The Ronde had it's 3rd Birthday last Saturday. This being Lancashire we managed to conjure up a few local treats - cobbles of course, cakes galore from SportSunday, pies from legendary local producers Haffners in Burnley, dry wit, errant pigeons and a ferret on a lead. For real.
Just shy of a hundred riders set out from the Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford, all making it back in various states of preservation and all experiencing the finest leg-burning back lanes and cobbled climbs that Lancashire (and shh.. Calderdale) could offer. It may be 'only' 50 miles, but as ever the Ronde made itself known to legs and stomachs with its unique combination of serious riding and serious eating as well as some good old fashioned chat. Dry roads and more importantly cobbles, meant that the steepest of the cobbled section were cleaned by many and not even the icy wind blowing over Widdop could take the edge off things.
I've always been clear that RVOL is about riding with mates in great countryside and with the mother of all cake and pie stops thrown in. Team mate and training partner Dave Haygarth set aside tearing it up (or breaking me down) for the day and rode with his HCtB brother Phil and old friend Richard, something they hadn't all done for 38 years. Other riders travelled from Yorkshire, Manchester, Merseyside and another HctB rider Simon Nurse even came from Wales, all presumably lured by the free food.
In fact the cake stop, provided free by photographers SportSunday
and cunningly positioned at the top of the heinous cobbled climbs out of Hebden and through Heptonstall, has been the scene of many spirited sprints to gain position in the queue. This year was no exception, as one anonymous Yorkshireman, enthused by the thought of his free cake almost took out one of the SportSunday photographers, Laura, stationed on the run in to snap the riders. Shame on you Mr Waggett....
I didn't get to catch up with half the people I wanted to but it was a hoot nonetheless, and as ever, feedback seemed very positive. I also had 3 pies and a large slice of cake just before the tough last climbs over Widdop to Colne. All in all, it set me up nicely for the finale to the 'Flanders' weekend with the new look Ronde van Vlaanderen race the following day.
We would all like to thank David and Laura from SportSunday (and their extended family) for their cakes, drink and all round support of the event, and Haffners Pies of Burnley. Thanks also to Helen and Evan Welsh for doling out cake and pies to greedy, sorry hungry riders. Feel free to show your appreciation for them all by checking out the pics here
and purchasing a momento of your day.