Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

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Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby Jack Hughes » 01 Apr 2014 18:47

I've seem to have been struggling with fitness since December. Not sure if it is lack of training. Fitness just doesn't seem to enable training, so in many ways, I was a bit apprehensive about this. It was hard enough last year, with just the five cobbled climbs (and a few other big tarmaced ones); this year, there were another four, and a fair bit extra tarmac stuff too. Of course, this time we had a whole day, rather than a half day. But after the hard day, I was shattered. This was certainly going to be the longest ride, in terms of both ride time, and distance. And definitely elevation.

Prep was spoilt a bit the day before as we had a long power cut. This meant that I was up at 5 am (being being restored after I had gone to bed), to charge devices, do some Mandering (Mander: verb, to perform last minute maintenance on critical components when there isn't really enough time), which involved fitting the brake blocks I had bought the day before. Both front and back could do with doing, but on the principle that it is better to only change one set at once, as you know the other set works... I only did the one. I did readjust them to get bite very early on: brakes would be used today. I had also measured the chain wear - and, after five years of service, the chain finally has hit the dreaded .75 stretch level. No Campag spares to be had, so just stick a few spare links in the back pocket and hope for the best. Adjusted the front mechanism (chain getting thrown off when changing up), and fitting an extra bottle cage, remove the winter lights, and fit a token rear summer light (it was promising to be a misty start).

The day promised to be cool to start, before getting spring like in the afternoon. I had horribly overheated the previous time I had tackled the "Queen Climb" of Trooper Lane, and been forced to stop. So I had a choice: nice and warm on the downhills and flats and horrible overheating on the climbs. Or nice and warm on the climbs, and horrible freezing to death on the descents and flats. My only objective was to get up the climbs, so I went for the latter option. Shorts.

Eventually the battery in the Helmet Cam had charged (after dying on a little test run - needed to make sure I had the angle right - the only way to really do that is to film, then transfer to the PC and check) and at 9:43 I was ready to go. Assembly time was 9:30 for 10:00. Fortunately, it was only a 2.5km ride to the start. Unusually, I had brought something to eat and had too water bottles. Thought it wasn't going to rain, so stuffed tools, rain jacket, food, phone and an emergency £20 note (I had completely forgotten money last year, which meant that SoS had to buy me dinner :D )


Everyone was there when I arrived. Took a few photos, and off we went. Gently climb to start with, then off to Queensbury, and then down into the Shibden Dale. This affords a nice few of the first climb, which looks vertical. Which it is.
Image

Climb 1 Shibden Wall

Riding on cobbles adds another dimension. If you get in a low gear, and stay seated, the front wheel is likely to lift. As it gets lighter, it will get bounced around by the stones. So you fall off. If you stand up and put the weight over the front to keep that on the ground, then the rear wheel soon loses traction, as the sandy setts aren't anywhere near as grippy as tarmac. If this happens, you stop moving forward, and fall off. All of these happen very quickly, so it's usually very difficult to unclip. This adds that extra dimension: fear. Through in a 25%+ gradient and you have that perfect triad of putting out a massive wattage and stressing the legs, getting quickly into oxygen debt and an HR max, and fear of failure. It is hard physically and mentally. It requires constant weight shifts, pushing with legs, pulling with arms. You end up with aching legs, arms, wrists and back.

My only objective was to ride all the climbs. This was not going to be a day for hitting personal bests. I also want to film as much as I could with the helmet cam. This meant that the people I would over take going first, while the whippets that were going to overtake me holding back. This would also mean lots of people fighting for the perfect line (inevitably, stones are missing, there are great gaps, big enough to wedge a wheel down, or sharp debris collecting in the pits), which would make for dramatic action.

In true herding cats style, everyone hung back behind me when we got to the start, except for the arch whippet chappers, charging off. Oh well. Double check the camera (no way of seeing if it is working - just hoping that the beeps it is making are the right ones), and off we go.

Although I had the advantage of having ridden everyone of the climbs before, it still isn't easy. I've never failed on Shibden wall (four attempts), and I wasn't going to today. Up the first stretch and round the first hairpin. Recover on as we go over the bridge, the gradually let the climb dictate the effort required, from the hairpin it gradually gets steeper and steeper as you get to the top. This means that you have to control the effort. If you hit HR max before the summit you are doomed, as you have nowhere else to go.

Nothing too dramatic happened, Scottie (I think) came to a stop on the other side of the road - I was on the right hand side, where the grip and surface are better. No cars came down to get in the way. Then recover and watch people skiing and snowboarding at the centre.

Mist meant that the fantastic panorama was missing.

Regroup, then down into Halifax.


