Hope Pre-Peaks 2018
Words – Ben Othen
Photo’s – Phil Hatton
This year saw the second Hope Technology Pre-Peaks challenge ride, a ride designed as a warm up, a taster if you will, for the formidable 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race. The Pre-Peaks, starting from just outside the factory doors at Hope Technology in Barnoldswick takes in some of the finest back country roads and off road trails around Malham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
As I grew up literally 15 minutes away by bike in the town of Earby this ride holds a certain reminiscent romantic glow for me, pounding round the trails and roads I did as a lad and this year Phil Hatton, Gareth and John of Hale Velo joined in the fray and best of all it was set to be a very wet day indeed.
Waking up to grey drizzle dribbling down my window was a regular occurrence in my youth, peering to the hills wondering whether I could summon the will to pull the bike out of the shed and turn some pedals. Today though no mental lobbying was needed, weather like this is what makes event rides so memorable and I knew from my knowledge of the local trails we were in for a slip and slide treat of a ride.
Once Phil and the boys arrived we lined up in one of the last groups to set off, as you might expect from a company like Hope organisation and safety are key and today with visibility low over the tops the ride was cut short to the 70k loop, missing Mensies Hill as we later discovered to my absolute relief I’ll be honest. The rain was mild but persistent, a constant drizzle on an oddly warm day that failed to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm on the day.
The ride starts with a climb that I am incredibly familiar with, Wheats Hill, which takes you up over and out of Barnoldswick dropping down over the moorland on a surprisingly techy fast descent before hitting the road towards Gisburn. Rolling out of the start I felt pretty ropey off the back of a long week but only from the neck up, the legs we’re giving me the green so I put the hammer down as the road and trail climbed with a view to setting the best time I could manage. The long spells of dry weather weather made the ground hard and the rain adding a slime to rock and slippery sluice of thin mud off the road making things ‘exciting’. My new Ridley X-Trail 105 Alloy took it all in it’s stride, running tubeless tyres I tackled the first off road descent with total abandon with the novelty of being able to stop using disc brakes pleasing as I hurtled toward the farm gate separating the fields.
Just outside Gisburn one very entertaining section of grassy path alongside the A682 was a cyclocross riders dream, a flase flat covered in slick mud that made for riding conditions like black ice in a car park, it was bloody fantastic. I had a whale of time riding sometimes sideways letting the bike wander and find grip with other riders cursing their spinning wheels, it’s elements of the ride like this that make me thankful I’ve chosen a gravel bike to tackle it big MTB tyres would be no fun here.
As riders hurtled toward Long Preston and the first feed station I was joined by Ian Weatherill’s son (Ian being the boss of Hope) and a team rider who’s name escapes me, both lovely chaps with incredible fitness who allowed me to tag along as they rode what to them was probably a sedate pace but to me was full gas along the main road connecting section to the next part of the ride. Leaving the first feed station we turn left onto a horrid climb as we are guided to the hills around Malham for the bulk of the off-road section of the route.
Higher up the weather began it’s campaign in full with visibility poor at the higher points of the ride, normally beautifully scenic the hills between Long Preston and Malham were shrouded in misty drizzle as we worked our way across the moorland. I was still feeling good at this point constantly catching and passing riders who started before, heading alongside Hell Gill toward Foss Gill I was starting to feel the strain of riding at a pace however with twangs of cramp starting to creep in.
Dropping onto Badger Butt Lane (what a great name) we make the final run in toward Gargrave, it’s all misty eyed reminiscing about the lanes so familiar from years ago before swinging right on to the Leeds Liverpool canal for the final stretch back to Barnoldswick often a route which I took as the home run on local rides over 15 years ago. Parts of the canal proved to be very slippy but a deep part of my cycling brain perked up ‘I remember this’ – I was able to follow those memories of hundreds of rides to find the best lines even shocking myself at remembering where particular roots we’re buried! I made great progress back into Barnoldswick before a final nasty little climb near Fern Bank Avenue sapped the last of my energy as I dropped back onto the driveway of Hope Technology for a well earned coffee.
I rolled in with a time of 3:30:29 averaging 3 mins per kilometer, not too shabby and as it turns out good enough to land me 10th in the overall times of all the finishers. The Hope Pre Peaks is not a race, it’s a challenge of distance, terrain and time to which every rider rolls into with their own goals in mind, for me getting across the line as fast as possible is always the aim however many riders simply ride to enjoy the experience and that’s what makes the event so special. The Pre Peaks attracts a true mix of riders you would never get on a sportive all on different bikes looking to take different things from the day, if you haven’t done an event like this before I strongly recommend you give it a go. All you need is a capable off-road bike and a bit of fitness both of which we can help you with at Bikeshak!