Cyclo-Sportive: Etape du Dales

This year’s event was the fifth running of what must be considered one of the toughest sportives on our shores. The distance, terrain and fickle Dales weather all add up to make this a true test of body, mind and machine.

The event is organised by Allan Godfrey and Keith Lambert, both on the Dave Rayner Fund Committee with ex-pro Lambert who is now the director sportif of the current Halfords Bikehut Team.

Allan has organised road races in the past along with doing some mechanic-ing for the Harrods and Mens Health pro teams back in the nineties. It’s more likely that you may have met him on a Graham Baxter Sporting Tours trip to the Etape du Tour, as he will have been on board looking after you.

Godfrey and Lambert took over the organisation of this event after the sad loss of previous founder, organiser and Dave Rayner Fund secretary, Stuart Holdsworth. He was tragically killed while out cycling last October and so it was therefore only fitting that this year’s event was run in his memory.

The event is limited to 800 riders and there was a full entry weeks in advance of the actual ride. However, there had obviously been people weather watching and anticipating a day of rain and wind who had phoned in on the morning of the ride to say they would not start. It left 667 starters, fifteen of whom had been able to sign in on the day, to leave the ideal event HQ of the Wharfedale rugby club in Grassington and wheel their way out in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales.

There really is a friendly atmosphere as the riders dib out from the start. Rayner Fund’s president and double Tour stage winner Brian Robinson, along with other committee members Sid Barras, Bernard Burns and Billy Holmes were on hand to wish everyone well.

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It truly is a team effort and a special thanks must go to all the organisers and the army of marshals, medics and volunteers along the route that make this such an enjoyable event. A number of the riders along the way commented that this friendly support is something that is greatly appreciated.

My Ride — Andy Jones
With start times available from 6.30am, by the time I reached the HQ at 8.20am there were not many riders left to depart. So by 9.20am when I dibbed in and was on my way, there were only four others to start behind me.

I can truly say I enjoyed my day. There is so much to take in as this route has got it all. The geology makes for a landscape of contrast but also beauty and depth, from the limestone dales, gorges and associated waterfalls, to the sandstones that form the higher peaks and moorland.

Pretty villages dot the route. Drystone walls and the stone-build barns throughout the Dales all add to the unique feel of the area.

Dales wildlife was special for me too with oystercatchers piping along the riverbanks and curlew rising over the high moorland. Sand martins skimmed low over the rivers as the dippers bobbed on river boulders. Where else would you see road signs warning of ‘red squirrels for 3 miles’?

Routing is perfect and means traffic free roads — something I was very conscious of coming from riding Peak District roads regularly.

The weather became a test as the early tailwind became a stiff head to cross wind on the return leg. Fortunately the climb from Garsdale station had a tailwind but I was still very glad I’d put a 25 sprocket on the back on the advice of Allan and Keith. I can report it was used regularly elsewhere too with the 3,620 metres of ascent during the day. From Ribbleshead the weather closed in and the wind blew in the rain for the closing miles.

I didn’t have to cape up until just after the control at Stainforth but it did ease for the final five or so miles, allowing me to dry out by the finish. Though soon after this the heavens opened and the one hundred or so still to finish probably got the worst of it. Still, overall the Dales weather was kind.

I arrived to applause, as did every rider, from those gathered at the finish. Sid Barras was on hand to take my final time control dib for 07-32-38 and a placing of 163rd.
This is a ride that is a must do at least once in your sportive career. Fabulous.

Andy Jones

The organiser – Allan Godfrey
“The 2009 event was once again a great success with big thanks to the fantastic local support of marshals and helpers who give up their time to help nearly 700 riders to enjoy the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. The event raises a large amount of funds for the season, which helps place riders in Europe, so they can realise their dreams of hopefully becoming a professional cyclist and following other, now professional riders, who have been assisted by the Dave Rayner Fund. See you in 2010.”

Sound Bites

Fiona Strouts
“I had a really good day, brilliant ride. It was challenging with the long hard climbs and descents which are quite a contrast to where I normally ride in the Surrey hills. The roads were well surfaced too. I was rewarded with the beautiful scenery and I think that’s what I’ll take away from the day. Doing sportives is a great way to see the country.

Roberta Dionella
“I really enjoyed the ride, the scenery and I was lucky with the weather. I only got caught in rain in the last hour. I was impressed with the route that was picked as there were no main roads and the surfaces were good. I was by myself for most of the day and perhaps wished I’d started earlier in the day to be with some stronger riders. The north has friendly folk.”

Helen Thomson
“I had a fantastic ride though I must admit to thinking, ’what on earth am I doing’ at the start today. I felt a bit out of my depth. My friends think I’m out of my tree but I do it because I can and the sense of achievement afterwards.
“I did miss the cut-off point at Moorcock, unfortunately, but carried on another way. Towards the end I did see an event ambulance and I was well tempted to get in it. Anyway I got back with 113 miles on my computer.”

Ian Richardson
“I bombed the first eighty miles but then had the head wind on the way back. It was hard work over the last twenty miles. The scenery and descents were fantastic. I recorded speeds of 56, 57mph. I started late and picked people off which was good for morale and I did work with a few people along the way, so there was some good camaraderie. I was really pleased to go sub seven hours for gold and even more pleased when I saw I was 36th overall.”

Daniel Bent
“A really good day. I’ll give it a go next year, give it full throttle. What a race though. Those 25 per cent gradients on the climbs and the descents were hard on the forearms and hands. I rode with Fiona Strouts and we had a couple of moments with sheep and a pheasant on the descents. The worst bit was making the turn in the ride and coming back in to the head wind. The best bit was the scenery.”

Map Captions

Hubberholme Church
Famed resting place of writer and play write J.B. Priestley and also houses the work of Robert Thompson, ‘The mouse man of Kilburn.’ Each of the churches oak pews have been hand carved by Thompson and so bear his famous trademark, a little carved mouse.

Malham Cove
Peregrine Falcons nest on the dramatic Limestone cliffs at Malham Cove. RSPB viewpoint with ‘scopes and binoculars to view these magnificent birds. Follow signs from Malham village and along footpath to the cove. From April-August 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Tan Hill
Tan Hill is the site of Britain’s highest inn, the Tan Hill Inn at 1,732 feet above sea level.

Home of the famous Wensleydale Creamery which make a variety of cheeses. It is the traditional Wensleydale that they market in association with the Wallace and Gromit characters that people will perhaps know them best for.