This Heart of the Dales route took in 6 major climbs, including Park Rash, Buttertubs, Oxnop Scar, and the one that stole the show, The Fleak.
The day began in the stunning village of Hawes, one of the highest villages in England. The weather was forecast to be 22-24c most of the day, but it didn't feel like that at 8.55am as we were about to start. There was a chill in the air and a strong westerly wind, which would be useful for the first half of the ride.
A huge thanks to the perfectly located Stage 1 Cycles in Hawes for hosting us, and for providing a very welcome buffet later in the day on our return. If you want to explore the Dales by bike, Stage 1 Cycles is very well placed to allow you to do that.
Right from the start, we began to climb. The first ascent of the day? Fleet Moss. Right out of Hawes, we headed south, split into two groups. A dropped chain for one rider was a sign of things to come. We rode together mostly, before soon enough our natural climbing speeds became apparent, and bodies littered the climb.
A regroup at the top and we were swiftly blown down towards the village of Kettlewell. That westerly tailwind making it feel like we were barely peddling at times.
Once we reached Kettlewell, we all knew the next task at hand. Park Rash. On paper, the hardest climb of the day. 25% at its steepest, it's a climb that's infamous in Yorkshire for bringing riders to a standstill.
With that tailwind behind us, every rider managed to get over Park Rash without any feet touching the ground. Always a win in the morale books when that happens. If you've ridden Park Rash, you'll know that the steepest section is simply the warm up, for the climb continues to rise at gradients of over 15% for close to 1km, before you finally get a chance to breathe normally again.
A final kick upwards before the summit with gradients over 20%, and we finally made it to the top to come back together as a group. A very quick refuel in the OTE Feed Station and we set off on a super nice descent, never too steep, nice and quick, with a really nice to flow to the corners as we headed to our next destination, the main OTE Feed Stop in Carlton, at 45km in.
With temperatures warming, the feed station was a good chance for some to drop a layer or two, and for friends and strangers to come back together and meet each other and discuss the two previous climbs, and what lay ahead. With OTE Caffeine Gelsand Anytime Bars stashed into pockets, and bidons refilled, off we went.
With a drop into Leyburn complete, we began the first of 3 key climbs, back to back. First up, Grintor Moor and the military ranges. Relatively gentle, its party piece is the descent towards Askrigg. A stunning section of road, some of it rebuilt after a landslide is a joy to descend, with sweeping corners and incredible tarmac under the wheels, and beautiful views to the right of us.
Next up, the climb that stole the show. The Fleak. 6.6km at over 5%, it was maybe the toughest climb of the day, thanks in part to that westerley wind, which was now very much in our faces and making those 20% gradients feel so much steeper.
The Fleak is such a stunning climb, very narrow to begin with through the rural farm yards of Askrigg, it continues rising with double digit gradients for the first 2.5km, before a false flat gave us some brief respite. The final km was the most savage of the whole ride, into the wind, with gradients all over 10%, it was a case of out the saddle grinding for many riders.
With the wind blowing at the summit, it was time for a quick descent to the final climb in the trio, Oxnop Scar. A climb which really took its toll on several rides, and one bike, with a tyre blowout on the descent. Disaster averted, and no harm done thankfully.
Buttertubs Pass has long been one of our favourite climbs, and it seemed only right to make the climb the final ascent of the day. 2.2km at over 9%, it's a climb which does allow you to find a nice rhythm in parts, before the steeper, 20% sections remind you why it's a feared climb amongst many riders.
With legs tiring and hunger growing, we dropped back down into Hawes, for a welcome buffet at Stage 1 Cycles. The highlight of the day? For some, it was the views, for others, it was the new friendships and new stories, and for others, it was the Band of Climbers Goody Bag with our new Limited Edition IPA - Chain Snapper.