Monday, 9 September 2013

Way of the Roses Day 1: Morecambe to Earby

"That Hill Can F*$k Off"
Not my words but as the "all the gear no idea" lycra clad cyclist spouted his venom as he reached the brow of the hill I couldn't help but agree with the sentiment. We'd just climbed the steepest part of, what we would later find out to be a category three climb. Using the same classification that they use in the tour that makes it the fourth toughest type of climb in the world ever! "Is that all" was our response as we'd just climbed what felt like a sheer cliff face.

Earlier that day it had been a now customary send off by putting our back tyres in the sea at beautiful Morecambe. An easy, traffic free ride led us out of Morecambe and in to Lancaster and to an historic waterfront where, and I have this on high authority, Spanners once went jogging. It's true I tell you, of the two times in his life he's taken to pounding the streets, one was along the same path we were now powering along.

Team Pannier had come a long way since our first C2C venture in 2009 and so has cycling. On our first trip we came across a couple of organised charity groups and a few true bike nutters but that was about it. Now bikes were everywhere and you could tell, the locals seemed bored welcoming us."Oh here's another group who think they're the first in the world to do this trip" - they didn't say it but you could see it in their eyes. We'd meet other cyclists and say we're on the Way of the Roses, they'd look at us gone out and say "we are too" as in, why the hell do you think I'm up this big hill in the middle of nowhere.

Coming in to Clapham (Clapham, Lancashire, not the Clapham district in London) we soon realised the true popularity of the route. We pulled up to New Inn, a pub overlooking the river. Spying a perfect spot we parked the bike as Spanners went to recon the food situation. Coming back he declared the landlord was a grumpy bugger (or some other similar rave review of his hospitality) and we decided to try the cafe yards down the road. Seeing cyclists waiting outside for food we were informed they were overrun and so we tried the next place along, cycling really has taken off and taken over the cafes!

Clapham's a picturesque place and the cafe was perfect. Pie and peas for the northern lads, plus real ale on tap for those who wanted it - for the record I stuck to a Gay-2-O. We were ready and loaded and hoping our food had settled by the time we hit, erm Settle.

So out of Settle we hit the aforementioned hill and we had a new leader striking out in front. All morning I had been chasing Spanners and proving that despite all his training I was able to keep up but now as the moment of truth hit me I realised I was no match. Chef, with his bulldog style just dug in behind Spanners and the two of them left myself and Jukebox trailing in their wake.

We've decided that Team Panniers motto is Never Too Proud To Push but it certainly hurt as my pedals would turn no more and I had to dismount as the two front runners headed off and me and Jukebox put in nearly the same amount of effort to push. As me all met up at the middle point of the hill and we were bored by some guy telling us he'd cycled from Blackpool, the bloke did at least make us smile. His mate pulled up who was training for an Iron Man. Carrying a large bag on his bike the Blackpool bore said "alright Arnie? - We call him Arnie 'cause he's brought Danny DeVito on his back". Sadly smiling at his comment meant he stayed around for another 5 minutes to tell us how good he was.

As was the pattern for the first two days we kept passing the same people, and they kept passing us - including "Mr I Cycled From Blackpool". Fat or thin, male or female, fast or slow it always seemed you were catching each other up as one team waited for another or one faded as the other pushed on.

On our first C2C we finished the hard days (47 miles and 63 miles) late at night, ending up at our accommodation around 21.30. So it was looking positive as in the late afternoon sun (we had awesome weather on day one) we turned off the main Way of the Roses route and headed for our accommodation. Jukebox the man with the least amount of training in him* soon declared he didn't have a mile left in him. We knew we had a bit of a detour to the accommodation but there was a debate as to how much and from where the detour started.

The great thing about national cycle routes is that they are designed to be generally flat or at least they seem to dodge the roller-coaster effect that a more direct route can take. As soon as you leave these routes you realise how they protect you from busy traffic and more importantly unnecessary gradients. Having had the wind behind us for the majority of the day we were now facing a steady climb in to the wind.

That mile Jukebox had in him was used over and over again as our moral was dampened knowing we had to retrace any miles we were now riding. It felt worse than it probably was and soon we were riding toward and hopefully in to Earby waiting for a tell-tale establishment that named itself after the area to know we'd arrived. We wanted a Earby Engineering or an Earby Hairdressers, Anything that told us we were in the right place. I think it was Earby Car Sales that confirmed our location but we were soon seeing the layout I'd sussed out on streetview months before. We ticked off the Co-op hopefully the place to purchase our breakfast, Chilli Pepper, the Indian where we would be having tea and of course the local pub - not to mention the newsagent excellently named Have I Got News 4 You.

Within minutes we were at our destination, Earby YHA. Ditching our gear we hit the pub and the curry house. Myself and Jukebox turning in early as Spanners and Chef took in the Champions League final and a few beers as well I'm sure. Day one done and some good miles ticked off.

* Read least amount as none, his bike hadn't been touched and in fact the back tyre was flat as he dug it out days before we left.

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