On Saturday 21st July 2012 I took part in The Big G – Grimpeurs Des Wolds Cyclosportive organised by Hull Thursday Road Club. If you’ve been following ‘The Push Hog Diaries’ over the last couple of months you will know this is the event I’ve trained for and my first cyclosportive.
Almost unbelievably after all of the poor weather we have experienced over the last four months, including the days and weeks before the race, I woke on Saturday morning to bright sunshine, it’s not an exaggeration to say there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the organisers couldn’t have wished for a better day.
The The Big G – Grimpeurs Des Wolds Cyclosportive can be tackled over four distances, 30km, 60km, 100km and 160km, all routes begin in Molescroft and take in the beautiful East Yorkshire Wolds, a landscape which has inspired David Hockney and Winifred Holtby amongst others. With my trusted ‘super domestic’ Marvin, we decided to tackle the 60km route.
Initially, when we first entered the sportive, the idea was to use the ride as an excuse for a pub crawl, setting off mid morning and stopping for a pint at every village we passed through. Unfortunately, for me, as soon as we started training this seemed to have been forgotten, so a time of 4 hours was set, a realistic target we thought. Unfortunately, for me again, the e-mail from a week before the ride included medal positions, the times as follows:
So as I watched the East Yorkshire Classic in Beverley Town Centre on Friday evening, I received a text message along the following lines:
…Worked it out, to get silver we’ll have to average 12mph…fancy giving it a go?? 😀 14mph for gold might be pushing it!
My reply (I’d had a drink at this stage):
…Silver it is!
So within two text messages we had managed to shift our expectations by minus 45 minutes minimum!
This has to be one of the smoothest operated events I’ve taken part in. The entry for the race was via the Sports Entry Solutions Website, which allowed electronic entry, showed who had already entered & how many places remaining, links to the organisers website and maps of the routes.
A month before the The Big G – Grimpeurs Des Wolds Cyclosportive I received an update e-mail from the organisers, Hull Thursday Road Club, detailing start and finish times. This was followed by another e-mail one week before the event including detailed instructions from car parking, to feed stations, from suggested gear ratios to route elevations.
Anybody who has read ‘The Push Hog Diaries’ will know that I am a newbie to road cycling and in spite of the inclement weather I have done my best to train for this event, although I have managed less than 250 miles, probably half as much as I wanted.
The most important part of my preparation was having the correct bike, I began my training on a mountain bike, but these bikes are unsuitable for long distance road use and it wasn’t long before I made the wise investment in a road bike.
Also, often overlooked, is the importance of wearing the correct cycling clothing. I must admit to my cynicism over wearing tight fitting clothing and I have sniggered in the past at people wearing Lycra, but it works and on the day I wore bib shorts with padding and a cycling jersey with three pockets for easy to reach essentials. I also had a decent pair of sports socks and cycling shoes with mountain bike cleats, finished off with cycling gloves, a helmet and sun glasses. Not forgetting a couple of drinks bottles, a flapjack, wine gums and of course some ‘Cumbrian EPO’.
We arrived at Longcroft School, a large comprehensive school in Molescroft, and the starting point of the Big G. As soon as we rode into the grounds at around 8:30am, we had already passed a number of cyclists who had begun the sportive. At the main entrance gate Sports Entry Solutions had set up their start and finish post so that accurate times could be given to the participant on completing their chosen event.
Just off the main school entrance and inside the dining room, large tables had been set out with all the participants names and entry details. Once signed in I was handed the No. 52 and also a CLIF bar to keep me going until the feed station. Outside I was also handed emergency telephone numbers in case of mechanical or medical emergencies, all very reassuring.
Molescroft to Cherry Burton
As we roll over the start line at Longcroft School, our cyclosportive begins and at the main gates we turn left and head up the small incline of Molescroft Road to the Roundabout with Driffield Road. The route then heads towards Cherry Burton along Malton Road taking in Constitution Hill.
I lead the way and possibly set off a little too fast, as before long we are at the Dog Kennel Lane roundabout and cycling towards the village of Cherry Burton, taking in the slight inclines and trying to get our legs warmed up. As we turn off Malton Road and onto Main Street, we head into the village passing the Villlage Pond as we continue our journey.
