Road Ride – The Red Rose Ride 2009

We had good weather for today's audax (randonneuring) event, the 202 km (125 mile) Red Rose Ride from Halifax to Glasson Dock near Lancaster and back. The sun was shining, there was a strong breeze which would hinder us on the outward leg, but assist us coming back, not much chance of rain.

I did the ride in 2007, that time riding out the 13 km (8 miles) from Hebden Bridge to the event HQ in Halifax in the morning. The route eventually brings us back through Hebden Bridge and on that occasion I decided that I couldn't face doing another 26 km (16 miles) up and down the A646 when I'd already done it earlier in the day. I was an official DNF (Did Not Finish) – I had successfully covered the 202 km route within the time limits, just not in the right order!

This time, my CycleChat forum cycling partner Martin (‘goodspeed') had offered to give me a lift so I got myself ready good and early and went out to the A646 and was picked up by him at about 07:10.

We got to the start in plenty of time and chatted to a few of the other riders while we waited to be sent off. I was slightly surprised not to see a bigger turnout, given how good the weather was for a change. I reckon there might have been about 40 of us altogether.

Red Rose Ride riders
Red Rose Ride riders

We set off at 08:00, as planned. Martin and I took it easy on the long drag out of Halifax, the route eventually taking us down through Cullingworth, and from there we climbed over Harden Moor before a quick descent into Keighley.

The town is quiet at that time on a Sunday morning and we passed through the centre quite quickly, and on to a back road taking us past Cliffe Castle and then a cracking little lane over to Steeton where we took the B6265 to Cross Hills. The wind was already making itself felt, and it definitely wasn't helping us. Black clouds were building up, and I felt one or two spots of drizzle, but no significant rainfall took place.

We stayed on the A6068 to Colne, and turned off there for Barrowford where, worryingly, I noticed that my upper right leg was starting to go numb. I've had problems with it over the past year and I think it was originally caused by my elasticated leg-warmers being too tight and cutting off the blood supply; I was wearing them again today. I pulled the top down a bit and that seemed to ease the problem, but I'm going to have to watch out for it. There is still too much fat on my legs – when I'm slimmer and fitter, the clothing should no longer be so tight.

Aha – then the good stuff started… 😉

We took to tiny undulating lanes at the village of Fence. I really like that area which is known as the Forest of Pendle, Pendle Hill looming up a few kms to our right. Martin and I were joined by a rider from the VC167 club and we chatted to him as we rode along.

Eventually, we emerged near Spring Wood picnic centre where we called in to fill our bottles at the drinking water tap in the gents' toilets. After a while, you get to know where it is easy to obtain drinking water, and where it isn't. A lot of public toilets round here only supply warm water, or have wash basins that are too small to fit a drinks bottle below the tap. Spring Wood is a handy stop, and there is usually an ice cream van at the entrance if you fancy a cold treat or drink. We only had to descend into Whalley for our an audax control at Whalley Abbey so we didn't bother.

The sun was shining brightly again as we turned into the Abbey grounds. We got our brevet cards stamped and bought a few refreshments which we polished off sitting at a table outside in the sunshine.

Whalley Abbey
Whalley Abbey

After 20 minutes or so we got underway again. I'm very familiar with the roads round there – Great Mitton, Bashall Eaves, Cow Ark, and onto a stretch of what was obviously the route of a Roman Road – it's dead straight for about a km, but if you look on a map you can see that the original road was straight for about 6km up onto Longridge Fell, where it turned abruptly and headed straight down towards the Roman Fort at Ribchester.

Wow – the Forest of Bowland was looking good today! I called out to Martin and the VC167 rider (I didn't catch his name) to tell them that I was stopping to take a few pictures and they carried on at a reduced speed.

Bowland Fells
Bowland Fells

It took a while to catch up with Martin and I could see the VC167 rider up ahead but we never quite caught him again. He was hanging back for us, but we stopped again in the Trough of Bowland to take more pictures and that was the last we saw of him.

Trough of Bowland
Trough of Bowland

I was on my Cannondale, and had been worried about the ascent of the Trough. The last time I went up there, I had the benefit of the lower gears on my Basso and I remembered it being a tough climb at about 18% in places. To be honest, it felt tough but not a leg-breaker and I got up it without having to get out of the saddle.

It's a good fast run down from the top of the climb towards Glasson Dock. There are a couple of small steep-sided river valleys to cross, but nothing too demanding. In fact we were almost at our destination when Martin ran over a big piece of stone that he hadn't spotted lying in the road. He hit it hard and called to me that he might have damaged something. Sure enough, a mile or so down the road he noticed that his front tyre was going flat. It was just at the top of a steep little hill, so we had good views when we pulled over to sort the problem out.

