There’s a lot of sportives in North Yorkshire this year. A really, really lot of them. And that’s good for the local economy and good for cycling. And there’s a lot of opportunity to relive the highlights of Stage 1 of the Grand Depart and hit the great climbs of Buttertubs et al and their equally awesome neighbours. But if you want the connoisseur’s choice then head East and hit the lesser-ridden gems of the Yorkshire Wolds.
The chalk hills of the Wolds serve up a relatively gentle and undulating landscape of hidden valleys with often deserted single track roads that, whilst heading towards the flat lands of the East, are still often challenging. Short, steep climbs and swirling winds hit at speed can present as much of a challenge as a rider is ready to accept. The topography makes for a fascinating, inverted farming system, with sheep and cows grazing in the valleys and crops growing on the hills. It makes for a terrific day on the bike.
With myself and Adam out of action, we sent our mate Byron out to get his first taste of the Wolds with the Wolds 123 organised by Rich of Baldwin Titanium.
“The Wolds 123 is a complete change from any other sportive I’ve ever ridden. Launching in groups of 10, within five minutes of rolling out you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and indeed stay there until the ride pops out past Castle Howard en route to the end. It is, in many ways, one of the best rides I’ve ever done. The starting point (at the KP Club just outside Pocklington) is really chilled out – on arrival I was pointed towards a room where I could help myself to coffee, take a look at the wares of local cycle businesses and take it easy before setting out in the first bunch.
It was more akin to a club-organised event, albeit with a highly professional team. It was also a ride for everybody. Although billed as 123km, there were get-out points that could knock ten or twenty miles off the route for those whose legs weren’t feeling it. That said, although the rolling Wolds were a revelation to me, the hlls were generally not too testing and the surfaces as good as you’re going to get anywhere in Britain.
As well as the stunning terrain, the ride also provided the best extras I’ve ever had on a ride. The café van at station one provided a great variety of coffee and snacks whilst station two provided just the right variety of basics to get me to the end. Then there was the finishing bag – a recovery bar, bottle of water, chain lube and a bottle of beer, not to mention a warm meal (which I’m afraid I didn’t stick around for). It was a lesson that the mega events of the Dales need to learn from. Finally, the icing on the cake for me – a free fifteen minute sports massage (which, since I arrived back rather early strung out to thirty) and access to the spa facilities with a jacuzzi, sauna and pool. It was in every sense a fantastic day out.”
There are a lot of sportives around North and West Yorkshire run by large events management companies offering less and less value to their participants. If you’re starting to tire of the finishing time competition, diminished value for money and “not Buttertubs again” event culture that’s evolved of late we’d suggest you seek out the the Wolds 123 and its ilk. Less money spent on chip timing and more on having a grand day out – if you really care about the competition we’re sure someone else will have it on Strava.