Today I repeated the ride I did on New Years day. I rode to the top of Great Hill at a height of 1,250 feet. With some descents along the way I climbed a total of 1,484 feet. This is a little over a fifth of the climbing I’ll do on my big challenge for the year but much of the ascent is steep, interspersed with flatter sections. What’s amazing me is that I keep achieving some very good times for various Strava segments despite the very wet and muddy conditions. I can only attribute this to the psychological effect of having a big challenge in mind. Every ride has become, without thinking much about it, a training ride for “the Big One”. I’ve ridden far more than 47 miles plenty of times in the past but the 6,500 feet of climbing adds a lot of extra difficulty. I set 3 personal records and a second best before I even reached the tiny village of White Coppice. I wasn’t trying to set fast times but today they just happened. I’ve never played cricket (it’s a sport!) in adult life but if I did I’d like to play at White Coppice. Nestling in the hills in the centre of the village it’s an idyllic setting. Pity there’s no pub.
I went around the back of the cricket field and took the easy side of the goit, a straightened river, to Brinscall Woods. I climbed the fire road and the short stretch of tarmac to the open moorland. A gravel road leads toward the summit of Great Hill but it becomes rocky and steep later. There was a section of sticky looking clay which I resolved to avoid on the descent. At the top I turned round immediately and set off down. I was pursuing a time on the Strava segment “Great Hill out and back” which I covered in 22 minutes 19 seconds last year. I’ve made beating that time a target for this year but with the mud I couldn’t have expected to beat that time today. When I got home I was happy enough with 26 minutes 41 seconds. It was the fastest time of the 4 Strava users who’ve attempted the run this year but that’s hardly something to boast about. I bet I was the only one who was trying! The descent starts with a very good single track segment and finishes with a fast, hard packed gravel road. It’s a blast to ride fast and there was more to come.
The Brinscall Woods downhill is a classic. We wanted it to be part of as many rides as possible in the mid 1990s and it’s as if I’ve discovered it all over again. There were plenty of walkers today so I slowed down several times. Everyone was so friendly on my ride. I think that walkers generally accept mountain bikers now whereas 25 years ago we were a rare annoyance to a world shocked by people wanting to ride bikes in their special places. It’s good advice to be very polite at all times. We are the newcomers after all. I returned by Healey Nab and enjoyed the ride over the hill. Because of the work having started to cut down the diseased larch trees I thought I’d be better to ride down the open fields towards town. Where I could have been travelling at over 30 mph in dry weather I was crawling along on deep mud at walking pace but at least I kept going. It was a very fulfilling ride, regardless of the muddy conditions. I firmly believe that adding a challenge to an everyday ride lifts it to a higher plain. Today’s challenge to the top of the hill and back made an everyday ride special.