Well what a difference a year makes, last year when we did this event the conditions were perfect, this year couldnít have been a more different picture. The weather was changeable, that was it changed from heavy rain to very heavy rain at various points during the day. Not once did the sun show itself.

Meeting at the school, our intrepid band of brave / stupid (delete as appropriate) Woollies joined up and registered for the event. Riders were: Clone, Knotty, Chris Watson, Carrot, Noddy, MLiptrot, Ste B, and me. We sat in the school with the rain hammering off the glass roof, and contemplated what we were letting ourselves in for. Eventually we put our race numbers on (although it is not a race!) and formed up ready for the off, it was clear that the conditions had put a lot of people off entering and the field of riders was much smaller than last year.

To say that the ground conditions had suffered somewhat under the last 2 months of nearly non stop rain was an understatement. I think I was passed by a guy in a kayak at one point!!! The first climb / scramble up to the Top of Leach was like a veritable river and any illusion that this was going to be easy going vanished in an instant. Once on the flat section the puddles in parts were literally knee deep, and I soon discovered that my excellent Shimano Gore Tex boots do not keep water out when they are totally submerged. The first descent of the day came and it really is a belter. A fast rocky blast down to the golf course made more difficult by the fact that you couldnít see much of the trail.
The terrain was proving very tough on bikes, and I passed multiple puncture victims, someone whose cranks had fallen off and a few broken and mangled chains. The descents were proving sketchy and me and Eric passed a guy who had taken a good tumble and was blaming slippy conditions, we surmised that he was just not skilful enough!! The terrain then moves away from the rocky and hard under water trails to more muddy open grassland which proved really tough going. The decent from Edge End Moor into Charlestown yet again proved an absolute corker with steep sections and tough techie rocky drops.
A quick stop in Charlestown at checkpoint 3 for a banana and some food then it was the gruelling climb to Jack Bridge this for me is the toughest climb of the day, as it maintains a doable gradient, but after 30 miles it proves a test for the toughest legs, then as you near the top it becomes more rocky and difficult just when you need it to ease up. The trail them moves on past the Gorple and Widdop reservoirs and moves towards checkpoint 4.
Once over the dam wall I tackled the tough climb then belting descent towards Hurstwood Reservoir which is a real corker. I passed a guy at the top of the descent who had no brake pads left and hadnít brought any spares; I told him I wouldnít recommend the descent without brakes as with it being so long you can really get some speed up. Then moving on to Long Causeway, legs feeling tired at this point with over 40 miles in the bank. The stream crossing that we normally do on the Worsthorne ride was a raging river rapid literally thigh deep to cross, so I got off the bike and waded through then plodded to the last checkpoint by the road.
I didnít even stop here as I just wanted to get back by this point, Deerplay moor climb proved a killer, then across the road for the final gate ridden sections, due to the smaller field were previous you would work in a team on gates, as I was riding on my own by this point it meant stopping to open and close each gate taking up valuable time. Once I dropped back into Waterfoot and made it to the school I was absolutely exhausted. I managed a time of 8hrs and 48 minutes, which although slower than last year, given the conditions and the gate hold ups I was pleased with.
To say it was the toughest day I have spent on a bike ever would be an understatement. The conditions and weather would have made you think twice about going out for a spin for an hour never mind putting nearly nine hours in on the saddle. I had a well earned brew and cake and a chat with Eric who had got back about 25 mins before me. We both agreed what a tough day it had been, I was contemplating having a free sports massage as they had a local health club doing this for weary riders, but I was too tired even for this.
Big congratulations to all who made it out for the day, you all have my utmost respect. In discussions with the event organisers 50% of those who started the event did not finish, the highest drop out rate they have ever had. Navigation proved more difficult this year as there were less riders, visibility was poor, and there seemed to be a lot less marshalling, the conditions were horrendous. Would I do it again next year?.............maybe.
Artillery Dave.