Stage one: Leeds to Harrogate
Was this really the end of June? It was much colder than it needed to be and the promise of showers throughout the day meant that many our number, excitedly gathered underneath the Wiggle banner ready for our very own Grand Depart, were dressed as though it was February. We hadn't yet worked out – well I hadn't – that today's ride would warm us up very quickly.
The climbs aren't easy...
I'd opted to start in the second wave, having planned a nice steady day. Within two miles my plan was out the window – I was chasing the first group. A further five or so miles later and we hit a number of drags and my legs were already burning. For most of the chase, my heart rate was telling me to slow down, but catching sight of the group in front when the roads opened and stretched out, kept spurring me on. Thankfully I was joined by another rider who helped take some much needed turns to help reel the group in. So, Oliver from Bristol, thank you very much for letting me sit on your wheel to recover a bit between turns.
Having made the gap to the front group, I was absolutely, definitely set on staying with them and from the point of catching them to the second feed stop I succeeded. As an added bonus a few of the Wiggle Honda team had joined us and were setting the pace like the pros they are, so each climb was steady and we remained as a group.
Wiggle Honda did a great job on the front
The final 40km were relatively easy compared to the 100km that we’d just tackled.
The rolling A-roads that took us back into Harrogate are, come Saturday, going to be an extremely fast finish that will no doubt be a thrill to watch.
The spectators were hoping for Cav...
Stage two: York to Sheffield
The initial examination of my legs by poking them to see how painful they were when I woke up was good. They were feeling relatively fresh so despite knowing we had a lot of climbing to do today, I was confident that I’d be okay. Thirty-five miles in and after a couple of fun little 'attacks', we hit the first of the stage's big climbs. My speed dropped, the gap opened between me and the rider in front and that was pretty much the start of an almost-solo five hours of pain and suffering!
Riding on your own mile after mile, hill after hill can get very tiresome but the sight of a couple, in full trekking gear, having a picnic in the rain on top of the Yorkshire Dales was so British it almost brought a tear to my eye.
#nofilter... okay #somefilter
The heavy road surfaces and the number of short but steep climbs that forced you to get out of the saddle more than you wanted to, really took their toll. Cragg Vale, Holme Moss and Ripponden Bank were the notable, toughest climbs for me and each were followed by very fast, flowing descents that at times were scary enough solo – how the pro peloton does it, I don’t know. Squeaky-bum time for sure.
My personal low point of the weekend was being overtaken by a rather rotund old man on an electric bike fitted with flat pedals with Holme Moss looming large ahead of us. As he passed he said: "Steep, isn't it?" I don’t even know what I said in reply but whatever I mumbled definitely wasn’t discernible English.
Yorkshire dentist gets in on the Tour act...
Being a southerner, I don't get to ride up North very often, so to not only ride in Yorkshire but to ride the route that the pros will be racing on 5 and 6 July was a real treat. Wiggle put on a fantastic weekend full of hard riding, plush accommodation and good food. After 224 miles and more than 20,000ft of climbing, it's easy to see why Yorkshire was chosen to host the Grand Départ.
And if you're in any doubt that the UK stages won't be as tough as those in France, it's worth noting that 120 riders signed up for the two days of Wiggle's Ride the Route. Of those, 82 finished day one, 57 managed to ride on Sunday and only 43 of us managed to finish both days. Well, I say managed…