Cherry Burton to South Dalton
As we leave Cherry Burton and cycle along Etton Road, the landscape begins to alter and becomes more hilly and any myths that we may have set off too fast are quickly dispelled when we are overtaken at speed by a young lady clearly on a mission to finish in a fast time.
Riding down the steep incline of New Road we enter the picturesque village of Etton, we are now on the cusp of the Yorkshire Wolds. The route continues along the flat Main Street, but on leaving the village a right turn onto the ‘Dalton Ramp’ is our first chance to test our climbing legs. We pass with flying colours and once at the top of the hill the spire of St.Mary’s is clearly in view as we cycle along the long straight flat road towards South Dalton.
As the village nears, the road steeply drops, so we are quickly on our drops as we fly down the hill onto Main Street reaching over 30mph, although this speed soon slows as we then hit the climb through the village streets before the route levels out and we leave the serenity of South Dalton.
South Dalton to Middleton-on-the-Wolds
Upon leaving South Dalton the road levels out slightly and leads towards the small hamlet of Holme-on-the-Wolds. We are averaging around 16mph at this point and enjoying the ride and although we live locally, this is new territory and we are relying on the orange arrows sprayed on the road to guide our way.
After leaving Holme-on-the-Wolds the road steadily climbs to a crest, then falls again as the route loops around, nothing too testing, it’s family outing territory. At the beginning of Lund Road, the routes split for the first time, with the 30km riders heading left, while we cycle down hill to the right, before quickly turning right again to make a small climb before the road levels out and we ride towards the B1248 on the edge of Lund.
After a brief ride along the busy B-Road, we join Beverley Road and ride roughly a mile on the flat into the bustling village of Middleton-on-the-Wolds, negotiating narrow streets as we join the A614 in the village centre.
Middleton-on-the-Wolds to Huggate
Once across the A614, the route takes us through the back streets of the village onto Station Road and the first tricky climb of the day. The road rises steadily out of the village, passing the local primary school, and only levels out once out of the village. It’s the first time I have had chance to gauge my cycle fitness all morning and I’m pleasantly surprised that I find the climb manageable. The road then drops steadily allowing us both to recover from our exertions, before levelling out and undulating as the route takes us into the village of North Dalton.
Continuing our journey we cycle into North Dalton, a pretty village with a welcoming looking public house, The Star, unfortunately it’s too early for opening hours so we cycle past. On leaving the village we start the Category 4 climb leading towards Huggate, certainly not a steep hill, but it’s three miles long and saps my energy, before long I’m longing for the feed station and a chance to catch my breath.
After almost twenty minutes of climbing we reach the peak at the junction with Driffield Road, this is where the riders on the 100km & 160km routes turn right, whereas we cycle left and ride into the hamlet of Huggate, a pretty Wolds village and home of the feed station…if we can find it. After a bit of confusion, as we couldn’t see the road markings for what we think should be a left turn, a couple of fellow ‘Big Gers’ point us in the correct direction and we make the short climb up Mill Lane, negotiating the muddy roads past the strawberry field to the feed station.
We have ridden roughly 25km and the sight of the feed station is more than welcome. The feed station in Huggate is stuff of legend, as I’ve heard past events have gone from excellent to fantastic in terms of food and drink, on Saturday I wasn’t to be disappointed.
Set out like a market stall (I wish that I had taken a photo) it is hard to list all of the things available to the passing cyclist, some don’t even stop, but that’s their loss, as the range of food includes wraps, flapjacks, energy bars, jaffa cakes, malt loaf, fig rolls, jelly beans, along with a range of drinks.
My only problem is that exercise doesn’t make me hungry at all, in fact the more I do the less I want to eat, it’s something I struggle with on longer rides and I rely almost solely in energy drinks to get my calorie intake. So not wanting to feel bloated, I manage a couple of jaffa cakes and a piece of malt loaf, then stuff a slack handful of jelly beans in my back pocket, before refilling my bidon’s for the second half of the journey.
Huggate to Nunburnholme
On leaving the feed station, Mill Lane continues for another couple of miles, before dropping into the chocolate box village of Warter on a roller coaster down hill section of road, ending abruptly at the junction with the B1246. Although the village may be idyllic, it does mark the beginning of the toughest section of the Big G.
