The Fred Whitton, my view.

So finally it was Fred weekend. Snail was all packed up. Sushi had been delivered. We’d panic bought a new teapot and we were off to the lakes.

Its been a funny one for me this year. Any other year and I’d have plenty of long fast rides behind me and more often that not be thinking about Ironman Lanzarote looming in a week or so and should I really be doing the Fred at all, but this year has been different. It’s been far more important to me to make sure that my partner Ali has enough miles under her belt to get round. I chewed my brain a little whilst packing up the van. I’ll be riding at my own pace and Ali is riding with another friend Simon. It felt strange knowing I’d not be with her but I also knew that it was very important for her to achieve this for herself.

The Fred itself is funny, no, it’s not a race but it is a timed event and I think every starter has a time in their head that they’d like to get round in, myself included. It’s the only sportive that the time bothers me, I don’t look on the others, just enjoy a day out with friends. I did it a couple of years ago in 7.10 but had, had to walk down Wrynose pass as an inch of hailstones had landed and my hands froze to blocks of ice that wouldn”t move to brake. Last year I pulled up with a grinding BB in torrential rain at Whinlatter as I decided it wasn’t worth getting any colder and wetter just before an Ironman and risking getting ill. There’s a few from last year who never fully shook off illness and it dragged with them for the rest of the season.

I wasn’t really sure what time I could do to be honest, under 7 would be nice and didn’t feel to unrealistic. like most riders I’d been scanning the weather. I decided if it was abismal then I’d ride with Ali and Simon, no point in risking it on Lakeland decents if there’s a river flowing down them. Wind sounded like it would be the issue of the day. And yes it is May!

Surely it can’t be as bad as Lanzarote winds I thought!


We were camping in Torver at a lovely little site. It was a short ride down to Coniston to sign on. It’s been really nice this year to have met via twitter lots of lovely folk also doing the Fred. We met Leon our Pose running coach and his wife Lorna, Hutty, Craig, Simon and Jen. Jen and Steph had kindly offered to do our bottles at Matterdale Head and Whinlatter. For the second stop they were to be joined by half of our local running club Todmorden Harriers, Sarah, Gemma, Kath, Issy and Amanda, who were coming to cheer Ali. The big Flanders flag was to be our marker. Rick was also heading up to cheer, quite a roadside party!

Saddleback the event sponsor were there with our new Arundel tubi saddle bags, I’ve been hunting for ages for a tub bag, it’s upset me to have such a lovely bike spoilt by a black plastic wrapped spare under my saddle. Unfortunatly Leyzne don’t make one 😦 so it doesn’t quite match my new helpful hound! 


Whislt the others went to Chesters to eat cake, Ali and I rode back up to the van to put our feet up. Dinner was cooked and I finally got to use my minature cheese grater, I’m not sure why that made me so happy!


We woke early on Sunday to pleasant looking weather. Deciding to set off at 7am just incase the forcast weather arrived early. Dibbed then off. I’d had a bit of a dither about what wheels to take. Choice was my Hope full carbon tubs or my Hope 36 spoked heavy winter (sensible) wheels. I’ve had heat punctures and exploding rims in the Lakes before. It’s a beautiful place but it does have a habit of eating bikes alive. Somewhere in my daftness I’d decided I was less likely to heat puncture with tubs….ahem….or was that that I just like riding them? or they’re pretty….only thing that they don’t do fantastically, like all carbon rims, is stop! Still they climb better so off I rolled!

It was beautiful whooshing along passing all sorts of folks on all sorts of bikes, tandems, mountain bikes, hybrids, funky carbon racers….and the one that puzzles me…..really grubby squeaky bikes? Surely you’d clean and check it before throwing it down a mountain pass?!

Before I knew it I could see Jen and Steph, yellow flag flying! Quick bottle stop and off again. I quite like chattering to folk as I pedal along. It does surprise me when the odd one says ‘Its Emma isn’t it?!” not sure how but hello Paul T from Twitter! 

First taste of the wind arrived on the A66. With a thump! The fast lads set off at 8 so there’s hardly anyone to shelter behind. I’d caught some guys and sat in for a bit, then decided it was too slow (honestly why?!), I took to the front with a man train forming behind me, the odd one took the front then my idiot brain decided I could go faster and jumped forward again and again. Quite why I thought doing TT effort down the road was a good idea was a wonder to me. Still the wind was being a cowbag! Even in strong winds the GF_Ti behaves beautifully, every stamp responds. Realising that much of the day would be spent crouching on the drops, it was a pleasure to hold the FSA SLK bars, super comfy.

