DISTANCE 70.5 miles or 113.5km
MAIN CLIMBS Charlesworth, Snake Pass, Bradwell, Miller’s Dale, Hindlow, Longnor to Winking Man Inn, Chinley to Hayfield, Chunal
TOTAL CLIMB 2,695m
ACHTUNG! Busy junctions at times at A623, A6 and A515
It’s late October when I meet up with Landbouwkrediet rider Ian Stannard at the cottage he shares with girlfriend Claire and cat Uggi in Charlesworth, between Manchester and the western edge of the Peak District.
“This will be my first day back on the bike since the Worlds,” Stannard tells me. “I was meant to do Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours but I didn’t feel great so I took the break early and feel motivated to go again now I’ve rested.”
The three weeks or so of rest has allowed Stannard to have some fun on the mountain bike. “It keeps the boredom out,” he says. “I just enjoy riding my bike and don’t really get the chance to smash about in the woods so it’s been fun. Just having a potter about, challenging myself and falling off.”
It must be good for the bike skills: “There is that aspect to it,” agrees Stannard. “Last winter I tried to get out once a week. There are a few skills like sliding about in the mud and rocks and stuff I think comes in handy for the Classics.”
Stannard was in the news recently after signing for the Ukrainian-Italian ISD team, which boasts Mario Cipollini as its PR man. But for 2008 he rode from the Belgian Landbouwkrediet team, with fellow Brits Paul Manning and Ed Clancy. Stannard was based in the heart of Belgium’s Classic country, with the team accommodation just a few kilometres from the Tour of Flanders finish in Ninove.
His early season included the Tour of Flanders along with Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix. “Riding those Classics, from what I’ve been told, was quite a good achievement. Just to ride them was a big highlight,” says Stannard as we set out. “They are pretty special; they are like the Tour for me,” stresses Stannard who at over six foot has the ideal build for the cobbled Classics.
Snake in the sky
Setting out, we are almost immediately confronted by a wall of a climb out of Charlesworth, as we head for the top of Chunal on the Hayfield-Glossop road. We descend past the Grouse Inn and through Chunal before dropping to Glossop. A narrow back lane cuts out Glossop and brings us out at the bottom of the Snake Pass.
“I like going up the Snake,” Stannard reveals as we start the ascent. “The further you go up, the quieter and quieter it gets. You can see the town below, it gets quieter and all the noise fades away. All you can hear is the bike and your breathing.”
We crest the summit with Bleaklow to our left and Kinder Scout on our right. Bleak is the word for this peaty high moorland, made bleaker by threatening skies and a strong wind that buffets us. Ian says of the route, “There is no hiding. It’s quite exposed and there always seems to be some adverse weather, snow, extreme wind, rain, hail. Hardens you up a bit.”
The descent from the top is fast and twisty at first, then you have to keep pedalling to get the most out of the run down to Ladybower reservoir. We head for Bamford and Bradwell and the valley road is a chance to ask Ian about his second place in the junior Paris-Roubaix.
“I got second to ‘G’ [Geraint Thomas],” laughs Stannard. “I went the wrong way going into the velodrome. We were away together and they were 13 seconds behind us, so we didn’t care who won and we went flat stick for the line. After the last section of pavé it turns right and goes into the velodrome.
“I’d never watched it on TV as it was never on British TV. I was right up the arse of the lead car and it flicked off into the deviation and I went with it. ‘G’ was on my wheel and started to go too but he shouted and I had to bounce it round and sprint back and that was the finish. It was cool.”
We climb out of Bradwell which is followed by a succession of climbs as we drop in and out of the Peak District valleys towards Longnor. “This ride was introduced to me by David Millar,” Stannard says as we battle a headwind up from Longnor to the Winking Man Inn on the Leek road. “I’ll do it two to four times a week. You can ride it easy and it’s still hard, and you can ride it hard and it’s really hard. There is over 2,500 metres of climbing, which is a good amount for the UK. It’s good to find your fitness and see where you are.”
A right in Fernilee takes us into the back lanes to cut back towards Chinley. There’s plenty of climbing once more and Stannard adds, “I’ll maybe combine this ride with some flatter rides in between. I quite enjoy this ride though, it’s not too busy and the ups and downs make it go a bit quicker.”
From Chinley we are climbing again up towards Chinley Head to join the main Hayfield road where Ian reveals more of his training: “I do use HRMs and SRMs, though more to make sure when I’m training on my own that I know roughly I’m in the right sort of area. I’ve bounced a few training ideas off Rob Illingworth but I pretty much do it all myself really. For the road I’m getting the good miles in over the winter. Four to five hour rides maximum with a little bit of intensity in it, then after two or three 200-kilometre races you have got the speed there as well. The distance from it comes real easy.
“From November I’ll start ramping it up. I’ll perhaps train with Adam Blythe and some of the Academy lads round here. I may go out to Italy for a bit and use it to shed some weight and get a bit of condition back.
“December will be the same sort of thing. January picks up again and I’ll be racing by February. As long as you are 95 per cent there by mid-February you are fine. You’re not pinging but you keep up with the pace. When you start racing you pick up automatically.”
We pick up for the final stiff climb up Chunal and turn left at the top to retrace back in to Charlesworth. There’s definitely no hiding on this route.
YOUR GUIDE: IAN STANNARD
Ian Stannard is 21 and lives with girlfriend Claire and cat Uggi
Born in Chelmsford. Lives in Charlesworth near Manchester
This year finished the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix
Rode as a stagiaire with T-Mobile at the end of 2007
Start in Charlesworth and take the Monk‘s Road to the A624. Turn left (TL) to take first right to Moorfield and the A57. Turn right (TR) on to A57 Snake Pass to TR at Ladybower reservoir on to A6013 to Bamford. TR on to A625 direction Hope. TL at Brough on to B6049. Cross A623 and continue on B6049 to Tideswell. Continue down Miller’s Dale to TR on to A6 to TL on to A5270 to TR on to A515 to TL on to B5053 to Longnor.
Out of Longnor take the second right direction Fawfieldhead and Newtown and continue to A53. TR on to A53 to Buxton to TL on to A5004. At Fernilee TR on to unclassified lane. Cross straight over B5470 and continue to Chinley bearing right on lane in to Chinley so as to cross B6062 and take unclassified lane to top of Chinley Head. TL on to A624 and continue to top of Chunal climb to TL and retrace route back to finish in Charlesworth.