Leaving the village the road quickly rises as we climb the steep, but short, Westbeck Hill, before the road contours up and down. This section of the route is difficult to keep a tempo going for long and any thoughts that things might get easier are quickly dispelled when I clock a sign that reads ‘12%’ as we reach the bottom of Baggaby Hill.
This is unexpected, as I am ‘reliably’ informed that the only tricky climb on the 60km route is Nunburnholme Hill, not one mention of Baggaby Hill. As I look up I can see that a group of roadies who recently flew past us have virtually stalled as they stand on their pedals and work hard to get to the top.
The climb is short, but steep and has a nasty right hand turn which exaggerates the incline. As I begin to climb its not long until I’m in bottom gear and it takes some effort to keep going, I struggle on to the banked corner and amazingly negotiate the steepest section and finally reach the top. I feel nauseous as the road levels out, I think that’s one of the toughest climbs I’ve ever managed first time, so I’m pleased with myself but so tired.
Now over the peak, the road dramatically sweeps down Kilnwick Percy Hill, where I reach speeds over over 40mph, holding on to the drops it’s a pleasure to ride without expending energy. Towards the bottom of the hill the orange arrows reappear and we are directed left onto Featherbed Lane, apt really because after Baggaby Hill that’s where I wanted to be, in bed.
As we idle along the narrow country lane, now under the name of Lowfield Lane, we hear the cry of “Allez Allez” from a couple of cycling colleagues who are amongst a group of Hull Thursday Cycling Club Cyco’s, they had begun the 100km sportive an hour before we started the 60km. Spurred on by their bravado and feeling refreshed we head into the village of Nunburnholme on Butt Lane (insert joke here).
From the moment I entered the Big G Cyclosportive I have dreaded the thought of having to climb Nunburnholme Hill. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we rode through the tiny village of Nunburnholme along Town Street and across a small road bridge. Then in front of us was the tree lined hill, or at least the start of it, and it certainly looks as bad as it sounds, it is steep.
Not having any delusions of grandeur at all, I put my bike in first gear and begin the climb. The first 150m are very steep, not quite Spout Hill standards, but I’ve ridden 20 miles at this point so I am feeling tired and my legs gave up the ghost back in Warter. As I slowly inch up the climb I try to help by snaking, but the road is too narrow and in any case I’m not convinced it helps that much.
As I continue, trying to keep my breathing in check, I can’t help but be put off by other cyclists whizzing past me like they are going down hill, very off putting, but I struggle on. I am now starting to see the incline get slightly less steep and spurred on I attempt to accelerate, but there is no gas in the tank. I gamely continue a bit further, but it’s no good I roll to a stop, out of breath and out of steam.
As I slump over my bike I could scream, but I don’t have the energy, I take a swig of my drink and hobble like John Wayne a few yards until I’m parallel with a ‘jolly’ spectator, who utters the phrase all ‘jolly’ spectators always say “Nearly at the top mate…” I politely thank him for his enthusiasm, climb back on my bike and head off up to the top of the hill, passing two equally enthusiastic photographers, the last of which asks for a smile!
I’m at the top, where Marvin has waited for me in the now blazing sunshine, I stop my bike and look back in disappointment. We rest for a good five to ten minutes as a number of Harley Davison Riders slowly snake past blocking our exit down Londesborough Hill. I look once again down the hill to see other cyclists proudly reach the top, but not me.
Londesborough Hill to Kiplingcotes
At the top of Nunburnholme Hill the route, thankfully, heads down Londesborough Hill, a steady incline which runs for over a mile before reaching the village of Londesborough on the outskirts of Market Weighton, but more importantly it’s a chance to rest.
As we cycle into Londesborough we turn left and join Intake Hill, another climb, which this time starts of relatively flat before rising more steeply towards the busy roundabout with the A614, Towthorpe Lane. As I cycle up the hill, grabbing a tow on Marvins wheel, I again begin to drop back as the gradient gets tougher, so I am relieved when we reach the roundabout.
We wait for the traffic to clear the junction and head straight on to join Londesborough Road which leads us towards the outskirts of Market Weighton. As we cycle into the town we take a left hand turn and join Goodmanham Road. It’s not long before we take a right turn and make the short sharp climb up Red Lane, a slope which rises over a bridge and takes what little energy I have and throws it firmly to the side of the road.
