The Fred Whitton Challenge……

This week is not about me. This week it is all about the Fred Whitton Challenge.

That time of year is upon us again when the brave souls of the UK and beyond take on the hardest sportive in the UK. The challenge is 113 miles with over 13000ft of climbing up in the Lake District. The event is taking place next Sunday 13th May, and 4 of the Brixworth Velo foot clan are taking on the challenge – Captain, Chopper, Clem and Hollis.

I cannot do the event this year, but I did manage to tick this one off the bucket list last year. And it truly was one of the hardest rides I have ever done.

The Fred is nothing but brutal. There is climb after climb after climb. With some of them hitting the 30% gradient at points.
I am trying to recall the order in which they came and if I recall it hits you like this……
Jab – Kirkstone Pass
Right Hook – Honnister Pass
Jab – Buttermere
Hard Jab – Whinlatter Pass
Uppercut – Hardknott
Sucker Blow – Wrynose

Harknott and Wrynose are 2 of the hardest climbs I have ever done. They throw them at you when you are 96 and 100 miles into the ride! Thanks organisers, thanks!!
Unfortunately for me these climbs beat me last year. I was naive and believed I was a stronger rider than I actually was. I decided to stick with my 36/28 ratio gear set up on the bike and I paid the price. By the time I had got to Hardknott my legs were destroyed from having to power myself up the previous climbs instead of being able to spin up them. And once I hit the ridiculously steep 30% gradient of Hardknott I had nothing left and no easier gear to choose. Three quarters of the way up the climb and on the famous switchbacks near the top I had the judgement call to make. Try and continue to pedal but ultimately end up stalling and falling, or put the foot down and walk. I chose walk. I was beat. I walked up to the next switchback, and then with encouragement from the spectators I managed to get the bike going again and continue to the summit.
Wrynose ended up being a similar story and walking was once again on the cards!!
Due to this I will one day return to complete this event as a cycling event and not a cycling and walking event, but alas it won’t be this year. And I have also learnt from last year and will make sure I go with 36/32, 34/28 or even better 34/32 next time. I’m a quick learner 😂After completing last years event I raved on about it so much that I managed to convince the 4 to enter – never listen to me guys!! I was meant to be doing it, but decided on a sunshine holiday/training week instead – you can read all about that next week.

Since their entry was confirmed in February the guys have been training hard. And they have all been putting in some serious training to make sure that they not only go to this event to complete it, but to compete in it.

During the cold summer months the Brixworth Velo have been hitting the Sunday rides hard, with 50 miles+ a regular occurrence on cold wintery days. As soon as it was possible the guys started going out pre social ride to get the extra miles and climbing in that they needed. The Turbo Trainers have been well used, and the mid weeks rides have been a plenty. The Great British weather wasn’t going to dampen their spirits that’s for sure.

In March a few of us headed to the Peaks for a “taster” ride – you can read all about that here. And for the last month they have all been putting in some serious miles and training efforts. The Sunday rides turning into 80-100 miles for most of them every week. Strava segments have started to get eaten up. Even KOM’s have started to get put into their jersey pockets on their regular routes – showing how much the hard work is paying off.

This Sunday social was the last big ride for some of the guys before they make their way up for the Fred next weekend. Most of the Fred clan headed out at 6.40am to get 25 miles in before meeting the rest of us at the usual meeting point of Brixworth Library at 8.30am. We then split into 2 groups as the peloton had grown thanks to the summer sun returning to our shores.
The route took us out past Salcey Forest and back with the now obligatory cafe stop taking place at a favourite amongst us, The Boat House @ White Mills Marina Earls Barton. Bacon, egg and mushroom bap with a flat white. Cycling food from the gods. I can’t be wrong can I?!!

By the time the guys got back to Brixworth they had hit a decent 70+ miles, with Chopper going 1 better and hitting the ton for the day. A ton up every Sunday for the last 3 in a row for our new slim line Chopper. Chapeau every single one of you.

The hard work has now been done and they can look forward to an easier week in the saddle before heading north to one of the most stunning areas in the UK. Pep and Woody are heading up to give the guys moral support along the route, though I don’t think any of them will need it.

They will all go there, smash it, and leave buzzing. All with the knowledge they have completed one of the hardest sportives in the UK. I will be watching Strava next Sunday waiting for those rides to upload, and look forward to the match report with anticipation.

Good luck guys. And not only to you, but to every single one of the 2000 people taking on this amazing event.

Hopefully I will be back to try to “complete” it next year……….

Big G

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