of the road. What the heck was he doing there, and how did John know him! We u-turned and pulled up alongside the guy’s car. It turned out that it was John’s brother! He doesn’t half resemble the man I know. I was introduced to him, plus his brother’s wife and their father who were sitting in the car. We all had a brief chat and then John and I got on our way.

Dark clouds were starting to build and the wind was picking up. It looked as though the forecasters might have got it right – early sunshine fizzling out to overcast showery conditions.

I’ve read reports from other riders that they really struggled with the headwind on the long drag from Outlane up to Buckstones Moss, but I didn’t feel too bad. How could that possibly feel easier than the little climb up from Mirfield? The body is a strange thing!

It’s a good fast descent from Buckstones to Denshaw, and a flattish run round to Delph. We had a bit of a tailwind on the climb over to Marsden which certainly helped me. I didn’t really have a problem there – I’d definitely caught my ‘second wind’ (no pun intended).

Another rapid descent to Marsden led straight into a steep little climb towards Meltham. Not long to go now!

A fast descent into Meltham, a left turn then we began our run back to event HQ. Funnily enough, I’d got it into my head that it was all downhill from there, but I’d forgotten that the climb out in the morning had involved some downs as well as ups, which meant that we now had ups as well as downs!

Never mind, we soon hit the last downhill and powered our way back to the rugby club where we filled in our documentation and went upstairs in the club house to buy refreshments, only to find… no refreshments on sale – they’d only run out of food by the time we’d got back and closed the restaurant! Come on guys, that really isn’t good enough! We sulked back to the car and made do with some of John’s stash of cereal bars.

Oh, I remembered to take a few pictures of the viaduct! Sorry about the dull light, the clouds had set in. Still no rain though, and we did get a few more sunny spells in the evening.

Lockwood viaduct

Lockwood viaduct arch

John drove me back to Copley, just before Sowerby Bridge. I thanked him for the lifts and company on the ride, and especially for waiting for me.

I made my way back towards the Calder Valley Cycleway. There is one little steep climb along there which had reduced me to walking last year but I even managed to ride that this time round. I got home having ridden 91 miles and about 9,000 ft of hills. Did I go out and do the extra 9 miles for my century? No way – get outta here! 😉

We did the ride about 40 minutes faster than last year, but we were still slow. I found out later that a young lad from my town got round 3 hours faster than us – yikes! ‘Svendo’, who has featured on a couple of my recent rides did it over 2 hours faster than us. I’ll try for 1.5 – 2 hours faster next year!

A great day out!

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2 Responses to “Road Ride – The Brian Robinson Challenge 2009”

  1. You seem to be doing alright on the hills to me, 9000ft of climbing!!

    Loving the pictures btw.

  2. Thanks.

    The thing is, I’m surviving the hills rather than relishing them though. I was going to explain here, but actually I think I’ll do a dedicated post about it, especially with reference to John, the guy I rode with on Sunday.

    I was on BikeRadar earlier today and read a post by a 17 year old from Hebden Bridge who did the ride three hours faster than me – that’s pretty impressive! 😯

    I’m okay with conceding maybe an hour to somebody 36 years younger than me, but three! I’m going to continue getting my weight down and the miles up with a view to doing these rides a lot quicker next year!

    I’m lucky to average 12 mph on the hills now, but I was managing about 16 mph in 2001 when I was slimmer and fitter. I’d like to get back to that kind of fitness again. I don’t feel that my age is a big problem – I’ve met a lot of very fit 65-70 year olds so I can’t see why I shouldn’t have at least 15 years of hard riding ahead of me yet.

    I like to include a few pictures, otherwise the blog is just a wall of text. I want to attract people to come to the area to enjoy the countryside the way that I do.

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