I had forgotten how wonderful the Humber Bridge 200 Audax route is. The vast majority of the roads are quiet country lanes. There are some difficult hills, some stunning views, some fast flat sections and plenty of places to stop and refuel.
Leaving Welton, the road climbs at a gentle gradient through lovely woodland and past an equestrian centre until the views open out with the city of Hull to the east, and the Humber Bridge behind. Further back there are views of the Lincolnshire Wolds, which mark the final few kilometers of the ride at the end of the day. However, the route heads north: the Yorkshire Wolds undulate and make for easy riding in the main part, the first control is at the Church in South Dalton, an information control to keep riders from shortcutting along main roads to Thixendale. At 8am on a Saturday morning, if the weather is good there should be a smattering of local club cyclists out enjoying themselves which will make the ride feel nicely cyclist friendly. There should be very few cars because most drivers stick to the main roads between towns whereas this route uses some of my favourite country lanes. Before long the spire of St Mary’s in South Dalton pierces the sky and marks the information control unambiguously.
From South Dalton, more lanes take the route north further still, through arable farmland and rolling Wolds but adds height all the time, climbing Huggate Hill and across the A166 before dropping down into Thixendale. The drop into Thixendale is always accompanied by a drop in temperature, and I’ve even found the unexpected frost and ice on this steep gravely descent – care must always be taken down here. In Thixendale there is another control point, and also a small village shop – be careful overloading with food and drink though because the climbing isn’t over.
Waterdale is the name of the valley we cycle through and it winds its way slowly towards the steep climb to the farm on Leavening Brow.
Leavening Brow is the highest point of the ride: I really hope that the sky is clear on September 22nd (just like the day I rode it) as the views to the north stretch for miles with a hint of the North Yorkshire Moors in the distance. There is a whopping great descent to the village of Leavening, and riding this route the other way round is extremely tough because this is a long and strenuous climb. The descent can be hazardous though, I found a lot of gravel on tight steep downhill sections, and if there is a motorist coming the other way you don’t want to be hitting the brakes on a gravel corner. Take care!
The bumps in the landscape are not over; Kirkham Abbey contains a surprise with a difficult climb after the railway line, I chose a very low gear well before the railway crossing so that I wouldn’t get caught out.
I reached the brow of this hill with sweat dripping from my brow, and found the A64 dual carriageway in front of me. There is a freshly resurfaced cycle path along the side of it and I’d recommend using whichever you feel most comfortable with. I always choose to use the dual carriageway because the route is a short fast downhill section and I can get into the filter right lane easily. However, if there is heavy traffic it might be preferable to use the cycle path and cross to the central reservation when there is a good gap.
Then more climbing, but after ~75km you’ll finally reach Sheriff Hutton for a proper control. When I was riding this, I was so pleased to know the hills were over and was looking forward to a long section of flat roads. I was also fairly pleased that the wind was from the west, because the next 80km of flat riding would be horrendous with a headwind: there is nowhere to hide!
The staff at Quarmby’s Delicatessen will be delighted to stamp your Brevet Card. This is a high quality Deli and that is reflected in the prices for the food. I had a coffee, cold drink, ham and mustard sandwich and a slice of chocolate banana loaf for £14. The staff are very cyclist friendly and are expecting you, there is also a customer toilet if you need it. However, if you just want to control really fast I’m sure they will simply stamp your card. An alternative control is at the Post Office on the other side of the road – if you can get a stamp or a receipt from them I would be happy with that as proof of passage. If you can afford Quarmby’s though, it is a real treat which will fuel you well for what is ahead.
The road from Sheriff Hutton goes ever so slightly downhill… which with the promise of flat riding ahead gave me a huge boost and I found myself bombing along at a wonderful pace in the June sunshine. The roads are so quiet, but they pass through plenty of places to grab a drink if the weather is hot.
If audaxers have managed to remain in groups to Sheriff Hutton then sticking together in groups will be advantageous into a possible headwind south: this next section could be very fast. Through Melbourne and a control point, through Hook near Goole for another control and flat flat flat south south south to Keadby Bridge and the crossing of the River Trent. The staff at the Post Office in Keadby were gobsmacked to see so many cyclists asking for a ‘PO Stamp’ last year – and they’re prepared for you this year; excited about the number of riders coming through.
One of the highlights of the Humber Bridge 100 and 200 kilometre rides is the view of the Humber Bridge that riders enjoy from just outside Walcot. You know you’re nearly home and that the hospitality of St Helen’s Church is waiting.
We are really looking forward to welcoming everyone who has entered. I am delighted to be supported by The Church of England, the Diocese of York, St Helen’s Church in Welton & Melton, VeloClub 167 and Vive le Velo Cycle Shop from North Ferriby.