Alasdair Morrison

Some of the North York Moors

An opportunity appeared to accompany the Sirius racers to the BUCS road race. Having spent the previous year sitting around and taking pictures of all the good stuff, but not actually racing, I was keen to hit some hills whilst I was up in North Yorkshire. With the aid of google earth I made a wicked good route heading north from Helmsley, over some “Banks”, then down to the BUCS Road Race headquarters. The day of the Race dawned grey and sullen, but quite warm – I managed a breakfast of drab muesli (thanks JL), some oatcakes and a mug of Truestart coffee (unnecessary, but I had a tester sachet to hand) – after some pontification with my company for the day, Big Hitter Dan, we concluded that we didn’t need all that much warm kit and looking cool was clearly most important.

After examining my incredible van parking from the night before, Dan and I unloaded our trusty steads and hit the road, Jack; and in doing so leaving the racers to revel in their upcoming misery. My route took us straight up towards the moor, and up was the key word, lump after lump of drags through sheep fields, woods and dales. After about half an hour, we emerged on to the moor. Having already spent a long time looking at birds and stuff, I took the chance to school Dan in my ornithological knowhow, whilst also doing some little sprints and stuff to keep him edgy. In the first hour we saw Hares, Rabbits, Lapwings, Golden Plover, Snipe, at least two breeds of sheep, Turtle Dove, Shrike and other stuff. We also encountered a mad descent down to Cockayne (c c c c cocaine) which had blind humps that gave you air. I got mad air, at least 0.1 seconds of it.

Out of Cockayne was a pretty brutus climb, but this didn’t really feature on the Strava profile for the day, so we pretended it didn’t exist and just powered up it. The lumpy route was taking its toll though, and by the end of the first hour we had covered a measly 21.4 km or so. Not good enough if we were going to see any of the road racing.

So we dropped some steep hills and rode over to Church Houses (by way of some steady gradients, up and down). At Church Houses we swung a smashing left, with Big Hitter Dan almost colliding with me, such was the intensity of our riding. Then we started the first proper climb of the day, Blakely Bank. This was a monster. I was in the box from the get go, and needed a solid 500W to maintain my measly 37 rpm on the steep bits (at least 20%). Dan informed me all the way up about how easy we were going and I concluded not to ride the next hill with him. Hitting the top, now some 40 km and two hours in to the ride, we knew that we needed some big numbers to retain any respect from our racing teammates.  So we smashed it up on the next sections. Spotting some old men in the distance spurred us on to a solid sustained threshold (for me anyway) attack across the moors and we passed them like a pair of TT specialists lining the bunch out to reel in the breakaway.

Dropping into Rosedale gave us our first sights of the next proper hill for the day, the famed Rosedale Bank or Rosedale Abbey Chimney or Rosedale Abbey Bank or Rosedale Abbey Chimney Bank or just Rosedale Chimney. This famed climb warns of gradients of 1 in 3 at the bottom, “not suitable for caravans, buses or lorries” it warns and suggests “do not attempt in winter conditions”. Couldn’t be that bad we decided. The old men we had devastated passed us as we posed at the bottom. Dread in their, and our, eyes. I told Dan to bugger off and leave me in peace, so he went at it promptly at Demon’s pace. A pace only a true Big Hitter could maintain. I went at what I thought was good watts, a steady 330 ish. The first bits were pretty caj, a little bridge, a slight rise, nothing much.



It ramped up a little bit, feeling more like Watlington at this point than anything serious. Then all of a sudden it was too steep, so steep, probably the steepest road in the UK (Wikipedia says this about Hardknott pass: “The road, which is the most direct route from the central Lake District to West Cumbria, shares the title of steepest road in England (the other is Rosedale Chimney Bank in North Yorkshire). It has a maximum gradient of 1 in 3 (about 33%)” ). So there I was tapping away, tap tap tap. Then zig zag time came. Zig, Zag, Zig, Zag. Falling off at this point would have resulted in road rash, so rapid would the slide down the road have been. Each pedal stroke lifting the front wheel of the ground, like another bloody one-legged squat. Over and over again. My heartrate was caj, my watts were caj, but I was in a new kind of box. I call it the doughnut box. It’s reserved for fatties.

The hill relented eventually, Dan said it was pretty tough, and he had gone pretty easy (this turned out to be a total lie – and wasn’t feeling too bad, but not too good. We watched the world a bit from the top of some piece of concrete and vaguely thought we had seen a sheep jumping a four foot gate (that it could walk under without ducking). Then we hit the road again, and with the help of a bling bling descent and some amazing zone 2 time trial work from Dan we got to the start of our ride.

I called time for a coffee. Dan asked for a pork pie, it was a sausage roll, I asked for a flat white. Having been told about what a flat white actually is (no, I didn’t ask and yes, I do know, and no, I don’t need sugar, even though it contains a lot of espresso and not a lot of milk, yes that’s great) and getting a pat on the back for riding 40 miles from some northern bloke with a bald head and a big belly (maybe not belly, maybe just girth). The road called and we decided to continue our route of such joy through the next nice place, the Howardian Hills. We went up a hill with trees and got chased by a tractor which was pretty cool, then turned the wrong way and went past what has to be the fanciest school I have ever seen, with the fairest view in all of England (Ampleforth Abbey College if you know it), we hit our supposed final properish climb and I promptly dropped Dan on the first 15 second power climb. He didn’t even know what was coming. Loser.

