In the interest of appealing to our many female followers and users we thought we would hand over the reigns to Liz Annetts, a very good friend of North Yorkshire Cycling for this one…………
Whilst I’d heard of the Colomba Chemo Classic sportive I’d only heard some of the guys at our club talking about it so despite not really knowing too much I’d already come to the conclusion it must be a pretty hard ride to tackle at the end of the season. So when the Ladies first mentioned the idea of riding it I looked on the website and whilst I knew the distance wouldn’t worry me too much, the amount of climbing would be beyond my capability. However after much persuasion I finally let myself be talked into registering and my motto for the day became “It’s better to finish last, than never to have the courage to start”.
So with that in mind I got up at ridiculous o’clock on the 9th November and travelled up to Richmond with one of my friends. Full of excitement and nerves we met the other two ladies who would make up our own mini peloton up there and agreed we would just take our time and enjoy the day….famous last words!
Despite the forecast showing a cloudy day we set off in light rain, however considering this was November in The Dales we weren’t too surprised or put off. However just 3 miles in and we were stopped by our first mechanical of the day and whilst we weren’t entirely sure of the problem, it didn’t seem serious so a few tweeks and off we went.
A few more miles and a quick saddle adjustment it was time to start the constant fuelling I’d been told to keep up with. Being relatively new to longer distance riding I’d been warned about the cost of under fuelling on tough rides so had come prepared with bananas, gels and a variety of snacks to keep me going.
By now the rain had become decidedly heavier so out came the rain jackets – so much for the ‘cloudy’ day we’d been promised.
We continued on through various villages each with their own Dales charm (even in the rain) heading through Middleham and on to The Forbidden Corner. The going was good but it still felt like an absolute eternity to get anywhere. This part of the UK is tough enough to ride in during the summer in let alone in terrible conditions however as we started to rise further up in to The Dales the scenery was breathtaking and even on a miserable day like today I still found that I was surprisingly enjoying myself.
However all that changed when we dropped down a steep sharp hill before we started the Coverdale climb. Now I’m not good with hills…it’s safe to say a hate them with a passion, but the first part of the hill climb I was alongside my friend and neither one of us stopping because we knew if one of us did the other one would too. Making it to the top without getting off gave me a feeling of elation. My legs were heavy, dead, wet and cold and these really steep Dales climbs are usually beyond me so to make it up was a battle won. However we continued on slowly climbing until out of nowhere came another much steeper and much longer hill – I knew then my celebration had been a bit premature.
I attacked the first part as hard as I could but in the end it was just too much. I was exhausted, wet and as I looked up I saw one of my friends already off her bike which was the final straw. Only one of our foursome carried on and made it to the top – like a woman on a mission. Our senses of humour never failed us as we tried to imagine what the view would look like if only we could see further than a few feet in front of us. We managed to get back on our bikes near to the summit by which time it was snowing sideways, and we began to realise how bleak the dales could be. God only knows how some others who’d driven a long way to get here felt.
One plus side of the encompassing bleak weather that the roaming Highland Cattle couldn’t see us. Apparently they had ran some of the men off the road some time earlier so we counted our blessings that we’d reached them under cover. Riding in these parts offers a rewarding experience with open country roads and stunning views but this brings with it the possibility of encountering roaming cattle so in these conditions it pays to be careful.
Incident free we got back on our bikes only for the saddle and rear wheel mechanicals to rear their ugly heads again and It was at this point that one of the ladies started to show signs of hypothermia so we knew we needed to get down off the hill quickly. The temperature had now dropped to below zero and whilst our bodies didn’t feel too cold, our feet and fingers were frozen and numb.
As we started to descend the fearsome Park Rash the problematic rear wheel suddenly had shards of metal flying off it yet every time we stopped there didn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong with it so there was no option than to loosen it off and continue. Even taking it very gingerly, it’s no fun going down a 22% gradient when you can’t feel your fingers to brake. The rushing water and tight hairpin bend didn’t help either but finally we all made it down safely. A scary experience which I’m told is no better when it’s dry.
Our mission was to then get to Kettlewell where we had decided we would end our journey. We ended up in Zarina’s Cafe where we warmed up and planned how to get back to Richmond to collect the cars. The cafe was like a cyclists refuge, a lovely log burning fire with people warming around it and an extremely welcoming owner who looked after us very well. Fortunately for us we bumped into a friend who had driven up to repatriate her husband so our two car drivers got a lift back with them whilst my friend and I sat drinking coffee for the rest of the afternoon!
The management of the ride was brilliant with the organisers repatriating those who had abandoned back to Richmond and ensuring that each and every participant was checked back in. We weren’t alone in our abandonment and it was nice to see the organisers had put a plan in place for this.
Now whilst it may sound like this was a truly miserable day, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My cycling companions were fantastic, the weather did not dampen our sense of humour and the cafe stop was the icing on the cake (literally). I’d certainly have no hesitation in attempting this ride again….although hopefully in better conditions next time.