The 10th October 2017. Not a significant date in anyone’s cycling calendar but a date that I remember well as it was date that I was ‘convinced’ to do the Yorkshire Beast sportive with a fellow member from the same club on Zw$%^. Just a little 200 miles and 15,000ft of climbing taking in both the North Yorkshire Moors and Dales with timed cut offs at each feed station and the threat of a broom wagon (with Beast markings) sweeping you up. Date of ride 27th May 2018 a good six (plus) months of training would do me right – I mean it’s less than Dawn ’til Dusk distance which I’ve done twice but just a bit more climbing – should be ok shouldn’t it?.
Training went well over the winter and spring culminating in the final warm up ride of 143 miles with circa 8000ft of climbing to Llyn Brenig with club mates Matthew Burke, Danny Emmett, James Male and Ed Cox three weeks before the event. It was on the way back from this that I ‘convinced’ myself that the Beast was beyond me so I got in touch with my virtual mate and said that I was pulling out. Suffice to say a great big dose of #Rule5 abuse came my way and I swiftly reversed my withdrawal and decided to stop my wibbling and up and embrace the inevitable suffering.
If the distance and elevation wasn’t enough to put me off, two other ‘things’ were conspiring against me. 1) Camping before and after the ride-seriously! and 2) Liverpool had defeated all odds and made it through to the Champions League final on the night before the ride and there was a party in Liverpool I would have to forego. Undeterred and after e-mailing the campsite/ride organisers to ensure the Liverpool game was on, off I set to the Camphill site in Bedale, Yorkshire. Forecast had been promising sunshine and 24 degrees all week and when I rocked up at the campsite the sun was shining.
I pitched my tent and soon realised that I was a proper novice at this. As I looked around I got proper tent envy. Here’s me in my 1 person tent whilst there were tents with east and west wings on them!
Part of the entrance fee entitled you to attend a pasta party the night before. After a double portion of sustenance and a double portion of dodgy goalkeeping I headed for my luxurious tent. I opted for the north wing and got my head down. Surprisingly sleep came easily with the alarm set for 4 a.m.
At 3:30 the birds were doing their best to get the riders awake early enough to get some food in them for the 5a.m. start. Breakfast consumed off the nine of us went – towards the moors was our first destination. Temperature was a bit cool so I donned my rain jacket until it warmed up. Some of the riders I was with are real monsters (Triple iron men type – etc) so I’d already discussed strategy with them. If (no actually when I get dropped on the hills) then don’t wait and we’ll catch up at the feed stations. My strategy had been to keep at an easy pace for the first 15 miles. That went pop after about 60 seconds of riding as the monsters were tapping out at over 20mph. Jacket was off within 10mins and regretting the double dose of pasta the night before and also realising there was a long old day ahead of me as soon as we hit the 1st of the 8 stated climbs at 15 miles, Boltby Bank (#54 in the top 100), I let the elastic go.
After the descent of Boltby, the roads to the fist feed station (FS) (38 miles) were ‘undulating’. I grabbed a small energy bar and filled my two bottles and set off again with the next ‘stated climb’ due at 53 miles. The temperature had surpassed the forecasted 21 degrees by 7 a.m. I bumped into 6 of the others at the feed who had pleasingly only been there 2 minutes before me. 2 other had long gone. No sooner had I left the FS way ahead of the cut off then I hit a climb akin to Ashurst Beacon which was determined so insignificant that it had registered as a climb.
A stunning descent was had from this though and I had to stop and take a picture but mindful of the ‘Beast’ catching up on me.
So the next climb at 53 miles was Caper Hill (#149), nothing to say but brutal narrow farm track and it was at this point I realised how hot it was as there was essentially a tap on my forehead and it was streaming. I looked at the temp on the Garmin and it was 27 degrees and we were still a few hours ahead of the afternoon! On the descent of Caper I stated talking to a fellow Beaster who said that the suffering will be worthwhile ahead of the next stated climb Rosedale Chimney (#55). He said he touched 60mph once.
We hit the ‘Chim’ at 59miles. As I looked up to the oncoming 33% hairpin I veered right and into the grass verge and had a little off. I don’t know who was more surprised me or the sheep that jumped when I did it. Laughing at myself (as were many others) that had congregated there to offer some encouragement, I dusted myself off and got back on. The fellow Beaster was not wrong. It is a great descent – straight and smooth and feeling ok I tapped on.
