To mark the Rapha women’s 100 last year I rode 100 miles with a very dear friend and a group of other amazing women along with some awesome support from some blokes from their cycling club (Tamworth RCC) we made the local paper (the Tamworth Gazette) by virtue of the very large amount of money Steph raised for a cause very close to her heart and the fact it was the hottest day of the year. The cup cakes and prosecco in the pub car park at the end never tasted so good.
This year I joined the Rapha Manchester club house ride going for the “hilly” option in a further attempt to face my fear of hills and do them anyway. I suffer white coat syndrome as soon as the road rises in front of me! My heart rate spikes and my legs mutiny.
I met Belinda at a local bus stop at 7:45am and hoofed it into town. Belinda track standing beautifully at the numerous traffic lights whilst I did my usual tap dance with my feet and cleats. On the ride into the club house we nearly bottled it convincing ourselves that the flat route might be better “it had been a busy week and there was more to life than cycling…… Yeah right!
Town was partially closed off for the Chris Hoy HSBC ride so we sailed under the finish inflatable arms a loft laughing loudly much to the surprise of the events team.
A gorgeous breakfast awaited us at the clubhouse making us feel a little bit special so our confidence returned and we posed for photos and listened to the briefing. Lumpy you say? Emily then let slip that there might be 8 cat 4 climbs and one was the Rake which feature in the top 100 climbs by virtue of the fact that it has a quirky cheeky bitch 25% section. (No.72)
For note hill categories are as follows “quirky” read bastard steep “cheeky” not at all funny and “bitch” we may not be making it up ….I appreciate not the formal classifications but works for me.
We set out as a group of 15 with Chris as our leader . Among us were folks who had never met, firm friends and those who had just met (I was found on another quirky hill a few months earlier by Belinda and Sarah and recruited to an awesome group of ladies who ride bikes) the next 100 km would create a sense of camaraderie that only hills can.
As we made our way 2 by 2 through the early morning Manchester roads the chatter was focuses on the Rake. Chris and Sarah had explained the tactics “when you get to the corner don’t give in you are nearly there” To be clear this section has a handrail for pedestrians…. Or those who need to grab hold on a bike.
As we rolled along Chris casually pointed to the wind turbine on the very top of the Pennines (I am thinking and hoping the only road that passes them is the M62) and mentioned “we are going up there” I haven’t worked out why the first climb on a ride always takes your breath away disproportionately but ramp after ramp with little flats in between took us up and up. Eleanor said her legs felt like she was in her big ring …..then looked down and realised she was! Fair play! I had run out of gears some time ago. The name of this climb remains a mystery to me but the sun came out at the top and it was a beautiful view!
The 2nd climb of the day was the Rake. As we went for a quick wee, refilled bottles and pretty much anything else that would delay the inevitable the chat was of how hard te Rake was. The bottom bit looked bad and that was only 9% normally enough to upset me. The history of the Rake is as a hill climb where the aim of the game was to see how far you can get up without falling off and in more recent times as a hill climb race. I fear the former may be recreated.
I thought a steady pace would be best. Even the bottom looked steep. There were a few things I had not factored in to my attempt. One that there would be cars coming down the hill, two there would be a group of builders standing part way up, three the front wheel of the bike lifts up on a really steep hill. Thank goodness for Kelly! Despite being a local this was also her 1st attempt. Kelly’s husband and daughter were stood at the bottom of the nasty 25% bit and shouted “it’s only 2 mins of your life – go for it” (the time estimate may have been generous) but the fact I could follow Kelly all the way up was a god send. Weaving across the road to try keep momentum (between the oncoming cars) determined not to give in in front of the group of builders and swearing loudly we kept going. Without her I would have grabbed the handrail and unclipped I am sure. Having never ridden anything as steep I just kept looking for the corner ……and wondering how anyone walked let alone rode up this thing! Regrouping in the pub car park we celebrated the very essence of “we ride together” we had all made it to the top. If you do a bit of Strava segment stalking you will see not many women do! So the technique needs some work agreed. Wheelies up 25% gradients best left to Sagan! And I proved to my mate Paul that it is possible to ride that slowly and not fall off! I made it. We all made it. At points I was going at 1.9 mph but that still gets me 50th all time women (171 ladies in total on segment) many of my fellow ladies on the ride took higher places. 6 mins 40 of giving it my all was worth it. For info Simon Yates takes just 3 mins 28
After that the climbs seemed OK (ish) I faced my fear of cattle grids, gravel and descents. Hills that would have have terrified me previously seemed manageable and many tips were shared on how to improve technique. The views were amazing and turned what is normally a form of exercise on familiar roads into a sight seeing adventure taking in the beauty of the Lancashire countryside. An activity done alone into a social event. I like a nice matching kit. Cap, socks and top were all Rapha Womens 100 but the day was definitely substance over style. The kit did the job beautifully but the day was all about the climbs and bike legs. Returning through the streets of Manchester after a fabulous day a choice of amazing cakes and prosecco awaited tasting all the better for the 4,974 feet of climbing (new PR) An all round awesome day of bike riding with fabulous support. We ride together.