Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Ride to the Easter Meet or Raid Clarion 2009

Shap Summitlost 1Border Crossing 2
More Pictures here
On Wednesday 8th of April, Jez and I set off on our three day trek to the Clarion's Easter Meet in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. Our plan was to bring home the Clarion's milage trophy, awarded to the section with the highest aggregate miles cycled.

We split the journey into three stages, Linlithgow to Lockerbie on the first day, Lockerbie to Kendal on the second and Kendal to Ramsbottom on the third. The trip was a little more challenging than usual because we rode the whole way on 67" fixed wheels, which meant only one gear and no freewheeling for 240-odd miles!

On the eve of the ride, fuelled by strong coffee and dram or three, Jez furiously penned a West Lothian Clarion club song, called Ye Cranks and Stays which was put to a Scottish folk tune by Kirsty. This paean to our club is so catchy that it stayed with me throughout the ride and kept me going when my legs were tired.

Linlithgow - Lockerbie
The ride got going once we passed through West Calder and set off for Carnwath. The rain eased and the sun started to shine, as we jinxed around the south Lanarkshire potholes. We stopped for lunch in Biggar at The Olive Tree Deli and Cafe which serves good strong coffee and descent cake.
From Biggar, the B7016 to Broughton and A701 are two of the most perfect cycling roads. Our spirits rose as the countryside opened up to reveal rolling lanes and green pastures.
We passed by the CTC hut, now run by the Bothy Association, it looked a comfy place to bunk for the night but it came too early in the day for us.
As we began the ascent of the The Devil's Beef Tub the cloud closed in and visibility deteriorated. The climb isn't steep and we rode side by side all the way up, keeping a steady rhythm up to the 407m summit, the highest point of our tour.
The descent to Moffat was long and straight, we were spinning out on the fixed wheels and it felt tougher than climbing up the other side. Jez, 'the patron of the road', blasted passed me to win the 30-sprint with a text book example of high cadence riding.
We met up with the Hastings family for a quick cuppa before the final leg to Lockerbie. When we set off again, a slight tail wind swept us along tree lined roads through lush green Meadows to our destination: The Manor Country House Hotel in Torthorwald. The hotel is about 10 miles west of Lockerbie and was a perfect rest stop, wwner Ken Hutchinson couldn't have been more hospitable, both families made plans to visit again.

Lockerbie to Kendal
I managed to reduce Jez's lead in the the sprints by beating him to the Gretna 30-sign. I'd taken advantage of the patron's caffeine withdrawl. In Gretna he desperately seeked out a hit of the black juice in the town's seedy back streets.
The only cafe we could find was a throw back to the 1950s, the atmosphere was thick with tobacco smoke, a couple looked keen to leave, a portrait of George V hung on the wall above a bric-a-brac stall and easy listening hits floated from a tape player in the corner. We were served chicory coffee by an old lady with a voice that sounded like she had a 40-a-day Capstan habit. We quickly got back on the road and headed south.
Progress was slow and our knees started to creak as we pushed gears that were a little on the large side for the increasingly robust head wind. At Carlisle the traffic was at a standstill, the town blighted by too many cars. We pushed on, not wanting to stay around and took the A6 to Penrith for our rendezvous with the Hastings Family in the No. 15 Cafe, where they serve a great coffee with free fill ups and delicious cakes and sandwiches.
After a hearty refuelling we began the ascent of Shap. The wind started gusting dramatically so we decided to take shelter in a sheep pen while the storm blew over. Shap summit isn't high at 309m, but on fixed wheels and in strong winds it was heavy going.
The last challenge of the day was the ride up the side of Whinfell Beacon. The climb along the A685 can be seen from the M6 by Tebay. The road gradually gets steeper as it reaches the 301m summit, after 150 miles riding 67" gears it was a struggle to make it over the top. The final 10 miles to Kendal were a mix of ups and downs and Jez had obviously been saving himself on the climbs because he steamed past to reach the home of the mint cake first.

Kendal - Ramsbottom
Weary legs and stiff knees meant we took the first 18 miles to Lancaster at a steady pace. We popped into see Tim Norton, our most southerly member, for a quadruple espresso each and thick slices of cake. Next stop, the Priory cafe in Scorton, where the local cyclists sit amongst paintings of Merckx, Anquetil and Hinault.
From Scorton we made our way along b-roads through longridge, Ribchester, Salsbury, Wilpshire and Rishton. By now we were knackered and our minds were wandering - we wanted to get to the Easter Meet as soon as possible but first we had to bypass Blackburn.
While the patron relieved himself I studied the OS map and announced my genius in finding a short cut that would avoid the heavy traffic. We were in high spirits as we began the new route, on more than one occasion Jez proclaimed my brilliance. Things were going well and we were nearing our destination, until the road suddenly transformed into a farm track and our wheels sunk deeper and deeper into black oozing gloop. We ended up carrying our bikes across fields and over barbed wire fences, it felt like a scene from the film Withnail and I.
The final miles are a blur, we cracked on through the rain and over the steep Lancashire hills. The patron again outwitted me in the final sprint of the three days. We rode down the infamous Rake and into the weekend HQ to claim the milage trophy for the West Lothian Section with 244 miles each!


grantus said...

Great write-up Matt, shall you be riding to Eastbourne next year then?!?

Matthew Ball said...

We're planning it already! C'mon!
Jez also had the bright idea for a 'Gentleman's race' to the hotel we stayed at near Lockerbie in the Autumn. There and back and staying over at the hotel. Lovely part of the world

grantus said...

Don't know about Eastbourne but i'll definitiely do the gentleman's race