Monday, 9 October 2017

Cheddar Gorge and the 100 Greatest Climbs

I blame Spanners. If he'd never mentioned it. If he'd never have shared that link, I'd have never have been addicted. Thing is, after your first you're never the same.

He shared with me a Google Maps link to the 100 Greatest Climbs. I'm not sure why he sent it, he must have sensed my strange love of hills, that feeling of accomplishment when you've been through pain but made it to the top. A bike ride isn't a bike ride without it surely? Anyway I ordered THE book, the 100 Greatest Climbs straight away. As it's title suggests, it's a compilation of the best climbs in Britain. How do you decide which are the "Greatest"? Well the author (Simon Warren)  suggests lots of different reasons, it may be because of the history of the climb, that it's used by a local club as its hill climb event each year, that it's particularly steep or that it's just a beautiful place to ride. Based all over the UK, they are split in to the South-East, South-West, Midlands, Yorkshire, North East, Scotland, North-West and Wales.

Handily for me, Number One, just happened to be on my doorstep. Well not exactly on my doorstep but it was near enough for me to ride out to it. This was back before I had a road bike, so I jumped on my hybrid and headed down the Strawberry Line towards, well who knows. In the book it is a three out of ten, but what does that mean? Well one out of ten is hard, according to Simon, and 10/10 will test any rider.

The ride out there was flat and gave no indication of what was to come. Cycling towards the climb through Cheddar I tagged on to another rider and asked him the way. How would I know the start of the climb. He said it would be clear.

Sure enough there was enough signage showing me the way to the Gorge. I was soon riding past shops and car parks (as described in the book) and the road began to rise. Soon it was sharp turns and steep gradients. But what a place to ride. The scenery was amazing, riding between big rock formations at either side, this was amazing. Goats looked down on me. I was now on my own, with the odd car passing me. The tourists don't come this far up it seems. An odd walker here and there.

As the gradient reduced I could click through the gears, panting heavily I was giving it everything. A car, stuck behind me for quite a while, drew level and with the windows down shouted "great effort" out of the window. I gave it my all, finally coming to a halt at the junction to turn off home. I loved every minute of it. I had to do more. In fact, as I type I've now done 24 and I'm a full blown addict.

I've been back to Cheddar a fair few times since and posted some better times (and some bad) on my road bike but I've never quite enjoyed it as much as that first day I attempted it.

So when I came up with the idea of producing a poster of one of the climbs, it had to be Cheddar. Teaming up with a local artist, we've come up with a design that shows off the best of the climb. The rocks and the turns. If you fancy buying one, head over to the 100 Climbs shop, where Simon has very kindly agreed to sell them. Then buy a book and get addicted.

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