Event: 5 October 2013
After a sellout event in October 2012 and the first Wooler Wheel event in 2013 receiving more critical acclaim, comes the third opportunity to ride on October 5.
If you're inspired by the following report from May's event, don't delay in entering the next edition.
At 7:30am in Wooler, way up in the North of Northumberland, where 300 cyclists faced a long hard slog into the Cheviot Hills and the sandstone ridges of North Northumberland. The routes were over a hilly terrain with more ups and downs than a fiddler's elbow. If that wasn't enough their first 45km trended south westerly into the teeth of a prevailing 20mph headwind and continuous heavy showers. Perfect! Who wants these lycra-clad maniacs up here anyway, disturbing our peaceful and scenic remoteness? That'll see them off. A succession of one steep incline after another, without even the joy of fast downhills to follow because the wind was so strong.
After Ingram and on the way to Alwinton, now beyond the scant shelter afforded by the lee of the high Cheviot hills,totally exposed, feeling the full strength of the relentless wind and with faces stinging from the impact of the driven rain, a remorseless 20km undulating climb to a height of 270m lay before them. Too much for some - at the split with 80km route they conceded to the wind and terrain and turned eastward to follow the shorter route. The sooner to get back to Wooler and enjoy a big plate of hot pasta. Those who persisted gained some relief when they turned the corner near Alwinton and the head wind became a fierce crosswind. At Harbottle, water and jelly babies - tons better than three Michelin star haute cuisine. Even better at Thropton, where the feed station offered bananas and Great Northumberland Bread Company honey flapjacks.
North from Thropton up Cartington Hill and the riders would feel some assistance from the wind. What they didn't realise though is that as their route was rotating anticlockwise (more or less), the wind direction was rotating clockwise.Still raining. Up and down, up and down to Whittingham and on to the water station at Glanton. What's this? A crowd of sportivists. Is the road closed ahead? Good - water, jelly babies, hot coffee. Hot coffee! That's not in the British Cycling guidelines. Paul, the marshal at the water station had thought the riders might want something hot to drink, so he had brought a portable stove and was brewing up. Forget the time; the wind's screwed it anyway. Let's join the queue and wait for some coffee. Not far now to the half way point at Eglingham. Things may be looking up.
At the A697 the marshals stationed there indicate when the road is clear of traffic. Down the hill, round the blind bend and ...ouch. Why does the road seem to have gone near vertical? One of those little titbits the routemaster has built into the ride. At Eglingham the terrain gives way to sandstone hills and the route turns sharp left to traverse their lower slopes. Up and down, up and down for 12km to the Chatton feed station. By now, the wind has become a 20mph westerly for many of the riders, so as the road twists and turns they feel the headwind.
At Chatton, more riders decide they'll drop out of the long ride and follow the 100km route at the next route split a few kilometres further on. At the route split, the left turn leads to Wooler and hot pasta and the right turn leads to Lyham Bank - a kilometre of continuous steep climbing, considered by most to be the hardest part of Wooler Wheel routes. Just over the brow of Lyham Bank, where there would have been a great view of Holy Island and LIndisfarne Castle, had the weather not been so murky, there is a lone marshal at the left turn. Dressed like an eskimo, clothes and hair flapping and trying hard to stay upright in the gusting wind and driven rain. Heather guards a treasure - jelly beans, the most popular in the whole of the route. From here, it's 24km to the next feed station at Heatherslaw Mill, most of it into the westerly headwind.
In clear weather the riders would have enjoyed the most spectacular views of Cheviot, the highest mountain in the Cheviot Hills. But not this time. All the hills are clothed in clouds. So it's heads down and grinding their way to Heatherslaw and beyond. More flapjacks at Heatherslawand no one seems to be tiring of them. After Heatherslaw it's 14km of slog into the headwind, past the site of the Battle of Flodden, up and down, up and down to Mindrum Mill where the route turns eastward. Riders might have thought it would be easy from here. And it is easier....except for....Thornington Bank, behind another blind bend and probably seeming near vertical to tired legs....and the slog up to Flodden Edge, which has a tilted ski-jump-like profile on its final stage.At thispoint the rain has mostly gone away, but not the wind.
A long downward slope leads to the water station at Milfield and then it's an easy, almost flat ride over the Milfield Plain to Doddington. Another 6km via Weetwood Bridge brings the rider's back to Wooler to enjoy some banter with the ladies at the sign-out desk. Then it's well-deserved pasta and drinks, a sit down on a seat that isn't trying to split them in half, and a very satisfying feeling of having conquered great adversity..
Drawn in by the report? Fancy joining us for round two in October? Enter here today!