Club Reliability Trial 2015 Report (CLS-Blaydon-Wylam-Corbridge-Hexham-Allenheads-Rookhope-Stanhope-Billy Row, 15 March 2015)

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After a year’s absence, we decided to organise the annual March Reliability Trial and Ian Gardner and myself set to work. The date was decided as 15 March, mainly because you can’t have it too early (snow and ice) and we also thought two weeks before the Houghton’s Killhope Grimpeur was appropriate. It was Mothers’ Day which meant a few members could not join us.

The morning was perfect, if a little below average temperature for mid-March. With a light easterly, we set off into a marginal sidewind but as we crossed Kimblesworth roundabout, disaster struck for Philippe Galland. A large nail went through his tyre/tube and also damaged his wheel rim – a freak accident if ever there was one. He had to abandon there and then (but am glad to say he got home, replaced the wheel and still managed a 60 mile plus ride).

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We threaded through the usual way around Gateshead where we seemed subject to a bit more agressive driving than usual. Having reached the haven of Wylam, and then followed the lovely lanes through Ovingham, we hit Corbridge in nice time despite a front puncture change on my bike. At this point about half the riders turned back leaving eight out in front. Malcolm had gone ahead, thinking we were using the A69 for a bit after Hexham (which we used to do, and still do if heading for Alston), but I did not realise this having been delayed by my puncture. P150315_141239

After Hexham, Richard Barnett, Chris Burns, Gary Heath and Mal Grey forged ahead up the climb and we had already agreed that the three of us would not try and keep up (Mark Lakey, Wayne Dennis and myself). Unfortunately Gary had a spill when his rear tyre caught some mud, and he ended up on the deck but without serious damage to himself or the bike. We climbed at a steady rate, enjoying the stunning views and looking for the snowline (which we did not see before cresting the last ridge before Allendale). When we got to the Hemmel cafe, the four lads had been tucking into their Lentil soup and we joined them for the same. They left about 30 minutes before we did – incredibly, Gary had another crash where his rear mech jammed into his wheel on the descend into Rookhope. With great tenacity he managed to continue (presumably after some surgery to the bike) and I am glad to report that he made it home safely – while these things happen to us all from time to time, it illustrates the benefits of cycling in a group and the idea of safety in numbers.

Our climb and subsequent descent into Rookhope was good fun and Wayne managed to find his descending mojo and steam into Rookhope alone. Our legs were beginning to complain at this stage but we made it into Stanhope without incident, and stopped for a few moments to take gels and drinks. Surprisingly, the headwind was not too bad along the Wear valley road (we averaged over 17mph between Stanhope and Wolsingham), but all too soon we reached the three step ascent leading up the the Fir Tree/Harperley roundabout. This started to hurt but we all made it in reasonable time and took the lane towards Billy Row. Imagine our surprise when we saw Malcolm Marshall sitting at the top (on the bench beside the cottage on the right); he had gone to Allendale cafe and thought we were close behind! However, we all set off for Billy Row and then down Waterhouses/Buttons bank and into Ushaw Moor and Durham. At Neville’s Cross Wayne decided to leave us to get a few extra miles in to get 100 miles while Mark, Malcolm and myself headed north on the A167. I left them at Plasworth (getting in enough kilos for the Strava 150k but running out of brownie points and energy to get the 100 miles) and said thanks and safe home at that point.

Many thanks to Ian Gardner who jointly organised the event; unfortunately he was not feeling well enough to tackle the whole route which was a great shame – in the past he has always been up for the whole thing. Hope you get sorted soon. We can’t claim responsibility for the route since we’ve used it in the past; I’m convinced that it is a great route for that time of year since the climbs are relatively gentle and there are no brake-pinching, hairpin-ridden descents, especially when it can be still icy in March.

We will talk about improving the Reliability Spin for 2016 but look forward to giving Malcolm, Mal, Chris, Richard, Gary (special commendation), Mark and Wayne their finishing certificates at the Club prizegiving at the end of the year (or perhaps early January) – well done to them all.

Peter