Journalist Joe Shute relives the thrill of this year’s peloton, cycling part of the Tour De France route through the Yorkshire Dales.
“Are we last?” asks my good friend and colleague, with no apparent concern. She’s accompanying me on this charity 145km (yes 145km!) ‘Pro Tour Ride’, where Sportive-level riders and misguided punters, like us, get to taste an actual leg of the Tour of Britain.
We may have bitten off more than we can chew. The gentle depart from Stoke-on-Trent, which we’d ridden through in the morning, was like a world away. I knew I wasn’t the only one wondering why we didn’t do the shorter family ride that my friend had suggested.
Yet we’d been in good spirits since breakfast, where the Premier Inn at Trentham Gardens had opened up the kitchen early to ensure we loaded up on bananas and porridge to power us through the day. (They’d also let our bikes sleep in our room, which was a result, given that we’d both borrowed expensive road bikes and forgotten to get them insured.)
After an awesome blast downhill we reach Tittesworth Reservoir, collapse like starfish and inhale our remaining sandwiches, flapjacks and sports drinks before forcing ourselves upwards and onwards, despite dead legs and the advent of rain.
The climb of Gun Hill is up there with the hardest hills I’ve ever done.. it once made Mark Cavendish cry apparently, and I’m foolishly wearing skate shoes as I’m scared of cleats. We push on and the rest of the ride passes in a kind of semi-hallucinatory but surprisingly enjoyable blur.
The final leg takes us through the beautiful Wedgwood Estate towards the finishing line and we collect our medals in the teeming rain. We weren’t last, but we were comically near the back, with the organisers packing up the tarpaulins and getting ready to head home as we reach them.
Despite the rain and the dead legs, it turned out to be the last summer either of us would have without children, so I’m very glad and grateful we took on the challenge in that beautiful Staffordshire countryside. And, in our eyes at least, won.
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