The Push Hog Diaries: Stage 11 – Cumbrian EPO

Every Thursday for the past five weeks I’ve arranged to go for a training ride with Marvin, my fellow Big G‘er, but every week it’s either rained or we’ve had to cancel for some other reason.

Thursday 28th June was destined to be no different, although the weather in the morning was warm and sunny, the evening forecast told a different story, so once again we cancelled and wondered if we’d ever get a practice ride in before the cyclosportive.

At lunch time I happened to be in Scunthorpe when the predicted storm rolled over, first the rain, then the thunder and lightening, I knew we were right to cancel.

Later in the day and back in East Yorkshire the weather didn’t look like improving, but astonishingly in the mid afternoon, contrary to the weather forecast, the clouds began to part. By the time I returned home from work it was a fantastic summers day, 20°c+ with a very slight breeze, perfect cycling weather.

I couldn’t resist sending a text message to Marvin to tell him about the dramatic change in weather and that we’d made a mistake by cancelling, but also to let him know I’d be going out on my bike to take advantage of the good weather!

Like a red rag to a bull, it was just half an hour later when Marvin was stood on my doorstep, looking like he was going to a lycra themed dinner party, I felt over dressed in my padded shorts and t-shirt. As we were riding on my ‘manor’ I called the route and so we headed off to North Newbald, to tackle Trundlegate, this would be the first time Marvin had faced the behemoth.

So fast forward 45 minutes and we are catching our breath on a park bench after Marvin set a relentless pace through Beverley, up Newbald Hill, across Walkington Heads and finally along Beverley Road to reach North Newbald. When we came to a stop we had averaged 15mph, so a much faster pace than I was used to riding, no doubt due to Marvin having cycled regularly for a few years, making him much the stronger rider.

We sat in the sunshine and I did my best to build up the shear scale of the Trundlegate challenge. I suggested that the people sat outside the Tiger Inn weren’t staring at us because Marvin looked like a member of The Village People, instead it was because they knew what we were about to face. I guess by the time I’d finished, the task in front of us was akin to climbing the north face of the Eiger…on a bike!

I also suggested that we might need something to help us along, you know, a pick me up, and I’m not even ashamed of what I produced from my back pocket, but it won’t be the last time I use Cumbrian EPO (or Kendal Mint Cake just incase the UCI are reading this!) We broke off a couple of cubes, scoffed them down and off we set towards South Newbald, doped up.

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I purposefully rode at the back of our two man peloton, just to gauge Marvin’s reaction, which was more of surprise than anything else, a bit like my own when I first saw the hill. After rounding the corner, the climb begins and we both began in first gear to give the best chance of archiving our goal.

I was absolutely convinced that if I was ever going to get over this hill then today was the day, perfect conditions with a very slight tail wind. I began steady, keeping my breathing under control, trying not to run out of steam like in my previous attempts.

Before long we were past the farm house at the bottom of the hill and about to tackle the steepest part of the climb at around 13%, still managing my breathing I pushed forward, gaining in confidence the further up the hill I got. Towards the middle of the tough first section Marvin begins to snake from side to side, but I aim straight ahead for the right hand turn.

Once at the turn, almost as far as I have managed to date, I’m feeling good, the climb begins to get steadier and I now know I’ve made it, my breathing is normal and I have no intention of stopping now. The next 500 yards are still a slog but before long I’m going up the gears and the climb is finished, we both made it, I’m so chuffed its a monkey off my back, with a little help from my friend and a bit of sugary doping.

We push on and after riding along Whin Lane, we turn right and climb the short incline up to High Hunsley, across The Avenue to Brick Dike Lane and we follow White Gap Lane until the left turn at Common Road.

Things start to literally go down hill when we get to Bluestone Bottoms, when travelling down the hill at over 35mph, a bee decides to fly into my helmet. In a bit of a panic I unclip, but the little fella won’t let go, I’m still travelling at some rate of knots, one handed, without a helmet and on the hoods so I can’t break. Seems funny now, but I can’t remember laughing at the time.

Once on the incline to Little Weighton Road, I manage to stop and remove my clingy friend, only to find that in all the excitement my cycle computer has stopped working, I guess I damaged it in all the bee related excitement.

As we ride past Walkington and follow the back roads towards Beverley our first training ride is completed, having covered just over 23 miles at an average of almost 15mph, but more than that, Trundlegate is in the bag, bring on Nunburnholme Hill.

Total Distance Covered: 146 miles

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