When we applied for the Etape Caledonia, we were told it was fully booked, but you could enter, if you signed up for the double with the Etape Pennines. A bit cheeky, but we thought it would be good to explore new cycling territory. So a month earlier, we drove over to Barnard Castle in County Durham, and reccied the route, which starts there. Barnard Castle is a very attractive market town with a castle, High Force waterfall and miles and miles of moorland on the doorstep. We did a slightly shorter route, because it was only a few days after the Etape Caledonia, so got a slightly false sense of just how hilly it was!
On the day of the race, we cycled up to the start at 6.15am! A closed road event, but they clearly wanted the minimum of disruption to traffic, as we would likely be finished by lunchtime! The route takes you up past High Force, into Weardale, up several hills and over to the highest metalled road in Britain, apparently. Once over that, it was a steep, fast descent into Weardale, going north towards Northumbria. Up and down to Ireshopeburn, north over the moor to Hunstanworth, up some more roads with arrows on them, south to Stanhope, another nasty climb out and back over the moors to Eggleston, and a super fast descent to Barnard Castle. Only 62miles but tough, with 7500' ascent. Really pleased with average of 12mph, which brought me in in 5hrs 10mins. Ian had an amazing ride, averaging 15.1mph in 4hrs 05 mins. Think we both felt that our time in the Alps had helped a lot.
The following day we moved on to explore Hawes, on the route of the depart of the Tour de France, Leeds to Harrogate. In fact, they went right past the campsite, where we were staying, on route for the Cote de Buttertubs! Great site, within a short walk of Hawes, six pubs and the delicious Black Sheep bitter!
The following day was hot and sunny as we set off up Buttertubs. Apart from a couple of steep short ramps, it's not a daunting climb and short, at about 4miles. The views over the surrounding moorland were gorgeous, as we dropped down to Thwaite and Swaledale. From there on to Keld, where Colin and I called in the Coast to Coast, three years ago. Up the climb to Tan Hill, and the highest pub in Britain. Through Arkengarthdale! Very picturesque and on to Reeth, where we also stayed, and an early shared sandwich and a coke. Over Greets Moss to Redmire village and into Wensleydale. Climbed up Bishopdale and over to Hubberholme, and a brief stop to visit an old church, which Ian remembered visiting with his dad, when he was about ten. His dad showed him the carvings of little mice on some of the pews, carved by the famous "Mouseman". Off again, no time for a restorative pint at The George, which is shut on Tuesdays! A gentle climb up Langstrathdale, which gets very steep towards the top, at 20%! A precarious descent of 17%. Down into Gayle and on to Hawes, and a pint of Black Sheep, finally! Hard cycle! 55miles and 6500' ascent! The climbs around here average about 16%, but are not too long. Well, long enough! But an amazing day. A bit too hot really but incredible. Great route!