This was my third ride in the Phil Liggett, but the first for two years. In that time it has morphed from and audax into a sportive. So no route sheets – instead the route is signed. But the biggest change comes with the timing chip. Like it or not, it changes your behaviour, or at least it changed mine. I knew from two years ago that I had completed in just under seven hours. I knew this because I had finished before 3pm, but it wasn’t a target I was riding towards. However this time, with the timing chip behind the number strapped to my bars and clearly visible all the way round I thought I would try to beat seven hours.
It was not to be, out from Stannington towards Ewden Beck the headwind was relentless. A light drizzle wet the road and I was careful to take the descent towards the bridge on my own. I later heard that three riders had failed to stop at the bottom and ridden off the road. The climb up was sheltered and not too bad, but then the rain got more determined and by the time I arrived in Holmfirth I knew that the headwind would make the climb to the top of Holm Moss a tough one. I slowed down, ate my fruit loaf and peanut butter sandwiches and forced myself to take it easy until I reached the serious part of the climb at Lane Village. Fortunately just as I turned into the wind for the summit two strong riders passed me and I was able to hang onto the second rider’s back wheel.
Down in the Longdendale valley I started to think about switching to the shorter (100km) route. This thought stayed with me until the first feed station at Hayfield. Refuelled, I left to discover the rain had stopped. Taking my rain jacket off before the wind assisted climb up Rushup Edge, I started to feel better. The descent into Edale was as scary as ever, but by the time I reached the split in Hope I was committed again and headed for the joy that is Winnats. Two riders with me at that stage were approaching it for the first time and were audibly shocked when they realised where the road was headed. A third of the way up I was overtaken by rider who immediately wobbled and put his foot to the ground and I was forced to do likewise. I didn’t particularly mind.
From then on the weather continued to improve and the arm warmers came off. Monsall Head is nothing in comparison to the earlier climbs and failing to see the second feed station I soon found myself on familiar Sheffield CTC Sunday ride roads and headed for home. I was gunning for it, and then . . . Yorkshire Bridge and the energy started to run out. The climb to Hollow Meadows got progressively harder and it was a relief to reach the top and head downhill to Stannington for a cup of tea, a free hat and seven hours 11 minutes. Done. And pretty much done in.