Friday afternoon saw me driving up to Thirsk for the main event of my cycling summer, the 200 miles and 16000 feet of the Yorkshire Beast.
The previous weekend had really hit home about the challenge I had taken on as I completed my last training ride in Wales (96 miles with 6000 feet of climbing) and had realised that it was not even half off what i had signed up for. Never the less, I had trained hard and there was no turning back now. On arrival I found my tent, had a bite to eat, watched a terrible England performance and got into bed for my 4:00am wake up hoping the persistent rain buggered off for the morning.
When I was woken by 1 off the 5 alarms I set for the morning I put my head out of the tent and found my hopes were now reality and it was a beautiful if chilly morning. I forced down 2 pots of porridge and rolled the 50 metres to the start line for my 5:02 start time with pockets full of £0.29 Home Bargain Flapjacks to fuel my ride for the first 100 miles. As my ride plan I took the first 20 mins really easy to get my body going and try to digest my belly full of porridge. Luckily I had planned 20 mins only as that coincided with the first major climb of the day, Boltby Bank. I had not really paid much attention to this climb pre event and crikey it was a wake up call! With a body that still had not woken up and the multiple long sections of 20% gradient it was really tough. Luckily I did not find it as hard as the people walking 7 miles into a 200 mile ride!
Over the top and still waiting for the legs to wake up we then went over a short gravel stretch that everyone so enjoys doing at the moment (I cannot understand why people moan about the state of roads and then love to ride on gravel!) before descending down into a little village where i unfortunately had a puncture. Slightly panicky at being eaten by the Beast I made a right meal out of this but one of the many Velo29 outriders was on hand and luckily equipped with steel fingers to get me back on my way with only a 20 min delay. The puncture actually helped me in the long run as it provided a little shot of adrenaline that got my legs going and i made good time to the first feed station at 35 miles. Wanting to claw back some time I did not mess around here and just had a quick toilet break and refilled my water bottles. About 100 metres after this feed stop I had a massive stroke of good fortune that really made the ride, someone caught up to me and we starting chatting and actually rode the rest of the ride together. We happened to be really evenly matched and even asked each other our names after another 50 miles talking! Below is me and Gareth looking very happy later in the ride.
This next stage was going to be a very tough section with 3 KOM’s in pretty short succession. The first of these was Sandhill Bank and to be honest I cannot remember much about it so it cannot have been too bad. The third of these climbs was Rosedale Chimney and was expected to be the major challenge of the day but first we had a prelude in the shape of Caper Hill. I did not know much about this hill and people were not making any noise about it so I was not expecting it be much of a challenge. How wrong was I, it was simply horrible! Basically it is a straight line up for 9:30 minutes climbing at an average of 14%. The one little kink the road has is full of gravel that nearly had me coming off but I dug in and got up. I have since looked it up and it gets a 10/10 in Another 100 Hardest Climbs and it was the hardest of the day in my opinion. Every time you thought it was done it kicked up again! Rosedale Chimney was next and its 33% gradient that was the main concern pre ride. Maybe it was the horrendous slog up Caper Hill but although hard and very steep Rosedale was not too bad in the end. I even managed to pose for the photographer on the way up. Gareth was climbing superbly so we were in pretty good shape 75 miles in.
The next 50 miles were flat on the profile and we were expecting to munch some pretty easy miles and enjoy the next 2 feed stops. The second of these was back at the start point halfway through the ride (Figure 8 course) and proved to be very tough mentally. After 6 hours riding and about 7000 feet of climbing it was hard to set off for the second 100 mile ride of the day. After a quick change of clothes into full NWV colors and the worlds worst Hot Dog we set off again. 5 miles after setting off however I descended into a dark place and started having serious doubts I would be able to complete another 100 miles. This was probably down to getting slightly behind on my fueling that then effected my mood but it was at this point Gareth really helped. He was going strong and this rubbed off on me and greatly helped me get on top of my mindset. I chomped my way through even more £0.29 Flapjacks and multiple gels with a load of water and got back on track. I had been trying to hold off on gels until the back end of the ride in case it effected my stomach but the instant hits worked brilliantly. Reflecting now, this is what sets the Beast apart from any other challenge I have taken on, it is not only a huge physical challenge but mentally really pushes you to the limit for the amount of time you spend on the bike as much as anything. Everyone I spoke to after the event had experienced at least one of these episodes.
Next up was Greenhow Hill at 125 miles and I had started feeling a bit more like myself so ticked of multiple sections of 16% gradient before enjoying some big descents to the next feed at Kilnsey Village Hall at 135 miles. Everyone was pretty apprehensive at this point with the words ‘Park Rash is a monster’ being expressed multiple times in varying degrees of colorful language as it was next up at 140 miles. With my greatly improved state of mind I was now up for this and just thought ‘The only way I am getting off this bike is to fall off!’ With that I set about the 1.26 miles at 10.2% gradient and found it was no Caper Hill and actually enjoyed the challenge by getting in a nice strong rhythm to get up with no real issues and managed to have a look around and enjoy the views.
Flow Edge was next on the list and this dragged on a good while to take you right out into the moors but I was now really enjoying myself again as the pressure of all the major climbs was finished and remained strong until the final feed at 170 miles. After a particular bad piece of pizza at this feed and seeing people wandering around without being fully aware of what they were doing as the fatigue really hit home we set off for the last KOM and the finish. Grinton Moor is another nice climb into the middle of nowhere and saw me going about 2 mph until my legs got going again after the stop. This was now it for climbing and just a matter of descending/ flat riding the 30 miles home.
The last miles I really enjoyed as I was feeling good and the excitement of finishing was really starting to kick in. At this point I repaid the favour to Gareth and helped him through his dark period by taking the wind when required and for the last hour we averaged a decent 20 mph and I was holding good power. It really was quite an incredible feeling to see the Gramin tick over to 200 miles on this final stretch. We eventually rolled in 15 hours after starting with an actual riding time of just over 13 hours.
I am immensely proud of what I have achieved in completing the Yorkshire Beast and raising over £700 for my chosen charities, DimentiaUk and the MS Society. It truly was an epic day out on the bike that really did challenge me more than I realised it would do. It is incredibly tough, a stunning route and really well organised by Velo29 but if you are going to give it a go train bloody hard!