So the moors were done. What lay ahead was circa 45 miles of flat with FS2 at 82 miles with ‘proper’ food promised. So the next 10 miles saw a little peloton form with me performing domestique duties. Unfortunately as I hit around 70 my rear tyre went a tad soft and I pulled up alongside one of the support motorcycles. I decided it wasn’t a puncture, just a dodgy valve, and just pumped it up again. At this point 3 of my virtual mates came past so the 4 of us tapped out a nice pace to the feed stop. Arriving at the feed stop we were nearly 2hours ahead of the Beast. We took our time, ate the sandwiches, re-watered (another 2 bottles filled and drinks consumed) and Mike changed his rear tyre which had shredded when he braked too hard. We set off all feeling ok well ahead of the Beast (minus some baselayers) with over half the climbing done (apparently) ready to take on the Dales. However about another 10 miles in my tyre went again so I had to change the tube. The others went on given the next climb wasn’t until 129 miles.
FS3 was at 116 miles and it was here after I’d filled up another two bottles I really needed a fizzy drink. I set off ahead of the others in search of a shop/garage. 15miles later…and just before Greenhow Hill (#52)…I happened upon a shop. When other Beasters saw me coming out with drinks there was a mass stop and I think the shop keep double her takings for that day! At this point I started talking to another rider who said he had been talking to the organiser and that they had changed the route two weeks ago to make it more difficult and who said that he only expected only 50 of the 500 starters to finish. I don’t know whether this was mind games but it felt like a body blow at this point. He turned out to be right about changing the route as the Garmin went off course.
I passed one of our group on Greenhow who said he was empty. Looking at the Garmin it was 30 degrees so it was understandable. We were later to find out that he was withdrawn by the medics with heatstroke at 143 miles.
As I came into Hebden I saw another of our group (our organiser) who was on his own. He said he was suffering and he need a coke. He also had a buckled rear wheel but was determined to carry on. At this point I remembered where we were following the Wheelers training weekend the year previous. It was where Rob Cowell had a mechanical and we promptly found a shop. Fizzy water, coke, mars bars and ice cream consumed we set off and decided to skip FS4 at 142 miles. Fortuitously 4 of our group came together through different events and we decided to stick together until the end.
What lay ahead were 3 climbs. Park Rash @146 (#45) Witton Steeps @ 157 and Long Bland @168. To sum these up – they are brutal – absolutely brutal especially with that mileage in your legs. How Long Bland isn’t in the Top100 I have no idea. We reached the height of our ride at 1800ft on that and it never ends but it has a great descent. Spurred on by this descent – we were heading for the final feed at 177 miles. Nobody had overtaken us for miles and certainly not the number of riders that were in FS4 as we sped past. As we approached FS5 we were greeted with cries of ‘hurry up’ ‘come on’ etc. We wondered what the fuss was until we saw the Beast clock and we’d arrived at the FS5 2 seconds ahead of cut off. There would be no Beast broom sweeping us now! But it was soberijg how much time we had lost. There were a fair few riders who bailed at this point. More water, gels and crisps were consumed. With already more climbing than advertised, I asked one of the marshals if there was a flatter way back home. He looked at me and said ‘if you can’t ride 23 miles with one hill then you shouldn’t be on a bike’. I was too tired for any retort and mounted the steed ready for the last 23 miles. Grintor Moor is the name of the last hill. 2 miles at an average of 7%. After what we’d experienced before this – this was flat and it turned out to be a nice hill. After reaching the top at circa 180 – we were the last 20 miles were downhill. And so they were to an extent – if anything can be flat in North Yorkshire. All went ok apart from my left thigh muscle deciding to have a little party and dance all alone unaided.
So 13hrs and 43mins, 201 miles, 16,500ft of climbing later the 4 of us rolled across the line to receive our medals.
We promptly got in the queue for fish, chips, curry, coke and a pint. Forced them down ourselves discussing merit of the ride. There wasn’t much communication going on. We got showered and headed back to our tents just as the bar was closing. As I crawled into my tent both legs cramped in every conceivable place. I screamed like a wuss, waited for the pain to subside rolled over fully clothed and coated and fell asleep. Looking forward to a long restful sleep, the 3:30 bird alarm rang loudly and the nightmare was over.
So would I do it again? – categorically no. Not because the scenery wasn’t beautiful, nor the fact that it wasn’t a great group I was with nor the fact that organisation wasn’t good. Simply it was just brutal and lived up to its billing. I’d downed over 10 litres of fluids but still lost nearly 3kg’s in weight during the ride. It was, and is, a true Yorkshire Beast.