As I struggle to the top, I’m assured by passing cyclists that “…this is the last climb of the day” a phrase I’ve heard twice since getting to the top of Nunburnholme Hill, but I take it in the spirit it’s meant and I cycle on, feeling tired. Once at the top of Red Lane, at the junction we turn left and cycle along Spring Road, a pan flat section of country lane which takes us to the outskirts of Kiplingcotes and again allows me time to recuperate before another last climb of the day!
Kiplingcotes to Molescroft
Once past the turning for Kiplingcotes Lane we cycle on before taking a right hand turn, which brings us to the ‘Kiplingcotes to Dalton Ramp’, another short climb, but another reminder that East Yorkshire isn’t as flat as I once thought. As the small climb finishes the road levels as we cycle on to the ‘Kiplingcotes to Etton Drag Strip’, but I’m not in the shape to take much advantage of this flat section of road and we idle along at 15mph before reaching the junction with the ‘Etton / Dalton Ramp’, thus joining the section of road we began our journey on.
Taking a right hand turn, we fly down to the junction with Main Street, Etton, and newly invigorated by thoughts of finally finishing, we cycle through the village before reaching the turning with New Road. This is a climb I’ve done before and it’s bark is worse than its bite, so we are quickly at the top, which peaks on a hump back bridge over the old railway line and joins on to Etton Road as we cycle into Cherry Burton.
At the junction with Main Street we turn left and ride through the village. With just a couple of miles remaining we are under the impression that we have only 8 minutes to achieve a silver medal, so with my last flurry of energy we put the hammer down and leave Cherry Burton via Malton Road. Before long we reach Dog Kennel Lane roundabout and accelerate again down Constitution Hill, then up towards the roundabout with Driffield Road. We continue straight on to Molescroft Road and take a right turn on to Burton Road as we cycle over the finish line.
According to Strava we have covered 41.4 miles (66.6 km) with a total moving time of 3hrs 11mins 58secs, enough to earn a Silver medal, but alas on checking my chip timing on the finishing line computer (set up by Sports Timing Solutions) my total time including our feed station stop is 3hrs 26mins 5secs, so Bronze it is.
Once we manage to peel ourselves off our bikes, we head towards Longcroft School’s dining room where we pick up our commemorative polo shirts and are given the choice of a number of refreshments, I go for the pie & chips and sit down next to some friendly faces to share our adventures. It’s such a relief to have finished.
Firstly I have to be honest with myself and admit how disappointed I am to have not completed the cyclosportive without getting off my bike. At the start of this adventure it was the only aim I really had, so to climb off when over the worst of Nunburnholme Hill is an anti climax.
Having said that, when we first talked about doing this event almost a year ago, if you would have said we would complete it in just under 3hrs 30mins I would have laughed out loud, so on time alone I am proud of my achievement.
I also have to say a big thank you to my team mate, Marvin, it was clear to me from our first training session that he is a much stronger cyclist than me, so for him to drag me along for over 60km is worthy of a gold medal alone.
This is the only sportive I have ever taken part in, so if all are organised as well as this one, then I might look at having a go at another before the year is out. It’s not often you can say you get your money’s worth out of these club run events, but in this case I did, for the cost of £25 we recieved:
* Choice of 4 Fully Marked Routes 30km, 60km, 100km or 160km;
* Sports Chip Timing;
* Post Race Results Website;
* On Site Timing Results;
* Medical Support;
* Mechanical Support;
* Pre-Race Energy Bar;
* Well Stocked Feed Station;
* Commemorative Embroidered Polo Shirt on Completion;
* Choice of Hot & Cold Food and Drink on Completion.
[In addition to this there was on route photography by The Cherry Studio, so for a small charge I can also buy a photograph to remind me how pained I looked on Nunburnholme Hill!]
As an event I can’t quite believe how smoothly things went, yes there was a signage issue in Huggate, but putting that aside from entry to completion this is a well oiled machine and I wholeheartedly recommend that given the opportunity you should give it a go.
As for me, I’ll be back next year, definitely, but right now I’m just going to ride my bike.
Thanks for reading.
Total Distance Covered: 285 miles
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