August 23, 2016
It’s been a year since I started training and went to the Lakes on my first ever “cycling trip”, Tour De lakes. My – very unrealistic – aim was to tackle Hardknott Pass, a huge climb near Eskdale. I took one look at it and realised there was no way I was fit enough to be able to climb it, so I turned back feeling quite defeated. I decided that I would come back a year later with the ultimate goal of getting up it….
Lakes take 2
That weekend finally came and I found myself stood at the bottom of Hardknott exactly a year later, sh*%ting myself again. It’s just a hill but I’ve spent a year thinking about it, and I had mentally decided that if I can’t even do this, how will I cycle 3200 miles across America. I had to get up it…
Before I go into detail about the hill let me tell you about the previous day! The video below sums it up nicely…
As you can see in the video you should never ride through puddles as you can’t be sure that there isn’t a hole under the water! In hindsight riding through knee deep water on a road bike is a good sign to turn back, but I carried on regardless!
The weather was, quite frankly, abysmal. I know it rains in the lakes but this was taking the biscuit. There were severe weather warnings up near Hardknott and once I started to climb it’s access point, Wrynrose Pass, I understood why. The wind was so strong up there and the water was literally gushing from the sides of the hill out onto the roads. I was blown off twice and there was no way I was going to be able to climb hardknott today… The illusive hill strikes once again, I was frustrated that my hopes of climbing it were slowly fading away, I felt defeated. I only had one day left in the Lakes, I said a prayer for good weather!
The following day the weather was CLEAR! I had arranged to meet my training friend Garry and we set out to Hardknott Pass, finally ready to face my fears. If you’ve not been, the Lakes are incredibly hilly and it’s difficult to gain any momentum. We had a 20-25mile hilly slog to the single track that leads to the start. I rode past the warning signs that stated how the hill is dangerous for automobiles, It didn’t say anything about a pair of chicken legs and a push bike though!
The climb itself is brutal. It can be split into three sections:
- Steep first section, past a cattle grid and up some 25+% climbs, with a few hairpins
- Middle section is flat-ish, around 8% average, so still a battle, but enough to help you recover
- The final section is horrendous. The climbs are 30+% with the steepest hairpins
I’ve obviously been training for this and I managed the first section ok, it’s tough but I’ve been climbing hills like that for quite a while now a year. I took it really steady for the middle section, I certainly wasn’t going to break any records, my ultimate goal was not to stop. I was gaining some energy and my breath but but I couldn’t help but notice this beast of a hill getting closer and closer, before I knew it I was onto the final section.
It is really hard, most people would struggle to walk up it without stopping. It’s that steep you could reach forward and touch the road on the hairpins. Not only were my legs in bits but my arms were also struggling pulling on the handlebars. I was reaching my limits at the top, but I’m delighted to say I made it! So too did Garry who deserves a special mention as he hasn’t trained half as much as me, but seems to be able to do anything that’s thrown at him.
Exactly a year ago this week I started cycling – and my training – with a trip in the lakes. I could barely do 40 mile and stood at the bottom of this beast – Hardkott Pass one of the toughest climbs in the UK – and thought how the hell does anyone cycle up there. I left with my tail between my legs and sh%^^ing myself. Exactly a year later, with so much hard work, I’ve done it!! I felt like Rocky when he runs up those steps….. COME ONNNNNNNNN!!!! #rideforthechild
I have honest had nightmares about this hill. I’ve been seriously concerned that I might not make it up and it would leave me struggling a bit mentally before I went to America, but it’s done now.
ONE WEEK TO GO!