The Water Cycle Challenge for Water Aid 2017

On Saturday 1st July, the Water Cycle Challenge took place. As partners in the race along with the Valley Striders plenty of Albas took part, including several junior riders. Some sportived, some sprinted, some just hung on in there... many have written up their experiences so settle in and enjoy the ride!

The Rush

40 miles, 1100 m of ascent

Coach Joe: The Water Aid Sportive 40 miler was a great route for some of the youth to stretch their legs. Two intrepid groups set out tackling the stunning scenery and freedom of the Yorkshire Dales winding roads. Group 1 set about the pace early on with their paceline and chain gang coaching paying dividends. The first climb let their race skills sessions fitness show over the standing and watching training of the coach as they waited at the top wondering where he was. The feed station was like Willy Wonkas with an unlimited amount of tasty sweet and savouries for face and pockets. The last 15 miles flew by with no sign of tiredness lapping up the descents and tailwinds. The village sign sprints and KOM titles were awarded and the coach crushed on the final race for home. Faces filled again, smiles all round!
All together for the photoAll together for the photo

Richard: This was a great first taste of riding a sportive for my wife and 11 year old daughter, a challenging route in beautiful scenery. We set off together with another mother and daughter pairing of Angela and Iona. Esther and Ella were chomping at the bit as it became clear that their crossfit training and Ella's twice weekly sessions at the circuit had given them both legs of steel.
We soon split off from Angela and Iona and Esther and Ella went shooting off in the distance.
The climb out of Arncliffe put a bit of a spanner in the works and a couple of stops were required both to admire the scenery and catch our breath. The ride down into Malham was fantastic with great views of the tarn and the cove, followed by the fantastic feed stop where we filled our faces and our pockets. Ella had started to play mind games with her mum and dad, complaining of feeling tired and even talked us into an extra drinks stop at the Angel at Hetton (£11 for drinks, dad wasn't happy).
Ella kept her powder dry as we rolled on towards Burnsall and then put in 4 killer attacks, one on the climb back up to the main road, another on the climb up to the reservoir turn off, a third on the kicker up to the sailing club and then a final swift transition from her bike to the food counter!
A really enjoyable day and a real sense of achievement for all of us.

Ella enjoying a day out sandbagging her parentsElla enjoying a day out sandbagging her parents

The Romp

80 miles, 2000 m of ascent

Martin: Having a surprise free weekend with wife and children camping, the obvious thing to do was enter the WaterAid Sportive. I contemplated the Rogue but after looking at the route with minimal climbing in this year felt the Romp was the 'easy' option.

I arrived early, but managed to find a host of Albas (Cheers Simon Turner, Michael Fielding Hannah Riley, Lee Gilbank) and the little known Everett from LBM cafe ride fame. We set off as a group with Simon Owen setting the pace. As I became aware that this pace was unsustainable for me the 'Rompers' fortunately double backed at Kettlewell whilst the pacier bunch headed off for Park Rash pain. This took us through Arncliffe and to the first key climb of Halton Gill. A classic rolling ascent with the legs feeling pretty good and Tom Harmer and co. kindly set the pace to the top.

After the well stocked, if not a little early feed station we were in three peaks territory circumnavigating sheep and walkers alike.
As we hit the second climb at Langcliffe, I realised time wasn't important but just not putting a foot down as I inched my way to the top. After the sweeping cove road descent, the final climb, Hartlington Raikes, was looming. Back on familiar ground around Burnsall and with the end in sight the Raikes squeezed out the last of my legs and the Romp was complete.

In retrospect not an easy option but fun, more than 6000ft climbing, excellent route planning/support and the post ride meal has guaranteed me doing next years...

Simon: The Romp was only my second ever sportive and I was very impressed with the organisation. I entered on the day as a last minute opportunity. I set off around 0830 with no strong game plan other than to enjoy myself - whatever time I finished in would be good for me. The roll into Kettlewell was beautiful and really set the tone for the days ride.

The first climb up Halton Gill blew the cobwebs away and we certainly enjoyed the descent ultimately having a well deserved rest at the first feed station. I was impressed by the food and drink options available alongside the extremely friendly support staff.

There then followed some rolling roads and while the wind seemed a lot stronger than advertised the sun came out more and more such that arm warmers came off for the big climb of the day - Langcliffe Scar. This is number 48 in the "100 climbs" list and worthy of inclusion. Switchbacks increased the gradient temporarily and I was not surprised to see folk off the bikes pushing. A photographer was well placed near the top and I managed to break out a smile and wave (next time I would opt to take off the rolled down arm warmers to avoid the "Steptoe and Son" look!)

