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Michael Openshaw wins the Hill Climb Nationals (29 October 2017)...

For those of you who have read my reports in the past, you will know that I tend to avoid including myself in the details. You’ll have to forgive me this time since I must provide a bit of detail about a very moving and incredibly thoughtful gesture at the beginning of last Sunday’s ride. Unfortunately, I have had to move out of the region due to my job, which means that I am unable to regularly take part in the Sunday club rides. Chair Mike Wyngard and others decided to mark this occasion and presented me with lifetime membership of the club, marked by a stunning framed certificate which they presented to me. To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement – I was absolutely staggered by the thoughtful and generous gesture and it means a huge amount. I’m incredibly honoured to be given this; it’s been a real privilege to be part of a club where everyone is supportive and work towards the common good. Thank you so much for this – I’ve got loads of great memories of the club and am thrilled to be a very small part of the recent revival in the past eight years or so. Thanks also to Ray Haldene who presented me with a miniature cycling figurine in club colours and glasses (yes, it was me!). I’ll also treasure this for the rest of my days. I am also most grateful to those who turned out last Sunday morning to wish me all the best and I’m sorry I did not get a chance to chat to everyone before we departed. It was a cool but very bright morning when a large contingent departed from CLS, following a route to Hedley-on-the-Hill set by Ray Haldene. We went via Waldridge for a change, and a small group of faster riders peeled off the front. After the climb up to Edmondsley we regrouped and headed up to Burnhope where we were divided by a combination of the gradient plus temporary traffic lights in the village. Here we turned north for Maiden Law into a light headwind, keeping a brisk and manageable pace. The drop to Stony Heap went without incident, and we then all climbed past the back of Leadgate before the bumpy drop to Ebchester. Having negotiated the junction, we took the road in the direction of Whittonstall but then turned right towards Hedley-on-the-hill. This is a lumpy road, full of undulations which again split the field. We waited for riders off the back of the group and then headed into the village of Hedley, scene of this year’s National Hill Climb Championships. This was organised by NE club GS Metro and others, under the excellent leadership of Ben Lane. We were there to support our very own Michael Openshaw who had entered the V45 category and was off as no. 82. We got there at about 11am, and after a quick recee down the hill decided that the tent offering bacon rolls and hot drinks was worth a visit – and it was! The atmosphere on the hill was fantastic and having fed ourselves, we headed down the closed road to where other club members had gathered. Every cyclist was given a great reception, and we could just about hear John Davison’s commentary from further down the hill. There were people with banners, cowbells and klaxons, so the noise was stupendous! We lustily cheered local riders Fiona Burnie, Tony...
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Cestria CC does the Winking Sheep Sportive (27 August 2017)...

I should qualify the title by stating that six club members decided to enter the sportive formerly known as the Roof of England, and rebranded as the Winking Sheep, being a beer made by one of the sponsors (more on that later). There were three routes available and everyone, suprise, suprise, opted for the longest at a tad under 90 miles. It wasn’t so much the length that made this such a fantastic and challenging route, but the climbing which was 2726 metres or 8944 feet. To put it in context with the Fred Whitton, which is arguably the toughest in the north of England and possibly UK, the Fred is about 22 miles longer and climbs 3750 metres or 12,312 feet. The Fred has two really tough climbs at the end, Hardknott and Wrynose, while the Sheep has one near the end (Peat hill) and Crawleyside earlier on. The Sheep started at St. John’s Chapel in Weardale, with rolling starts between 8-9am. Due to nw of our group having to work until 8am and then get collected and brought to the start by another, we decided to aim for 8,30am. The morning was lovely, with the sun breaking through raising the temperature to about 14C. Having been given our safety briefing at the start line, we got going at about 8.45am and headed west up the main road towards the first climb, Killhope Cross (and the border with Cumbria). There was a light westerly wind but it was not too bad since we had shelter most of the way from the lee of the hill. Traffic was very light and it was too early for the motobikers, apart from the event moto marshalls. Having stopped for a photoshoot at the top of Killhope, we began our fast descent when Paul Mallett stopped sharply before the rumble strips, due to a puncture (fortunately before the cattle grid, but still causing Stuart “The Younger” Cook behind him a squeaky bum moment). The kind moto marshal who had taken our pictures at the top stopped to offer Paul a tube, but he had deep section wheels and it was a short valve. Having efficiently replaced the tube, Paul then took his wheel to place under his front forks when there was a bang and the new tube blew. After close inspection, he discovered that the tyre had split and he had no spare (nor had the marshall). The marshall had already radioed it in and told Paul that the Nenthead bike shop was open for repairs. Paul replaced the tube again and managed to get enough pressure into it to gingerly descend to Nenthead where the shop was open. Fortunately, Paul bought a new tyre and we were off again with not too much delay. What a perfect place to split a tyre! After the pit stop, we managed a decent pace into Alston and traversed the cobbles without incident. Here the route wheeled around towards the Hartside road, before forking left and east to Garrigill and the first feed. This is a country lane that bounces up and down, and Ray Haldene’s knee started to give him problems. We arrived at the feed within a couple of minutes, and had tea, crisps and bikkies there. The first steep climb is shortly after the village and has short sections of about 21%. Emma Glover was in top form and romped up this first (a feat repeated on every single climb afterwards)....
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Club Sunday Spin: Elsdon ton

