The forecast for Saturday was unsettled with showers so to be greeted with clear blue sky and a light westerly wind seemed like a lottery win. With Jeremy and Dave we quickly backtracked to the previous days finish line at Greystoke for our assault on the hills. All agreed at breakfast to take it steady as we had a testing day ahead so it looked rather strange to see me shoot off unannounced at full tilt. In reality a local on a road bike had passed our start point and I saw something drop from his bike, it was a bunch of keys and despite my shouting he did not respond so after picking them up I was forced to chase him and he took some reeling in much to the amusement to my team mates.
After an hour on the road to warm the legs Jeremy announced we were approaching the start of the Hartside climb, we passed several other groups on the way up and all seemed remarkably cheerfull, the climb was not steep but a steady incline all the way up. The last leg of the climb was on the main A686 and as the legs felt good we increased our pace on a lovely rolling surface, I had in my mind mind I was going to attack Contador on that final ascent and as he was overhauled I even had time to give Cav a beating in the final sprint to the Cafe car park.
The top of Hartside is a busy place, the cafe doing a roaring trade with all manner of cyclists refuelling and waiting their turn for the photo call next to the signpost to record their moment, hats off to to mountain bikers who take an alternative steep course to the top. After coffee and cake we pushed on to Leadgate, the very steep descents into Carrigill and Nenthead followed by the inevitable climbs before pausing for lunch in Allenheads.
The lesson that soon becomes obvious on this ride is that for every thrilling descent there is an equally testing ascent as a sort of punishment so it was no surprise to start the afternoon with a climb out of Allenheads. Through Rookhope and Stanhope and yes another hill, Crawleyside Bank, the very name suggests pain is not very far away but as Jeremy shouts that this is last big climb the gradient doesn’t seem so bad. At the top we are to join the Waskerly Way but a quick change of plan as the entrance it still blocked by snow, another couple of miles on the road and we then join the dedicated cycle path.
The rest of the ride is downhill to Castleside and our bed and breakfast for Saturday night. The landlady opens the door as we walk up the drive and directs us to the secure garage for bike storage, this is a really slick operation as the majority of her guests are Coast to Coast travellers. The B and B is mid way between two pubs, The Fleece for a couple of pints and then to The Smelters for a good meal. So after a shower and a couple of ales its food time and thats when it began to go wrong. I do want this to seem like a review for Tripadvisor but being from the pricey South of England I was a bit bemused to see main course at £5.50 thinking at that price it would be quite a small portion so in order to satisfy my hunger I went for the £3 garlic mushroom starter as well. Big mistake, the large dinner plate that came out was filled with mushrooms and accompanied by salad and garlic bread, enough for all our party. The main course described as sausage and Yorkshire pudding with chips which translated to a Yorkshire pudding the size of a dinner plate into which four large sausages, onions, chips were placed and then filled with gravy. It was absolutely was enormous, real comfort food and just what was needed after a hard day in the saddle but the size of the portions represented our only crushing defeat of the weekend.
As we waddled back to the B + B the rain started, the forecast for the last day was not good.