Fred or Dead: Part 1

13 May

The affectionately named 'Murder Bike' breaks its all black stealth regime with swanky Bonty climbing wheels, ready to take a few scalps at the Fred.

Last weekend was the 2010 Fred Whitton Challenge. After finishing last year’s event a semi gibbering idiot after going too hard at the start, getting caught in the hail at the top of Hardknott Pass, blowing up on the run back into Coniston yet still setting a respectable time, I said I wouldn’t bother again. It was a great event but one I’d ticked off the list and I had no need to go back.

Well, that was before I decided to get serious about endurance racing this year. Fast forward nine months and the Fred presented itself as the ideal line in the sand, a good time on what is regarded as the UK’s hardest one day mass ride was there to be bear

The Fred comes at a very handy time too; being well positioned to be a good tester of form ahead of the start of summer racing as well as a chance for one last hardcore training ride to bring that form up to scratch. There are then no excuses for holding back – the only way I could have a bad ride at the Fred is if I had to pull out or just didn’t try hard enough. Going too hard too early – like last year can’t really be considered to be a mistake then. In fact it probably should be encouraged

As in the ’09 Fred I had the pleasure of riding with Mick Style of the Manchester Wheelers. Mick is an experienced road racer and also North West Vets Cyclocross champ and knows the Fred Whitton route very well so is great to ride with and watch as he’s always well positioned in a group of riders, hard riding and yet able to pace himself well through the ride.

8am is usually when the serious club lads start and to stand any chance of a fast time it pays to be in the main group of the day, especially when it gets to the A66 and turns into one big chaingang. This year was no exception, as we made our way down to the start we a large and likely group of riders ready for the off. Among them were plenty of the smart new white jerseys of the local ‘Honister 92’ road team and also Mike from wheelbase, a strong rider who we’d ridden with for most of the previous year’s event.

‘Dibbing’ to start the timing and hitting the road, the pace was immediately high and about 8 white jerseys took to the front as the group, some 30 strong and growing as we swept up riders ahead on the road, became strung out in single file. By the bottom of Kirkstone Pass, with one climb out of the way, the average speed was over 20mph. I shouted to Mick that we should try to keep with the group over Kirkstone, to save ourselves the hard chase back on we had last time, but we were both a little unsure as the pace was a little too hot for comfort. Fortunately as we got the climb the white jerseys relented and the group climbed steadily before reforming a little lighter in number and resuming the charge on the fast flat to Ullswater. We were making very good time in the main group and weren’t far from the A66 but for me it wasn’t going to last.

Cresting Matterdale end my front tyre was feeling soft, then very soft, I said goodbye to Mick and pulled over, the ultra-light Bontrager climbing wheels I’d borrowed for the day were tubular carbon types so I was praying I wouldn’t get any trouble with them, although its possible to ride on a flat ‘tub’ we were only 25 miles in and another 80-odd isn’t really an option. Fortunately I had a spare tyre and CO2 inflation kit but approximately zero experience fitting tubs.

To be continued…

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