When a ride begins with “Listen up lads, I’ve got you all some tiddlywinks” you know your inner kid is going to come out.
Blend in the many charms of the Lake District, from cycling-friendly territory – albeit slightly less welcoming terrain with 30% gradients lurking around every corner – to a refreshing lack of traffic lights, a short ferry trip plus a much-needed good weather day, and it’s little wonder 12 RCC members from Manchester and north west England returned with the wind in their sails.
‘Ah but how were the legs?’ you ask. Fair question. That was a different matter having ascended around a quarter of Mt Everest’s 8848m in a 119km spin that took in Kirkstone Pass, the Struggle, Wrynose Pass and some hair raising, helter-skelter time-trial riding alongside both Coniston Water and Lake Windermere.
And then there was the cat and mouse sprint finale that finished everyone off… but more on that later.
Lycra donned, winter embrocation applied and flapjack of the highest order from Staveley Mill Yard’s More? The Artisan Bakeryshovelled down gobs and it was time for off.
“So it’s right on the A591 then a quick blast before we’re climbing,” explained Lakes resident and route planner Andy Docker. Yep, you got it in one: there was little time to settle in.
At first all you could hear amid the well wrapped-up peloton was “I’m roasting!” Furious unzipping followed. A 10-degree temperature drop however later in the day left everyone glad of that extra layer. After all, the previous weekend had served as a warning about what can happen in northern England when the cold sets in: café stops become a necessity rather than a luxury.
That said, 7,042 photos at the summit of Wrynose Pass later then a sketchy descent where dogs and sheep could bound into your path at any moment, and team RCC were draped all over Chesters By The River in the delightful Skelwith Bridge. The tiddlywinks were out in seconds.
In truth it was a welcome break despite coming so soon into the ride. Two of the newer bikes in the group and their steely riders Dave and Les (otherwise known as the ‘Motown duo’) had survived near misses on descents while legs and lungs were screaming post Wrynose.
From there on in the ride remained the same: thrilling and tiring, at times treacherous but ultimately a treat, with 0 traffic lights, 0 punctures, 0 mechanicals and perhaps most importantly, 0 encounters with cars. Especially up and down the incredibly narrow Wrynose Pass, the understanding and patience shown by drivers was a welcome tonic.
In no particular order, Joe, Callum, Oli, Andy K, Les, Dave, Andy D, Jamie, Matt, Lee and Alex, well batted.
Cat and mouse
Somewhat fittingly, he of the tiddlywinks gesture reigned supreme in a five-way tussle for first finisher honours, Lee ushering a "Come on then!" battle cry as he launched a devastating attack with around 1.5 miles to Staveley which only Joe could keep pace with.
Lee’s Beastie Boys victory theme was soon drowned out by Les’ Motown tunes blaring from his motor, goodbyes were exchanged and another story was etched in the Manchester chapter’s history.
This is how we do it. Every week.