The Fred Whitton Challenge
This one truly is a challenge. 112 miles and well over 3,000 metres of climbing the Fred punches way above its weight in terms of European Sportives. A beautiful and at times bleak tour around seven of the tallest (and often steepest) peaks of the Lake District this event takes the title as Britain’s toughest amateur bike race. A gentle ascent of Kirkstone pass starts the riders off followed by the leg sapping gradient of the early pitches of Honister. That gradient never really leaves your legs around the north and west lakes as the riders loop round the stunning Whinlatter and Loweswater regions. The sting is in the tail though as the only way home is to crest the brutal pair of Hardknott and Wrynose. Steep doesn’t do Hardknott justice with its ramps of 25% slope. Many walk, a few ride all the way, and some fall. It is tough, and only the penultimate climb. Wrynose is not quite in Hardknott’s league, but is worth approaching with care if only because of the narrow, steep and off camber descent that you must navigate. A quick bash home to Grasmere for pie, chips, beer and medals.
- Start early, there is no set start time so roll off at 6.00 with the early risers. You’ll be grateful for it later.
- The weather is changeable and frequently damp in the Lakes in May. Take a good quality, breathable and waterproof top.
- Low gearing. Seriously.
- Tweedies Bar for a selection of Lake District beers and a recovery fish and chips.