Saturday 12th June 2021
B2 ride report - LE GIANT NOT PROVENCE - Ken Roberts
After much deliberation I elected to join the B2 ride to Great Dun Fell, Britain’s Ventoux as it is referred to in cycling folklore hereabouts, so called because of it’s resemblance to the great climb of the Tour de France in the Provence region. I had little experience of climbing actual mountains so I did some research into the ins & outs (or should that be ups & downs) of the discipline, fail to prepare, prepare to fail, being my dictum. With regard to fuelling I first delved into the chronicles of some of the Tour riders such as Jacques Anquetil & Tommy Simpson & gleaned from these masters that an amalgam of brandy, strychnine & amphetamine was the appropriate strategy to succeed in the high mountains, I accepted that our café stop might not include these on the menu, but I supposed I could always ask once I got there? So I turned up at the start in Tebay to meet up with Ian & Jonti who were to accompany me in this athletic venture, Ian as he placed 2 full bidons in his cages was intrigued as to why his companions were carrying none, “I’ve ridden with some beasts in my time, but never with 2 bloody camels”, was his retort! Anyway off we went down sundry rural lanes until in the distance we could see the summit of our Ventoux in the distance, but first to Temple Sowerby café where the all important fuelling was to take place, I immediately enquired regarding my aforementioned preferences but was told they had no licence to serve alcohol & they were a café not a bloody pharmace’, they could however do me tea & a scone so I went for that instead! Once consumed & satiated we mounted the bikes & off we went in pursuit of our quest for glory; as we approached a local farm gate a tractor appeared & blocked the lane, we halted to let him reverse into the farmyard, at which point he drove at speed straight back out again as Jonti was about to pass causing him to brake violently to avoid probable death. “Christ you could have been killed there” I cried out to him, “and you’re the only one who knows the route”! So we carried on until we reached the foot of the climb & began our ascent; on tv in the actual Tour de France there would be fanatical fans, mostly Dutch, drinking beer, letting off flares & yelling encouragement, all we got was sheep chewing grass, no flares or ewephoria, but they probably weren’t Dutch sheep anyway so not much more to expect really. Upwards we climbed & upwards went the temperature, I unzipped my jersey fully to let the increasing heat escape & at this point we were still in the lower vegetation region of the mountain with the blistering temperature of the moonscape at the summit still to encounter. The gradient steepened yet further as we ascended & the sweat poured off my chin causing my rear wheel to lose traction spinning uncontrollably on one’s own perspiration, “my god this is an awful place”, I considered, recalling some other intrepid explorer’s words as he too faced an unpleasant & imminent death! Time passed as did the miles & the climbing of them & then we left the vegetation section with the moonscape ahead like a vertical desert with the radio station now clearly visible on the distant summit, the heat was all consuming & it was then that the hallucinations began to take a hold, I found myself climbing past the Tommy Simpson memorial where someone had deleted his name, replacing the died 13th July 1967 with ‘Kenny Roberts died 13th June 2021’. Then yet further up the climb at the side of the road I espied an ice cream van, with it’s chimes playing ‘Climb every mountain’ whilst the vendor offered his wares for free should I climb off, “it’s just a mirage” I convinced myself still pressing on the repugnant pedals. Nearer & nearer to the summit I progressed & looking upwards I could now see vultures circling above me, “they’re just crows”, Ian shouted at me as I registered my dismay at their unsolicited interest in oneself. After what seemed like a lifetime we arrived at the final barrier, we dismounted & carried the bikes past it & suddenly the wind got up & it went dark, the temperature plummeted from about 25 to 5 celsius & I was shaking with cold as the wind ripped open my jersey & it flapped around uncontrollably, from baking in the heat one moment to potential hypothermia the next, this is one angry mountain! After the obligatory photo opportunity we set off downwards & quite honestly the ascent had been a pleasant experience compared to the descent, the side wind was now a side gale & it blew the 64kg me & bike virtually off the sliver of tarmac all the way down until the sheltering trees much further down, I was much relieved to reach the base of the mountain in one piece! We arrived back at the cars & there alongside was an ice cream van, “can’t fool me”, I proclaimed confidently & drove back home. Many thanks to Jonti & Ian for the group dynamic, a great day out with a great pair of lads, you earned the 99s at the end!