Frodsham to Prestatyn and back including Hillside, 90 miles and 5000ft
The town of Frodsham is situated in quite a hilly area, in fact it isn’t possible to leave the town without climbing one hill or another. That’s why the Frodsham Wheelers fancy ourselves as a decent bunch of climbers and we even have a few club members we consider ‘mountain goats’ who come into their own once the road heads upwards.
But even experienced climbers have a mountain pass they fear, a ‘nemesis‘ if you like. For some it will be the mighty Hard Knott Pass in Cumbria, for others Winnetts Pass or Mam Tor in Derbyshire, but for some strange reason there is a hillside just behind the town of Prestatyn in North Wales which strikes fear into club members. The hillside has no name……it’s called erm….. Hillside.
The Grand Départ
10 Wheelers departed Twelve50 Bikes at an ‘Early Doors‘ 8.30am and as a result fingers and toes tingled on the ride out through the lanes from Frodsham, through Mickle Trafford and as Pete Prince peeled of for his brew at the Eureka Café the rest of the group headed upwards to Hawarden before heading North under the A55 towards Northop Hall. Sadly at this point Gaz ‘Smasher‘ Hartley was the victim of a broken spoke and an absurdly buckled wheel, so he reluctantly returned to base.
The remaining 8 descended into Flint for before heading inland and upwards through narrow country lanes before again crossing the A55 and up towards Halkyn Mountain. At this point the group stretched out and climbing the damp, narrow lanes there were a few wheel spins and for the first time we began to warm up.
A few miles further on and after a further climb we found ourselves bathed in sunshine, cresting the ridge with wonderful views over the Dee Estuary, Wirral Peninsular and home. Now, the bunch got back into formation and ticked off the miles rapidly through wonderful Welsh villages: Whitford, Llanasa, each with a winding descent, pub, church, picturesque village centre before winding back up into the lanes. Eventually after about 45 miles we rode into Prestatyn for a well earned brew and sustenance for the ride home.
The Café Stop
Talk in the café was all about what lay ahead in the next 2 miles, as ‘Hillside‘ looms directly over the back end of Prestatyn and soon questions were being asked….
Is 2 poached eggs and beans on toast too much?
Hillside… sounds lovely doesn’t it
The first thing you notice about Hillside as you approach is that it appears like a wall and it is difficult to see just where a road would go up this monstrosity!
The Climb Begins
Most of the bunch found ourselves in the granny ring and at the top of the cassette even before the left turn up this unfeasibly steep road. From that point on silence descends on the group and the sound of heavy breathing filled the air. The bottom half of the climb is a series of hairpins, some of which are 33% and my immediate thought is fear, fear of stepping off.
If you put a foot down on Hillside, that’s it… a long steep slippery walk!
I struggle to regulate my breathing, and find the road too steep to sit down so find myself out of the saddle immediately and trying to find a rhythm. After halfway the road turns left and it’s a straight vertical straight of 25% up to the summit. I manage to hold my rhythm and focus on keeping going, one pedal stroke at a time.
I’m overheating but manage to cross the summit before returning to the summit car park to witness the suffering of my clubmates led by David ‘Arundalator‘ Arundale who arrive one by one with a mixture of elation and excruciating pain.
Five minutes later and all are reunited at the summit including new member Jim Truscott… easy… some cycling pedigree there I think! Chris Fowler and Deano ‘El Capitan‘ Smith bring up the rear as Dean’s chain had snapped at the foot of the hill… Too much power!!… but he fixed the link and rode up strong…. Chapeau sir!! A couple of the lads put a foot down and paid the price but I’m not naming names and guarantee they’ll be back in the summer for revenge!
The 10-15 miles following Hillside are probably the toughest of the ride, undulating to say the least and with legs weakened by the punishment of Hillside. Alan ‘Ormenator‘ Orme punctured and then followed the amusing attempts by Al, Jim and Chris to inflate using a Co2 canister….”what’s wrong with a pump?????” Then followed a long section on badly broken roads as we approached Babell and the roller coaster ride down roads surrounded by quarries on the return to Pentre Halkyn.
The group were starting to struggle but we regrouped and descended back to the A55 led by Club President, Danny Emmett. At this point we realised we were a tad late and an executive decision was taken to avoid the planned climb to Rhosemor and to take ‘The Escape Route’: A mega fast descent down to the coast at Bagillt before smashing it back to England over the Flintshire Bridge.
At this point the average speed crept up perceptibly thanks to massive efforts on the front by Club Founder Dean Smith, Al Orme and Ciaran Pickering, whilst others (myself included!) enjoyed sitting in the slipstream and twiddling home to England at 20+mph. After passing Eureka the pace remained high and as we passed through Mickle Trafford there was an almost audible ‘pop’ as a few of the lads took the knock at the back of the bunch.
One measure of the severity of a ride is the feed strategy of the riders. When a ride ends in Frodsham and the last feed stop is a 10 minute stop at the petrol station in Helsby you know you’ve been on a tough one.
OK, it’s not an Epic, but I think it’s a ‘Classic‘ and you can guarantee it will be pencilled in again when the sun is shining. But I wish someone would give ‘Hillside‘ a proper name, one worthy of the suffering it is able to deliver!
The Riders: Danny Emmett, Dean Smith, Mark Stevens, Alan Orme, Ciaran Pickering, David Arundale, Jim Truscott, Chris Fowler, Gary Hartley.
Words by Mark Stevens, Pics courtesy of Mark Stevens and David Arundale.