There’s been much talk of this ‘climb’ up Holme Moss (listed 43 in the top 100 climbs in Britain), a mecca for cyclist’s who want to challenge themselves, so when my Wednesday Leggers cycling buddy Melvyn mentioned he would be prepared to lead a ride to conquer this notorious climb, my reply on email …. ‘I’ll give it a crack, regretting it all ready, jo’.
It was only later, on the climb, I would learn how these 5 words had a worrying effect on others.
I was going to ‘cry off’. Yes, you know me, slight hint of hard work and effort and I wimp out. Two months of fighting face infections and lack of sleep haven’t helped, so as the moment approached, getting up on the morning of with a thumping face and no sleep, I had no need to create an excuse for not going, it was already there for me.
The usual head fight began with myself, ‘you’ll regret it If you don’t go, on the other hand you’ll get some work done’.
I love Wednesday’s with my bike buddies and I’m always very disappointed when I can’t make one in, so lazy ass got ready to meet the hard souls that were going to spend the day conquering.
We average about 8 or so regulars in our Wednesday Leggers group with Gerard our gallant leader keeping us all in check, well that is keeping me and Melvyn in check. I love my Wednesday’s.
‘Sorry I’m late’, I announce to Gerard and Melvyn as I arrive, ‘lost my keys’ (that is something I NEVER do). ‘it’s ok, we’re just waiting for Pat’, states Melvyn with his cheery devil wit smile. He carried on, ‘there’s just four of us’, I add, ‘lovely little group’.
Guess what folks!!! Other than our ride leader and coach for the day Melvyn …..
……….HERE COME THE GIRLS!!!!!!…..
…..Yep, three girlies going off to conquer Holme Moss! I don’t care that, speaking of the boys here, 1 was ill, 1 waiting for builders, 1 looking after kids, 1 on an appointment, 1 working, 1 saving himself for a sportive and so on. It ain’t washing with me today lads, get thee bikes out and get up that there hill … I challenge you!!!!! Several times throughout our ‘quest to conquer’ I found myself smiling a smug satisfied smile …
…….‘just the girls dared to pick up the gauntlet today!!!!!…..
Our gallant leader Gerard, wouldn’t be joining us the whole ride as he is in recovery and making a marvellous one too I might add so won’t be long now until he flies his way ‘Up the Moss’! After setting a steady early pace and depositing us near the hills, Gerard bid us farewell and good luck (I for one was certainly going to need it!) returning to whence we came.
If we (I) were going to conquer today, steady, steady was the order of the day, as Melvyn said, ‘It’s not a race’. I generally spend so much time worrying about a ride, I forget to enjoy myself whilst doing it.
steady, enjoy, together, achieve
We pootled along, chatting and making light, I know underneath the climb was praying on my mind BUT I don’t know what it was about the day, I felt pretty calm and perhaps even a touch of matter of fact at times. A few little adjustments to our steeds and away we went.
Perhaps one of the reasons why I didn’t overly worry about the climb was because I wanted to help ensure everyone was delivered to the climb safely.
In our Wednesday Leggers group we look after each other. We’ve got to know each other’s abilities and when people need help. We were four and knowing each other well, the order we were to ride in sorted its self out.
Melvyn would lead the way (because he knew it!), I would bring up the rear as I am a confident cyclist (not confident in ability but on the roads) and don’t mind traffic. Pat and Jane would secrete themselves within a Melvyn and Jo sandwich so better protecting them. Hey, don’t get me wrong, these girls will go anywhere and do anything BUT if you know someone is a little less confident than you in a situation, help them. The day is there to be enjoyed not to sh*t yourself scared when going through Huddersfield (sorry Jane, i’ll take 10 for that). Protect and Help.
The road taking us to Holmfirth began its gentle slope, trying to lead you into a false sense of security that the day wasn’t going to get too bad. Pat set the pace with Melvyn steering and looking after us well, pulling over often to ensure everyone was ok.
Well this is it, I thought, as we exited Holmfirth and towards our ‘hill of doom and hope’ destiny. It was then that we noticed a light breeze as the road began to lift its head in front of us. Please be kind, no wind unless it’s blown up our backside please!
Arriving at The Bridge in Holmbridge and totally missing their bike racks and big sign that said, ‘bike locks available inside along with inner tubes, energy drinks, etc!, we took a short ‘comfort break’ and fuel on board as Melvyn set about describing the next few miles.
