Well I entered the eTape Pennines as a way into the eTape Caledonia which is always oversubscribed – tickets are never available but i like many others entered the double just to get a place. I loved the Scottish event and was looking forward to this one but it is a very different race.
The Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Pennines, England’s first closed road sportive, quickly established itself as one of the toughest sportives in the UK following its debut in 2012. Starting and finishing in County Durham, the 60 mile course takes riders through the ruggedly undulating North East scenery.
With over 2,000 metres of climbing to overcome, it’s certainly a challenging ride, but with panoramic views and speedy downhill sections to look forward to, your hard work is duly rewarded. Cycling Plus took part in the 2012 event and said “Beautiful but brutal, the Etape Pennines has the makings of a classic”.
Located in a busy market town, Barnard Castle provides the dramatic backdrop for the start of this year’s Marie Curie Cancer Care Etape Pennines. Upon setting off, riders will soon find themselves riding through the stunning rolling countryside at Middleton in Teesdale, which will warm the legs nicely in preparation for the challenging section which awaits.
Following the completion of this uphill section you will be rewarded with a thrilling downhill section into St John’s Chapel. Use this descent as an opportunity to catch your breath and rest your legs, as before long you will be in scaling yet more climbs in Blanchland, home of the iconic moorland Etape Pennines has become renowned for.
From here you drop down Crawleyside Bank into the town of Stanhope and then climb to the top of Bollihope Common where you will be rewarded with breathtaking views across the dales before going back down to Egglestone and into Barnard Castle to collect your medal.
Well the ride down was good and we watched the weather with a keen eye as the earlier in the week forecasts of torrential stormy armageddon gave way to the possibility of a nice even sunny ride. Organisationally it was quite good – the big bugbear being the parking. We turned up in the camper only to be turned away and told that it opened at 4:30am. So we drove around looking for camper parking and not finding any and had to spend the night in an industrial estate with some chavs playing dance music and kicking a football around post pub kick out until 2am ….. aaargh not what i needed when we were going to be up at 5am.
Then it was race time
Unlike the eTape Caledonia there was nobody in the ride to work with – well maybe the early group had a peleton but our later start certainly didn’t ….. and I think the course although shortened seems to have been shortened at the expense of flat sections where a group might start working together. For the first part of the ride, my friend Jim and I seemed to be pulling along 2 or 3 other guys who either hadn’t cycled in groups before or had not worried about the etiquette of sharing.
I found the route quite brutal in that it was impossible for me to build up a proper rhythm – it seems to be difficult up and then steep down for most of the race. The bonus being that I hit a top speed of over 52 mph which is a max for me.
slight difference in top speed between the sites – so best go with the higher one then.
We managed to lose tom at the start of a KOM section, but we knew he might fall back. But a sudden section that lurched left and up which was damp (or some say had spilt diesel) meant i wheel spun and had to step off on the 20%+ slope walk up 20 foot and get back on. Jim in the meantime had gone on so when i got to the first pit stop i stopped hoping he would be there. He wasn’t so I quickly got a refill – the sun was out and already 20 degrees, and then started going again.
It was on a long climb as i crested that i suddenly found myself catching up so we had only been separated for 5 miles or so. We cycled the rest of the way together (we are pretty evenly matched – he ascends and descends faster and i was better on the less steep gradients)
At the very end 10 miles from the finish he stopped to fill a bottle so i carried on thinking he would catch up …. but he never closed the distance and finished a paltry 1m40s behind me. Tom at this stage was still 10 miles out ….
the stats for the KOM and a sprint section (but why place it right after a climb??)
and a bad photo I haven’t bought
So would we do it again? well maybe