I rode two hills on the 15th April. After riding up Michaelgate and having a break for lunch it was back into the car and on to the climb at Terrace Hill. After about 40 minutes of driving and one wrong turn I was at the top of the hill and preparing to ride down to make the start of the ascent. Unfortunately my legs just didn’t feel in the mood to party after a long day spent driving and I knew that Terrace Hill, the only 1 out of 10 hill in the book, was going to give me a kicking before I had even started.
Even flat roads eventually go uphill. The slightly eerie approach to Terrace Hill
I’ve found before that long intervals spent in the car between climbs translate into rubbish riding. Shuttling between closely spaced hills isn’t too much of a problem but after a lengthy period of time I guess your body figures you are done for the day and decides to wind things down. I knew whilst planning the day that travelling to Lincoln and then into the wilds of Leicestershire was going to be pushing things a bit and so it proved.
Terrace Hill starts off innocently enough and the first part of the climb is a gentle ramp up from a flat road. As soon as the gradient started to bite however I rapidly found myself clattering down through the gears in an effort to keep going. I can honestly say that on my regular training rides in North Devon I’d crank up a gradient like Terrace Hill in a fairly high gear and dismiss it as nothing more than a speed bump. For all the go I had in my legs it may as well been a 25 % slope as I found making progress hard work.
All I can say about this climb was that I’m glad it was over and the following day I was feeling in much better shape for a trip into Cheshire.
The plan was to tackle the Cat and Fiddle before lunch then head over to Alderly Edge to take on Swiss Hill. The 16th April however was windy, hellishly windy, and as my little Fiat was being buffeted all over the road I decided to take on Swiss Hill first and see if conditions improved before returning to the Cat and Fiddle.
Swiss Hill is a bit of an oddity, as you approach it you have the uneasy feeling that you are about to cycle up somebody’s badly maintained driveway. It is tucked away in a relatively affluent area of Alderley Edge and I couldn’t help but be amused at what the residents of Swiss Hill must think of Simon Warren now that he has placed their sleepy little cobbled road on a list of iconic British road climbs.
The hill itself is mercifully short as the cobbles are far rougher than the ones I had encountered the previous day in Lincoln. The road is also quite narrow and I dread to think what it would be like tackling it in wet weather. As on Michaelgate my natural tendency to remain in the saddle and spin a lower gear when the road heads up seemed to help keep things under control over the cobbles. The further up I went the more I got bounced all over the place however which impacted on my ability to keep the pace up. In other words I got slower. Not really a surprise.
The gradient slackened off a bit before the final short stretch of tarmac which leads to the top of the climb. The top was partially blocked by a Cheshire Chariot (Range Rover) which rather blunted the finale to the climb. Having to squeeze past a large car does take the shine off a little. Of course with a climb like Swiss Hill you can’t really claimed to have tackled it without making it back down to the bottom again. In an attempt to keep my bike in once piece I decided to take the road down fairly gently which, with the constant jarring from the cobbles, ended up with me having hands like claws and cramp in one leg by the time I got back to the car. That’ll teach me to go easily; it seems you have to attacked the cobbled descents as hard as the cobbled climbs. On uploading the video YouTube pointed out that the footage was shaky and asked if I would like the problem corrected. Couldn’t help but think that would be missing the point somehow…
After packing everything back into the car it was time to head back to the Cat and Fiddle where the wind was still blowing a gale. With the Cat and Fiddle climb being such a long one, and one I’m looking forward to riding, I decided to ride it another day. There are a host of climbs still to be completed in the area and I’d rather take on the A537 on a calmer day; it would have been a miserable slog in the windy conditions (something that I was due to learn all about on Holme Moss a couple of days later). On stopping at the Cat and Fiddle pub for lunch I got a demonstration of how strong the wind was when I found it was difficult to even get my car door open. All of the wooden picnic benches at the back of the pub were rocking in the gusts as if to dissuade me further. With so many of the North West climbs still to ride it isn’t as though I won’t be back up that way again and I‘d rather wait for a better opportunity.
Time for a bit of a breather
Any cycling challenge requires a robust approach to hydration.
I had the following day off before a big day out in Yorkshire. I was after all meant to be on holiday and I figured my dad and the dog would appreciate a day doing touristy things. One of the things on the agenda was a trip to Bakewell which turned out to be a strangely sterile place. The Bakewell slices we had were very nice but apart from an amusing sign for a sausage seller there wasn’t much that stuck in the mind. The dog was also treated to a walk around the grounds of the Chatsworth estate (well it was his birthday) and then a trip to the village pub in the evening (which he didn’t seem to enjoy quite so much).
Worryingly I wasn't the only person taking photos of this sign. Mind you, coffee and sausages are two of my most favourite things...