For the last few years Epic Events have organised a great sportive called the Christmas Cracker, based at Grasmere; but being in early December, the last two years’ cold weather have caused havoc, so this year they brought it forward to early November. And what a good idea that was! The weather could not have been better, with clear blue skies, no wind, and fabulous visibility. The Lake District at its best.
After scraping the frost off the car we headed off for
Grasmere and parked about two miles
from the village in one of the National Trust roadside car parks – where we
discovered you can pay by credit card (and you need to, at £7 for the day!) We only just made it to Grasmere
for the meeting time of 10.00, but the Sunderland
contingent was also running a bit late so we didn’t hold anyone up.
By the way, I don’t know why more people don’t do this – all you need is a couple of tie-wraps to fasten an ordinary bicycle rear light to the back of your helmet. It is so much more visible than a light fixed low down on the rear bike forks.
Almost immediately after setting off we were faced with the steep ascent of Red Bank. It always catches riders out, but it’s a nice feeling pedalling past cyclists who have already decided to get off and push! From there it was on to Elterwater, Coniston and the minor road down the east side of Coniston Water. This used to be one of my favourite roads in the road rally days: once, when navigating for Ian Woof in a Chevette, we did the whole stage with a throttle that was jammed open – Ian’s only means of controlling the engine was by switching the ignition on and off, and he did pretty well to achieve this whilst still driving flat out and trying to listen to my pace notes!
Lunch was at the Scout Hut at Cartmel. Just to prove, yet again, what a small world it is, I met the ride mechanic, Dave Farnworth, and found out he was at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School at the same time as me (although he’s only a young 57!) and then Dave and Kath Gamble – Dave has had a lifelong interest in the Scouts, used to be manager of Boots the Chemist in Clitheroe and knows my next-door neighbours well!
On the return we re-crossed the busy A590, climbed up past the Grizedale Visitor Centre with its magnificent Zip-Wire ride, then through Hawkshead before travelling along the minor road at Under Loughrigg and back to
Grasmere, after a most enjoyable sixty miles.
I must say I would have appreciated a bit more food at the mid-way halt and the finish, but apart from this the organisation was as slick as usual. We said our good-byes, cycled back to the car in the gloaming, and joined the masses of traffic heading out of the Lakes. It had been a day of gorgeous sunshine, crystal-clear visibility and stunning autumn colours. Were we just lucky, or was RoadBikeDave up there pulling a few strings in the weather department for us all?