‘Just around the corner there is an inclined, you will need to get into your lowest gears’. Crap, I know full well what that means! Jay had pre prepped me on the route and told me that the first ramp up was 13% and though it was short, it would kick you in the goolies if you didn’t gear right.
I was now up front with Jane behind, ‘come past Jane’, ‘no it’s ok, I’m drafting you’. My now strained breathing was coming out as a laugh. ‘I’m a good wide unit to draft behind’, I’m chuckling now as I recall. Jane rode past me saying ‘we’ll take it in turns to draft’, she’s a funny women, I knew as long as we were cycling upwards there was no way I would be in front of her again and sure enough pedal stroke by pedal stroke she pulled away and was gone.
Jane (tapper), a slight unassuming gentle lady with a quick dry wit that leaves you roaring with laughter. Tapper, she taps away on those pedals, never looks strained, never looks flustered, never looks as though she moves particularly fast BUT, one minute she’s there chatting to you, the next, gone!
We regrouped just past the Fleece pub in Holme and gazed in trepidation at the sight of Holme Moss. It didn’t look as high as I thought it might. Wearing its tapestry cloak of patchwork green, it reared up like a young excited foal frolicking in a summer breeze as it beckoned us to come and play if we dare.
Well this was it, with Melvyn’s last words of advice and encouragement the last ‘down’ for 1 ¼ was enjoyed as we began the onslaught of ‘the hill of doom and hope’ laughing in our faces all the way to the top.
‘Don’t look up, don’t stop, don’t look up, don’t stop’ I could hear myself chanting. ‘Oh no, you looked up’, stop.
It was beautiful. Turn your back to the hill and gaze across the beautiful landscape for miles. If the climb doesn’t take your breath away the scenery certainly will. Mountain sheep (probably not mountain but it felt like they should be) grazing on the moorland, fluffy white puff clouds littering the blue sky and long grasses gently blowing in the breeze ….
…. It was blinking gale force!….
As we climbed the wind got stronger and stronger. On Strava when you see my speed drop from a hair raising 3mph to 2mph (I know not many people can ride as slowly as me without falling off, achieve!) that was when the wind had more determination in blowing me back down than I had to make it up to the top.
I weaved back and forth across the road in a vain attempt to lessen the gradient but as I swung back over to the edge of the road a gust caught me and had me scrambling to un cleat as I careered towards the edge of the mountain and my pending doom! (ok, so I was blown on to the grass and got my foot down in time and it was about 5 feet from the edge and it wasn’t a mountain, so maybe not to ‘my pending doom’ BUT a bit of ‘squeaky botty time’!) or time to do a video and take a picture!
Someone has very kindly or sickly, depending on your climbing ability, painted mile markers on the road so you can see how far you haven’t come! They’re marked off in ¼ miles. I tell you now, each of those ¼ miles feels like the longest 10 miles you have ever cycled.
I thought Melvyn had said that from the bottom of the dip (the last down bit before hell) was 1 ¼ miles to the top. I’d been pedalling nowhere for hours only to look up and see 1 ¼ miles, what the fooook!!! Jeeeez, still another 1 ¼ miles to go!
Jane had climbed out of sight many corners ago and as Pat and Melvyn now came up and past me, I stood on the road side gasping for breath. I knew I had to reach the top.
Pat doesn’t appreciate how good she is on a bike. She is very aware of what she can do, think she’s a bit like me in that respect. I don’t think either of us thought we would conquer our day BUT we were prepared to give it a go. It was seeing Jane and Pat achieveing that inspired me to try harder and not to give in.
I mentioned earlier when I replied to the challenge that ‘I would give it a crack and was already regretting it’, immediately Pat thought, it must be really hard if Jo’s saying that. How one’s comments can affect other people’s thoughts and attitude without you even realising. I had instilled a little doubt in Pat that perhaps we WEREn’t going to conquer….
…….watch thee words oh comical one, for thee may glance a befalling blow……
As Pat and Melvyn pulled away I began my ritual head ranting BUT I have to say, nowhere near as bad as usual. ‘come on you can’t let them down, come on their waiting for you’. I’m shocked and stunned, I’ve finally found the ability to use encouraging words on myself rather than the lambasting I generally lay to my door. Achieve.
