The Push Hog Strikes Back: Robert Millar for a Day

It won’t have gone unnoticed that the county of Yorkshire hosted the Grande Depart of Le Tour de France. It went quite well by accounts and I can’t begin to explain my pride in the tour visiting my county of birth, so it will come of no surprise that I made a pilgrimage to Holme Moss, one of the harder climbs on Stage 2 from York to Sheffield.

I arrived in Holmfirth on Saturday afternoon and within no time at all I’d changed into my cycling gear, ready to attempt the Cat 2 climb up Holme Moss. According to Veloviewer, the climb is 4.7km in length and rises to a height of 341m with an average gradient of 7%, maxing out at 13%.

I’m not the worlds best climber, so it was with much trepidation that I set off, not expecting to make it the full distance, but at least give it my best effort.

I’m not a local, so forgive me for making this assumption, but in my mind the climb starts at the junction of the A6024 Woodhead Road with Bank Lane, just as you cycle past St.Davids Church in Holmbridge – I say this because the road kicks up quite dramatically and it’s out of the saddle stuff for the best part of 500m, this is where the gradient reaches 13%, although it seems much steeper.

Once at the top of this short sharp incline the road levels off slightly for roughly 800m, passing a lively campsite as I slowly grind through the gears attempting to get a rhythm. Rest bite is soon in sight as I approached the village of Holme, where the road descends steadily through village.

Leaving Holme I’m struck by the view up to the top of the climb, the road twists and turns like a small alp, without a hint of exaggeration, it is stunningly beautiful in the late afternoon sunshine.

As I ride out of the village I hear a huge groan from The Fleece, packed to the rafters with cycling fans, I had no way of knowing, but instinct told me that fan favourite Mark Cavendish must have fallen off before the sprint finish, this turned out to be correct.

Leaving the packed village, the road ramps down toward a small bridge, the official start of the Holme Moss Hill Climb. It’s a good start to a long climb, as the incline allows me to get some momentum and I race towards the corner beyond the bridge.

Once the road begins to climb I carry my momentum into the first switch back, although this doesn’t last long before I’m out of my saddle in a vein attempt to keep some momentum. The road ahead twists and turns, never steep apart from at the apex of the corners, but as the road is closed to vehicles I use the road to the full.

After the fifth corner the road straightens and gently curves towards the summit, looking down to my left the reservoir below looks tiny and I’m boosted by the fact I’ve made it this far without much trouble.

The road continues at a maximum if 10% to the car park adjacent to the radio mast, very Ventoux-esq, turning slightly and levelling at the summit and the border with Derbyshire – At the time of finishing the tour KotM finish was being built, so it was quite a thrill to cross the actual line the pros would the next day.

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The Tour de France 2014: Stage 2 York to Sheffield

The next morning I woke up in Holmfirth to bright sunshine, a great start to the day. Over breakfast I thought I’d have another ride out, just to see the town in it’s tour pomp and also to see if I could get up Holme Moss. Setting off just before midday, I was under the impression that all roads on the tour route would be blocked to all but walkers, I was wrong…

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…the closer I rode to Holme Moss the busier the roads became, but people would step out of my way and give encouragement to all of us cycling the climb – This was brilliant. Reaching the village of Holme the vista opened up to show people already lining both sides of the road, with thousands of cyclists snaking up the switchbacks…

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… I continued to climb, the atmosphere was fantastic, every child cheered up the climb like they were riding the tour, even chased by blokes in fancy dress and encouraged with cow bells – It was quite a thrill to ride through this noise and something I’ll remember for a long long time.

The crowds were huge and I stopped a couple of times to take it all in, half expecting the police to stop us at some stage, but it never happened, I was Robert Millar for a day, resplendent in my Vélo Club Ironique team jersey!

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Climbing up to the summit, the roads are packed full of people either walking or cycling, at times I have to stop because there is no room to move, but eventually I cross the KotM finish line and somewhat bizarrely I was greeted by a giant owl…

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Now at the top, there was no way I was going to miss the action, so I found a nice spot in front of the big screen and watched the stage live on ITV4 and waited *and waited* for the pros to arrive, when they did it was a blur, I couldn’t even try to put into words what happened, but I was there and it was wonderful…

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