Location: Barnoldswick, Lancashire
Event: 19 August 2012
Blogger: Ian Phillips
I met the seasoned bloggers early, as the sun was pushing through the clouds and just in time to roll up with the early risers on the start line.
Brad started the riders off following a brief interview and confirmation of his participation in the forthcoming Tour of Britain, which starts next month. This was met with suitable cheer and welcomed as another opportunity for cycling and sports fans alike to cheer Team Sky again on home turf.
Riders set off from 7.00am and hit the course with a perfect warm up through the stunning hedge-lined roads of Barnoldswick, before rolling in to a network of glorious lanes, villages and unforgiving hills for the next 99 kilometres to come.
Chris and Gavin (our resident bloggers) came in for the ride, along with many other participants who travelled from all over the UK and as far as Chicago, USA for this inaugural event - the Ride with Brad in aid of the Bradley Wiggins Foundation.
With different time constraints on us all, Gavin and I opted for the 100kms, while Chris took on the mightier 160kms - and mighty I am sure it was. We will look forward to hearing more from Chris in the coming days, but we all rode together up to the split, including the first King of the Mountains stage.
Up to this point we rode some stunning rolling roads, which were met with meandering rivers and bridges constructed of more sturdy northern stuff, before turning on to the 2.7 mile climb of Waddington Fell. It rolled up and out of the tree line on an unforgiving ascent, which brought false summit after false summit, until finally hitting the cattle grid at the top. It was certainly worth the grind to the top for the swift sweeping descent down to Newton in Bowland and the route split at just about the 29km mark. We bid farewell to our compatriot and wished him the very best of luck as he headed off for the extra 60kms, which included the rather spectacular Trough of Bowland. Maybe next year?
We pushed on through the fabulously impressive route of the Ribble Valley crossing the river around Whitehall Estate and heading to the next challenge climb ahead at Longridge. The route to here was relatively flat and we were able to spin along at a social pace throughout, but we were soon slowed in our tracks as we hit the next ascent. This pitches up at an easy 15- 20% gradient for the first 150 metres then levels out to a drag for another kilometre or so, before cresting to see the terrific view over the valley below.
With a handy CNP bar at the ready, we quickly moved on and with the sun in full view we gratefully welcomed the applause and cheers from the supporters on the road. This was quite a testament to how this area, and I can only imagine more of the UK, has got behind Team GB in recent weeks. This was of course the Ride with Brad and was pretty much the first public chance to wave on and catch a glimpse of the Olympic and Tour de France hero, Bradley Wiggins.
What a fabulous atmosphere this created too. Flags, bunting, and even an effigy lined the road along with the hundreds of well wishers who came out to support and congratulate the local guy done good on his recent successes. We can only imagine how many times he may have passed through these places going unnoticed during his training rides over so many years.
We descended again and dropped through some of the twists and turn on the back roads, before spying the omnipresent and impending Nick O’Pendle. With a fuel stop and gentle cheer from the morning’s congregation at Pendleton Church, we turned up again for another stretch and chance to challenge ourselves on the next stage for King of the Mountains on ‘The Nick’. It pitches and rolls up and over to an equally impressive descent into Sabden, where again many villagers turned out for this event.
“Is it lumpy enough for you, lad?” came one call and sure enough that rang true for the run back to the event HQ. The route map showed the a pretty hilly profile over the remaining 20km and the gradient on the peaks certainly made for a great, but still punishing run in. One further impressive site of these latter stages was the enormous 1612 that covered a large side of Pendle hill. This signposted the infamous Pendle Witch Trial of the same year, where twenty men and women had been committed for trial for witchcraft some 400 years ago and all part of the current witch festival in the area.
The route ran on through many more quiet lanes and back-road farmyards, before popping out to civilisation about kilometre before the end. Again, the well wishers cheered this final run in and riders were finally met by hundreds more lining the barriers to the finish line, where we were greeted by a rousing event village and a welcomed finisher’s pack and pasta meal.
Gavin and I sat, chatted and soaked up the atmosphere before going our separate ways, but crikey what a fantastic event this had been, though particularly following the support and encouragement offered by all who came by on the day. This really was a spectacle in support for the local hero and finally broader recognition of cycling and its increased public interest.
Brad himself rolled in from his cool 160kms with apparent ease, but surely impressed as the support and recognition for all of his hard work and talent was celebrated across the region he firmly sees as his home. With the success of this event, we will all look forward to hearing more about future Ride with Brad events to come.
Oh and for good measure on my return journey, I spotted the Brownlee Brothers out on a training ride, so stopped to get a pic of them too….just in case you were wondering!?