Leeds St Christopher’s Grand Depart Ride 3rd & 4th  October 2013

by Jeremy Emmott
And we're off...

As part of our club’s 75th anniversary celebration, nine of us rode the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart route from Leeds to Harrogate.
The team was David, Richard, Chris (the younger), Rob, Alan S, Jeremy, Angela, Ken and their friend Andy from Sheffield. John L. was team driver, photographer and baggage carrier and also rode selected parts of day one.
Whist some clubs have followed the grand depart route precisely and done it in a day, we decided we would take our time over two days and follow the most scenic and traffic-free route.

Day One: Leeds to Hawes via Kidstones Pass

We set off from Adel taking quiet lanes past Eccup reservoir, picking up the A61 north of Alwoodley and following it to Harewood where we diverted through the grounds of Harewood House (a la route), to receive an aristocratic ticking-off for diverting from the public right of way.
We emerged onto the A659 and rode through Arthington and Pool (where the road surface was a disgrace) to Otley then crossed the river and followed the lovely back lane to Bolton Abbey. 
 After refreshments at the Abbey tea rooms, we took the gated road to Embsay and then joined the Skipton to Grassington road. From Grassington we followed the pretty back lane to Kettlewell and then up to Buckden for lunch at the excellent West Winds cafe.
Richard and David at the Summit of Kidstones
Whilst visibility was poor from the outset, the rain had held off until we reached Buckden. It started to fall gently on us as we set off up our first major climb, Kidstones Pass. Giant Yorkshire puddings and venison pie began to sit a little heavily in the stomach, but the climb was less severe than anticipated and with the help of a fine new road surface, we were over the pass and speeding down Bishopdale towards Aysgarth.
The heavens opened as we regrouped in West Burton to pass through Aysgarth and reach the minor road to the North of the Swale, which took us through Askrigg and finally, after 75 miles and wet through, to the youth hostel in Hawes.
All set for the big climb of the day

Day Two: Hawes to Harrogate via Buttertubs Pass & Grinton Lodge

That third pint at the White Hart seemed a less good idea the next morning as we looked out of the hostel windows at soggy sheep and yet more rain. The poor visibility at least meant that we could not see the climb we were facing after breakfast over Buttertubs Pass. John sensibly changed back out of his cycling kit and became full-time photographer for the day.
Buttertubs was every bit as brutal as reputed and it seemed that whoever suggested that Leeds-Harrogate would be a sprinters’ stage of the Tour must have been joking. The land apparently falls very steeply away from the road at the top of the pass, but we saw nothing but mist. Rob’s suggestion that we would have to do Buttertubs again (in better weather) was not well-received at this point.
Lovely Views! The decent from Buttertubs

After a cautious descent through the mist, we reached the pretty village of Muker whose village store sold good flapjacks and tea to take out. The rain had actually stopped before we left Hawes but started again now and the village pub looked very attractive. 
Sadly, at 10.30, it was some time from opening. A sign on the door of a barn across the road from the pub read: “ If you are reading this sign, the pub is behind you”.
As we rode East down Swaledale, the weather gradually  improved such that we enjoyed sunshine on Reeth. [CUE PIC OF TWO SCOTTISH BROTHERS WITH GLASSES?] We took a breather on the green there and looked across the valley to Grinton Lodge, the halfway point of our next climb.
The climb out of Grinton was quite steep, but we were again rewarded with a nicely resurfaced road, which levelled out after Grinton Lodge before another kick upwards and then  gradually up to the top of the fell. By this time the visibility across the Dales was glorious and we enjoyed another fast descent into a busy Leyburn on market day.  After regrouping at Leyburn we pressed on to Jervaulx Abbey and lunch and a rest at the cafe there for which we were more than ready after the two big climbs of the morning.    
With tired legs we left Jervaulx reluctantly but made good progress on the pleasantly undulating A6108 through Middleham and Masham onto Ripon.
At the summit of the Grinton Lodge climb
The challenge in planning this route was to find a way of avoiding the heavy and fast-moving traffic of the A61 after Ripon. There had not seemed to be any real answer, but David devised a route via Bishop Monkton which cut out a good section of the A61, but we then had to rejoin it, so  plit up into tight groups of three and braved the heavy traffic until we reached Ripley where we stopped for tea. At this point Ken peeled off to take a tough route via Pot Bank back to Leeds to catch the 6pm train back to Sheffield.  
On recent rides out to Ripley, we have been intrigued by a new cycleway which crosses the road South of the village. David navigated us via this towards the centre of Harrogate and we emerged near the station and Richard caught the train back to Leeds. The remainder of the peleton rode on to the end point of the Stage at the Stray, by which point we had completed just short of 60 miles for day two.
End of the line: Stage 1 finish at the Stray, Harrogate
To get back to Adel, there was still a fair bit of A61 to be avoided, but with David’s ingenuity devising a magical mystery tour round the Crimple valley, we found our way home via Kirby Overblow and a final climb up Weardley Bank completing approx 75 miles for the day.
 Tired legs and sore derriere, but a grand couple of days out.