In late September the Beverley Knights embarked on their greatest challenge collective challenge since the club was formed. There would be thrills, spills and an unforgettable night with the irrepressible Irene.
Having travelled on masse (excluding Mike Straw, Nick Bleazard and Steve Powers) to the Lake District on Thursday the Friday started with the customary dipping of the wheel into the Irish see and spirits high. The group enjoyed some good riding on Friday and soon fragmented with the more fool hardy eager to emulate their heroes from the Tour of Britain and ascend Honister pass meanwhile the more sensible chose to follow a less undulating parcours. After a lunch in Keswick and as the day went on the group fragmented again, some of the group sought a more scenic route whilst others carried on enduring the main roads. It is on the main roads outside Kendal where the day took a turn for the worse. As the group rode in a line Ray hit a pot hole and brought down Jim, who unfortunately broke his jaw and was unable to continue after being airlifted to hospital. Ray meanwhile, suffering from cuts and bruises, was able to continue. (This would not be Ray’s only act of sabotage over weekend.)
On the Friday night as Nick, Steve Powers and Mike arrived spirits were understandably low amongst the group with Jim’s wellbeing at the front of everyone’s mind. Like all true Leaders Neil decided something had to be done to raise the moral of his troops. In what must have been an act to make his fellow cyclists laugh he started to harass and be rude to the waiters in what will forever be remembered as “oi-gate.” As Saturday morning arrived Neil again lived up to his billing of team leader and took the decision to visit Jim at hospital in Preston.
On the second day with the three new additions the group set of from Penrith station. Putting the previous day behind them the group soon got to teasing Ray avoiding riding in his wheel at all costs in case they were the victims of his plan to ruin the weekend.
As the wheels turned and legs spun along steadily the group enjoyed some early morning group riding. The countryside could be described as undulating and didn’t provide the Knights with anything to worry about. However in the distance but getting ever closer was a wall of bracken and the Knights could not escape the fact that if they wished to reach the North Sea they would have scale the larger hills that blocked out the horizon in front of them. The first and arguably hardest challenge of the day was Hartside Pass though never olverly steep and peppered with switchbacks that softened the gradient it was long. The café at the top and the venue for lunch perched at the top of the hill, tantalisingly close yet agonisingly far away.
From Hartside the group had a fast and furious descent and plummeted towards Garrigill from where if they flat road appeared to be at a premium and the Knights found themselves going in one of two direction uphill or downhill. The hill out of Garrigill and the terrain between Garrigill and Nenthead were particularly challenging for me and further cafe stop at Allenheads provided welcome relief. (It was even worth the midge bites.) From Allenheads the group climbed to Rookhope and then descened towards Stanhope where Ray unleashed his next wicked plan. Eager to disrupt the group further he tricked Jackie and took her on a ten mile detour whilst the worried group waited. From Stanhope only two more challenges remained, the climb out the town which makes it into the top 100 British Road Climbs and helping Neil survive the night at Bee home without feeling the full wroth of Irene.
After an interesting evening at Bee cottage which raised various questions, for example who would wash up if we used Irene’s shot glasses and what exactly does Ray get up to when he goes to Amsterdam? The group retired to their bed rooms. The final morning brought sunshine, a strong fragrance emerging from the room dubbed “Dads and Lads” which housed Ray and Nick Bleazard and Carl and Rich Johnson and sense of enthusiasm for the days riding as the group new for the majority of the day they would be going downhill and with the wind behind them. This early optimism was proved to be right and the group darted along tracks and trails with the wind in their sails. Working their way through County Durham and Northumbria along gravel and mud trails they group emerged unscathed and miraculously without puncture in Gateshead.
After a short detour that nearly saw the Knights heading north on the Busy A1 the group were soon on the banks of the Tyne and Bathed in sunshine. All that remained was a short stop outside the Baltic art gallery before the group soon got on their way with the taste of fish and chips in on the tip of their tongues. They worked their way through what seemed like never ending housing estates and cycle paths of east Newcastle and North Shields until the end was in sight the light house at the end of the harbour wall signified the Knights had arrived at Tynemouth. With the sun bouncing of the North Sea all that remained was for wheels to be dunked in the North Sea and the Beverley Knights had done it; they had Cycled from Coast to Coast.