Six insomniac members of CCC gathered in glorious sunshine – Martin G, Craig, Andrew, Piston Pete and the two tall Marks.
We took advantage of the early hour by using the main roads to leave Harrogate via Rudding Park and Kirkby Overblow before crossing the Leeds road and heading up the valley towards Pool. It was already warm enough for us to work up a real sweat up the first climb of the day, Old Pool Bank. Ride leader Martin ‘Don’t worry lads – I know these roads, I grew up round here’ then managed to take us on a wrong turn which rewarded us with a fast descent Otley, before we had to regain the height we’d lost by climbing back up the Chevin. The views from the top made the extra effort worthwhile (honestly!). Another fast downhill section took us to Menston, where a long steady climb saw us on top of Ilkley Moor and another high speed drop into Ilkley.
Although it was tempting, we resisted the flattish route to via Nesfield and Beamsley, and instead climbed over Langbar via Carters Lane. It was a real change to pass along this moorland road in nice weather with no wind to contend with, or hailstones stripping the skin off our legs and the paint off our bikes, like the last time we were out that way.
Our early start meant that the favoured cafe stop (favoured because of the good food, not the Kate Middleton look a like who works there) was not yet open, so we headed on another few miles into Burnsall for a welcome fuel stop.
We were lucky to bag a table outside the cafe, as the place was absolutely packed with cyclists. It would have been hard to calculate the value of the carbon fibre and titanium that covered the village green. The food was excellent, let down only by the fact that the salad garnish on Mark’s beans on toast (a piece of tomato and one leaf of cress) lacked a Balsamic vinegar dressing.
After a bit of rest we headed through Appletreewick, up Skirehome hill and Stump Cross Caverns and then back to Harrogate via Duck Street, Little Almscliffe and Beckwithshaw. From the school we had cone about 105k and about 1700m of climbing. A really rewarding day out, which could have only been bettered if Team Sky have been four seconds faster in the team time trial, and put Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey!