By Alan Donoghue
Etape du where? Etape of the Yorkshire Dales! No, I’d never heard of it before either! It’s basically the Wicklow 200 of the north of England. It’s a 180k sportive very like Wicklow with an additional 2 Slieve Manns thrown in for good measure.
Now I weigh less than Oliver Gargan’s beard and I don’t normally scramble for the heart medication when faced with hills but I had a bit of a heart attack at the start.
Reason 1: my friends and everywhere I looked had 29 toothed cassettes! Reason 2: they also had compact chain sets. That’s nearly a 1 to 1 gear ratio! A barbie bike is higher geared! Reason 3: the organisers were handing out altitude sickness tablets and oxygen cylinders.
Ok, I made up reason 3 but what the hell kind of mountains were we about to climb? Well, thankfully normal ones. I later learned that the 29 was a recommendation from a website and was as pointless as explaining quantum physics to a horse! Everywhere 100’s of men were spinning frantically and moving less than they would on a turbo trainer!
The route was absolutely beautiful and lined continuously with 12 century stone walls, villages and viaducts! As much as it goes against my genetic encoding to say this, the English countryside is simply stunning! Completely unspoiled and not a single 70’s white bungalow in sight! The event was extremely well organised with timing chips, food stops and very friendly organisers.
Unfortunately this was the worst day I have ever spent on a bike! For a 140k of the route it was gale force head wind and driving rain. I have never been as cold in my life which was a bit of a shock as I used to spend my Winters kayaking! My hands were physically unable to change the front mech for the last 30k.
The reason sane men subject themselves to 8 hours of sportive torture is simply to get away from their wives but this was excessive! One gentleman asked me after seeing our club gear “Did you come over especially to do this?” He recommended professional help after my reply!
So would I recommend it?
If you happen to find yourself in Yorkshire and you were organised enough to sign on within the 1 week window in January, then absolutely YES but dress in a wet suit!
If you live in Wexford, have 2 small children (one who screams continuously when driving), no map and a satnav the dies on the M God know where motorway then…………..well….eh……. NO! I have a number of a good therapist if you even feel tempted!