This climb then had a sting in the tail as following a brief downhill section it was back to climbing once more. However this was soon over and a fantastic stretch of downhill followed taking you into Malham at the foot of the Cove. I was impressed by the placement of a Marshall on a particularly steep corner. It is worth mentioning at this point that even though I had the route in the Garmin the placement of signs was exceptional as was the presence of a marshal at one village to explain a detour caused by a 1940s event. I am not sure what the participants must have thought about the sudden arrival of so many Lycra clad cyclists to their piece of history......

The last feed station was situated on the grass in Malham and this could not have come at a better time. Once again the sausage rolls, jelly babies and energy drinks proved most welcome. " Only 15 miles to go" announced a chap (who I had previously met at the start dressed as a tap). He lamented the fact that he would have preferred to have been dressed as a toilet...... With this in mind I set off for the final furlong.

The last stretch was once again rolling in nature with only the climb out of Burnsall between me and home. All too soon I was back at the reservoir where having "beeped" across the finish line I was pleased to find a laptop announcing that I had managed to finish in the bronze category.

Hot food aplenty was available and those partaking seemed to be attacking this with great gusto. Sadly I had family commitments to return to. I will definitively look forward to this event next year where I will aim to enter the longer route. A couple of days later the professional photos were online to add the icing on the cake to a superb experience. Well done to the organisers, the supporting staff and riders!

Simon rocking the "Steptoe and Son" look at the top of Langcliffe

The Rogue

111 miles, 3700 m of ascent

Matt: A mixture of disorganisation and naivety about what we were about to undertake, meant that we were the last group to set off. We were greeted by the wonderful Tapman and headed for the first hill of the day, Park Rash. Kyle and I foolishly decided to just push on and were soon on our own as blasting down Coverdale. Everything seemed fine and we looked forward to a nice swift day out.
It all changed as the route changed direction towards the west and we met THE WIND. We caught up with a group of Albas in Reeth, where Phil was manning a feed station. Pushing people aside, stealing the jelly babies and no time to chat. It’s a race don’t you know…
The middle 50% of the route was horrific. Buttertubs (I don’t want to talk about it), Coal Road and, a new one for me, White Shaw Moss.
We met Simon (who cycled to and from the event!) at the top of White Shaw Moss and I mentioned to Kyle ‘Don’t worry, it looks like it’s all downhill to Ingleton’. I hadn’t considered THE WIND, which continued to meddle with our average speed.
The last half of the route we FINALLY had a tailwind but by this point I was tired and Kyle dragged me over the tops to Malham. The Gold time was a no go, and we were aiming for Silver in a sub 7 hour time. We blasted through Burnsall, with that 7 hour mark getting closer, I nearly lost Kyle’s wheel as we climbed up to the reservoir. We climbed of our bikes and leant them against the wall, because THE WIND has blown the racks over. Done, 111miles, 3500m+ 16.4mph, 6:56:36 and the only silver time of the day.
Great feed stations and organisation by the Yorkshire Water team and Stephen.
Matt and Kyle riding their way to the only silver Rogue times of the dayMatt and Kyle riding their way to the only silver Rogue times of the day

Simon: The WaterAid Sportive was the second in a collection of great cycling events I wanted to do over a three week period; C2C in a day, this and the Dunwich Dynamo. I'd already decided to save the Dun Run for next year (only so many weekends it's fair to put cycling first on...) and as I wanted to ensure Ruth had the car, decided to ride up there and was joined by Piers and David for a relaxed run and a natter.

We started as a group with those on the medium route who then split off before Kettlewell and the first climb of the day, Park Rash. This quickly showed who were the goats, and who was going to be having a more relaxed ride. Without realising it I turned out to be a bit of a goat and ended up going round for the majority solo apart from a quick chat with a couple of riders who had journeyed over from Hull and having Matt and Kyle fly passed me after the third feed stop.

As a ride it was awesome with each climb seeming to deliver ever more stunning views of the region while some of the roads were strangely familiar - I'd ridden them the opposite way the week before, others are on the Circuit of the Dales route and the White Rose Classic.

The three things that made the ride stand out for me were the people at the feed stations who were all really friendly and enthusiastic to see the riders arrive in, the choice of roads giving four of Simon Warren's top 200 climbs plus several others to boot and the wind. I think the majority of the riders were looking forwards to turning left and up Garsdale despite it's own unpleasantness just to get out of it for a bit!

In all a stunning day; a great way to get a Gran Fondo, see Yorkshire at it's best and a credit to all the hard work by all involved to create a very tough, but friendly and well supported sportive in aid of a great cause.
Simon looking far too relaxed after 100+ miles of riding!Simon looking far too relaxed after 100+ miles of riding!

