The Pass (Part 3)

A few months ago I was driving home from work one Friday night and the pass, an unclassified lane between two small villages lying near the upper ends of their respective vallies, was signposted from the motorway exit. There was some bike race or something going on that weekend if I recall correctly and the photograph of the competitors merging with the crowd filling what seemed like every inch of the roadside and much of the actual road as they raced up that little steep bit before the cattle grid just by the muddy lay-by where you can stop and look back over the dale and on a very still day hear the purposeful breathing of riders struggling up the road that heads over the fells in the opposite direction a couple of kilometres line of sight across the river meandering gently across the flat valley floor became perhaps the defining shot of the very very many taken over those two days that the race was in Yorkshire. There isn’t much sign that anything ever even happened now; bunting has been taken down, commemorative parcours-marking road signs have found their way to souvenir-hunters and internet auction sites and road surface graffiti has been pressure-washed or tarmaced from the historical record. The only man-made features remaining on the southern climb up the pass now are the new snow poles, standing incongruously vertical with their blingy shiny new paint in mounds of still damp earth where lie buried the memories of that weekend in July.

Today things were a bit quieter in fact I didn’t pass another person on a bike in a ride of several hours. It was quite windy today it must be said and riding into a stiffish breeze can be discouraging but getting up over that cattle grid, its elevated position in the pantheon of bike racing iconography surely secure and its listing as a historic monument cetainly only a matter of doing the paperwork, and catching the full force of a gale travelling in more or less the same direction as you are is more than consolation for the grind in getting there. I think other than sailors bike riders must go on about the wind more than anyone else. The strategy, tactics and etiquette of riding when the air is anything other than millpond still must fill thousands of pages of books and gazillions of whatever the units of verbiosity for the internet are. Sometimes, after an hour or two battling a headwind the direction in which leaves, rain or snow is blowing, which way livestock is facing and which side of the field they are huddled against the wall, the destination of clouds sailing above you, the massed grassblades bowing down below you begins to make you feel like you can almost see the air currents, as migratory birds can see the earth’s magnetic field, and somewhere unseen a windtunnel operator fella with a white coat and GCSEs is leaning on a big lever turning up the turbine speed and feeding coloured smoke into the airflow whilst laughing manaically. Rainy days and Mondays do always get me down because whatever you do to try and make it better it’s still raining and it’s still Monday but windy ones, where the simple act of turning a corner transforms your whole day, I can deal with.

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4 comments

    • northernbike

      I was great to see so many bikes around in the run up to the tour, and being up on grinton moor with all those thousands of people for the day was brilliant but yes, it is nice to back to normal routine and quiet winter roads again

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