With some of the regulars away on cycling holidays (including Club captain Mal Grey), a smaller-than-usual group met at CLS to decide on a route. The Intermediate group, under the curation of Peter Sturmann, had already decided to go to Stanfordham, so a few of us decided to join forces as far as Darras Hall and then break out for Elsdon. It was a windy but sunny Sunday morning with a brisk NW wind, so north was definitely the right direction to head. With occasional gusts on our left shoulders, we cycled up the A167 through Birtley as usual. Gateshead was passed without incident (except a dropped chain), and we reached the top of Throckley bank/Ponteland Road where the Inters went left and the rest turned right for Ponteland. Included in the latter were Mike McGill and Mike Wyngard who couldn’t stay out all day and headed back after Ogle. Having reached Belsay via the lanes, we jointed the Tyne Vags time trial course (M47) and passed a busy Bolam lake and onto Scot’s Gap. Here we had decided to chat about routes, and opted for the longer, more sheltered route via the Rothbury Road. Surprisingly, there was not a lot of traffic on this, and a distinct lack of motorbikes. A few miles before the descent to Rothbury we turned left off the main road and through the Simonside hills via Hepple, joining the Vags course for the climb up Bilsmoor (and also on this year’s Cyclone sportive). John Gardiner was very strong here and reached the top long before Ronnie Cowley and myself. Having paused to take a few pictures, we descended into Elsdon by which time it was about 1,30pm. Surprisingly, there were no other cyclists in the cafe and few customers. We got our food in a matter of minutes and tucked into some welcome carbs, including the famous Gibbet sliced fruit cake. John got a slight scolding from the owner for putting his helmet on the table! After 45 minutes we left Elsdon with yours truly almost taking to route that avoids the famous Gibbet climb. We had a tailwind up the climb and paused when we got to the replica gallows. There is a plate here that describes the punishment of Mr Winter (and the fact that he was hung within viewing distance of his murder scene. We passed Cambo and Wallington Hall which was not too busy, crossing the A696 and heading past Capheaton tea rooms without pausing (they were still open). Most of the major climbing was now done, although the three of us were quite tired at this stage. After the short climb up to Wallridge crossroads, we dropped to Black Heddon and turned left, taking the lovely direct lane via Medburn to Darras Hall. We passed Gateshead at around 4pm and got to CLS but about 4.40pm. It was a super day with amazing views over stunning Northumberland, despite the occasional struggle with the wind on the way out. The route through the Simonside forest is sublime, as was the climb of the Gibbet with a tailwind! It remained warm-ish and dry throughout and everyone clocked 100 miles or more by the time they got home. Many thanks to Ron and John for agreeing to spend the day cycling; here’s looking forward to...
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Cestria CC does Piercebridge (21 May 2017)...

As usual Mal Grey, Club captain, set an engaging and interesting route for this Sunday’s club run, and we actually followed it to the letter in Mal’s absence. It has been planned that we might have an Intermediate group separate from the main club run but, in the end, we all went the same route and stayed together. About 18 riders left CLS in good, bright conditions into a SW wind. We headed straight down the A167 to Neville’s Cross where we turned right onto the A690 as far as Willington. It is sometimes difficult keeping a large group like this together and, to make it safe, we cycle two abreast (as the law says we are entitled to do so, as long as we are not *more* than two abreast). This morning, we got a few cars getting annoyed but nothing quite beat a young pedestrian (late 20s, I would guess) who shouted abuse at us. Having turned off the A690 at Willington, we headed south towards Bishop, but then turned right onto the lanes and onwards to Witton Park. My feeble efforts at cycling ahead of the bunch and then trying to get into position to take pictures were rightly mocked (right)! Our two lady club members, Donna and Joanne, both featured at the front of the group. After the quaintly-named hamlet of Windmill, we turned south again through Cockfield and eventually onto the A688 (not too busy) past Raby Castle (deer were hiding this morning) into Staindrop. The usual cafe is still closed, despite a sign saying the hoped to open in 2017, and the other cafe in the village was full of cyclists! Graeme suggested Piercebridge, which was on Mal’s route anyway, so we set off south again through Winston (which we often do in the opposite direction). Near the village of Eppleby we encountered the most extraordinary procession of tractors heading towards us, obviously going to a show or rally. Club chairman Mike Wyngard’s misspent youth came in handy as he was able to name several makes of tractor! Having reached the Roman Road, we turned north and into Piercebridge where we stopped at the first cafe, which turned out to be the excellent farm shop cafe. Shortly after our arrival, some of the Houghton CC’s club ride joined us, including several of their members know to us (Ranson bros in particular and Andy). We also had a cultural conversation about language. That’s all I’m saying. After excellent cakes and scrambled egg, our bunch headed north on Dere Street (bit of history thrown in for fun). One wonders what groupset the Roman soldiers might have used, had they been alive today. The smart money would be Italian Campag, but bear in mind most of them were foreign conscripts, I reckon they would have opted for Shimano since you get more kit for your denari. But that’s my opinon! Having reached Royal Oak, we crossed the busy A68 again and threaded our way to Shildon. Ron and I remarked how improved the town centre is, with the lovely block paving and attractive iron features. At Kirk Merrington, racing legs began to get itchy and Ron led an impressive charge up the bank, with eventual winner Christian succeeding at the top. Having regrouped, we all freewheeled down the hill to Spenny and onto Tudhoe. After the Sunderland Bridge roundabout, Graeme was the one with the Tom Dumoulin legs and began a spirited ascent of Cock of the...
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Cestria CC does Morrisons, Darlington (5 March 2017)...

