The Etape du Dales is a classic event taking in some of the iconic climbs in the Yorkshire Dales. Here is a review of the recent 2018 event that happened last month, written by TheSufferingCyclist. Want to learn more about the Etape du Dales? Click here.
Here it is sports fans, the first sportive of the year. 110 miles, 3000m of climbing & 9h30m of glorious, pedalling-induced pain. As mentioned in the bio, I’m an average cyclist suffering to get through these endurance events with a modicum of panache and grace. Alas, this one went to type with blood, sweat, tears and promises to do more training next time around.
Which leads me neatly onto the first cause of suffering; training, or the lack thereof. I’d carefully and meticulous planned a pre-race 2 week training block in India consisting of a strict routine of 3 curries a day, interval sessions of Kingfisher & intense Goan-beach lounging. Surely the relaxing effects of some early May sun and the renowned weight loss therapy from Dr. Delhi-Belly would boost me up the rankings?
Regrettably, it seems that a pathetically sweaty 20min gym session at a Mumbai hotel isn’t quite ideal preparation for a sportive ominously self-described as “an extremely difficult ride requiring an excellent level of fitness” supplemented by the warning …do not treat your entry lightly and remember to respect the challenge.”
Nevertheless I was not to be deterred from the suffering. Race day dawned; I donned the obligatory less-than-half price Rivelo bib-shorts from SportsPursuit.com (along with half the peloton); clipped in and let the pain commence!
I was lucky enough to endure this with some fellow suffer-fans I have the pleasure of knowing and introducing you too:
- Bayleaf – (from the protrusion size of his calves) – A young whippet of man used to smashing ultra-marathons. A mountain-goat on the climbs who arrived in superb fettle after smashing the Fred Whitton sportive a week previous.
- 1 Knee – (on account of his lack of working right ACL) – A strong bull of a man used to smashing fell-running and destroying me on all terrains on a previous trip round the Peak District . Super-humanly was taking part on the back of no training and not having done proper rehab from a cruel ACL injury last year.
- Crash Bandicoot – (the reasoning will become obvious shortly) – A supremely fit commuter from Yorkshire taking to his first ever sportive.
- Wild Child – (on account his last name’s Wild and I’m running out of nickname ideas) – Simply the best of amongst us, and probably anyone in Yorkshire not named Brownlee. A genuinely exceptional cyclist, who is disgustingly humble about his achievements!
From the gun Wild Child decided he was going to give it his all and blasted off into the distance, flicking his electric gears at us in humble contempt. Although that wouldn’t be the last we saw of him, as following 2 early wrong turns we had the pleasure of watching his derriere zoom past us in anger again!
The remaining 4 of us settled into a steady early pace, with myself being particularly determined not to do my usual trick tanning it from start and blowing up on the first climb.
Speaking of which – Crash Bandicoot. The first climb after 12miles got the hearts ticking and it seems blood rushing straight to his head. Following his steady burst up the hill, we were rewarded with Yorkshire’s stunning open countryside views – painted in gorgeous greens and blues by the unseasonably blazing sun. Prime material for the ‘Gram’.
To capture this glorious moment for posterity, Crash reached back for his phone, releasing the handlebars which immediately twisted underneath him, letting the unforgiving road capture its own glorious posterior. A few cracks (luckily screen, not bones), a bit of blood and pride damaged but luckily major harm done to the bike. When we regrouped at the first feed stop we realised we were already down to 1 fit rider, 1 Knee, 1 walking wounded and 1 unfit sufferer (yours truly). 75miles to go…
Undeterred we saddled up and settled into the eating contest. For that is truly what a sportive is. It’s not a race to get round the course, it’s a race to stuff your face with enough food to be exercising for 8hours plus. Crash’s homemade savoury rice cakes were a particular highlight – if a little squashed after his earlier issues! Chapeau also to the organisers of Etape du Dales, as the spread put on at each of the 4 food stops were top notch and provided motivation enough to slog on through the rolling hills of Yorkshire.
With a belly full of sandwiches, cake and coffee, & arguably entering a glycaemic sugar-induced coma from the copious sports drinks consumed on a baking hot day, we approached the “Yorkshire Everest”. The back-to-back suffer fest of Buttertubs and Fleet Moss after 80miles riding.
After a day in the saddle, these two beasts had me close to breaking point as they savagely rose up to 25% incline in places. A particularly dispiriting moment was when I managed to glance up and note a few gents walking up the steep sections about 200m ahead. (No shame there – this was a cruel end to a unrelenting sportive.) However, to my despair… after another 2 minutes of churning butter on the pedals, I’d strained my head up to see I’d gained zero yards on them!
Surely the epitome of a suffering cyclist…staying in the sadal and grinding away at a solid 3mph when walking would have been both quicker and easier on the pins! Even as Bayleaf sauntered alongside me and tried to boost moral with rousing speech about his childhood diary (yes, me neither!), the burn was deep and the pain kicked in!
All that remained was to shower off, wish the doting fans (parents) a fond farewell, and drive an honest 5 hours home to London through the M1’s smart motorways roadworks; after all, it’s not a real sportive unless you put in multiple layers of suffering.
Yours in suffering,
Read the original written article here.