Through Keswick and down the bumpy tarmac of Borrowdale valley, a quick trip to the hedge (you boys are lucky with your outdoor weeing facility!), then it’s into the climbs, first Honister with riders sprayed all over the road. Then a whooshing tail wind up Newlands, like a hand pushing you up, almost funny, until you think about where that wind is going to bite you. A roar from David at the top then a whoosh back down before Whinlatter. You can hear the supporters as you climb up. Lovely to see so many people out and such a change from last year in the freezing rain.

Some photos from Steph.

Now normally you can whizz down Whinlatter, today however the wind was out to play too, the map appeared in my mind, I realised it’s direction and how long I’d be battering into it, The man train had latched onto my bum again, only this time they didn’t seem keen to take a turn, lazy gits! Fancy letting a girl do all the work! One of the Saddleback riders came past, I recognised the super stealth bike that I’d been drooling over the day before, I rode with him a short way before he sailed away into the distance, chuckling at the boys on my wheel.


(more photo’s from Pascal here )

I think it was here that I started to have a bit of a sense of humour failiure. I was watching my average speed drop, more than drop, plummet! I’d worked out what average I needed to do the time I wanted, No chance! I’d lost 2mph in 20 miles. It wasn’t until I loaded it up onto Strava that I gained an understanding of quite how windy it was. Ali and I had ridden this section together on the Lakeland loop, we’d ridden gently, I’d not realised I had a cold at the time so we were steady away. We were faster that day! I was riding as hard as I could into the wind! 

I caught a guy up in a blue top, appologies I forgot your name 😦 we began to chat, he was from London, not with a club and just enjoyed riding long and meeting new people along the way. We rode side by side, I’m sure we could have worked together and gained a bit but it was more interesting to chat and both complain about the wind. Thankyou.

Then thankfully it was time to turn in from the wind. The impending doom of Hardknott and Wrynose slowly coming into focus. A quick caffiene gel from Clif, I do love how the little bit you tear off with your teeth has it’s own lanyard so you don’t loose it and make litter. It’s all about the detail!

It’s a majestic climb, little dots of colour dance up the ribbon of tarmac that seems to almost touch the sky. Just on the top bend a guy directly infront of me stopped, BAH!, before I knew it someone had grabbed my seatpost, told me to clip in and shoved me off, I felt like my brake was squeezed, it wasn’t, just the 30% start! Keith, another Tod Harrier was shouting my name (yes, Toddies get everywhere!), over and down into the bowl between the two climbs. One of the guy’s I’d stomped on the A66 with caught me on the decent. We rode up to Wrynose together, the wind now in our favour pushing us up the climb. The decent from Wrynose can be scary, you can pick up speed at an alarming rate. I could smell burning rims, trying to just dab the brakes. I saw a guy a couple of years ago crash nastily on the last bend. It scares me. Down and safe and the last 10 miles we’re straight back into the headwind. The man turned out to be from Tenerife, we worked together, grinning at each other as we jockied back and forth, grasping hands as we finished. 

7.31 😦 better come back next year eh!?

At the finish Jen and Steph were smiling, I joined them, my mind filled with thoughs of was Ali ok?

Craig was through next, taking an hour and a half from his previous time! Shows how hard he worked, chuffed for him. Then Hutty with Leon just after.

I decided to ride up to the van so that Ali had warm clothes to put on and a recovery drink. The wind had increased. I was worried that they’d be out there getting battered by it. Quickly packing stuff into a bag I headed back down to the finish. Jen remembered the riders coming through, where they were or how far in front of Ali and Simon. I knew they’d be safe together, Ali is a physio so if Simons back went she could fix him and Simon works at Bikeshak so any mechanicals would be sorted.

Then we saw them! 10.22 and some HUGE smiles πŸ™‚


Ali and Simon’s joy was amazing. I’m so proud of them. Ali has raised nearly £3500 for Macmillan by doing this. She was muttering ‘I did it!’ as she went to sleep and again when she woke up.

Here’s her blog if you’d like to read her version of the day.

And the best place for celebratory breakfast? Lucy’s of course!


And now it’s just grubby bikes to clean!



2 thoughts on “The Fred Whitton, my view.

  1. Brilliant write up Emma! I really enjoyed it. I found that wind body and soul sapping on the way to Calder Bridge. I like the detail about the lanyard – must get some of those. Good luck in the Etape du Dales tomorrow!

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