A chance meeting with an old footballing mate in the pub only ten days earlier meant I was in the car park of Halford’s in Beverley at 6am on the morning of Saturday 13th September 2014. Josh (the old mate) said that he was raising funds for Hull Ionians rugby club by taking on the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route 146 mile challenge in a day. He said that he was looking for riders to join them along the way and give them a morale boost for a few miles. I offered instead to do the full ride with them!
Once everybody arrived and stored bags in the support van we pedalled to Beverley Market Place for the official Grand Depart. A passing early morning pedestrian kindly volunteered to take a group photo. There were five riders (with one taking turns to drive the van).
It’s a shame that on a 146 mile road cycling route that there are two miles of off road section. Previous riders of the route had said that it was ‘passable’ if dry but still a real puncture hazard. It had been decided to ‘bomb’ it down the A1079 from Walkington and miss this section out. The early start meant there wasn’t a lot of traffic and the few cars on the road were difficult to see because of the fog!
A sharp right (missing sign) took us onto our first of many lanes that were perfect for cycling, virtually traffic free and a real ‘rustic’ feel.
Simon (the ride organizer) had arranged a number of stopping points to access food supplies and to swap over van drivers. The first of these was Pocklington RUFC. We arrived on schedule but there was no van. Tony Boynton (ex-racing cyclist with an impressive palmares) had positioned himself en route to take photos. Unfortunately he had chosen a spot that was missed out to avoid the off road section. Mobile phones now mean situations like this can be rescued (how did we manage without them?). When Tony arrived I had my first – but by no means the last – of Simon’s most excellent homemade banana loaf. Tony swapped his trainers for cycling shoes and Simon jumped into the driver’s seat. With no sign of the sun making an appearance I opted to keep my early morning leg warmers and neck buff on.
The next section was where the hills came into play. Whilst not mountain TdF stages it was a chance to warm up a little as the sun was still not coming out to play. Josh is a fit mid-forties rugby player but whilst he can belt it out on the flat his conversation becomes limited when the road begins to incline. Tony showed his race class and was soon on the front tapping out a good average both on the flat and climbing.
We met up with the van in Westow. I’m not one for remembering places that I pass through but this village is absolutely stunning. Virtually every house would not look out of place on the cover of a property magazine. I commented that I would love to live there if only there was pub – then I saw the pub (I’m off). Bizarrely the only shop appeared to be a bespoke tailors. The owner was just opening. None of us felt the need for a new suit (despite an impressive number of cloth rolls) so we set off once more.
Our next scheduled stop was at Sledmere House where I was looking forward to eating something that was not from a plastic wrapper (banana loaf aside). Horror of horrors – café closed! I did consider marching up to Lord Sledmere’s front door and demanding Beans on Toast but calmed down as nobody else seemed too bothered. In fairness their food supplies were a lot better than mine. I looked longingly at Tony Waudby’s (Tony II) chicken and beetroot sandwich but his fingers were clamped tightly round it. He was kind enough to donate his van for the day but he had eyes that suggested ‘try it’ as regards the sandwich. I sent an update text to Chris he replied with a couple of café options a bit further down the road. Josh took the option to do the next stint of van driving and Simon gladly cleated up.
The café option we decided on was The Yorkshire Wolds Gallery near Staxton (80 miles in). A lovely barn type building housing the gallery and café. On a warmer day we might have sat outside but still no sun meant we piled inside. A limited menu is the kindest thing to say. Cream scones and flapjacks in a large display case were supplemented by a snooker table sized blackboard that boasted the choice of soup or a ham, cheese & pickle panini. There was no way I was going any further without a coffee so I opted for the panini. It was, I have to say, excellent supplemented by a huge amount of coleslaw and a few crisps. The food and the coffee brought me round from my ‘mini mood’. I also fancied a hit of sugar and was pleased that the waitress picked out a can of Coke emblazoned with ‘love’ – I think she was torn with that or the one that said ‘gorgeous’.
The caffeine really worked and as we set off again – all aches, pains and niggles hid themselves well. We were now heading towards the coast and the sun finally came out to play. There are a couple of ‘in and parts’ to the route which we had planned not to do – but by just following the signs we did end up at Humamby Gap car park. Still it was only a mile back to the main road.
