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Rider Report: Tackling the Pendle Pedal

Report: Eddie Allen

The day dawned horribly early. The 8:30am start, coupled with an hour and a half drive to Colne, Lancashire, meant rousing the house at 5:00am, giving us time to get some food and coffee down our necks, before ride buddy and designated driver arrived, and we loaded up the car with 4 bikes and all the ‘essential' kit that accompanies an epic day ride.

We got to the event start in Colne with time to spare and set about fettling our bikes for the off. Our start time of 8:30 came and we passed through the timing barrier and were off out of Colne, keen to settle into a rhythm. I figured the first few miles would be a gentle leg warmer - a few miles of flat to get the legs loosened, but after 5 minutes in the saddle, we swung right between two cottages and were faced with our first hill of the day.

There is a certain adverse psychology in dropping into your lowest gear so early in the ride, but we were forced to grovel from the start. Any early morning cobwebs were quickly blown away by the time we reached the top of the climb, which took us to the back of the imposing Pendle Hill.

The route then skirted the back of the hill, crossing the A59 north of Clitheroe via a viaduct before hitting the picturesque village of Waddington and the start of the first real test of the day - Waddington Fell. We dropped into a comfortable rhythm straight away and tried our best not to look up. When we did, we could see riders like tiny flecks of colour, making their way slowly up the toward the summit. We passed the Moorcock Inn and found that Waddington is one of those lovely climbs that has at least 3 false summits - you reach one only to find a slight dip or easing of the gradient before the road ramps up again. A steep section loomed near the top, slowing us a 5mph crawl but we were quickly across the cattle grid at the summit, taking on drinks and looking back down the hill towards Clitheroe.

There followed a wonderful, sinuous descent down through a small hamlet, before the road lurched up again over another peak, before an electrifying, dead-straight descent to Newton, where my computer hit 43mph, and where the long and short routes split.

What followed can only be described as little bit of cycling nirvana, as the route gently undulated through the fabulous Hodder Valley, running alongside the river and criss-crossing millstone packhorse bridges. There were two great café stops on this section, one at Dunsop Bridge and another, where we refuelled, the delightful ‘Cobbled Corner' in the charming village of Chipping. Beans on toast, scrambled egg and baked potatoes were taken on, with the café practically occupied by an invading force of cyclists and a small enclave of bemused non-cycling tourists huddled in a corner.

We soon got on our way, fully refuelled and with Longridge Fell to tackle - a long but fairly gentle climb which started to wear Sam down, with a touch of cramp setting in as we reached the top, where a Science in Sport drinks station awaited like a modern day oasis. We restocked our hydration packs and bottles, filled our pockets with Soreen bars before setting off down another fantastic descent, eventually leading us through the centre of Clitheroe (more bemused onlookers) and across the A59, where almost by surpise, the hulk of Pendle Hill loomed once more in our field of vision.

"Were not going over that" said one of the lads. But over we went. up toward the evil Nick O'Pendle, a climb featured in many a Tour of Britain and something that had been playing on our minds all day.

High up the slope, where the road quite literally takes a ‘nick' out of the top of the mountain, there were paragliders and kite flyers exploiting the thermals. Halfway up there was a restaurant which look like it had been transplanted from the Alps. This was a real climb and we all knew it. By time the steep central section of the climb came, a couple of our group had been reduced to walking, and, grateful for the rest, I followed suit. There we met event organiser Mark Sandamas, who rallied our spirits and gave us some tactical advice for the remaining 15 miles to the finish.

There followed a screaming bumpy descent into the village of Sabden, where we thought the climbing was all but over, save for some gentle undulations back to Colne. We couldn't have been more wrong as the climb out of Sabden to Black Hill reduced the Pendle Pedal, once again, to the Pendle Walk. Once at the top, the road bobbed and weaved between hedgerows following the contours of the hillside, with Blackburn, Burnley and Colne distant in the valley below, finally tracing it's way back to the event HQ.

Summary: A superb sportive route, with a long 160km option for the hardcore sportiver, plus a 100km ride for have a go heroes like myself!

More info: Event Website