Pendle Forest Cycling Club, Annual Crazy Challenge 2023
By Matt Kayley.
Well we’ve left it late this year, mainly due to one of the wettest Julys on record. I’ve done several big rides over the years, usually aiming for mid summer solstice for the longest hours of daylight. This year though it looked like we’d left it too late. After 2021s Bowland Badass, 170miles and 20k of climbing it seemed like natural progression to tick the 200 off for Jack Thomas, a distance which I have done twice previously. I plotted an anticlockwise loop of the North of England taking in West and North Yorkshire, Cumbria and back into God’s own county . 6 weeks ago we chose September 2nd as a date and then prayed for more rain so we didn’t have to do it . We invited an elite bunch of cyclists we thought we both capable and comfortable with the task at hand. Various excuses were made but we’re not here for excuses we’re here for results
Saturday 6am, Dickie Nook, the best weather forecast in months “The Magnificent 7” convened. Ages ranging from 22 to 57, we couldn’t ask for a stronger squad. Quietly away I already knew it was in the bag
The first 50 took us out through Keighley, Otley, and Harrogate aiming for our first stop at Boroughbridge. A lovely little market town, we found a cracking cafe with pictures of Eddie Merck and Marco Pantani in the bog! Surely an omen? Delicious and well needed full breakfast was consumed . Everybody in great shape and averaging over 17mph we headed for the next stop. Cracking the top corner of our route skirting North Allerton, flying through Bedale we headed for Hawes, 109miles in, familiar territory for PF. Michael Harulow took us to the Wensleydale Pantry, one I’ve not been to before and highly recommended. Despite some rather upset tummies developing in the peleton due to the athletes’ diet of FEB, gels, bars, jellies, Haribo and Peperami, a delicious lunch of sandwiches and Jacket was forced down.
The next stretch was to Sedbergh for the reverse route of the Circuit of the Dales, a road me and Jack were more than familiar with. Unfortunately the start of the road was closed due to bridge repairs and there was no way through even on a bike. Bit of a low point, added miles to get back on track following the diversion signs. A fantastic rolling road in reverse but also taking in a few nasty climbs and a light but not insignificant headwind for the 2 on the front. Quick waterstop at Sedbergh and it was off to the seaside Some of the quietest and prettiest roads of the day as we headed to Arnside, roads I will definitely revisit in the future. Also lumpy though hitting climbs as steep as 17%.
With the Cumbrian coast skirted we headed for chips at Carnforth….but there were none . Running an hour behind schedule, 150 miles in and noticeable anxiety in the group at the remaining miles still required from our aching bodies we decided to press on with full bidons and the remaining food in our pockets. Ben took us through Lancaster where a shout from Jack behind insisted on a food stop at the next shop we passed. A petrol station would have to do. A wise decision from Jack. I felt ok on the bike but on dismounting the wobbly legs and dizzy head, tell tale signs of a bonk presented themselves, bullet dodged! With prepacked sandwiches and pies (pies solve everything ) eaten we remounted into the now failing daylight.
Scorton and Garstang whizzed by and now in full darkness we headed for Longridge. A fast and sketchy decent in the dark to Ribchester took us within tantalising distance of our goal. The little kick at Dinkley further pounded our legs with one last b!@#£%^ of a hill to fetch us home. A climb of almost mythical aura in our cycling club, Black Hill with over 200 miles in the legs. It was going to take more than that to stop us now though.
Now all knowing the ride was in the bag, we flew through Higham and Thomas Ashworth pulled us strongly down the bypass for our finish at Dickie Nook, the infamous bus stop we had last seen some 16 hours before. Pats on backs and jubilant euphoria we rolled back down the hill for rather well earned pints at the bridge
The Magnificent 7
Ride leader: Jack Thomas.
Trusted 2nd lieutenant: Simon Coates the quiet , calm and unbelievably strong right hand man every team needs.
The super domestiques doing so many strong turns on the front, making our ride possible: Luke Greenwood, Ben Hoyle, Michael Harulow.
Health and Welfare officer, keeping us all in check and stronger than an ox: Thomas Ashworth.
Route Planner: Moi
Stats: 214 miles, 11500ft, average speed 17mph.