The principal actor in last Sunday’s car assisted stage of the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) summer programme was the fickle wind. One moment sapping the strength from the legs as we struggled uphill into a headwind, the next chasing us along the lanes and ruffling the backs of the leaves. At other times making us grip the bars tightly in a strongly gusting side-wind. The wind had a sidekick in the form of showers which threatened all day but only made a dramatic appearance in the late afternoon.
Nine riders (including one with electric-assist) converged on Clapham Station and made decent progress via Rathmell to the coffee stop at Gardenmakers café near Wigglesworth. The wind favoured our onward journey down to the River Ribble at Paythorne. A brief encounter with the main Gisburn to Long Preston Road enabled us to gain the quiet lane to Horton. Across the A59 and on through Bracewell to the outer limits of North East Lancashire at Barnoldswick. Here the Lancashire Cycleway was joined, leading to Brogden and then steeply up the side of Weets Hill to the main Gisburn to Nelson road. A fast descent, holding the bars tight in a crosswind, to the Rimington turn and onto the shoulder of Pendle Hill. Twisting lanes with sharp hills emerged on the edge of Downham. Then down into the Ribble valley at Chatburn, where the Pavilion Brasserie at the new garden centre provided the fuel for our legs to tackle the return trip.
Already behind time, we took advantage of the now friendly wind to speed us through Grindleton and Sawley to Bolton by Bowland. The Lancashire Cycleway led us north and uphill towards the Bowland fells. At this point discretion was exercised, all agreeing that there was little point in dicing with the gusting 50 mph wind at the 1,500 foot contour on Bowland Knotts. Reluctantly, we turned east to make haste with the wind to Tosside and the scenic balcony lane to Rathmell, overlooking Ribblesdale. The gated lane through Rome and Wham by-passed the A65, and threw some sharp showers at us.
Eventually, journey’s end appeared. A late finish at 5.30, with 53 miles covered and over four thousand feet of climbing.