Monday, 12 May 2014

Hightower does the Fred Whitton Sportive

C&DCYCLES rider Nathan 'Hightower' Gallon took on one of the toughest UK Organised rides in the 112 mile Fred Whitton Sportive. Taking place in the Lake District this ride goes up just about every high pass in the Cumbrian Fells. I've been up those roads a car! I've also done a lot of fell walking and all I can say is chapeau Nathan chapeau!

Here's Nathan's account of the ride and some pictures:

I blame it all on my wife Kate!! She came home from work late last year and said that she had been chatting to one of her patients. Turns out he was a keen cyclist in his youth and said that if her husband fancied a real challenge he should enter the Fred Whitton. A little cycle through the hills of the Lake District. The ride is named after Fred Whitton, a cycling enthusiast and member of The Lakes Club who sadly lost his life to cancer. The event was set up by friends in his memory and has steadily grown in popularity over the years. As a now keen cyclist myself I went straight on-line and looked it up. I saw that it was a 112 mile ride with around 11000ft of ascent, was heard to say ‘don’t be daft’ and shut the laptop lid.

So don't ride up it numpties!

Kate however kept on nagging me to enter and so I looked at it again and again and eventually thought what the hell and entered. So I was in the ballot for a place, fairly confident that I wouldn’t get in as it is a very popular event, with around 2000 riders getting a place. Imagine my surprise when I got the email.... Congratulations on getting a place on the Fred Whitton. 11th May 2014.

No excuses now. A lot of winter training ahead of me and a bit of hill hunting too. A few sportives to boot in the spring and we are only a week away from the event. Disaster strikes when I bust a spoke and my other set of wheels is looking a bit poorly too. Andy and Chris at C&D Cycles really came through for me and put the bike back on the road, ready for the event. Thanks guys.

Rule 5!!!

A smooth journey up to Cumbria finds us at our B&B in Grasmere which is only a stones throw from the start line and after registering it was back to our digs for an early night. The alarm goes of at 4am and already the nerves kick in. Looking out of the window, although it’s not raining, I decide to go for winter clothing and full waterproof jacket. Turns out to be the best decision I made that morning. Out the front door to go to the start line at 6am and the heavens opened. Standing with my bike at the start line, drenched, I wonder what I have let myself in for. I fire up the Garmin, and were off.

OK it does look a bit challenging

The first 6 miles are flat and alongside a beautiful lake, as you would expect in the Lake District. Just ahead I see a marshall with a huge smile on his face and his arm pointing right. I smile cheerily back, make the turn and hit the first hill, Kirkstone Pass. My smile disappears! A 454m ascent over 3 miles. Incredibly steep in places and granny gear all the way. The decent is amazing. Long sweeping downhill, and I had a job to keep it under 40mph. This was followed by two more ascents of Matterdale End and Honister, both climbs of over 350m. 50 miles done and it’s the first feed station. A quick rear tube change which had a slow puncture and I was off again, straight in to Newlands Pass (455m) before reaching the first cut off point with time to spare. 3 miles later and it’s in to the 318m climb of Whinlatter. I was very happy to see my wife at the top of the climb, so stopped for a cheeky little rest before going down the other side. On to Cold Fell with a vicious 1:4 proceeded by a 290m climb. The view from Cold Fell was awesome, being able to see the Isle of Man and Scotland too. 

Cadence up...cadence up

At 83 miles I arrived at the second feed station and after the best cup off tea in the world and a couple of jam sandwiches I set off again. Not long after leaving the feed station there was a sign I had been dreading. Hardknott Pass, 10 miles. You arrive at the bottom of the slope to a lovely set of signs which warn of the approaching climb. I pass over a small bridge and begin peddling in earnest. After about 40 feet or so I stop, get off and start walking. It is so steep, 1:3 in places, I’m struggling to keep the front wheel on the floor and to be perfectly honest, I am about all out of beans. A bloke cycles past me on a fixie before I walk past a bloke who is cycling up!! Massive kudos to all those that cycled it. As I summit, the wind whips up and I see the decent. Scary would be an accurate description. Brakes on all the way down with arms aching from braking and holding on. I reach the bottom, chuffed that I made it, only to hear the Air Ambulance overhead for a cyclist who has fallen at the bottom. He was airlifted with serious hip and back injuries. A beautiful 2 or so mile ride later and it Wrynose Pass. Same as Hardknott, but not quite as steep. Yes, I walked up it. After another scary decent, only 12 miles to go and with renewed vigour I race off, only to find myself in the granny gear again at any kind of hill!! With only 3 miles to go it’s flat again and I see the finish at Grasmere approaching. I turn in to the finish and see Kate amongst all the supporters, dutifully pointing the camera my way to capture the pain and elation in my face. She then yells at me, “The bloody battery has died”. I stop only metres from the line and wait whilst the phone comes out for those all important pictures. I cross the line, exhausted but elated all at the same time.

The big buffoon clearly miles behind everyone else

I could describe the weather for you, but it was typical Lake District all the way round. Wet and windy, but not too much wind which was a relief. The views were stunning throughout. Met some great characters on the route, ranging from fellow officers of the law to managing directors and ground workers. Think he was your long lost twin Steve Major, judging purely by his language about the f###ing weather!!

Jesus he's nearly the size of a mountain!

All in all a fantastic ride, well organised, great camaraderie, great marshalls and all ended with a great feeling of achievement and satisfaction at completing a truly tough, brutal and beautiful ride in Cumbria. Would I do it again? You do it first, then ask me again........ 

Good weather for Eskimos?

Back to me: Well what can I say Nathan. That Kate really has got you by the nadgers if she talked you into this. Great bloggage mate, thanks again and yes you do qualify for one of Mrs Lindsley's very special cakes. Any requests?

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