David Underwood's Story
As a prominent ride leader I was kindly offered a free place on this year’s TdY sportive by Pedalsure, the insurance partner of the 2018 TdY
I was hesitant to accept it on two counts; firstly, having endured the massively undersold (in terms of climbing) inaugural TdY sportive in the torrential rain in 2015; secondly, it included East Chevin (happily avoided by myself since taking up cycling in 2011) followed by Black Hill, which I hate and which broke me on 2015 TdY!
Eventually I accepted the extremely kind offer from Pedalsure and Albarosa CC.
The morning arrived and proudly wearing my TdY Blue ARCC jersey (received as Club Person of the Year in 2015) and sun cream, I had arranged to meet fellow member David Cranswick, who at almost 68, is in fitness terms where I aspire to be in 20years time. The weather was incredible (hottest spring bank holiday weekend on record) and with very little winds perfect for cycling and getting the tan lines started.
We queued at the start amongst many other colourful and cheery cyclists for about 25mins, but got away at 09:00, roughly as planned.
We weaved our way through Meanwood and Moor Allerton, with spectators dotted along the route and cheering us on, before descending down Weardley Bank and towards North Rigton. At this stage we faced the first hill of the day. A regular climb in these parts, so we were not caught out by the sting in the tail after it flattens out and turns right. At this point we bumped into David Law (another member) whom I had not seen for a couple of years due to him having a toddler now and the three David’s rode together to the first feed station. Ordinarily this would have come too soon, but based on the blistering sun we thought it best to top up our bottles and take on-board some Soreen, Jelly babies and sickly sweet protein flapjack. The queue for water was ridiculously long and slow and the taps in the pub had ran out(!?), so I resorted to paying £3.55 for an iced cold bottle of Harrogate Tap as did many others. A cunning plan I imagine.
We continued taking in the spectacular sights of Yorkshire on the well signposted route past the Giant’s Golfballs at Menwith Hill (one of our demented members Mikey Keogh commutes here daily on his bike from South Leeds) and a couple of lovely descents past Thurcross Reservoir to Blubberhouses. There were a couple of lumps along the way before the fairly steep Snowden Hill (who knew it was called that) on Askwith Moor Road. As this point we were playing leapfrog with an ARCC lady and a couple of chaps on Bromptons, yes Bromptons, all of whom had braved the long route.
We enjoyed the rapid downhill into Otley where we rested our legs in eager anticipation of East Chevin Road. At this point some of my usual Thursday Night Social crew were coming the other way and gave us a big cheer and high fives on their way to watch the pros. This was well timed and gave me a bit of a boost. ‘Is this the short 20%er?’ people asked. ‘No, it’s a mile of constant 10%’ came the replies. I gritted my teeth, chose my lowest gear (34/28) and got ready to break my East Chevin virginity. ‘I’ll see you at the top’, David shouted as I hit my spinning pace. Fortunately, large sections were in the shade. To be honest, I found it long but manageable counting down the 1.6km a tenth at a time, but feel that including this slope on all route lengths including the short route was a little unkind of the organisers, especially with Black Hill coming up for dessert. Even some hardy looking cyclists had resorted to walking. We dropped down into pool for the second and final food stop, and were pleased to see Yorkshire’s finest pastry products in vast quantities. Avoiding the veggie options we piled straight into the Pork Pie and Sausage Rolls, topping up our Protein reserves for t’bloody wall of a hill still to come.
David phoned his family who were going to meet us at the bottom of Spen Lane, and I texted my wife to tell her that I had managed to get up East Chevin – yeah!
I was a bit worried about Black Hill as usual, but managed to get all the way up without stopping, possibly propelled by Pork products and sunshine. Out of breath, but not feeling sick we were pretty much home and dry with mainly a decent back to Leeds. As we hit the top end of Spen Lane, my lovely wife and daughters had turned up to surprise me and we stopped for a quick chat and a hug, before doing the same with David’s family at the bottom of Spen Lane.
We found a channelled headwind on the final stretch into Leeds, and it was nice to ignore the traffic lights through the city centre to the finish line on closed roads. The barriers were lined with cheering folk and we were rewarded with a medal and a well-earned and unexpected ice cold complimentary pint of Erdinger Lager from some lovely ladies on the finish line.
We pootled back up to Headingley together, where a barbecue and more ice cold ones were waiting for me. All in all, a most enjoyable and highly recommended day with great company on the bike and by the road side. Chapeau to all who took part, especially those who braved the long route.
***Cheers, cheers. ***