Day 69 Weds 18 May: There is no such thing as a typical pair of cyclists’ legs. There are two very obvious types in the world of professional cycle racing. The first are the massive sprinter’s thighs of Chris Hoy. The second being the long, thin, high cadence legs of the long distance, double Tour de France winner Chris Froom. Very different. I am neither a professional, nor called Chris. That must explain why I have type 3 legs. Just short and hairy. But today I must report that I am very proud of my own type 3 legs. This, being my first day back amongst real hills since Sutherland and Ross&Cromarty’s Berriedale, was going to be tough.
One more ILB Station to visit at Redcar before the day’s climbing. Plenty of encouraging banter, coffee and biscuits from another great gang. The crew room had more of a club house feel, with so many dropping in. Their boat house is across the road from the open promenade, at a traffic light controlled T junction. They have access to a switch to override the control box and set all lights to red whilst they launch the boat. The trouble is, everyone is so interested in watching the big blue tractor push the boat out, across the road and prom, down the slipway, across the beach and into the surf, that they sometimes ‘forget’ to turn the traffic lights back on for a while. What power! Many thanks to Dave, Mike, Ben, Cameron, Bob, Pete and anyone else I met. What a great atmosphere. Time to start climbing.
At Saltburn (now a.k.a. Legburn) the sudden drop to sea level then straight back up was a good warm-up. Having passed the welcoming sign to the entrance of The North York Moors, the next challenge was Staithes. 25% descent and 25% incline “to get back up top”. So this is what it’s like in what I’m reliably informed (by Yorkshire folk) is God’s Own Country. I’m beginning to believe. Before even thinking about getting out of here, there’s time to just stop and stare at the dramatic setting here in Staithes. A deep gorge with houses both sides. On the steepest part of the descent, all you see is clay tiled roof tops. Two ways in and back out, one on each side of the river, only connected by a narrow foot bridge. A cosy harbour, facing the regular perils of the open north sea, with the old Lifeboat station strategically placed. A distinguished and troubled history, including it’s own fair share of tragedy and human loss. My departure was briefly held up by the arrival of a very inquisitive party of primary school children. Thank you Drew, ILB Mechanic, for signing the chart before turning your attention to the visiting party and introducing me to them. Most of them understood what I was doing but not all understood why. The short answer clearly wasn’t enough. The connection between an old bloke on a long bicycle journey and a very fast, bright orange motor boat is not easy to grasp. That didn’t stop them giving me a great send off. Thankfully, they could only watch me as far as the bridge crossing before I disappeared through a gap in the houses at the foot of the sharp climb. Alas there was another, smaller audience to witness my grinding of the pedals as I tried to disguise the heavy breathing and general agony with a broad smile. Their Jack Russell, growling and straining at the leash, clearly fancied a nibble at my right ankle. The pain of the climb ebbed and the yapping faded as I crested the brow. The 25% incline also eased, to a relatively flat 10% gradient for the rest of the climb. I did it, cobbles, bags and all. A final smattering of applause from a couple of locals leaning on their garden gate, enjoying the free entertainment, was reward enough as smugness set in.
There was something missing on the coast road to Whitby. Flat bits. I’m not sure how many calories I was burning. Garmin will tell me, but I won’t really listen. It considers elevation gain in it’s calculations but makes no allowance for load carrying. All I know is that I’d eaten all my Twixes and MarsBars. The fig rolls had long gone. By the time I reached Whitby, my fading energy almost took the edge off the excitement of getting here. But not quite. It did not disappoint. Instantly recognisable, even though I’d never been here before. A quick gawp at the setting, with the gothic abbey ruins looming above the town and harbour. Much bigger than I expected. A careful descent, over the bridge and on to the Lifeboat Station. This has to be a serious contender for the most immaculately kept boat house competition. A full report will follow. Is that the time? Back soon.