Essentials

Distances:       159 km / 103 km
Start:               Chapel-en-le-Frith School, High Peak, Derbyshire
Transport:        Parking on-site and nearby, Chapel-en-le-Frith Station <1km
Feedstops:      Long x2 / Short x1
Timed:             Yes (Helmet stickers)
Signs:              Clear Black Arrows on a bright pink background for long. Hazards well signed
Road:              Not bad on the whole, gravel in places and some pot holed sections
My Ride:         http://www.strava.com/rides/tour-of-the-peak-1230507

Summary

This ride was great fun and a big challenge. Covering a vast swathe of the Peak District National Park and taking in many of the iconic climbs in the area. The Cat and Fiddle, Winnat’s Pass and the relentless Holme Moss being the big three and with many more in-between. The organisation was great, very clear signage, marshalls on the route and often visible motorbike support. Timing seemed to go without a hitch and printouts were available as you crossed the line. Even the weather more or less played ball – possibly a Peak District first.

The ride

Leaving the gates of Chapel-en-le-Frith school we headed down to Whaley Bridge, past Combs reservoir. At Whaley a red light gave a chance for a warm up stretch before the real games began. The relentless climbing opened with Macclesfield Road, quite a mean climb on its own, but we swung off left near the top which continues to climb for another 3.5km to Pym’s Chair on the edge of the Goyt Valley. We turned back westward from here to re-join the main road and there was some respite in the drop down to Macclesfield which frankly we needed, as Macclesfield was the start of the first of the big three, the Cat and Fiddle.

The climb is long, around 10km with an average of 3.3% but that figure belies its real nature, the first half being quite steep, flattening off around two thirds in before finishing you off with another steepish section. This prior knowledge gives you a bit of an advantage as you know pushing a bit at the start isn’t going to completely kill you off, though saying that I still didn’t feel too clever as I drew level with the pub that gives this road its name. It always feels as if you’ve hit the top of the world here as there is nothing higher and you can see for miles over the bleak beauty of the moors. Thankfully the weather was kind as there is no hiding place here and I was able to push on straight down to Buxton on those sweeping bends, justifiably loved by cyclists and motorcyclists from miles around.

We avoided the town, staying quite high and cutting through Harper Hill and eventually to Tideswell the site of the first gratefully received feed-stop. The stop was well stocked like most Kilotogo feeds with a lot of cake, High5 energy drink and a selection of their gels.

We took a picturesque though slightly treacherous back road down to Castleton dropping steeply down the Hope valley side with some fabulous views. The road emerged in the centre of Castleton but there was no time to look at this beautiful village as it was heads down for the next big challenge, Winnat’s Pass (1km, 14.2%).

This is an iconic climb because of its remarkable steepness and incredible beauty, a steep sided V cut in the hillside with loose rock and caves to each side of the road. The road itself is narrow and once you pass over the cattle grid at the bottom near the Blue John cavern it starts to get steep then just keeps getting steeper until you hit the top. At round 750m in my legs hit their limit and I was out of the saddle pushing with my whole body to keep me going. I really had a wobble on by the time I pushed over the top. This is where the downside of knowing some of the route kicked in as almost immediately following Winnat’s there is another cruel kick to take us up to the turning for Edale. This is where the route split as the shorter group pushed onwards back in the direction of Chapel and although sorely tempted I swung right on the long route, to at first climb and then drop quickly back into the Hope valley, this time travelling as far out as Bamford, this was an uncharacteristically flat section, the longest in the ride.

We climbed out of the valley to Ladybower where the route became a lot less familiar to me. There was very little flat though and the farther north we went the more the wind seemed to pick up. The second feed was based outside a pub, only a quick stop to fill my water and it was back climbing upwards. There was a great fun, rapid descent in to Holmfirth, a town famed for its hills, or rather its old men rolling down them every Sunday afternoon in Last of the Summer Wine. In cycling circles Holmfirth is even more famed for the climb of Holme Moss (4.7km, 7.3%) and what a killer this turned out to be. I didn’t know the hill at all which was nearly my undoing. With that many miles in my legs I wasn’t too fresh to start with but tried to push up on my big ring for as long as I could. The climb snakes up the side of the hill and at every turn I’d see a point above me where I thought I’d reached the summit but on turning it there was another climb and higher corner ahead. As I climbed higher the road became more exposed and the wind began to play a part. When I reached the road markings to the real summit (from a mile out for future reference) I was really blowing hard. I clung on, though had to drop to a lower gear and my legs were really screaming as I finally pushed over the line.

It was one of those climbs that was so cruel and hard on your body that it kicks a huge rush of adrenalin into your system and although in reality my body was pretty broken I had a huge rush of energy when I reached the top that I decided to capitalise on. There was still plenty to take it out on. A fast descent to Crowden to cross the dam we climbed out of the valley to Glossop, up the Chunal to Hayfield and then the last big one of the day over Hayfield Road. The last section up through Chapel was just a matter of hanging on, then back to the sports centre to finish and a very well earned massage.

Kit

Jamis Xenith Pro

Garmin Edge 500

Topeak Aero Wedge pack, Topeak TriBag, Camelbak Podium waterbottles

Blackburn Air Stick III pump, Topeak Mini18+, Bontrager Air Rush regulator

Specialized BG Comp Road shoes, Cyclosport Endura shorts and jersey, Specialized Propero helmet, dhb arm warmers, Gore bike wear Power mitts