I could see the tall thin mast that sits on top of ‘the hill of doom and hope’ to my right, ‘I think I’m nearly there, you got this’. (Blinking Nora, I astound myself, where has the grade A student in self loathing and self negative battering gone?!)
I could see a car park, with hope, I looked to pick out the bright pink of Pat, blue of Jane and neon yellow of Melvyn BUT no. I didn’t think it was the top so I wasn’t too disappointed just hopeful. Pat, followed all the way by the steadfast and true gentleman that is Melvyn had disappeared around the corner by some 5 or so minutes, I knew without doubt that Melvyn would return for me… BUT if he honks that bloody horn I’ll launch him … over the edge!
Sure enough my knight in black lycra tights and neon yellow jacket came hurtling towards me. I choked, I was so grateful. ‘You got this, steady away’, I think were Melvyn’s words, as I concentrated all my efforts into breathing and tapping.
We were there, at the top, all of us, together
we came, we saw, we conquered Holme Moss
We cheered, hugged one another and celebrated in our EPIC achievement of cycling Holme Moss. I was so pleased for everyone. I was chuffed for myself of course BUT I had to choke back the tears as I looked at each of my bike buddies and imaged how much today must mean to them.
Neither Pat nor Jane particularly enjoy cycling on main roads BUT before we even reach our main challenge they had to negotiate challenges of their own in the shape of several stretches of busy traffic, main roads and busy traffic junctions. Achieve.
Melvyn, a fit and confident cyclist BUT he had the responsibility of the group. He had to take us 44 miles from Dewsbury through traffic, town, up a blinking big hill and safely back again. That’s mentally tiring, as well as him having to complete the climb too!
His face as we all celebrated at the top of the windiest hill was a picture (one I should have taken). He beamed from ear to ear saying, ‘The best feeling for me is seeing you all achieve your goal, you’ve done marvellous, I’m so proud of you’.
Must be done. Ginner (cycling buddy) started it on our first C2C adventure, I always forget BUT this time it felt right to do it …….. bike aloft in triumph!
…and I assure you it doesn’t go up that easy when you have no strength left in either your arms or legs and it’s blowing a force 10 gale (check force with met office for accurate gale strength). These are some of the attempts!
I know I’m in the foreground of the pictures BUT look beyond, like any challenge, event, even simple bike ride, it’s the people around you that make the day, that create the memories and share your joy and pain. It wasn’t until I came to do my blog that I looked at these images ….
….This is my joy, this is the sum of my day…….
And now for something completely different
The going up is with the coming down (Kriss Kristofferson)
BUT you can’t enjoy it too much, it’s a bit steep! As some of you know, I love speed, it’s the sudden stopping I don’t enjoy. Imagine the speed you could get IF you knew there was no traffic coming up! Just one squeaky botty moment then back down before you know it.
We stopped off at The Fleece to celebrate with a brew, squashed peanut butter, chocolate and jam sandwich and well preserved sausage roll. And for all you guys that like to contemplate when visiting the little boys room, use the public loos across from The Fleece, the phone box is a library so plenty of reading matter to choose from to keep you company whilst you contemplate.
Somewhere just outside Huddersfield we gathered. Melvyn gave us two alternative routes back to Dewsbury.
Option 1: Flatter BUT 3 miles longer, busy road
Option 2: Up and over Castle Hill BUT 3 miles shorter
Me, ‘I’ll go with the flow BUT I’d take longer and flatter’, Jane and Pat both said they would go with the flow BUT ‘up and over’. Hells bells girls, haven’t you had enough!!!!!
That’s what I mean about me wimping out, if there’s an easy option I take it BUT I am so glad they were bigger women than I was (no, we’re not talking about girth here! another area I ‘achieve’ in) I have so much admiration for both Jane and Pat. They really kicked me up the backside, taking me out of my comfort zone and making me challenge myself. Thank you ladies.
Quote of the day. Homeward bound about 10 miles out, Pat, ‘it’s pretty flat all the way now isn’t it?’, me shacking my head ‘NO’, Pat ‘oh, I thought it was flat now’, Melvyn ……
……..‘It goes ‘up flat’ all the way back’ …
Thank you, Melvyn, Jane and Pat, for creating such a wonderful memory with me and for your never ending support and encouragement.
Time with friends is never wasted
I would like to dedicate this Holme Moss Cycle Climb Challenge to Karen Atkinson.
Thank you for reading my blurb. Cycle safe, be happy and always, always wear a smile!
Catch you going down!