What’s the best moment so far from all the TV coverage of the Tour de Yorkshire? Thomas Voeckler gurning his way to victory along the Scarborough sea front? The cheering crowds on Sutton Bank as the riders winched their way up to the stunning edge-of-the-Moors viewpoint? Jadan-Weldtite/Vive le Velo-sponsored 17-year-old Georgi Pfeiffer claiming the queen of the mountains on the Côte de Baggaby Hill between Warter and Pocklington? Admittedly these are all excellent moments, but the answer, of course, is Brian Mussen cycling around Thixendale and Millington, and having a nice cuppa outside the Ramblers’ Rest in the Yorkshire Wolds. (I’m going all misty-eyed thinking about that video again.) Brian is the secretary of Scarborough Paragon Cycling Club, based in the seaside resort that borders on to the North York Moors. But when location shooting took place to promote the 2017 edition of the Tour de Yorkshire it was to the empty lanes and quietly testing climbs of the Yorkshire Wolds that Brian and the camera crew headed.
Cottingham in East Yorkshire is the meeting point for a number of road cycling groups. My former club meets in the bus shelter on the ‘green’, but further along the road a more sports-orientated group has its start point. One Sunday morning three riders turned up on lightweight road bikes and came over to the shelter. My old ride buddy, Jeffery, tried to shoo them away in the direction of the racier set. No, they definitely were there to come out with us. Still unconvinced, Jeffery set of with the trio for a jaunt around the southern Yorkshire Wolds.
I wasn’t there later on, but towards the end of the ride – along the twisting, tree-lined ascent of Brantingham Dale – it turned out no-one was responding to Jeffery’s chit-chat as he tapped away along Dale Road. He looked around. Jeffery was genuinely surprised that his new-found companions were nowhere to be seen. I do hope those cyclists weren’t disheartened, but Jeffery had overlooked just how fit the grizzled cycle tourist can be compared to the beginner cyclist. Although it is no alpine climb Brantingham Dale can be a bit of a shock for the unprepared cyclist.
I’ve never been one for racing, although in a funny sort of way I seem to be living my cycling life in reverse. I started off pottering about the Yorkshire Wolds with the Cyclists’ Touring Club at the age of twelve but now – four decades older, and perhaps as many stones heavier – find myself riding my carbon road bike on a wheelset with precisely half the spoke count of my touring bike from the 1980s.
Thankfully, my road bike has a relatively forgiving 30T largest sprocket on the cassette. In the 80s, however, I spent the not inconsiderable sum of £375 on a Raleigh Road Ace from Cliff Pratt’s in Hull. What was I thinking? The bike came with the then standard 52/42 chainset and at the back was a six-speed 13 to 21 cassette. It was a blip, perhaps even an expensive fad; the 52 chainring is still in virtually pristine condition. I bring up all of this cycling nostalgia as the no-compromise gearing and de rigueur stainless steel toe clips and tightly fastened Sturmey Archer toe straps combined to bring about my only defeat so far on a Yorkshire Wolds hill climb: Trundlegate.
My first recollection of this beautiful climb was on a ride to Whitby. After a gap of two decades I had sought out the local Cyclists’ Touring Club group whose route that day coincided with my own towards Malton, or thereabouts. After refreshments in Bell Mills outside Driffield I continued to keep up with the group despite having two full panniers of gear for a four-day mini-tour. I chatted away about how the oval chainrings of my Biopace chainset on my tourer definitely helped with low-gear efforts. Then it all started to go wrong. I think I may even have jumped off the front on the earlier, gentle slopes. Everyone went past me as I grunted up the deceptively strength-sapping climb. It just seemed to go on and on…
A man of my advancing years really should know better than to even think about checking out his place on the Strava leaderboard for cycling climbs on the Yorkshire Wolds. And yet here I am with the first in a series of posts about these occasionally testing – but always scenic – ascents that start in the southern slopes of the Wolds with Brantingham Dale and extend to the climbs out of Filey on the North Sea coast.