Climb 2 Trooper Lane

I have ridden this three times. Well, attempted to ride three times, two I had to stop (it is very hard, both in terms of the steepness, and also because the road is narrow, so you have to just ride straight up). I needed to get up this, while preserving as much energy for later as possible. I went to the back straight away and while on the tarmac. Dreading the start of the cobbles. No way to stop then coming, then it's just a question of getting on with it. You have to decide in advance if you want to ride to the top. Any doubts, and you will stop, and restarting is difficult. I was behind IanM, again, and with his lower gear, lighter weight than last year, and possibly better form, was going well. He was having a battle with his mind though. You could see in indecision - should I stop now, while I can, or carry on, and fall, possibly painfully. It's a difficult call. Especially when you are approaching HR max and the hill is unforgiving. It consists of three narrow straights, joined with a slight bend. As you round the bend amazed that you have managed to cycle up this impossibly steep section, you just see the next straight in front of you, but a lot steeper than the one you have just done. In front of us, Will gave in to the Hill. This made IanM's decision for him. You could see the shoulders pick up, and the gaze move from the section in front of the wheel (will this be the bit that does for me?) to a few metres beyond. As I went past, Will made an alarming noise: he was either having a heart attack, a paddy, or, for some reason, had fallen over. I decided it probably was the latter, and carried on. Up past the slight turn off, where last year I turned in to have a rest. THis time I pressed on, round the last bend, and up the last little stretch. This has a slightly easier gradient, but the cobbles are a lot worse, in the shade, covered in moss etc. Ian looked to be struggling again. I needed momentum to get over the rough surface, so started to crank up the power again. A close miss, as Ian wavered into my line, but we both managed to stay on and get to the top.

Climb 3 Old Lane

Down into Luddenden. A very picturesque village, in more of a cleft than a valley. Down the steep descent (this features as one of the 100 climbs, if you go up it) I had a shot ring out. Thought someone was shooting crows. Turned out this was Trev's wheel exploding. Very nasty, and could have been much worse. We left him in the pub at the bottom of the hill. A very nice pub, mind, and as it was five past 12, it had just opened.

Then, round the corner to the climb up old lane. This is great fun. If you have a very warped idea of fun. It is short - a few hundred metres, but just runs straight up the hill. There is a large wall on the side from which the sun shines, which means that most of it is in shade. This provides an ideal environment for slime to grow on the cobbles, as a continual trickle of water runs down the road.

This hill is steep enough that mortals have difficulty walking up. Most mortals don't even try. To cycle up is definitely fighting the 50 stone gorrilla. It calls the shots. You try to hang on. It's not just about maximum power for 2 minutes. It's also about finesse, as you have to continually make micro-adjustments in your position to balance out weight and power distribution. You end up with every muscle being used. The bike becomes a piece of gym apparatus. It requires huge focus and concentration as you have to feel what is happening to the front and rear wheels. Especially if your gear is relatively large.

I've tried it twice before. Managed once, lost the back wheel on the other occasion and came to an unceremonious stop. However, you tend to be going so slowly, that you have time to react and unclip. Probably.

I was pretty tired, but you can't really hold back on this hill. It requires a lot of effort. Things were going as well as could be, managed to negotiate IanM and Ewan who came to grief, and let chappers get passed as he spun up :oops:

Towards the end, it starts to get a bit steeper. Grit also seems to accumulate here. Sure enough the back wheel went. When this happens your feet just fly round on the pedals. You lose forward momentum. And fall over. Somehow I managed to adjust enough for the wheel to bite again, heroic effort to move it forward and regain speed. Then the last charge to the top. The top is steep enough that it is actually stairs on the right hand side as it is too hard to walk.


A bit of recovery and into Hebden Bridge.


Climb 4 The Buttress

You have to know your limits. And on a road bike, with a 34x26, and not being very fit, the first bit of the Buttress is, in terms of physics, not possible. It's not about skill, it's more like the speed of light - you can't break it. It is probably only as steep as the top bit of Old Lane, but it goes on like this for about 100 metres. Then there is a lip/steep, which would require quite an effort to get over. So I don't even try. Just carry the bike up to the lip - it's a bit less steep from then on, and there is a little path off to the side where you can remount and start to ride.

Chappers and Ewan decided to have a go. Ewan, inevitably Face planted. Chappers managed to bail.

I've only tried this once before, and forgot what it was like. I thought I had reached the end, when realised this was just a slight bend where the gradient picked up, and it went on for another few hundred metres. Quickly turned the gas down, and managed to get to the top - it finishes in another tricky little ramp that you just have to charge at with everything you have left. Which wasn't a lot.

