The Three Stage Of The Grand Depart Completed By Simple Yorkshire Folk

Even though it was only three days of riding it is very difficult to think back about about what we did.  All the rides tend to blur together as one long slog.  That makes it sound like a chore, but I can guarantee if you have not attempted anything like this, you just need to give it a go.  When you get to the top of a hill and the wind is blowing, the rain is making you cold, trust me you can still laugh about it.  So here goes, I will try and tell the tale.

Day 1
Stage 1
116 miles
8500 ft accent

Alarm went off at 0530, making my way to Robbo’s house for 0600.  When I arrive Jeerve has his bike on its back.  He has a flat, I fixed one for him the day before and Robbo also fixed his brakes the day before as well.  So not a good start, but we were filling up on lovely tea and bacon sarnies made by Julie.  Thank you very much Julie Robinson.  We noticed that his tyre was shot so we swapped the whole wheel from one of Robbo’s spare bikes.  Job done.  On our way at about 0650.

The official route starts in Leeds, but we picked up the route in Skipton because it is the same number of miles on nicer roads.  Who wants to ride around Leeds City centre? The first bit of the morning was cold and a bit overcast, but it was still pleasant riding conditions, taking it easy having a nice conversation.  We did not stop in Skipton but carried on up through Grassingtion.  We stopped for our second breakfast at about 1000 in what could be the most expensive coffee shop in Yorkshire, six pound for a bacon butty or beef sarnie!  

It was after this stop that the weather started to get really bad.  At one point we had a stonking head wind and the rain was driving horizontal.  We knew to break the back of this one we needed to get Buttertubs out of the way before we had lunch.  Buttertubs has a few steep sections, but it does have the bits in-between to get back into your rhythm before the next steep section.  Our group did not find it too bad although there was a bloke doing the hill that had to zig zag it up, much to the annoyance of some car drivers even though the only way it was effecting them was the fact they might of had to touch the clutch and change gear, what an inconvenience 🙂

Going down the other side of Buttertubs is a nice reward though, a couple of sharp bends the pro riders will need to take care, but I am sure they will of done plenty of homework.  With Buttertubs out the way we stopped for some dinner, a burger in a lovely little village, Jeerve you are going to have to comment on this blog and fill in all the places we stopped because I am rubbish at remembering.  It had a lovely real fire and we were soaking wet so we really needed to get in front of it to eat.  When we had finished our food we got back in our wet clothes and made our way outside.  It was so cold and windy my knees where shaking and my teeth were chattering.  We did not have to wait that long for the next big hill and that soon warmed us back up.  The weather started to get a bit nicer for our run into to Harrogate, but it was one of those roads where milage signs to your destination do not exist and we were just batting for home.  Even though you know approximately how long it will take, it is always nice to have road signs that keep you focused and count you down to your target.

We got into Harrogate in good time and found our guest house.  It was lovely really nice spot and only walking distance to the centre.  We had a pint and we needed to find food quick sharp because Robbo was starting to act like a diva, the beast needed pacifying!  We found a spot, Robbo and the guys went for a mixed grill, it looked lush.  With hungers sorted a couple more drinks then bed.  We needed to get up to meet Darran Jugroop in Costa at about 1030.  

Day 2
30 miles
1700 ft accent

This was just a steady ride to get to York to start Stage 2 the following day.  We used the day to give our legs a run and stop off for a magnificent Sunday lunch in Tadcaster.  When we got to York, it was another lovely guest house.  They let us put our bikes in their summer house.  We hit the streets for a couple of pints and a fish supper.  Spot on!  We had to get up very early the next morning because we knew Stage 2 was going to be a long hard day.

Day 3 
Stage 2
120 miles
10,075 ft accent

This stage goes from York past Harrogate on to Keighley, Haworth, Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield, Holmfirth, Holme Moss then down into Sheffield.  It did feel a bit strange doing a tour and then riding on some of the roads you ride on a regular basis, mainly the roads around Hebden Bridge and Ripponden.  When you look at the profile of this route compared to Stage 1, they are completely different beasts.  Stage 2 does not let up even in the last stages you still have hills.  Check out the pictures below to see the difference.  One thing to note though.  Stage 1 takes you through some beautiful countryside, through little villages on calm roads.  Stage 2 is all busy roads, loads of cars, loads of noise.  The places it goes through are nice, they just don’t compare to the old Yorkshire feel of the first stage.  But busy roads will not be a problem for the pro riders in the summer.  It has to be noted some of the roads have shocking pot holes, some you could put your foot inside and they would be up to your ankle.  Stuff like this needs to be sorted for every road user not just because an event is coming through.  So this route takes you up over some big climbs.  One of them is Blubberhouse.  I did not find it too bad and we were up and over quite quickly but Nic got a puncture half way up so we had a bit of a wait at the top in the cold. 

