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Holme Moss was worse than childbirth

Please Note: The article title is a direct quote from Amy Garcia on the top of Holme Moss. We're not comparing the two.

BBC Look North’s Harry Gration and Amy Garcia have been raising money for Sport Relief by riding a tandem along the route of the two Yorkshire Tour de France stages that will be raced along by the world’s top pros later in the year. 7 days into their 250 mile trip, Planet X’s Paul, Matt and Michael joined to help them up their toughest test: the infamous Holme Moss.

Vicious headwinds are almost par for the course when ascending Holme Moss, but as we stood in Holmfirth waiting for Harry and Amy, the winds coming over the top were even more severe than usual and blowing across some very ominous dark clouds. We decided a bit of shelter and a hot cup of coffee was in order before we set off. Holme Moss is the only categorized climb amongst the three stages in this year’s British Tour de France Grand Départ, and the Tour organisers would have struggled to find a better candidate for the honour. A 4.7km, 7% Avg climb, 143.5km into the 2nd stage from York to Sheffield, ‘Côte de Holme Moss’ (as the French are calling it) climbs up a barren bracken-covered moor with a series of hairpins up towards the iconic radio mast standing at the summit of the hill. Very few trees provide any shelter from the elements and the prevailing winds shoot down the valley uninterrupted straight off the top.

  • Mountain rescue ready to pick up the casualties on the Holme Moss Sport Relief charity ride
  • Some of the On-One Planet X team in Holmfirth before the big climb
  • We spotted a carbon bike from Italian sister brand SAB
  • Leaving Holmfirth on the Holme Moss Sport Relief charity ride

Clockwise from top left: An ominous sign before setting off / Michael and Paul post-coffee in Holmfirth / Harry and Amy in Holmfirth / A Sab in the wild!

As we were sat in the café more and more well-wishers were lining the streets waiting for Harry and Amy to come through so we decided it was time to get on the bikes. Matt was on a prototype titanium road bike, Michael on our top-of-the-line, hand-made Mondo and Paul – never to be out-done – was on an On-One Fatty that he put together specially for the event. We also chatted to a rider from Holmfirth CC who'd made the journey on a Sab. We heard Harry and Amy coming as cheers rang up the road. As they rolled past to enthusiastic applause and shouts of encouragement, members of the public ran alongside to add their donations to the moneybox on the tandem’s rear pannier rack. It was great to see so much passion for the pair’s journey and for the great cause for which they are raising money. Matt realised that between them, his family was doing an un-planned triathlon - of sorts -  around the country that coming weekend for Sport Relief: his mum running, his sister swimming in London, and here he was on the bike in the Peak District.

We clipped in and entered the peloton. Along with Harry and Amy were a large group of followers on hybrids, mountain bikes, road bikes and one 2nd couple on a tandem. Motorcycle outriders kept up the rear and cleared a path in front. Along with the cheering crowds, and school loads of kids, at the side of the road, Matt and I decided that this was the closest we’d probably ever get to feeling like a real pro cyclist. As the hill ramped up and those ominous clouds lived up to our expectations we were amazed to see the crowds continue. Cars were parked all the way up the climb – people had obviously traveled some distance to be there - and soaked cycling enthusiasts lined the road, buffeted by gale-force winds and horizontal rain. The rain turned to hail as we continued and it became apparent why Mountain Rescue has decided to oversee the occasion.

  • On-One Fatty Fat Bike conquers the Holme Moss Sport Relief charity ride
  • Near the top Holme Moss Sport Relief
  • Fatty rides just like any other lightweight MTB on the road, Paul says
  • On-One Fatty gives the Holme Moss Sport Relief tandem a run for their money

Clockwise from top left: Paul rolls up to Holme Moss / The weather closes in on the lower slope / Amy Garcia checking out Paul's Fatty / Pulling the bunch 

Harry and Amy were visibly struggling but soldiered on despite the gradient and the terrible conditions. They continued to accept donations (every one weighing them down further!) and even did a piece to camera with a fellow reporter while grinding up. Paul went ahead on the fat bike whipped up the crowd to provide extra encouragement with horn blasts coming from those sheltering from the storm in their cars. As they got to the summit, Harry and Amy were swamped by people shouting “Allez!” with flash bulbs, smartphones and camera crews firing all around them. It felt like a true mountain-top finish. The two came to a stop and were swiftly wrapped in insulating foil sheets by the medical team to warm them up as over 54mph gusts blasted past. Mountain Rescue forbade the pair from taking the descent down the other side for safety reasons in the face of the winds and the slick roads, and Harry and Amy were taken in to the BBC van for a hot drink and a well-deserved break.

No such luck for the three of us, however, because getting down that descent and cycling back to Sheffield was our only way of getting home! We were soaked and freezing so set off with the hope of warming back up. With a decidedly more stable platform and disc brakes, Paul shot off down the descent on his Fatty while Michael and Matt took things a bit more gingerly as they were blown around on their lightweight race bikes. One particular gust looked like it was going to blow Michael’s Mondo right off the hill and take him with it! On the descent a couple of ambulences came rolling past, sirens on, presumably escorting riders from the top. We made it to the bottom and we're offered an insight to a special ‘Triathlete’s Trick’ coutesy of Paul, who proceeded to relieve his bladder without stopping or adjusting any of his clothing. We won’t provide any more details than that!

  • On-One Fat Bike- the centre of attention, as always
  • Grim summit on Holme Moss

Left: That bike was a talking point throughout the day / Right: Summiting Holme Moss

  • Matt struggling after the Holme Moss climb
  • Planet X Paul doing his

Left: Matt before the descent - says it all / Right: Presumably Paul demonstrating with that triathlete 'trick'

The ride home through Langsett was substantially more pleasant with the gale behind us and we were essentially blown the whole way back. Paul clocked 44mph on one descent – on a fat bike! It was a 25-mile trip back and Paul trucked along the whole way on the Fatty and loved every second of it; no different to riding on the road with a normal mountain bike, he said.

Harry and Amy are finishing their journey today with the final leg from Langsett to Sheffield, incorporating the killer 30% Jenkin Road climb. We wish them all the best for today and offer serious kudos for their efforts so far. We just hope that the weather is better when the pros turn up in July!

Harry and Amy have so far raised over 100K for Sports Relief. To donate £1 text BIKE to 70011 or donate online www.justgiving.com/tandemtour.

25 March 2014

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