Graham: This was an awesome ride. Despite doing the C2C last year with no physical (but a couple of mechanical) problems, after looking at the profile I did have some trepidation bout managing it and even more so when the weather forecast showed strongish westerlies. Arrived at Grimwith with John Turner to what seemed a large group of Albas ready to go, which they had done by the time we had registered and we went through the timing barrier just before 9:00am with some other Albas including Michael Keogh, Katrina Adam and Jonathan Smith for a steady ride and we kept together as a group for most of the day, waiting at hilltops as appropriate. Park Rash didn’t seem that hard, but that turned out to be a false sense of security for what was to come. Although I’ve done it before Coverdale seemed more spectacular than ever. The climb from Redmire seemed to go on forever before a quick descent to Reeth and the first feed Station with a welcoming big smile from Phil Makinson with a good variety of food. Met David McStay and Piers Roberts here who had cycled from Leeds, and then Kyle Bibby and Matt Grimshaw arrived but didn’t hang about!

Then on to Buttertubs which wasn’t too bad at the lower end but became a real struggle towards the top due to the strong headwind. A quick downhill and then undulating where we were overtaken by Tom Whale, Richard Banks and Joe Alderson (I think) until the big shock at Garsdale which was a new climb to me, Duncan having caught me by then. This climb had some headwind at the top but this nowhere near as difficult as the steep bottom section after the railway bridge. Then on to Dent (feed station 2) where James Bullivant came in from behind. Another tough climb out of Dent with spectacular views of our beautiful county, with a sting in the tail towards the summit (yes, headwind again). Then onto Ingleton which had some kind of Wartime Festival going on (I’d wondered why the route avoided the main street) and then Clapham and Austwick towards Giggleswick as I watched Duncan and Adam slowly disappear into the distance. Then the last big one to me, Langcliffe Scar which I managed this year after being forced off by a car cutting the one sharp corner last year. Then the final feed station at Malham where I saw James, Duncan and Adam leaving as we arrived. Just 15 more miles to go and the end of a a challenge and adventure and a welcoming meal. It has to be said that only a few cyclists overtook us and these were mainly Albas. A big thanks to all who organised and ran this event which was my ultimate bike ride of 2017, and for a really good cause of course.
Graham and Jonathan on Park RashGraham and Jonathan on Park Rash

Kat: I entered this back when it was first announced, blithely assuming I'd peel off and take a shorter route if I got too tired on the long one. Next time I'll look at the routes first, as it turned out that the split was REALLY early on. I'm too stubborn to admit defeat so I decided to commit to the long route. On the morning of the ride I wasn't sure I was making the right choice, but Michael quashed my doubts on the drive over - he was riding with hairline fractures so what was I worrying about?! We started together, with Jonathan and Graham, and were joined by John shortly afterwards. The five of us made steady progress up and over Park Rash and Reeth to the first feed station, where we picked up Piers and David, and briefly saw the blurring outlines of Kyle and Matt as they passed through on their way to a silver time. Shortly after the feedstation the seven became five, as John slowed up, Graham stuck with him and it was agreed the rest of us would carry on up Buttertubs. For me "carry on" barely held true as I looked down in the howling headwind in the final stretch of the climb to see my heartrate maxed out, and my speed a ferocious 2.4mph. At least it should be easy to get a PR on that one!

By feedstation two we had crested another hill with a howling headwind, up the road from Garsdale. I lost the others on the climb, conscious that if I was going to get to the end I needed to be measured in my efforts. Fortunately, Duncan passed me on the descent, I kept up, and we cruised the flat sheltered bit to the feed station together. The five of us were just about to leave when Graham appeared. John had turned home, and he had made up the difference alone. We waited for Graham, chatting to Adam and James who had also arrived. The five of us set off knowing that White Shaw Moss was not far away. I knew this climb well, having toppled over twice while trying to get riding again after getting off to open the gate on a previous ascent. Thankfully this time the marshalls held the gates open for us so we could crawl up the steep gradient into the wind unimpeded. The descent of this I remembered as being fast and scenic, but this time it was pedalling downhill.

The final feedstation couldn't come quickly enough, and while Michael carried on through, the rest of us grabbed some much needed fuel. I set off ahead of the others knowing full well they'd catch me up and pass me (even Jonathan, who by this point was riding with a broken pedal) as by this time there was an unspoekn agreement that it was less social, more survival. With the final hill of Langcliffe Scar over (apart from all the other ones that didn't count enough to be named) it was just a case of riding it in back to the finish, with finally a welcome tailwind to help me over the final miles. I arrived at the finish with the support van slowly stalking my every pedal stroke to see Piers and David as they started their ride home (how?!). I rode down to the sailing club to rejoin everyone, proud to be one of only two women to complete the long route on the day.

Michael and Kat with the Park Rash race faces on

Michael and Kat with the Park Rash race faces on

Thanks to all the Albas for your company and to the Water Cycle Challenge for putting on a great event!

Stephen working hard in a smooth registration operationStephen working hard in a smooth registration operation

Most photos by @bfpix

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