Riding Old Lane and the Buttress takes it out of you - each one is like a flatout 10 mile TT in terms of effort. After old lane my legs where quivering, having turned to jelly. And I was utterly destroyed after the buttress. And still only about half way round. Into survival mode.

Climb 5 Heptonstall

Fortunately, this one is relatively gently. Just a question of cranking up slowly. Jon.e managed to catch me up, until we got to the cobbles. I had thought he was going to come past.

Back down into Hebden Bridge, then up the 5 mile cat 2 climb over to oxenhope. This takes you from 98m to 427m. And normally takes me around 30 minutes. I really wanted to get over here without expending any energy. My knee also started hurting. Again, I was aware of Jon.e looming up behind me. Thought about waiting for him. But decided to just press on. Last year, I started to get cramp from this point on. I had carefully consumed my fluid and food, so was hoping to avoid this.

We had a nice descent - finally getting into the big ring and the 12 sprocket, and pedalling hard. Bizarrely, this caused my quad to start cramping. The descent was spoiled by the traffic lights, but then took off when jon.e came charging past. I was behind IanM at this point. The road condition was good (the tour will come up here in July), and thought about overtaking IanM. He was breaking quite early into the beds, so, by braking late I could have gone past him. But then I thought it might be a bit too dangerous, passing IanM close to the bend, and robbing him of the line he was expecting to take, so backed off. Round the hairpins, then past a set of ambulances and police vehicles with blue lights flashing. I could see a mountain biking, with a hugely bruised face - already one eye was closing up. No idea what had happened, but a bit sobering. Couldn't tell if there was a vehicle involved or not.

This was the start of the second section. I would have been quite happy to stop, but, for obvious reasons, this was not a ride I could back out of. I was starting to regret some of my route decisions at this point. Oh well, what doesn't kill you...


Climb 6 Butt Lane

This is short enough and shallow enough to have a different kind of fun. You start in your lowest gear, fight up the first 100m which are quite steep, then gradually move up through the gears. The road is very broad, being, in former times, the main way from Haworth (half way up the hill) to the Train Station (in the Valley Bottom). There are a few pedestrians, not many cars, so it is a good way to get a taste of riding cobbles at speed. Which is another experience. Unfortunately, there was no way I could keep up with Chappers, Ewan and IanM, but the video of them zooming off into the distance is very evocative.



Climb 7 Haworth Main Street

Fortunately, at the time we hit this, the place was full of tourists. The tour actually comes up here, so it was a bit like riding up a tour climb, with people on either side of the road. Except they weren't cheering. It's not steep, the road condition is great, it's just a pleasant ride.

Down into the Worth - a very steep descent, followed by a steep climb. Thinking about it, the route could have gone further up the valley, adding a bit of length, but with far gentler climbs. Then, to bypass the main roads, from Oakworth we cut across to Goose Eye and Laycock. These are lovely little villages, but Goose Eye is at the bottom of the valley, and Laycock is at the top. There is another steep 25%+ wall to get out of goose eye. Hard enough, even with Tarmac.

Then a swoop into Keighley, avoiding the main roads, briefly crossing the TDF route and down past the Railway station - the only flat bit of cobbles. This gives a bit of Paris Roubaix experience, as you can barely hold the handlebars as they shake. Very difficult to brake.

Climb 8 Thwaites Brow

Thwaites Brow is a great climb. Probably the longest stretch of cobbles, with lots of nice hair pins, with 40% in the tight corners of the bends. It isn't as steep as Shibden Wall, or Trooper Lane, but when you've already down a few thousand metres at 25% gradients, it is hard.

For some reason (possibly roadworks on the main road), there was a lot of traffic. A rather "tired and emotional" gentleman slurringly tried to warn us that "THERSH COBBLESH UP THERE!" - he couldn't conceive that we actually wanted to ride them!

The traffic played havoc with your routing. All convention of riding on the left hand side of the road goes out the window. The cobbles are very worn, with great potholes where multiple stones are missing. The inside of the bends are 40%, the outsides 20%, so riding on the outside of the bends is a must, even when they are left handers and you are forced to the right. I almost came to grief when a line of about five cars past, meaning I couldn't move back to the left hand side as I approached a right hander. Then a van came down, meaning I had to go into the gutter. My legs were cramping horribly, I had to grovel up this climb slowly and seated. So being forced up a 40% bit, with an horrendous surface was hard. I may have even closed my eyes at this point. Chappers was taking the same line as me, and was similarly trapped, and came to grief (he was, by this time, using a rather larger gear). Once this was over, it was a grovel to the end. I was so relieved to get to the tarmac. The climb goes on for quite a bit here. Chappers caught me up and disappeared up the road. I was absolutely shattered.


