On Sunday the 8th of May, Sandy and Cameron rode the infamous Fred Whitton Challenge
‘Waking up before 5am is something I usually dread. But this time we got up and forced some porridge in. We arrived in Grassmere just before 06:30am, the sun had just popped over the distant hills. It was still quite cool but with sun forecast the discussion of the best clothing choice was ever relevant. We then loaded our pockets with as much food as we could fit in and made our way to the start.’
The Fred Whitton as one of the UK’s most demanding sportives. With 112 miles (180km) of riding around the Lake district it is already a long day on the bike, but with over 3500m (11,500 feet) of climbing, including the feared Hardknott pass, this is an achievement for any rider.
‘As we set off on rolling terrain, it was difficult to work out the correct pace. However, the first climb Holbeck Lane hits you surprisingly quickly. A short climb but reasonably steep, you know the ride has begun when you reach the summit. A short decent on technical terrain gives a good breather. Then comes Kirkstone pass. At only 11.6miles in it comes early on in the day. This is the first real test of the day. It may only be 07:30am, on a Sunday morning most people are still in bed. But your legs already feel heavy. For the next 30 miles there are plenty of climbs that on a normal day would be considered a challenge. On this day however, they are minor ascents. After Bouncing between groups for 30miles your Garmin warns you of the impending doom, Honister pass.’
‘Immediatly, you hit values of 20%. People around you are walking. Picking a line around them becomes as challenging as the climb. All the while the pedals are just barely turning over. Once you make it over Honister, there is no celebratory descent. Just a narrow singletrack road to navigate. After Honister there are several significant climbs; Newlands pass, Whinlatter pass and cold fell. Your only thought however is on Hardknott.’
‘It comes at 93.5 miles in. It looms ahead, it looks short. And essentially it is. However, when you’re barely moving, it’s the longest climb you’ve ever done. legs screming, at 30% inclines when you eventually clear it, all you’re thinking about now is Wynrose. Slightly less steep than Hardknott, but not easy by any means.’
‘The Fred Whitton is a fantastic challenge for any rider. I would recommend considering it as a goal for many people. You will feel a proper sense of achievement when you see that finish banner in Grassmere’