 From here we had a steady climb up to Silsden and through Keighley.  We stopped off at Aire Valley cycles to put some more pressure in Nic’s tyre.  We got to the top of the climb out of Keighley, by the crossroads that take you to Haworth and Nic’s wheel went again, this time taking the tyre.  A plan was hatched.  Robbo took the wheel down to the shop, Darran, Jeerve and myself carried on doing the route.  Robbo and Nic would bypass the Haworth loop and catch up with us in Hebden Bridge.

I think the Haworth section is the hardest bit of the whole UK stages.  The little hill up to Haworth, then the cobbles THEN, a silly little hill that takes you over the reservoir then down into Oxenhope.  It was at the start of this hill when I had a slight worry that my legs might be gone.  But we got over and it made the climb over Cockhill Moors into Hebden Bridge seem a piece of cake.  I have to say the conditions at this stage were the best I have experienced over that hill.  It is normally very windy.

We stopped in Hebden for a coke and waited for Robbo and Nic, they were only ten minutes behind.  We set off up the Cragg, again perfect conditions, it was calm, there might of even been a steady tail breeze.  It felt good to get to the top and the ride down in to Ripponden was a treat.  The next bit of the ride was not going to cause any issues.  It was simply a case of up Ripponden Bank, up past Blackley Cricket Club then down into Huddersfield.  From here we cruised to Holmfirth and after a bit we stated to see the beacon of Holme Moss.  At this stage I was not too bothered, people give hills these names and reputations and I was thinking we have done a lot of them now and you just get your head down and the next thing you know you have done it, so that is what we were going to have to do.

There is a little steep bit at the start and then that leads to some hairpins, very reminiscent of Alp d’ Huez.  Just a lot less of them.  When on the hairpins it is quite an easy uphill and I started to think if it is like this all the way to the top it was going to be real easy.  It looks like the hairpins do take you to the top as well.  They have put markers on the road to tell you how far you are from the top but these seem to go down very slow when you start to tire.  When I got to the top of the hairpins I saw what was in store.  The road straightens up and this was the hardest part of the ride, you are just short of a mile from the top at this point, but the tarmac starts to feel very sticky.  Out of the saddle and just try and take the burn is all you can do.

There was not much time between us all.  Darran was at the top first, then me, Jeerve, Robbo and Nic.  We were all within a couple of minutes of each other so it was not a problem at the top.  A few pictures then the realisation that we have done that big hill after 90 miles and we still have 30 to go. Because of Nic’s tyre problems we had lost a bit of time and we were started to fear it could get dark before we made Sheffield so we needed to crack on.  You have a beaut decent the other side of Holme Moss, then it is up again to near enough the same elevation you have just come down from.  At this part of the ride it was just head down and lets get to Sheffield.  We saw a sign that said 16 miles to Sheffield so we blasted on.  Then after a time when we were expecting another sign to say 6 miles at the most it said 24.  How can this be.  Confusion set in, but Garmin got us on track and the actual milage from Sheffield was 11.  So crack on we did and we made Sheffield just as it was starting to get dark.

After we checked into our Travelodge and took our bikes to our rooms, it was a quick shower and change to meet John and Stuart.  They took us to a lovely real ale bar for a drink.  It was late at this point so we knew our only food option might be a curry.  We got directions to a decent one and jumped in a taxi, it was closed.  We needed food so it was going to have to be a takeaway.  Kebab it would have to be.  I went in and ordered a King Kebab, expecting it to be a very large kebab, in fact it turned out to be a very large kebab, chips and salad pizza.  I was not worrying about the calories after a ride like that so I ate as much as I could.  In the morning we set off to Cambridge for the final UK stage that runs from Cambridge to London.
Day 4
Stage 3
82 miles
3000 ft accent
Up early paid for breakfast then straight to the van hire place.  Bikes in and set off down to Cambridge.  We had our non-refundable train journey back at 2030.  We did not arrive in Cambridge and get sorted till about lunch time so it was started to be another realisation that we need to get a move on to meet our train or this is going to be an expensive journey home.

It was a lovely day and the route takes you though some really nice villages.  Thaxted would of been a nice place to stop for lunch but we just did not have the time, so it was a quick pasty stop and crack on.

We got to London and the Garmin helped us navigate the city without too many issues and we made King Cross station with about an hour to spare.  Nic sorted the collection of the pre-paid tickets and we had a nice pint in the station pub.  Made the trains and home we headed.
So to conclude.  Why do we do it?  At times you do regret being put under the time pressure, but it is exciting and it is a laugh.  The first stage would of been truly spectacular if we would of had the weather of Stage 2 and Stage 3, but it was still an enjoyable day out.  You are in some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. so the wind and the rain can try there best, but it is still a pleasure to be there.  The roads on Stage 2 were busy but it does feel good when you can say you did all those hills and miles in one day.  Then there are the people.  I really enjoy our tours.  They are jokes to be had and it is a real bonding experience.  So thank you for your company Jeerve, Darran, Robbo, Nic and lets get planning NHGS Annual Cycle Tour 2015 to be something special. 

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