It wasn’t a surprise to the weather pessimists among us that the one day you need clear, calm weather to go and enjoy 85km around the Yorkshire Dales, you get the tail end of a tropical storm, with all-day mizzle and winds. However, that didn’t seem to have put off the hundreds of riders who turned up for the second Hope Pre Peaks event in Barnoldswick on Sunday. If you’re going to get up at 4am to head to an event you entered months ago, then you’re probably going to go anyway, whatever the weather.
Aimed as both a training/taster for the Three Peaks Cyclocross race, it was also an excuse to ride 70 or 85km of wonderfully well-marked bridleways from Hope Technology’s base in Barnoldswick into the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. The weather, meanwhile, had other plans and early reports from the course talked of poor visibility on the tops of the extended extra loop and the decision was made to cancel the longer loop and get everyone to ride the 70km loop. While riders were initially disappointed at the news, once out on the course, the wisdom was clear.
Up on the first climb, it was clear that the dust of the summer was gone, to be replaced by slippery muddy puddles and wet rock. Given that everyone was suited up and prepared for the weather, no one seemed to mind and everyone seemed very cheerful, despite the conditions.
After 25km or so, we got to the first feed stop. Hope had made a point of saying that its feed stations weren’t like normal feed stations – and they were right. While there was a water top-up and some bananas for the speedy riders, outside the village hall, inside there was fresh tea and coffee and a huge selection of amazing cakes. This derailed many riders’ plans for a quick stop as they filled up and then went back for seconds…
The mix of bikes was interesting to see. Apart from the usual jokers on fat bikes and downhill bikes, the field seemed pretty evenly split between cyclocross bikes and mountain bikes, and the course rewarded each bikes’ strengths, with long sections of road, and later, canals to flatter the ‘cross bikes and then a few tasty descents (and some tough, limestone climbs) for the mountain bikes.
The whole 70km course was very comprehensively marked out, at – and after – every junction and punctuated every couple of miles by a cheery marshal – often a Hope employee – to mark a gate or a road junction and to give you a bit more encouragement. There was a real sense of achievement as we rolled back in to the finish – the course was tough, whatever bike you were on. And even after the big hills were left behind, you couldn’t let your guard down – and one rider found that a cramped-solid leg led to an unavoidable swan dive into the canal, only to be rescued by Ian Weatherill, the owner of Hope, himself.
Despite the weather, the early start and the non-dusty conditions, everyone finished with a medal and a goody bag and a vow to return next year to try themselves against a tough old day out. There was hot food and coffee – and even Hope factory tours on offer. A great end to a great day. We’ll (all) be back!