The fascination of this race I have to be honest as completely eluded me, why carry your bike surely the addition of wheels and pedals are so it can be ridden?
The walk of the condemned Man
Once Alan was kitted up and ready I left him with half an hour to go to the start to make my way to Cold Cotes ready to meet him at the bottom of the decent bike and bottle in hand.
The marshals were absolutely first class and they had me parked up in prime position. I had packed ipod and cycling magazine to pass the time however fellow HCtB rider OtleyRich better half came bearing homemade cakes - its tough being support crew!! and the atmosphere around the transition ensured both stayed tucked inside my rucksack.
Some friendly banter with other support teams and I was off to secure my position on the road.
The stunning scenery was suddenly disturbed with a sharp whistle and the cry of riders as Jebby and Craig flew off the fell onto the road - the atmoshere was electric with cheers and shouts as riders came into view.
Like many I had mixed emotions as I waited for my rider to come off the fell, Rich closely followed by Winkie came through and looking at the timings Alan had worked out he should be arriving at any moment, a little worry started to creep in as thoughts turned to mechanicals or worse a fall.
Alan came into view and I could see no obvious problems a quick bottle exchange and "I'm good" confirmed all was well. A quick cheer as he disappeared down the road and then a jog up the road to the car to load the bike and sort the bottles ready for Ribblehead and I was off.
A quick sandwich and fruit on route and again well marshaled area saw me parked up with ease and a short walk with bike and bottles to the foot of the last steps.
The support was great every rider was cheered and encouraged as they went by, bikes, wheels, bottles, bananas and gels were transferred with professional calm and speed.
Relief as Alan made the decent looking good and a quick bike change and he was off heading towards the final climb looming ominously in the distance.
A steady drive to the final climb doing my best to make sure riders on the road had plenty of room and oncoming cars and bikes didn't cut too close - 2.5 tonnes of truck have there uses at times!
Pen y Gent is the straw that broke many a rider, watching various stages of fatigue as riders made their way was humbling to watch, again everyone got a cheer and words of encouragement from the people lining the route. Bikes and bodies were now looking battered.
Rich flew past and with a click of heels he disappeared down the hill, Winkie followed closely but was looking like he was running on empty.
Alan came down descending with a confidence not seen before - great to see. No mechanicals and no bottles required he was off down the hill for the final section to the finish.
Three Belgian's finished without injury or mechanical failures, a fantastic result to a truly amazing event.
A well deserved drink and food and it was off home to reflect on the day.
So will there be more Belgians at next years event??
My stance changed from never ever too a week before caught up in Alan's enthusiasm to well maybe once just to say I had done it. On the drive over I really felt the urge to be riding (was this just down to the fact it was my normal Sunday time to be out on the bike?).
At Ribblehead I found myself scouting lines, was the race starting to bite?
So a great effort and well done to those that took part truly impressive and to all the marshals a big thank you for making the event run so well and finally to all the support crews who aided their riders well done.
So here's to next year and the hope of seeing more Black and white Belgian shirts taking to the start.
if you do not intend to ever do this race do not go as support to a rider as the there is definitely something about the event that seeps into you, whether it is the mist shrouded hills in the morning, the stunning landscape or the atmosphere from start to finish I can assure you it will draw you in.