Will this pleasure never end!

Climb 9 Hainworth Lane

No. Hainworth Lane. The cobbles start about quarter of a mile up the hill. But for some reason, our route took us gratuitously down to the bottom of the Valley, along the valley for 25m, then double back up the hill. This gives the joy of an extra bit of 20-25% climbing before getting back onto the road that we were originally on.

Then the cobbles. These are in better condition, but the first section is under a tree canopy, so in permanent shade, so can be slippy. Again, a left hand bend, so you want to be on the right, which can be tricky as this road is quite heavily used. I never know whether to be reassured when the roads have pedestrian hand rails, or alarmed. I've ridden this quite a few times, so knew what I had to do. It was still very very hard (and undoubtedly the slowest I have ridden it). Finally over the cobbles. As soon as the tarmac starts, you find your cadence picking up by about 20 rpm, even though the gradient is the same. Just a measure of how much harder it is riding on cobbles.


All downhill from here?

Unfortunately not. For some strange reason, the route took us down to the bottom of the Worth Valley again, for a last goodbye, before up a bit signed as 20%, but really a lot steeper in places - the bends, and the final few meters up to the cross roads. You have to give way here. But the road is so steep, that there is no way you can unclip. You just have to bail to the left, and hope that no cars hit you if there are any coming. Across the cross roads, then turn left, and a bit more of a 20% climb before the gradient levels off and rolls its way, mainly up, towards the pub and the end of the ride.

So, I may not have been the fastest, but with the exception of the unrideable section of the buttress, I rode every climb. Which I am quite pleased about. Chappers would have done, but for his gear problems and traffic issues on Thwaites brow, he had to put a foot down on that one. Of course, he also had a lower gear than me, so I am quite pleased.

Only 50 miles riding, but far more tiring than some hilly hundred miles. We were out for over 7 hours - I had a moving time of over five hours. We didn't even average 10 mph. More like 10kph.

This is definitely a challenge ride, even if you are light weight, fit, and still in your first half century of live.

Good fun. And a relief to be over. I was wrecked the next day. And the day after.
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby Kevy427 » 01 Apr 2014 19:20

I've really enjoyed reading all of these Race Reports from the Hell of the Worth, and the videos have been particularly enjoyable

Well done to all of you. Chapeau
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby Worrying Will » 01 Apr 2014 19:28

Really enjoyed reading it Jack especially from you point a view being local and then organiser.

Thanks for sorting out a cracking Day of riding and after ride food. It was greatly appreciated
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby IanM » 01 Apr 2014 19:54

Great read. And a great ride. Already excited about next year.

Good to see you taking Mandering to new heights!

Love the Trooper Lane description :) Surely I'm not lighter than you though?!

Thwaites brow - I'd forgotten about us wandering over any side of the road to get up in, including in front of traffic (reinforced by the video where I clearly don't care that I'm about to cut a car up to take the less steep line).
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby Jack Hughes » 01 Apr 2014 20:00

Fortunately, the cars are all in first gear to get up the hill. So don't take too long to stop. and you would probably welcome the distraction of being sideswiped by one, if only to take your mind off the pain.
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby jonathon.e » 02 Apr 2014 08:04

Have you contacted Sufferfest, to see if they want to use the video clips, or are they too extreme for even them ?
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby Jack Hughes » 02 Apr 2014 08:10

Theoretically, I should be able to take chappers, ianM's and Sean's power/gps data and synchronize with the cameras GPS data. Then normalize to watts per kilo, and overlay the readings onto the video or when they are in shot.

That would be fun.
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby chappers » 06 Apr 2014 20:41

You are the King of the Cobbles!! Brilliant report and cracking photos/video :D You deserve a huge slap on the back for arranging the ride as well as the finishing touches of pie & mash and in ride footage. A truely classic day of cycling with like-minded people.

Here's to HotW'15 8-) and getting around with not one foot on the cobbles.. Though not Buttress base camp, that doesn't count ;-)
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby Ewan » 07 Apr 2014 02:16

chappers wrote:You are the King of the Cobbles!! Brilliant report and cracking photos/video :D You deserve a huge slap on the back for arranging the ride as well as the finishing touches of pie & mash and in ride footage. A truely classic day of cycling with like-minded people.

Here's to HotW'15 8-) and getting around with not one foot on the cobbles.. Though not Buttress base camp, that doesn't count ;-)


This. 100%
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Re: Hell of the Worth 2014 - Rider's Perspective

Postby gingertri » 15 Apr 2014 15:33

well organised and looking back a good day out!
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