Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Tour de Lakes 1st - 2nd July 2017 DNF

Looking North East from Shap Summit memorial
I had a week's holiday at the end of June and planned on visiting my mum and dad in Penrith. By taking my bike on the train from Bristol (an epic story in itself) I then plotted a solo ride to Settle mid-week to see a friend for lunch, returning by train, and sneaking in a mini two day tour when Steve came up for the weekend. 300+ kilometres and 4500m of ascent under my belt hopefully. Unfortunately the weather was foul in the week so I went to Settle both ways by train, but the forecast looked much better for the weekend.

We planned a mini 2 day tour based on the 210km Tour du Lakes Audax held earlier in the month, Steve drove up on Friday night and had Monday off so we didn't have to rush back. The official event was a one day 200km audax, starting and finishing in Kendal and ridden anti clockwise, but we wanted a tour, not an epic day out! We planned a two day loop from Penrith riding clockwise so the shorter day was second. We were going to meet mum and dad at a hut at Wasdale Head, which adds 10km onto each day. Wastwater is the lake just inland from Whiehaven on the map below.

Official Tour du Lakes Audax route June 2017
That should be 2 x 100km ish days with about 1500m of climbing each day. Mmm, a bit simplified in retrospect.

IMPORTANT Do not leave planning your route until the night before. Wasdale is halfwayish from Kendal not Penrith!

So on the Friday evening, whilst Steve was thrashing up the M6 I sat down at dad's laptop to trace and split the route. I quickly realised my assumed mistake and started to amend the route as 140km and 1750m of climbing on day 1 was a bit ambitious as we haven't ridden that much recently.

Day 1 Penrith to Wasdale Head First draft
The long drag is up to Shap summit. After Kendal it's flat with a lovely route along the bike path through Grange over Sands (lots of cafés) before looping back inland to the hills around Broughton in Furness and then up and over Eskdale before travelling the length of Wastwater to the climbing hut at Wasdale Head (my parents are members so we could stay if they were present)

The forecast (on Friday night) was no wind Saturday and dry all weekend, with a westerly breeze on Sunday. All pretty good considering it has been a torrential week up to now.

I had only recently found out that there is a car ferry across Windermere just south of Bowness, £1.50 for a passenger and a bike, and used a lot on the direct Coast 2 Coast routes. I can cut that bottom loop off and make the day more manageable, by heading west to Broughton.

Day 1 revised Penrith to Wasdale Head via Windermere
I had knocked 20km off the route but added 200m of ascent. Sounds a bit better.

Yes we know the Lakes are hilly, and brutal hills on a bike, hence why we were doing an outer circuit and not doing all the famous passes like Wrynose, Hardknott etc We will leave that to the Fred Whitton athletes!

After a bacon buttie we headed off around 9.30. That breeze is a a sharp breeze, and a southerly so the dreaded headwind. Quite a battle up to Shap summit. Shap village itself is only half way.

Shap summit is quite a wild place in winter!
Shap Summit Memorial
Before the M6 was built in 1970 this was the route north on the A6
The descent was quite hairy with gusty winds, but we survived and the A6 was wide but the traffic was minimal and very considerate, although it can have a lot of gravel lorries especially on weekdays.


Our route then turned westwards avoiding Kendal centre, and we got caught in a few routing niggles. We were not going to attempt vertical grass and bracken strewn bridleways so worked our way slowly to Bowness via Crook.

So far I had been dreadful. Trailing behind, no wind in my sails or energy in my legs. We needed lunch. We thought it preferable to get over to the other side of Windermere and find somewhere to eat.
Windermere Car and Bike Ferry
Faffing to get a ticket from the machine meant the ferry left without us and then it was a good half hour wait for the next one. There was no café and in retrospect we should have gone and got ourselves some lunch or a pack of sandwiches in Bowness to save time. We got something to eat at the Ferryman's National Trust café, but the toilets were back down by the ferry, so after that little back track we finally set off around 2.30 having only 60km under our belts. I did ring mum and dad to say where we were before we lost signal. Mum had decided to stay at home so dad set off to Wasdale in the car soon after with our breakfast and sleeping bags and change of clothes.
View from National Trust Courtyard Café at Claife
The ups were steep, the roads were narrow and gritty and the weather closed in. Fine drizzle turned to proper rain but as I'd been so hot I didn't put armwarmers and jacket on until the top after Crooked Birch. No rain was forecast at all. It was proper wild and remote. The only form of life we saw on the way up was a lady running with her dog, she was an impressive mountain goat and kept passing us on the bits we had to walk. I certainly didn't take anymore pictures.

All day we had been descending like snails, so our average speed was atrocious. We got off route again when Garmin wanted us to go up a vertical grassed bridleway and we came round via Foxfield, adding on another few kilometres. We had lights on by now, and staggered into Broughton in Furness around 5.30.

We still had 30km and 800m up and over to Eskdale to do. If we went round by the coast it was further and more ascent. We dived into a pub (Kings Head), absolutely dripping and shaking after failing to get a mobile signal walking around the village. No food was available as all tables reserved all night, not even a bowl of chips was possible, same at the pub opposite. We ordered hot coffees and I thought we should call it a day. We had no mobile signal and we knew dad would not have one in Wasdale either. We ended up borrowing the landline to leave a message with mum and around an hour later dad drove to Gosforth to get mobile signal and rang mum so he knew where we were.

Ironically we used to work in Barrow in Furness in the late 80s, when we were first married and 'before children', and we escaped the grim town for the hills as much as possible at weekends. Steve remembers the famous Mixed Grills at the Kings Head. I only remembered the centre, not the pub. A great mixed grill is still not my meal of choice! Eating out was a very rare treat back in the day.

Our actual abandoned ride:

I spied dad circling the square around 8.30, a sigh of relief he had found us. The pub really were wanting us out, even though we had bought three rounds of drinks. Bikes loaded into the car and we started the long drive back to Penrith in the diametrically opposite corner of Cumbria rather than going to the hut and attempting Day 2, and risking the Wasdale Inn being closed or full for food too. 40 minutes across the infamous A590 that is the only way in and out of Barrow to the M6 at Lancaster and then all the way up to Penrith. We picked up the best fish and chips ever, just before closing time at 10 in Penrith and my mum, a hot shower and comfy bed welcomed us and eventually I stopped shaking from cold. We did worry my parents a bit, but as mountaineers they don't get too fazed by epic adventures. Dad had had an incredibly boring day, sorry dad!

On the same day last year we had embarked on our Tour d'Ecosse, no one to rescue us then if we'd messed up big time, we would have ruined our holiday. The Tour de France 2017 kicked off today in Dussledorf too. Well done Geraint Thomas on his Time Trial stage win on day 1, first ever yellow jersey.
Mum's garden
Obligatory sheep!
It feels like failure to me, we haven't got an extended tour planned this year and I'd been particularly looking forward to our mini tour. One solo day once, last summer, I cut short at 130km as I ran out of daylight and had no lights with me, other than that I have always achieved what I've set out to do. I'd dragged Steve up a long way for a weekend, and inconvenienced my mum and dad big time, although they were not not cross, just sad for us. However, it was the sensible decision, no point in forcing an accident due to being overtired,, or being hit as a result of very poor visibility. I really did not have the legs today. We will put it down to experience and carry on!

On Sunday we all went out for lunch and had a nice walk at Aira Force! It's nice to spend time with family too.
Not cycling at Aira Force on Tour de Lakes Day 2 DNS

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