We wanted to run this training weekend in a similar way to how the last one was and use it to increase our experience of cycle touring. We did have a target for this weekend however and that was to fully recreate a day’s riding by cycling 100km on the Saturday. Also, we had arranged to have some kayaking practice in Crookes Valley Park to round off the weekend.
Our weekend started as usual on a Friday evening except this time we had not planned a route in advance. We split into 3 pods of 4 at the start and one person from each pod went away to plan a route whilst the rest of us went through the first aid protocol we will be using on the expedition. Everyone on the expedition does have a first aid qualification but Sam and Dave refreshed our memories and went through the contents of our first aid packs with us.
At about 20:00 we left for Tesco to stock up on food supplies for the weekend. We definitely favoured calories over quality but this is the wait to go when eating as much food as we need to be. It was a novelty to head out to Ringinglow with nice weather and an equally welcome novelty to be setting up camp before midnight. We camped in pretty much the same spot as on selection weekend but it could not have looked different. No snow and nice dry ground made for a much comfier night than back in December!
We have been working on getting back on the road faster in the morning and our efficiency on the Saturday morning was probably our quickest ‘get up and go’ to date. An early rise at 7am and by 8am the campsite was clear with us beginning our 100km day in the direction of Penistone (much to the amusement of our mature group). My pod had left camp first and when we got to the RV point in Penistone we got a phone call informing us the other two pods were about 45 minutes behind us as Alistair had a puncture and there were difficulties in repairing it. Apparently his front wheel had rusted so that they couldn’t use the quick release and it required a quick phone call to one of Alistair and Sam’s local friends to come to the rescue with a spare part. Otherwise we could have been looking at a repeat of the last training weekend! Situations such as these are quite helpful to us on the training weekends as it reinforces the idea that we need to make sure to service and maintain our bikes regularly.
We continued steadily on throughout the day and stopped briefly in Holmfirth for the ‘Last of the summer wine exhibition’. Unfortunately this proved to be a massive anti-climax, as exampled by the shopkeeper next door whom when asked, could not tell us where the exhibition actually was. The highlight of this stop was probably Tom informing everyone that eating a whole banana including skin is impossible shortly before Adam proceeded to prove him wrong. Sadly Adam wouldn’t take the bait when the rest of the group promptly told him that eating his own poo was also impossible.
After Holmfirth we had a very long climb up to Holme Moss Summit from the Northern side which was a good challenge for the group and a great descent on the other side which saw us reach speeds of over 40mph. I feel it is appropriate to insert this direct quote from Wikipedia here: “The northern side in particular is one of England's most well-known bicycle ascents, and has acquired a reputation as among the country's more difficult climbs.
“From the north, the road begins to rise from approximately 190 metres above mean sea level in Holmbridge and gains steadily towards the village of Holme. The road then sweeps round to the left and thereafter the steepness increases through a series of switchbacks. 1.5 kilometres from the summit the gradient climbs above 14%, and remains testing until the car park near the mast is reached and the summit crested. From this side the ascent is 4.8 kilometres long at an average gradient of about 7%. It is often made more challenging by the prevailing south-westerly wind.”
We then headed on to Glossop before another long (but not as steep) climb out from the Manchester end of Snake Pass before following the winding road all the way to Ladybower reservoir. This was amongst one of the best stages of the day as the sun was setting as we descended for a good ten miles. Upon regrouping at Ladybower reservoir we headed to a local pub where we met a couple who had passed us earlier in their Volkswagon camper vans. They informed us of a great campsite just 500m up the road and we didn’t need much more persuasion than flat ground, toilets and running water! We took a little longer travelling 500m up the road than expected as Alistair realised he had lost his key for his bicycle lock. Ten minutes later we had managed to break the lock with a few tools and some brute strength. We did however find the key on the ground only yards away shortly after we had broken the lock. We’re still debating whether it losing the key was the bigger mistake or the group of us breaking the lock off when the key was only yards away!
After another comfortable night and morning we headed back in to Sheffield via a detour of Strines Valley ready for some kayaking practice. Adam, Alex and Will went ahead of the group in order to get the boats down to Crookes Valley Park and we even had a two man sit on top to practice with. This was really helpful as it is the type we expect to use for our actual crossing in the summer. After some expert instruction from Adam, Alex and Will we all took our turns at pairing up and capsizing then climbing back on board the sit on tops so we could get a feel for what it was like. Hopefully we won’t be needing to do it too often as it was difficult to get back on board without the high waves we are likely to experience across the Strait!
To finish the weekend Adam and Will went over some bicycle mechanics with the group and I gave a brief talk on road awareness as well as group cycling techniques. Finally we practiced some more first aid scenarios given to us by Dave and Sam before parting ways. Again we had a great time and can all look forward to the next training weekend where we hope to travel to Snowdonia, climb Snowdon and practice some kayaking in the sea.