John really saved the day for my Fred Whitton Challenge this weekend. On the way to registration at Grasmere with Graham my Di2 failed, due to a faulty connection with the battery unit, leaving me with no usable road bike in Cumbria the day before the ride. No stress, all it took was one phone call to settle my nerves and a replacement bike, road ready and just my size was offered up by John.
“Least it happened the day before, it’d be worse if it happened on the route”, I was told by both Graham and John. True words indeed, I now didn’t need to worry.
The idea of riding the route on a bike I had never ridden before was fine as the gearing was absolutely spot on for the challenging climbs that Graham and I have been training on, and after a quick 5 mile loop it was quite clear that the bike was beautifully set up. The saddle was actually so comfortable that I chose to not change it for my own and ride the 112 miles on it!
So on the day itself, it started hot and we were dressed more like we were riding in the south of France than Cumbria, two years ago I set off with a woolly hat beneath my cycling helmet! We had been training for and felt that we could go for a sub 7hour pace and that was the target. We set off fast and I ended up with PBs for all of the climbs up to Honister, we were ahead of our target time at Braithwaite check in and it looked good. This carried on all the way to Calder Bridge at 81 miles and we arrived right on our target time.
A quick feed at the bottom of Eskdale and then we hit the Easterly headwind, it was strong and the day was getting hotter. Only at the bottom of Hardknott did I begin to doubt that we would make the time, we’ve both ridden the road up Hardknott so many times but this was hot, windy and hard. We had the chat and I told Graham not to hang back for me. We were both shattered with the Cumbrian (!!!) heat taking its toll. It was my slowest (and hardest) ever ascent of Hardknott and by the top the sub 7 time was out of grasp, which left me to just enjoy the fantastic run in to the finish from then on. The local South Lakes roads through the top of the Duddon, Cockley Beck, Wrynose and Little Langdale being some of my favourite to pedal any day but in this weather they were stunning.
So I arrived in Elterwater as the 7hr mark came and I actually came across the finish line at 7hours 25mins. The bike was an absolute pleasure to ride through challenging terrain and over some rough roads. A MASSIVE “Thank you” to John for the use of the Enigma bike, it was perfect for a long day out in glorious Cumbrian weather. As always the Fred Whitton provided a very beautiful, scenic and tough day out, with a good mate who has talked me into many an adventure over the years.
Miles ridden: 112
Energy Gels: 12
Tuna butties: 4