I waited, and then we descended on to the scariest corner of my life. A strip of tarmac 3 inches wide traversed the area between a chasm (pothole) at least 5 metres deep and dark as any cave, and the sandiest, washiest gravel I have ever seen; all on the inside of a blind corner. I took a wicked good line that swung me out into the road after the corner. Damn. Oncoming 4×4. Mad dash evasive action performed (luckily I was using the grippiest tyres in the whole word and so could rock this incredible manoeuvre).

Some more climbing and gravelly roads and epic descents and 20% walls brought us finally to the HQ for the BUCS road race, just in time to listen to James and Isaac moan about their five hours of boredom and for me to put pins in so badly that Isaac had to get someone else to redo them.

In all and on balance, most certainly the best ride I have ever done. And we even managed a respectable 25 (ish) kmh average speed.

Hit this link to see the glory. 


 BUCS criterium E/1/2/3 

After an amazing night’s sleep deep in the bowels of a giant mansion, I had the bold idea of switching from the cat 3/4 to the E/1/2/3 for the BUCS crit. They let us. I regretted this. I got dropped within 2 km and gave up after 6 km. It was terrible, I wasn’t fit enough. But we got home in good time.




“Hey kids, wanna buy some gels?”



Isaac Mundy


BUCS took place somewhere too far away to drive in a morning and so after 5 interminable hours (actually they weren’t bad and Sutton Bank is sick) we crashed at Helmsley YHA, joining Dundee Uni CC and a Robinson Crusoe lookalike with an extraordinarily strong Essex accent.


Having got up really early and eaten some of the 35 bananas that James had brought with him, the grownups then departed for their fun ride and we went about racing. Thanks for all the bananas James.




Upon arriving in Sheriff Hutton and making sure Tamara was all set to race (i.e. she got ready to race and we sat around getting cold) I spent five hours discovering what there was to do. This included (i) watching several small boys do football drills, (ii) pretending to do maths revision, (iii) Peering at all the riders who had most definitely not got round the womens’ race, and (iv) wondering how much fun the others were having.




Tamara going hard in the women’s race



After a not inconsiderable period we went and cheered for Tamara. She didn’t notice but we were definitely there. Good ride Tam. About then Alasdair showed up, looking like he’d fallen into the box and scraped his salt encrusted forehead on the sides the whole way down before being punched in the face at the bottom. You can read all about their adventures elsewhere but the essentials are that Rosedale Chimney Bank Chimney is steep, Dan is annoying and it was basically the best ever ride of their lives ever. After making jealous noises at length, time was approaching 2pm rather rapidly, finally, so I did a needless (what else is the first lap for) and pointless warm up on the rollers mostly so that I could look pro in the carpark, and then nearly fell off them when I tried to ride with no hands.




The course was seven laps of an 18k collection of lumps with very little flat in between. It went down fast and then up very steep, and then lumps for 10k and then down even more steeply and fastly.


First lap was chill in terms of having to work but terrifying in every other way. James’s bottle fell out almost immediately, in the middle of the bunch on a narrow potholed 60kmh corner, and then we all nearly rode into a car on the first climb. Thus the first 25 minutes were spent trying not to actually die but once that was negotiated, I arrived at the somewhat dubious resolution to ride hard now and worry about later later. Drilling the front with PH and PX-Northside was excellent for about ten minutes and then swiftly paled in comparison to sitting in. Only, because of the aforementioned drilling (which was really all just Max Stedman), there wasn’t a great deal to sit in on, with seemingly about half the bunch choosing the second time up Bulmer Bank as the perfect time to discover they actually hated proper cycling and were going to go home to practice more flat 25s.



Sitting caj in the bunch


After the break went (just two at this point) things got calmer and not much happened for quite a while, though I went from feeling wicked to feeling really quite seriously ropey about 80k in. During that time four more people got up the road and we never got them back, making it as close as 25 seconds on the last lap but not quite getting there. Directly after performing a perfect bottle catch with Alasdair it seemed as though 200ml of water was all I needed to bridge across to the break and with two others began to work. That lasted all of two minutes before I was completely fucked and coasted back to the ‘bunch’ to give James the extra water. A lap of really awful stem chewing followed before a smaller group appeared to be forming just off the front. I kicked hard the penultimate time up the finish climb and managed to make it across, the group then took pity on my abysmal attempts to do turns and let me sit on for the next five minutes which was great. The ‘bunch’ had vanished behind us so that was a relief; having recovered I set about the task of chasing the two riders we could see up the road but everyone was a lot more ruined than I realized and we got nowhere. Coming in to the finish the Hallam boys apparently thought riding two abreast on the front, quite slowly, was the way to psyche us all out, so they did that and promptly got jumped by Rhys Williams (Zappis U23) and myself (Fatancur-Snakub Wattdisc RT).




I was denied my ultimate goal of getting to hand Rory Townsend a cookie and drop him, because he neglected to turn up, so we won that one, but Pedal Heaven still rekt. Stoked on getting round.




Photo credit – Alasdair Morrison, Ellen Isherwood (Lancs Racing Scene).