The Coal Road Challenge (CRC) is an annual event organised by Lune Racing Cycling Club, one of the cycling clubs in Lancaster, and as can be seen by the photo below, a fair few COLTS were joining in the fun.
The Challenge is only £5 to enter, but it isn’t a sportive, or indeed a race. It’s a good old fashioned reliability ride. There are no fully stocked feed stations, no directional arrows (I spotted one), no mechanics to help out and no broom wagon. The onus is on yourself to ensure that you and your bike will be up to the Challenge.
This was only the second time that I had done the CRC, as I was ill in 2014 and living in Hull in 2015 and 2016.The photo below was from 2013, climbing up Gawthorpe out of Dent.
It was cold that year, so cold that the ride had to miss out the Coal Road because of snow and ice on the top. The beard has grown a bit since then.
The proper route, with the infamous Cola Road is approximately 64 miles, with another ten for most people riding from Lancaster, along with plenty of up.
There were loads of people riding who I knew, too many for me to chat to all of them. Some, like me, would be taking it easy, others, like Ian, who rocked up in his Rapha onesie, would be caning it all the way round.
I decided to set off with the first group, containing a good contingent of COLTs, including Danny, Richard, Hobbit, Brett, Craig, Rachel, Jenny and quite a few others. Sorry if I missed you. With Danny, Richard and Hobbit setting a good tempo, the COLT train was soon leading the charge to Ingleton, and the first climb of the day. (Looking good for Ironman Wales Danny).
As expected the short but steep climb split the pack, with myself in no mans land, unable to catch the guys up front. I didn’t ride on my own for long as Richard soon caught me up complaining that Hobbit was rubbish to draft behind. We worked together, setting a gentle pace, until we reached the farm at the top of Newby Head. The farm has a sign advertising homemade cakes, but the place never looks too welcoming. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s brilliant. Please tell me if you’ve stopped there as it’s not on Trip Advisor.
Richard soon disappeared towards Hawes, while I took it easier, only reaching 50mph a couple of times. Hawes = Headwind, so once I’d caught back up to Richard I tucked in behind him until we reached the checkpoint at Garsdale Head. (Photo from Neil Pryde Bikes and Sweeneypix.) This gave me chance to eat a flapjack that my wife had made. You should check out her cakes at the Spar shops in Cabus and Scorton.
It was now time for the Coal Road, and it is a beast. I’ve climbed it six times, and this was my slowest (did I mention that it was a bit windy), although my quickest time was less than a year ago.
The descent was almost as bad with the crosswinds. Half a dozen fast guys then flashed past me, including Beards of Bowland guest rider Mark, TT legend Phil, and the mighty Sibs. There was no way that I could keep up, but they re-grouped in Dent, so I waved as I pootled on by. At the bottom of Gawthorpe was an arrow with CRC on it. Overdoing it with the arrows I think.
The road through Barbondale is beauty beyond words. Ride it you must.
The fast boys chain gang then overtook me once again, and this time I stayed with them for maybe two or three minutes, which was more than enough. As I reached Devil’s Bridge it started to rain, and that was the last I saw of anyone until I was back at the Bull Beck car park. I stayed for a quick chat with various people, along with being handed a certificate and Cold Dark North patch from Deb. Sorry for not waiting to see the rest of the COLT’s home, but I wanted to head home before I got too cold.
The Coal Road Challenge is a brilliant event, so big thanks to Lune RCC, The Cold Dark North and The Edge Cycleworks. You should have a look at some of the photos from The Cold Dark North on their instagram and Facebook pages, very iconic, and I’ll see you all next year.