I was amazed when Martin told me that he'd never fixed a puncture before! He is fairly new to road riding, but he'd done a lot of MTB riding before that. I suffer far more punctures off road then on it, so it came as a big surprise that he was a puncture virgin. I gave him my puncture-fixing tutorial – checking the cause of the puncture (confirmed as a ‘snakebite'), making sure not to pinch the replacement tube with the tyre beading or the tyre levers, how to get the tyre back on without levers, that kind of thing. No point in him making the same mistakes that I made the first few times…

Soon we were at Glasson Dock which was heaving with sightseers and bikers, oh, and quite a few audax riders too. We got our cards stamped and were just finishing off our snacks when ‘Svendo' arrived with an older rider. They had arrived in Halifax 45 minutes late and had taken 109 km to catch us! We had a quick chat with them, then Martin and I were about to set off when I decided that it really was time for the leg-warmers to come off. I stuffed them away in my bag and felt a lot better with exposed legs. Pity I kept my gilet on! I was a bit self-conscious of my remaining beer belly and was trying to cover it up, but I was definitely overdressed for what were now pretty warm conditions.

Off the hills and with a cross/tailwind, we started to push our average speed up and sped through Garstang and round to Longridge. We called in at the Spar supermarket there to buy snacks and obtain receipts to use for the audax control.

I always forget what an undulating road it is from Longridge back to Whalley! If you are feeling strong, it is fine – you can just fly down into each dip and power your way up the other side. I, however, was starting to feel a bit tired…

The little climb up from Whalley to the A671 felt harder than it should have done and by the time I got to the top, Martin had gone through the traffic lights at the junction which changed to red for me. Once the lights changed, I tried to set off in pursuit and then my problems really started!

My left foot cramped up – it happens frequently when I get tired or dehydrated on long rides. I was both. I'd been playing catch-up with my fluid intake all day. I know how much I should drink, and I was nearly a full bottle down on that, and I'd been sweating more than usual, being overdressed in the heat. Martin was out of sight and I couldn't put any effort in. I rode all the way to Padiham hardly using my left foot and that started to hurt my back.

Martin was waiting for me just before the descent into Padiham, and I made the first of many apologies for keeping him hanging about. There just wasn't anything I could do about it – I was hurting and tired. So much so in fact, that I felt like something was wrong with my bike. I looked down at my front brake and could see that it was okay. I rode in front of Martin and asked him to check my rear brake. No, that was okay too – it was just exhaustion then! 😥

The long drag up through Rose Grove had me lagging behind again, and then the climb up Rossendale Road kicked up ahead of us. Martin got to the top and out of sight as I grovelled my way up. Fortunately, my foot problem had eased off and I didn't have to walk. When I crested the hill, Martin was on the phone to his wife explaining that he was going to be very late home. I can just imagine what he was saying… 😳

I coasted over to join him, and then felt a familiar feeling – oh crap – my ‘lights were going out'! I was hot, dehydrated, tired and was very close to ‘bonking'. I had to get off the bike before I fell off it. Martin gave me an energy gel and I washed it down with a Coca Cola that I'd been carrying since Longridge. I gave it a couple of minutes to start to kick in and then rode very conservatively until we got to the top of the drag out of Holme Chapel in Cliviger Gorge.

What a relief it was to have that long descent to Todmorden!

I'd assumed that Svendo and pal must have gone past us while we were at Spar in Longridge, but they suddenly caught us in Todmorden, said ‘hi' and shot off ahead of us! They must have had a good long stop at Glasson Dock, and then ridden at a very steady pace back from there. Now they were putting the hammer down.

The gel and Coke were starting to work and I was drinking plenty so I was perking up a little bit, but I still struggled to stay with Martin along the Calder Valley through Hebden Bridge. What a challenge it was not to abandon there, only 2 minutes from home. I dug deep and carried on.

You could hardly call the drag up from Luddenden Foot to King Cross a ‘hill' – it rises 140m in 4.5 km (only about 3% or so average) but it sure felt like a hill to me. It felt like I was towing a car tyre behind me on a rope.

What a relief to finally get on the downhill back to HQ! I think that there was only one rider left on the road behind us.

We had a short stop at HQ for sandwiches and coffee, then headed back to the car where I made a shocking discovery…

My rear brake HAD been rubbing after all! Apparently when Martin had looked at it, he could only see one side of the rim – aaaaaaaaaargh! No wonder I was tired… The friction was really bad. I lifted the rear of the bike off the ground and gave the wheel a spin – it came to an instant stop! I must have knocked the brake when I put the bike into Martin's car in the morning. Oh well – perhaps I'm slightly fitter than I thought I was!

202 km or 125 miles with the back brake rubbing – very hard work, glad it's over, but also glad I did it. No beer tonight, and plenty of sleep!

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