At Bempton we met up with the van in the car park of the brand new village hall. I did think the locals had arranged a welcome party but it was just two dozen balloons that had escaped from a recently finished kids’ party. I was still quite full after my panini but did manage another piece of banana loaf. Josh relinquished the driving duties but spent 10 minutes deciding on shorts or leggings. During the week I had ‘tweaked’ my knee whilst on a ride. I had largely ignored the little niggles that had been happening, but was worried as we had now done 100 miles it might get worse as my pedalling style might not be so fluid. So I treated myself to the Tramadol pill I had pinched from my wife’s medicine box. If they were good enough for Team Sky then they’re good enough for 50% of South Cave Road Club.
After getting through Bridlington it was onto roads I was bit more familiar with (especially as I had been camping at Rudston only a few weeks previously). It’s hard to describe but I felt a little bit disappointed to be on familiar tracks – a kind of ‘it’ll soon be over’ feeling. After a mad scramble over A614 in Burton Agnes, Simon discovered he had a puncture. Not really worth noting apart from the fact whilst changing the tyre he fell into a hedge of ‘sticky balls’ and came out looking like he had been machine gunned with them. As he was about to start the long arduous task of trying to reach 100psi with a mini pump I produced my CO2 trigger and did the job in two seconds. None of the other three had seen one before and if I had said it was solar powered they would have believed me.
Between Nafferton & Driffeld we rode as a quintet as Tony had parked the van up at Bell Mills and rode to meet us. When we arrived at Bell Mills it was déjà vu as the café was closed. The workers were trying to get the gate closed and go home. We were supposed to meet some other cyclists to accompany us on the final leg but they had gone and left word that there were now at the Blue Bell pub. Simon shot off in the van to collect them but returned empty handed (but I’m sure I smelt beer on his breath) as they had already gone. Simon caught up with them at Hutton Cranswick and we cycled the final leg eight strong. Any thought of coasting the final 20 miles quickly disappeared as they rode at a quicker pace. Whilst coming down Bracken, Josh said he was finding it tough going but didn’t want to be the one to ask for a slowing down, so by stealth I found my way to the front and then lowered the pace a little without anybody realising (I think I got away with it).
Only a couple of miles outside of Beverely we saw Simon at the side of the road. He had parked the van up and rode out to meet us so we could cycle in at full compliment. Despite a plea from somebody to ‘take the f***ing pavement’ we rode round Beverley’s one way system to arrive in the market place. Simon’s wife and children were there with a homemade flag (the banana loaf was better) and a shop bought bottle of Sherry. I think the concept of sherry drinking came from one of their previous rugby/cycling adventures. Mrs Simon did complain that she was told we would finish at 6pm and it was now 6.13. She was joking (I assume)! High on Croft Original/Tramadol and the joy of completing my longest day ever in the saddle I ‘ran’ to a nearby shop and bought a packet of Marlboro Lights to celebrate.
I had given little thought to getting home other than I might cadge a lift off somebody (one of the hardships of my current financial plight is having to sell my car and Mrs B had kids to ferry around to parties). ‘Luckily’ one of our last leg cyclists lived in South Cave and was riding home. In a perverse way I was glad to be doing a few extra miles. We didn’t leave straight away as everybody decided it would be rude not to have a pint to celebrate so we decamped to the Standard pub. The joyous feeling was heightened by seeing the end of Liverpool losing to Aston Villa.
I did have lights on my bike but only ‘be seen’ not ‘to see’ ones. The descent down Beverley Road into South Cave was interesting. The only time we could see the road was when cars came past – so it was a slower than normal descent. Arrived home at 8pm, fourteen and a half hours after leaving it.
Overall the day was superb. 149.7 miles cycled at an average pace of 15.0 mph – that in itself was enough to be happy with. The route was very well signposted with only a couple missing (I would advise to have a hard copy of the map with you). My only niggle is the pointless off road section. It was a change to ride with different people and not have the normal Wiggle vs LBS conversations. I understand that they raised around £3000 for the rugby club and I’m glad to have helped in my small way.
I spent most of the next day trying to find recipes for banana loaf.
All images courtesy of Simon Cowling.