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Women's 100: South Pennines
There’s always something rather exciting about doing something collectively. When Rapha announced their plans to create a global event for women cyclists it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Some of our riders didn't even know who Rapha were; they just saw the chance to go out and ride with other women. That was the important bit.
I’d plotted quite a challenging route around the South Pennines. If you’ve ever been to this part of the world you'll know it's not flat: you’re either going up or down. Worth it, though, the views are amazing.
Nineteen riders gathered at Mytholmroyd Community Centre for the ride. The sun was shining bright, smiles all round as we set off. That women had gathered from all over meant lots of new faces, from Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, even as far as America. We set off as one group, knowing we would split as soon as different paces needed to be accommodated. Hopefully, we’d all meet up later at the cafe stop in Gargrave.
There was a buzz of excitement as we began the first climb of the day, up towards Pecket Well, something nice about knowing how many women were doing similar rides around the world, too. I’d already received good luck messages from friends in Australia, as their rides had been completed and they were settling down for the evening.
As we headed out on to open moorland there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Hardly a car on the road, either, just a happy peloton of women riding proudly. From the top you could see for miles, to the dusky shapes of the Yorkshire peaks, to Haworth and its wind turbines.
Descending fast into Oxenhope, we waited to regroup as two ladies from Liverpool dealt with a dodgy tube valve. They told us to go ahead as everyone had familiarised themselves with the route. It would get more hilly from hereon in, a detail which drew the odd groan.
One lady in our group had only ever ridden with me once before, an occasion I feared might have scarred her for life. The one big difference this time round was that she had lost five and-a-half stone since then. In place of what had been her dispirited face was now a huge grin and a thirst for more. That made it all worthwhile. Onward we rolled, regrouping at junctions and the tops of hills. As we skirted the bottom of the Yorkshire Dales we passed some riders on the White Rose Classic, a number of whom were also clocking up kilometres for the Women’s 100.
With 65km done it was cafe time. The Dalesman at Gargrave is a well-known cyclists’ hangout and there were already bikes piled up outside. It had a wonderful bustle inside, the vintage signs on the walls advertising everything from tea to Raleigh cycles. There were pictures, too, of clubs gone by, with ladies in dresses – I wonder if they rode like that? Soon the tables were covered with bacon butties, pots of tea and helmets and gloves. As we sat and savoured the food, among those to (finally) arrive were the two ladies with the dodgy valve. Turned out their pump was broken, so they'd got a taxi back to Hebden Bridge with the wheel, bought new tubes, pump and emergency patches and carried on. Now there was determination.
The 45km or so we still had to go included some of my favourite climbs, even if the almost-still air turned them into a sweatfest. My favourite was a climb known locally as ‘Salt and Pepperpots’, named for the two chimney-type monuments on the hill above Cowling. It’s real name is Dick Lane (no sniggering at the back), a cheeky climb with a swift hairpin at the start, before a graceful drag and a whippy little ramp at the top. From there we could see the whole valley below.
There were only two big climbs left for the day. By now it was very warm so it was time for a cold drink and for water to be squirted into helmets before the climb back to the outskirts of Haworth. The last big climb was Cock Hill (…stop it). The Tour will be coming here in a year’s time and it was a great pleasure to be riding it with an all-female peloton.
All that remained was the roll down the hill back to Mytholmroyd. It had been a fabulous day out and although the ride had split into groups, messages soon arrived to let us know that every rider who started had achieved what they came to do. We had all ridden the first Rapha Women’s 100.
Here’s the Strava link for the ride: http://app.strava.com/activities/65402139
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