|Looking fresh for a weekend of hill climbing in North Yorkshire|
Heading off from our Base Camp, Prattachi Manor in Knaresborough, and fuelled by multiple pints of Harvest Pale in the excellent Half Moon the previous evening, the boys cycled sections of next year's Grand Départ stage of the Tour de France passing through Nidderdale, Wharfedale, Wensleydale and finally into Swaledale - a mere 118km and 2147m of ascent.
|Alansandro ignoring the all important Briefing|
|Route stats from the President's Garmin (note his maximum speed - achieved downhill and still slower than the Tour riders on the Champs Élysées)|
|The Club members reassemble at the top of Greenhow Hill. Extremely red faces and excessive perspiration have been dealt with courtesy of PhotoShop!|
Suitably refreshed with Yorkshire tea at Stump Cross, we roared down into Grassington, new speed records being set (even by our President) before a sharp pull over Kidstones into Wensleydale, the second race stage of the day. Here there were really only two competitors. Stewie winning once again, chased (for a while anyway) by Heyddie who gathered another glory point.
Then a well deserved and excellent lunch at the Aysgarth Falls Hotel (great sandwiches) before a classic Category 2 and forthcoming Tour climb, the infamous Buttertubs, from Hawes over to Swaledale.
Heyddie and Fabian plotted to overthrow Stewie's lead by working together to break him on the hill - not easy, especially with one horribly steep section before the long summit run - but Stewie ruled the roost, doing his usual trick of letting the other guys do all the work leading out, then sailing past (typically with a sardonic quip) to victory! Fabian's lack of courage on steep downhill sections costing him second place, narrowly beaten by Heyddie after an exhausting chase up the very last rise. The final point went to Alansandro.
|Top o' Buttertubs before the descent to Reeth|
|Stewie arrives triumphant in Reeth|
A few pints in the Black Bull restored energy (well, not quite...) and Stewie was presented with his red polka dot hat and sheep badge (couldn't find a lion in Yorkshire), followed by an excellent meal at the Burgoyne Hotel, a good spot where some of us spent the night.
|Stewie receiving his KOM award from Club Secretary Jan|
|King of the Mountain Stewie's self portrait (the rest of us were too exhausted to bother about photographs...)|
|Club dinner at the Burgoyne|
But, importantly, we were joined by our Treasurer, Alberto, at least for part of the day's stage beyond Leyburn as he quite stridently declared 'I don't do hills. I don't do rain', showing his maturity and incredible wisdom.
|Day 2 Reeth to Knaresborough. Note the 'flat' section after Whipperdale Bank :-)|
Well, it didn't rain, but there were certainly hills, even on the 'flat bit' back to Knaresborough from Leyburn. There was a chill easterly wind as we set off up the first early climb of the day, Whipperdale Bank, from Grinton over to Leyburn. Another category 2 hill and another to be fought over in next year's Tour, but not a race stage today, so Mario, reenergised by beer and love, emerged at the top of the hill in the esteemed company of King of the Mountain Stewie, supported by his lead out man, Fabian.
From Leyburn, we enjoyed hills and dales (although there was much muttering going on from someone in the bunch), had a good morning break in Masham before returning triumphantly back to Prattachi Manor for essential rehydration and a BBQ ahead of the closing day's coverage of the Tour de France. Excellent!
Some thanks are due: to Mrs Prattachi for her excellent hospitality. To Jan, for masterminding this adventure, his meticulous route planning and generosity. To all the WAGS for sitting there and having to put up with all the cycling and technical speak. And, finally, to Stewie, for being a damn good hill climber, a good supporter to those at the back of the peloton, and for still going to the bar as the Club Kittymeister.