Thursday, 10 May 2012

Coast to Coast: The Middle

Leaving Greystoke the morning is cold and clear with small wisps of cirrus cloud decorating the blue sky; today is the big one, hills, lots of hills are on the menu along with a big chunk of distance. The first stretch of the ride towards Penrith is pretty gentle and level, allowing the blood to get moving without too much of a shock to the system, like a boxer toying with their opponent before clubbing them with a left hook.

Out of Penrith we leave the Lakes behind and head out into the Pennines, and start the first of many climbs. Just out of Langwathby JC spotted a stone circle on the map which we make a short detour to see. The circle sits on a gentle rise overlooking the hills of the Lakes to the west Blencathra and Skiddaw standing prominently on the horizon; and to the east the high fells of the Pennines dominated by the bulk of Cross Fell. Much of today will follow a great sweeping arc round this a peak which dominates the northern pennines.


 Standing stone, complete with prehistoric rock carvings looks towards the peaks of the Lake District


It's hard to read the story of these standing stones, so out of context in the modern world; the feeling that they were set here three or four thousand years ago by people long gone. What was the landscape like like in those days; endless forest stretching up to the empty moor? These stones were old when the Romans marched through on their road north standing their lonely vigil for some ancient tribe; Vikings, Normans, Scots, Cavaliers and Roundheads all came and went their fortunes rising and falling with time and the battles that raged over this border country. After a few minutes letting my mind run away with itself and wishing for a time machine we jump back on the bikes and the long road ahead.

Our route has been climbing steadily but now really begins to pull, I can see the road winding back and forth up the hillside. This is the biggest climb of the day and done on reasonably strong legs it's not to bad; Lisa is powering ahead sustained by the thought of the cafe at the summit. Towards the top things ease as the angle eases off and I can actually move the bike out the big cog and begin to pick up a bit of speed. The cafe sits on the brow of the hill offering fine views back down the way we have come, it's packed with bikes and more importantly it's lunchtime.


After the big one; looking back towards the Lakes


After lunch a high speed downhill results in navigational chaos, and missed turnings that leaves our merry (not so after this) band strung out over random hill sides and at the mercy of modern telecommunications till reunited about thirty minutes later in Garrigill. 

To rework the earlier analogy the climb out of Garrigill was the left hook; short, shape, but brutally steep this was the closest I came to pushing on the entire ride. The road was so steep and I was moving so slow the only way to make progress without falling off was to weave wildly from one side of the road to the other in a massive zig zag before collapsing in a big heap on the summit. The route down the other side is if anything even steeper with some deceptively shape corners just waiting for the overconfident rider.


 Lisa arriving at the C2C summit towards the end of day 2.

...and on into the wilderness (welcome to the north)

The last climb of the day out of Allenheads is a real battle of attrition after about six hours in the saddle; it's probably not the steepest thing we've been up but on tired legs if feels really tough. I knew it was coming but turning the corner and seeing the road climb away out of sight delivers a subliminal kick to the body and drains the mental reserves of enthusiasm. I bully my legs into shifting into power mode; they respond but it's only a vainer, the power quickly drains away lost to fatigue and tiredness. Despite this they just about manage to deliver the goods and finally we are stood beside a giant cairn which marks the summit, no more hills today just 5km of glorious downhill on sweet smooth tarmac to a cup of tea and a warm shower.

Speed, air, and wind; legs liberated by the joyous force of gravity drive the bike down the hillside past the gaunt ruins of old lead mines. The road a black ribbon laid through the yellow and brown moor disappears behind as the bike sweeps into corners and powers out the far side. As we pull up outside the bunkhouse Lisa shows me the reading on the cycle computer;  exactly 100.0 miles from yesterdays start, a neat symmetry to the ride that makes us all smile.

Part 3

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