I think it's fair to say today's ride is probably one of the hardest I've ever done. I haven't ever ridden in wind quite as ferocious as the gusts that hit me today. Even last years Festive 500 storms seem pretty calm by comparison. I checked out the weather forecast when I woke up and it didn't look too bad in reality; mainly sunshine and heavy rain showers with strong winds. Just to be safe I even checked key parts of my route. Unfortunately, it turns out the Met Office are pretty poor are forecasting and I should probably find at better source for the weather. I had already prepared for the worst with plenty of gels and my entire waterproof wardrobe so was feeling plenty prepared. I set off around 10am into some pretty squally showers but nothing to serious. My friend Julian decided to join me for the first 40 or so miles of the day up to Hawes. This part of the ride didn't seem to bad and went by fairly well for the first 30 miles as we swept along the valley floor dodging all of the rather large looking puddles and debris that had blown into the road.
The first significant test of the day was the Top 100 Climbs - "Fleet Moss" into a solid heading of around 25mph. I'm not going to lie, at this point I was glad for the first time ever that my bike has a 30T cassette. This is a new addition on my Ribble CGR after I decided I need to save my knees given all the miles I do.
We made it up to the top of the climb in a far from inspiring time but given the weather it really didn't matter too much. At this point, I said goodbye to Julian and headed down the other side of the climb alone. If you have ever ridden down Fleet Moss to Hawes you'll know it's pretty exposed and in hindsight not ideal in middle of a storm as I aptly found out when I was promptly thrown towards a wall without very much warning.
Thankfully I made it to the bottom of the descent without any bone crunching impacts and took a decidedly well earned stop at the Wensleydale Creamery for a coffee to warm me up.
When I left it became immediately apparent that the wind had really picked up and much beyond what was forecast. I was looking at my Garmin doing 6mph at 180BPM. Pretty difficult going by all accounts. As I carried on along the road at the same work rate getting slammed from side to side it dawned on me that things probably weren't going to plan for the day and this was solidly emphasised when I was swept off by a gust of wind. In this instance it was a nice soft landing so nothing to write home about. However, a few miles down the road I was picked up again but this time into a dry stone wall (ironically it was pretty wet). As it stands, head on stone doesn't go down to well and I wasn't feeling massively well so when the opportunity arose I swung around to the East and picked up a tailwind along a different valley. Today wasn't the day I'd be riding home for Christmas.
I made it to Settle feeling a little worse for wear and a tad chilly but found a little refuge in the train station. Smacking my head and riding alone meant it was game over for the day. I'm not particularly happy about that and I'm never a fan of calling it quits but after 62 miles in winds gusting over 60mph it was 100% the correct thing to do. The Festive 500 is a fantastic challenge, but I'd rather get home for Christmas in one piece that several being blown along the valley. Thankfully, and again much to my dislike, I was given a lift back by Sarah's dad and made it back for Christmas. A valuable lesson learnt in the limits of my bike and body and a small realisation that I can't keep breaking myself. I'll wake up tomorrow and see what Christmas Day brings on the bike.
In order to find ones limit you must first push the boundaries of what is achievable.