Up pops a post on the Here Come the Belgians Facebook group, a chance to celebrate young Nick’s birthday by riding the Rapha Gentlemans Race. What’s that I hear you wonder? Well the basic idea is to race from York to Whitby and back, any route you fancy but you have to get the checkpoints along the way. It’s teams of six, erm, gentlemen.
So with a team of two ladies and four gentleman we got ourselves registered, created one of the longest threads possible on Facebook, swapped the team about as one member had to stay back with his wife after she broke her arm, the stand in for him then finally admitted to being human and breakable by injuring his back at yet another 24hr MTB race. Finally at the last minute we were joined by Keith. Our merry band was complete.
Local knowledge of the best route was mapped out by Paul. Then tweaked a bit when the two extra checkpoints were announced late on Thursday night. Paul was even kind enough to get up at early doors and be our escort out of York before getting home to help his wife.
Now the sight of half dressed folk in lycra swapping jerseys in an effort to be as co-ordinated as possible may be a sight too much for some at that hour, even Paul looked impressed at my wonderful blending of Morvelo and HCTB kit, (see photo) at least I think that’s what he’s looking at!
Thought it best to make us all a little bundle of Clifbar goodies, those double espresso gels are like carrying spare batteries for the legs and as the wind nearly always travels west to east I was guessing we’d all need one when it got tough.
3 – 2 -1 – go!
Paul leads us out, setting a fair pace, half the garmins seem to have eaten the route, mine included so we were extra grateful. As Paul peeled off after a couple of miles, the pace settled, each taking turns on the front along the deceptively flat start. For me there’s something very beautiful about seeing such wide panoramic views, like you can see the whole world, the steep sided valleys of home are beautiful too but different. I guess that’s half the fun of going somewhere new.
Now we’d been asked if we could tweet and photograph our journey, so as we rode along the roads towards Castle Howard I thought I could do a silly flying sprint down the straight and charge up the other side leaving me time to grab my phone and get the camera open. Heather, Mark and Rich however saw the imaginary flag and chased me down. Trouble is, it’s such fun. Phone back in pocket, I whooped past again but this time warned them I’d be on the other side snapping away.
The roads had a certain Roman aesthetic to them for a few miles, but soon we were into the fun bit as the open moorland began. Wiggly descents led to whipping climbs, we knew the check point was close, it was at a ford. What we didn’t know was that there were a few fords on this road. It must be noted at this point that even on the snappiest of climbs Rich still hadn’t left his saddle and maintained the most beautiful souplesse. Finally we spot the little van and two elegant gents waiting with a rubber stamp.
Cards in pockets and the best bit had begun, all the hills! Enough with the flat, we had the North Yorks Moors to play with for a bit. Up and down we rolled, few stops to discover we didn’t really know where we were and carry on regardless, one deep ford, time for the cx carry over the foot bridge, hats tipped to Crossjunkie who would have loved this bit. Then the most evoking of all childhood excitement, the phrase you always wanted to be first with “I can see the sea!” Whitby here we come. The little Rapha H-van, flags-a-flying and Konrad on the coffee, it’s stamp number two and a pork pie!
Nice to see lots of others there, including il soigneur’s Dene, looking like he was about to really enjoy the last 60 miles! Off we set, past the church where my partner Ali and I had done a spot of wild camping (OK, yes we got stuck with where to put the van in the dark). The wind was beginning to take it’s toll. We had all the climb that we’d just been over to go again, albeit on a different route to get us to the next checkpoint. The sky was looking dark, until now it had been quite pleasant, however the forecast rain was due soon. As we entered the edges of Dalby forest it began to plop down, Heather assured us it was just a shower. As the rain fell harder we spotted what we thought was the checkpoint, however when we arrived it was a roadside jam and scone honesty sale with another team taking afternoon tea! Three jars for a tenner, bargain!
Onward and deeper into the forest, MTB’ers hiding under trees looking at us like we were potty. Again we thought we’d found the checkpoint but it was a checkpoint for a biathlon, crazy roller ski things zoomed past as we headed off down a forest track. Finally we find the visitor centre and the stamper van, it’s also a chance for a posh wee in a real toilet, no wonder its a ‘gentlemans’ race eh! We pass another team who’ve also just collected their stamp. The realise they’re about to get passed by two girls and we hear them utter “I can’t let this happen to my male ego” and one gives chase, not sure what happened to the rest of them though, think we’ll say they got ‘chicked’, keep it sporting eh! However, I can report that it was a fairly good climb as Rich left his saddle for the first known time! Still climbed very gracefully though.
Full card of stamps! York here we go! Up and down and to the crest of the hills again, it’s all flat from here, our team are doing well, well we’re all still smiling. The odd mutter of tired legs is creeping in. Soon we’re back at the monument near Castle Howard, gosh there are some loony drivers on that road at this hour. Quick photo call as we re-group. And of course Heather floating along on her Feather (more of this joke later).
Back into the little lanes heading towards York. The roads aren’t in the best state with potholes a plenty, almost too many to get shouted out. We have 10miles to go, we’re all zipping along rather sprightly considering. Now me in my idiotic optimism shouts of “so shall we get our heads down and wrap up the last 10 in 18 minutes?” few seconds later, one big thump of my tubs across a pot hole and bang, tub is down. I did at least have a spare. With some wrenching and wrestling and help from Mark and birthday boy Nick it’s off. Mark exclaimed that my gluing was good, so gold star for me (and one from CrossJunkie, legend of the tub). He did cringe a bit when I removed the valve extender with my teeth! Tub back on, up with gas and Mark teases about there being no chance of 18 minutes now.
We’re soon back inside York, smiles all round, and huge plates of salmon pasta demolished, Rapha had a beer and a commemorative cap for us all. We came 5th team home and I think 1st mixed team. Now for more on my terrible Heather Feather joke….There’s something funny in Ricky Feather’s team coming in 6th, he was actually beaten by his own bike. (OK, you can groan if you like). Dean and the Polocini team did make it back in one piece to collect the Lantern Rouge.
What a fun day out, beautiful views, top riding company from Nick, Mark, Heather, Keith and Rich. Big thank you to Rapha and their boys for putting it on for us to enjoy. Big hats off to Konrad for managing to make so many coffees so quickly too!Now one thing I’ve not mentioned is that this was the first real ride of my new GF-Ti V2, but you know what? I’m saving that for the next post. All I will say is that it’s really comfy and nothing fell off, not bad considering I built it the day before! This ride was all about the people and having a grand day out. Many thanks also to Jo for getting up early and bringing half the team over and baking us yummy cakes.
Here’s the Strava http://app.strava.com/activities/62143138