On a dry and sunny morning, a sizeable group left Chester Market Place heading south. Having crossed the A167, we headed up golf course bank for Lumley where the faster riders began to forge ahead and we split into two (fast and intermediate). I stayed in the Inter group and we steadily cycled though Leamside and then Coxhoe where we stopped briefly for a discussion about getting to Darlington. We headed down the A177 but then took the charming little lane towards Bishop Middleham and the turned west to Ferryhill Station. The roads were not too busy and we were able to chat and enjoy the spin. Having crossed the A1M junction at Bradbury, we turned south towards Great Stainton and managed a reasonable pace, despite a light headwind. Donna McBride was going well and attacking any little climbs. At Great Burdon, on the outskirts of Darlington, Peter MacGowan suggested a super route to North Road and we all made it safely at about 11.30am to Morrisons. It is a while since I’ve been there – it used to be a very regular feature for club winter rides, because the cafe is great value and you can see the bikes stored inside (and out of the way). The faster lads had already arrived at Morrisons, but we all left together at about 1230. We headed north on the A167 and then decided to split at Rushyford where the fast people kept on the A167 and the Inter group headed towards Bishop on the busy A689. It is a while since I’ve done this road – it’s narrow and busy, but we were only on it for about 3 miles before turning north again. Our little group consisted of Paul, Peter and myself with Donna, Ian and Malcolm chasing Steve and Christian up the A167. With a moment of relief we left the A689 and headed up the bank to Kirk Merrington. Our legs were tired then although Paul had a bash at the climb and did very well. Having regrouped and passed KM, we turned left through Spennymoor and on to Page Bank. The temperature felt changeable all day and when the sun was hiding it felt quite cool. We reached the A690 near Brancepth where we stopped for a photo shoot and parted company with Peter. Paul and myself headed up the Spennymoor CC Hill Climb (to the top of Buttons Bank where we split). It was a most enjoyable day and resulted in a very satisfying 60-ish miles or so at a comfortable average of just over...
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Cestria CC Sunday Spin, 6 March 2016 (Capheaton)...

Sunday 6 March 2016 was a lovely, sunny morning at Chester-le-Street, and the club had three groups ready to depart at 0915. Vin and Ian headed north along the A167, while Peter Sturman’s-led Steady Ride were planning to cycle to South Shields and then take the ferry to North Shields. There were about 12-13 riders opting for the main group and Mal Grey had suggested Capheaton. WE set off into a light northerly wind and reached Throckley without incident. We turned right to Medburn and the glorious lanes that spread north, meeting a couple of other cycling bunches along the way. At Wallridge crossroads we split, with the non-cafe stoppers headingback via Ingoe while the main bunch continued north. We got to Capheaton at about 1115 and it was heaving with cyclists! However, after 5 minutes a large bunch departed and we got a table. Capheaton is the village hall and famous for good-value food and drink, particularly their home-made cakes. After refuelling we departed and almost immediately had the advantage of a brisk tailwind. Having partly traced our route back, we then turned west and dropped past Ingoe quarry and onto the road between the Ryals and Maften. After Maften we briefly joined the Military road before turning south again and dropping to Corbridge. This road was quite hazardous, having several large potholes after the winter. At Corbridge we took the usual route via the north bank of the Tyne, but at Bywell the road is closed due to a landslip and we had to take the valley road on the south side via Prudhoe. The pace was brisk on this section and it is quite a bit harder than the Ovingham route. However, we all regrouped and went through Crawcrook together. Traffic was relatively light through Blaydon and we made it back to CLS at about 2.45pm. Average speed was 16mph; we kept a sensible pace going northwards but turned up the gas a bit on the way back. All in all it was a most enjoyable spin and many thanks again to Mal for plotting the route. Peter...