Bathed in glorious sunshine yet again, the Lakeland Loop provided riders with stunning scenery, plenty of cake and some of the most famous and gruelling climbs in the Lake District.
This year’s event was once again blessed with good weather, which is just as well as it helped to take the riders’ minds off the severity of the climbs they had to overcome. The 400 riders who took to the start were initially greeted with a frosty start but this soon cleared to a sunny day that showed the Lake District at it’s truly stunning best.
The Lakeland Loop sportive is a spectacular route which starts and finishes at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale. As you drive into the valley you are greeted with the magnificent sight of the Langdale Pikes and on a clear day the stunning scenery cannot be beaten.
The Lake District is a tourist hotspot on bank holiday weekend but thankfully most of them tend to flock to Bowness and Ambleside and ignore the far West of Cumbria which makes up most of the route.
The three major climbs on this route are Whinlatter Pass, a relatively gentle and shaded climb through a magnificent pine forest, followed later in the day by Hardknott and Wrynose Passes in swift succession. Riders approach the final two passes from the east. The Hardknott is a soul destroyer but luckily the Wrynose pass is relatively tame. Wrynose from the west is equally difficult as Hardknott from the east but riders were fortunate enough not to suffer this fate.
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As riders descend from Wrynose pass believing that they have conquered the final challenge, a leg burning 25 per cent climb back over to Great Langdale awaits them and destroys any hopes of an easy last few miles. This caught out a lot of riders who thought they had done all their climbing for the day only to be defeated and finally having to resort to walking.
Many people think that this event is about three big climbs but they are totally wrong. The hills are tough and frequent but only three have names. The remainder of the route passes through some of the lesser known villages and lanes which are far from the usual madding crowd who visit the rest of Cumbria.
Riders enduring a tough Lakeland Loop
The organiser – Marc Laithwaite
“The event started three years ago as a fun challenge which attracted 100 people but has grown fivefold since then with places selling out six weeks in advance. Many people use the event as their first real hilly sportive of the year, testing themselves on some of the hardest roads in the country before heading abroad to some of the bigger Alpine events later in the year.”
Sportive Sound Bites
Alexandra Woodward, Lake District
“Living in Elterwater, and being a cycle enthusiast, it would have been rude of me not to enter. The weather was perfect. My favourite section was the descent of Whinlatter Pass to Lorton and the cake stop! After having surgery last year followed by complications, I was ecstatic to complete this event and beat last year’s time by a minute.”
Tom Hayden, Winchester
“This was my first sportive event and I chose it as mountain practice for a trip to the Pyrenees in July. After a very cold and frosty start the weather was amazing; sunny and clear with great views across the hills. The good organisation and friendly atmosphere made the ride very enjoyable, even the brutal climbs of Hardknott and Wrynose passes. All in all a very satisfying challenge.”
Alex Paterson, Team SIM-Vodafone
“Probably the most spectacular sportive in the country! Beautiful scenery means big hills, but no-one ever said it was going to be flat. Ice in the morning and sunburn in the afternoon; rolling roads around the lakes and the steepest hills you’ll ever (want to) climb, all combined to make this a day of incredible contrasts. See you next year.”
My…Lakeland Loop – Kevin Stirzaker
Time: All day Sunday!
In July this year, a number of colleagues and I will be cycling from Newbury to Newbury via Spain and France. On the way, we will be tackling the Tourmalet. So what better preparation, I thought than doing a few sportives, especially the Lakeland Loop. On reflection, and having now encountered the infamous Hardknott and Wrynose passes I think the Tourmalet would have been better preparation for today.
I’ve cycled the Pyrenees and even the Ventoux in the past but I just don’t seem able to accept that this old codger isn’t what he used to be. So having convinced four of my younger, and fitter, friends to take part, we found ourselves leaving a frozen Ambleside at 06:30 to cycle to Great Langdale for an early start. Kick off was at 8.06am.
It didn’t take long for the Lake District to remind me of my age. The first climb was a category two, heading over to a nice but steep descent into Grasmere: Then there was the long drag up Little Poggio before dropping into Keswick.
Every climb that I encountered took its toll on me and I found each climb harder than the previous; and I won’t deny it, on some hills I found out why bicycles were called push bikes. Winlatter Pass came sooner than I had expected as did the welcoming tea and cake at Lorton Feed Stop with friendly faces dispensing water, tea, coffee and more cake than I knew existed.
After here, the ride settled down and became a pleasant ride though the Lake District until reaching the next stop (more tea and cake). Not long to go now: Just a couple of climbs left.
I have experienced nothing like Hardknott and Wrynose before. Words, nor pictures, can describe these climbs or the views. They are stunning on both counts. But, I resigned myself to walking up and even down the other side, they were so unbelievably steep. Walking while pushing your bike up these hills is not easy but I did it.
I did finish the ride, but everybody had gone home by then. But I didn’t care. I’d completed what I set out to do. All in all, a great, well organised and structured day which I shall repeat when I’m another year older.
Kevin Stirzaker befor his Lakeland Loop
The weather for each of the three years has been clear blue sky and sunshine. In 2008 many turned back when they encountered hail and thunder on the motorway, but the route was actually bathed in sunshine.
The fastest time this year was three hours 46 minutes and the slowest time eight hours and51minutes.