C2C: Seascale to Whitby – in a day

After months of planning and, for some, training, we were on our way. A long drive to the Wasdale Hall Youth Hostel in the Lake District and then Andy Bennetts’ veggie chilli was soon dispatched. After a few hours fitful sleep, we met our first challenge around 3.30am – consume the enormous quantity of bircher muesli Goughie had produced. By 4.45am we were down on the coast in a windy carpark at Seascale putting bikes back together, then a quick photograph and we were on our way.

C2C by numbers
– 150 miles/240km
– 13,200ft/4000m of ascent
– Steepest gradient of 30% on Hardknott
– 10 riders, 2 support
– Start 4.50am, finish 7.20pm
– Fastest time 9hrs 33mins
– Slowest time 10hrs 49mins

Forced grins (except Jon) at the start at Seascale

After 50 metres there was a slightly embarrassing moment as beeping Garmins indicated we were off course! We were quickly back on the right track but in a few miles, disaster struck as Andy Bennetts’ derailleur fell apart. Not even Goughie could fix it so the van was called with the spare bike. There was a short, stunned silence as Jimmy said ‘Jeff, you can ride my other bike’ 1.

With rain falling steadily, the four elite2 riders pressed on leaving the others to await the van. It wasn’t long before we approached the fearsome Hardknott Pass. The rain had cleared and fortunately the road was dry. I don’t know about anyone else but I was chuffed to bits just to get up there – its reputation as one of the hardest climbs in England is well deserved.

We crossed Wrynose Pass and headed down through Windermere to the first planned stop outside Kendal. Our brilliant support crew, Lewis and Dean were there and riders munched on goodies such as flapjack, muffins, tiffin and sausage rolls, washed down with vintage Coke.

Three Andys fixing and feeding
The peloton pursues the breakaway

The pattern of the day was now established: a rolling route, punctuated with some big climbs, some tasty descents with occasional tasty stops for more delicacies from the van. There was only one puncture, for Goughie, on the long drag over The Pennines after Sedburgh. We headed down Wensleydale and eventually hit the flat lands of the Vale of York. So, approaching 100 miles, with over two thirds of the climbing done, we rolled into the café looking forward to our pre-ordered food. About an hour and half later we were back on the road again.

Don’t mention the cafe
My Google Review of the café: On Sunday 19 June I arrived with a group of cyclists having pre-ordered food. We were told the food would be served 15 minutes after our arrival however despite further requests it had not appeared after almost an hour and a half. The final straw came when we were told after the long wait that some of the food we had ordered was no longer available at which point we left. An absolute shambles.

Ready for refuelling

Once again the support crew stepped up, as we were presented with sandwiches, fruit, crisps and other treats at our final planned stop.  However, it began to dawn on us that although we only had 30 miles to go, we still had a further 1000m of climbing. We were about to find out what digging deep meant. The key moment – at least for me – was a rather unexpected sharp climb called Limber Hill. This came after a long descent which became very steep at the bottom of the valley. We turned left over a bridge scrubbing off all our speed. Limber Hill reared up as we turned right, going from flat ground to over 25% in about 20 metres. After 130 miles and over 3000m of climbing, this was hard. I was not the only one who just repeated ‘don’t get off, don’t get off’ under my breath until the gradient eased to a more gentle 15%! 

Digging deep late in the day

The two groups joined on the outskirts of Whitby, the first group kindly waiting for the elite group. We rode together in good spirits into Whitby on a sunny summer evening. We took the final team photographs, necked the bubbly, loaded the bikes onto the van and rolled into a nearby hotel bar.

Fish and chips? No problem, sir – it was on the table in 20 minutes. What a day! We swapped tales of ‘derring-do’ as plates of food were inhaled and sports recovery drinks were consumed. Further recovery fluids were imbibed at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel later in the evening.

All the riders owe a big thank-you to Jimmy for masterminding the whole thing, to Lewis and Dean (those in the picture not in cycle garb) for their invaluable support and to those back in Corsham who had their fingers crossed all day.

A statue of Captain Cook with some other people

[1] Jimmy calls Andy B, ‘Jeff’ to distinguish him from Andy Gough (Goughie) and Andy Ward (Rocky)

[2] slowest

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