183km and 3,000m^ around the Lakes in September 2021. This year, carrying an injury, it was all about a party-pace, cow-bell toting, slow and solid get round.
The famous Fred Whitton. A staple of the British cycling calendar. Fabled in the lores of road bikes. A big bastard lap of the Lake District - taking in climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose passes together with a number of (slightly) smaller climbs along the way. To have ridden it is a badge of honour, plain and simple.
In 2021, following the COVID pandemic, we finally rode the 2020 edition in September, rather than its traditional early May slot. The Lakes in Autumn is a different proposition to the Lakes in Spring. We started darker, earlier and wetter. The colours were different. But the famous atmosphere was no less spectacular than a normal year.
In the build up to the ride, we'd broken the route down into 4 separate stages in little guides on Instagram - just 4 very tough 45km-ish bike rides. And on the day, this strategy worked brilliantly for us. Carrying savage cramp from the Big Day Off in Yorkshire a month before, there was a very real prospect of bailing at Whinlatter and taking the Lamb & Lion route home... But in the end, we got round. Slowly and with smiles on our faces. What a day!
Here's our stage by stage photo review.
Stage 1 - The Queen Stage - Grasmere to Threkeld (45km / 770m^)
Stage 2 - An Up North Trip - Threkeld to Whinlatter (47km / 900m^)
Stage 3 - The Cold Fells - Whinlatter to Calder Bridge (38.5km / 480^)
Stage 4 - Knives Out - Calder Bridge to Grasmere (52km / 1,000m^)
It's genuinely impossible to put into words the atmosphere on the day of The Fred - from the brilliant organisation of such a major event on narrow exposed roads, to the exceptional marshalling, the hoards of supporters from local villages, local clubs and families and friends that line the roads and shake cow bells that raise the spirits of tired riders to the medics, small businesses and accepting locals that make this so special. Thank you to them all.
Not long now to the next one, is it...
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