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A big tough Peak District road ride, with hills of course.

The view from Monsal Head

It started with a Facebook message. So many rides do these days. This one started “Going to the peaks on Saturday the 19th March….” and concluded with “…thinking 80/100 miles with lots of hills”. How could I resist, I had already planned a suitable route ages ago, I just needed a Saturday to deploy it into!

As you’ll notice by the date, that was the Saturday just gone.  I also know that quite acutely by the dull ache that remains in my legs, even now, three days past.  Was the dull ache from the 2500+ m of climbing, was it from the 125 km distance or maybe it was due to the 25% gradient on The Riber, the final climb of the day?  To be fair it was due to a bit of all these things, it always is.  And on this occasion add in a little bit of friendly rivalry and you have the perfect cocktail for a punishing but extremely enjoyable day in the saddle.

The band of fools
The band of fools

When I originally created this Peaks route, I had my hill chasing in mind.  So I had worked out a loop that would take in hills 30, 31, 32, 34 and 35 from the book (100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist’s Guide to Britain’s Hills).  Dean (Castelli Blue) showed his cards right at the beginning; declaring a man flu handicap, so we gave him some allowance on that, but Phil (Castelli Black) and Joe (Castelli Green) as strong riders would ride hard.

After the first couple of ‘other hills’ at the beginning of the ride my numbered hills then became known to our group as the ‘categorised climbs’, in order to distinguish them from the surrounding landscape.  The photo above shows us standing at the top of Monsal Head, the first of these climbs, which was also when I realised that Joe was planning to hit the top of all 5 of the climbs ahead of the rest of us!  And so the competitive edge to the ride was awakened.

The day was very much backloaded with the big climbs, so apart from Monsal Head, which in itself isn’t the toughest, most of the morning was spent traversing rolling hills.  We then stopped in Calver at the Insomnia cafe for some lunch and caffeine, I’d highly recommend this place, they supplied us with good quality coffee, panini/flatbreads and cake; they even filled our water bottles for us.

There’s also a conveniently located convenience store (Spar) next door, for stocking up on additional energy snacks.  So with Rice Krispy Squares purchased and pocketed we headed off for the true leg killers, in the order of Curbar Edge, Rowsley Bar, Bank Road and finally The Riber.

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Recovering at the top of Bank Road

It was The Riber that truly caused the pain and took us to the edge.  The 25% gradients of the switchbacks in the upper half of the climb seeing off a couple of riders; un-named and shamed into walking.  It’s a tough climb in it’s own right but including it 91 km into a hilly loop is just mean and as the organiser of the route I have to hold up my hands and admit that it was all my doing.  Well, they did ask for a tough hilly ride after all!

Of course even after finishing all of the ‘named’ hills, it’s still the Peak District, which means the run back to the car park wasn’t exactly flat.  The long drag from Cromford to Longcliffe in particular, although only a 2% average gradient, is 9 km long, persistent and quite a challenge for tired legs.  I think I can fairly say that this was quite a day out.

My Strava activity – https://www.strava.com/activities/521213333

The route on Strava – https://www.strava.com/routes/3933461

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