Tour of Yorkshire Day 1
The NSPCC Tour of Yorkshire is based at York Sport Village, a new multi-sport complex next to the Heslington East campus of the University of York. Building upon the growth in interest in cycling it has a 1km cycle circuit and an outdoor velodrome. I must admit, though, the indoor pool looked particularly tempting given the weather forecast for today…
The Tour started with a ceremonial lap of the circuit before heading out onto the roads. There were no Red Arrows or royalty cutting ribbons (thank goodness), only a camera drone filming us. But this Tour did provide a taste of professional cycling for amateurs. We had motorcycle outriders, cameramen, domestiques, a soigneur and mechanic in a following car, and an ambulance. All eventualities were catered for. Except for the weather.
As our group set off at 8.30am a few spots of rain started to fall. For the first couple of hours it was just a few drops of humidity too heavy to stay up in the air. But then the heavens opened and thundery rain set in for the rest of the day. Cycling in the rain is not my idea of fun. Not only do you get the torrent from above you get the dirty spray from the bike in front of you in your face. Fortunately it was not cold, though a chill set in as soon as we stopped.
Putting the weather aside, it was a good day’s ride. The Tour is very well organised and the seeding appeared to work well. We had to submit times of previous rides when we entered for the organisers to put us in matched ability groups. I was in group 3 of 4, which planned to maintain a pace of 16-17 mph. And it did – our overall speed was just over 16 mph.
The group leader did an excellent job at keeping the pace steady and the peloton of about 30 of us riding together as a group. We waited and re-grouped at the top of climbs so no-one was left behind. The group riding was also of a high quality, with no-one making any sudden movements and everyone calling out obstacles and potholes in the road. Most were experienced club riders and knew how to behave in a peloton. Even the shaven legged race-ready crew behaved and didn’t jump off the front of the group (too much!).
The Tour experience of riding in a small peloton was just great. When rolling along at over 20 mph on the flat you get carried along by the riders in front and around you. As there were no rapid accelerations as you get in races, this pace was very easy to maintain. It certainly gave my legs a break in between the climbs.
The course today was rolling, up and down through the Wolds. We climbed a total of 5,800 feet over several short climbs. Some were worse than others. The King/Queen of the Mountains climb, which was timed by little chips stuck to our helmets, was Hanging Grimston.
Hanging Grimston has a reputation as being the toughest climb in East Yorkshire, with a gradient up to 20% and a height gain of 153m. What made it worse for us, though, was that it came over 70 miles into the ride. Once through the six inches of muddy water which had gathered at its foot, the climb rose steeply through farmland. The road surface deteriorated to potholes and gravel which made it difficult for my wheels to get any purchase. But towards the top a group of NSPCC cheerleaders helped us up the final few metres. Pleased to get to the top, it was more-or-less downhill back to York.
91 more miles tomorrow. More rain is forecast, though it doesn’t look like the deluge we had today. It’s also a flatter route, though the big climb onto the North York Moors is a real brute. But it’s worth it. So far I’ve raised £375 (£430 including gift aid) for the NSPCC. I’ll be keeping the fundraising page open for a while longer so there’s plenty of time to make a donation. Thank you to everyone who have sent supportive messages and made a donation to the NSPCC.
Live tracking continues tomorrow: watch out for the tweet when I set off tomorrow at 8.30 am and a post on my facebook page with a link to my ride through North Yorkshire.