Updated: Sep 6
Today was supposed to be an easier day. Only half the distance of the previous four at just 50km. But it definitely didn’t feel like a rest day. The warnings were there from the start. We set off from Sedbergh in the sunshine, riding through a couple of picture postcard villages and over a couple of short climbs. Enough to wake the legs up but nothing to get worried about. Then we had a couple more short sharp climbs around 14%, which still felt manageable as we made our way to the village of Dent which is famed for its cobbled streets. As per usual Rachel stopped to talk to someone, in this case an old man standing on his doorstep. After Rachel explained we were heading for Settle, he offered us three alternative routes: "you'll not be heading over the tops" he said. "Yes we are" said Rachel. "Ooh that's a bit of a pull" he replied. This turned out to be Yorkshire understatement.
The road to Ingleton started at 8% and that made us feel we could cope. It eased and we took time to take photos and videos before the road ramped up again to Gawthrop. With little warning we hit the wall of White Shaw Moss. 16, 17, 18% eventually getting to 20% as we rounded a corner and had to pull over to let a Tesco delivery van go past " it only gets worse from here you know" he shouted through the window. Hilarious. Back to 15% immediately, then 18% and we had to stop to open a farm gate. Somehow we had both managed to keep pedalling, but the stop/start didn’t help. It was almost impossible to remount and start again. We could see that the road continued to rise and Rachel picked out a 'landmark' of a grit bin 'Let's make it to there at least '. We did but the road was now at 22% and I simply couldn't turn the pedals over and had to unclip. I walked on another 100m pushing the bike up an 18% gradient. It eased back to 10% and we got back on again. The relief only lasted another 150m as the road kicked up again as we rounded a corner to 23%. Now we had a headwind too and I was tacking from side to side staying upright through fear of falling off. If you've ever ridden a steep climb where you reached your limit you'll know that moment where you panic and think you are about to fall and can't unclip. It was like that but for two minutes. Somehow we both made it over the top of the hill 200m later, pulling over to try and stop the heart attack I was on the edge of. I have never ridden over anything so steep and can't quite believe I did here with luggage on my bike. OK I had to stop /start and purists will point to the walking section. But for me, the key point was making it up the steepest part.
Once we went over the top the cycling gods noticed us laughing and high-fiving and expressed their displeasure by making it rain. Like, properly pissing down. Rain that stings your face as you ride along. They turned up the fans too so that the wind on the descent forced us to hug the right hand side of the road looking for shelter. Ingleton turned out to be a disappointment, made worse by the realisation that we still had 30km left. Frankly this turned into a slog. Up and down. Wind and rain. I had been prepared to love Yorkshire as much as Cumbria and Northumberland. But no. It was fecking miserable to ride in. Just like every other time I've been here. Yorkshire can get stuffed. I can't remember a single time I've been here and enjoyed it. I'm not going to apologise to my Yorkshire friends nor listen to any of that bollocks about it being God's own country. If God existed (and she doesn't) she is more likely to be riding around Mallorca or the Alps than this miserable bloody place.
As a reward we made it to Settle in time to see the finish of the Tour de France. We'll have more time to recover than previous days and we'll need it. As a slight aside the quality of the accommodation you pick makes such a difference here. I judge everywhere on the quality of the shower because I can cope with being tired but recovery starts with the shower. This is the second pub Rachel has booked on this trip. The first in Alston was the pub frozen in 1973 and the shower had all the power of a small boy pissing out of a second storey window. At least the one here works, even if the room is a bit spartan. Note to self, never let your more money conscious partner book the B&B.
I'm already dreading tomorrow. It's going to be the biggest day of climbing yet and will be exceptionally tough. How Mrs B is coping with this I don't know. She is so mentally tough and is pushing on despite the fact that she is really suffering. The route profile looks brutal.