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July 13, 2021

UK's Toughest Group Ride - Women's Edition

After running several events in the band of climbers 'toughest group rides' tour of the uk it was clear that women were under-represented on our rides. and that had to change.

SO, WE DECIDED TO CREATE A WOMEN'S ONLY EDITION OF OUR GROUP RIDES, WHICH WAS EVERY BIT AS TOUGH AS ANY OF THE RIDES WE'VE DONE OVER THE SUMMER SO FAR. 100KM OF THE FINEST YORKSHIRE ROADS, WITH ALMOST 2400M OF ELEVATION, OVER SOME TESTING CLIMBS INCLUDING THE STANG, TAN HILL, OXNOP SCAR, THE FLEAK, AND GRINTON MOOR.

The day began in the pretty North Yorkshire town of Richmond. The weather forecast leading up to the ride had been variable to say the least, with rain, sun, thunder and lightening all forecast for our ride in the days leading up the event. Thankfully, the forecast didn't stop an incredible group of women from arriving in Richmond in the mist, ready to face some of Yorkshire's finest and steepest climbs.

As with all rides, we started at the BoC Van, which would act as the sign on station, photographers vehicle and mobile feed station. The initial sign on giving us all a chance to meet and say hello ahead of a long day in the hills.

Like all of our rides this summer, the distances the riders had travelled to take part was mind blowing. We had riders coming from all corners of the UK to take part, from Essex, North Wales, the South West, Edinburgh, the Midlands, the South, and the North East, plus a strong group of local riders from Richmond CC.

Watch the Video by Katie Kookaburra

With riders clipped in, 9am arrived and it was time to depart. We broke into 2 smaller groups of around 15 riders, to make things easier getting out of town, and onto the hills. With less than 2km ridden, we faced the first of the days climbs, Caygills - 3.5km at 3% - which is incredibly deceptive as the first section hit 14%, which was a bit of a kick so early in the day, with cold legs.

Almost immediately as we climbed out of Richmond towards the north, the mist came over us. With wet roads and dark clouds and mist in the air, there were fears of the heavens opening at any point. Thankfully, despite the ride going higher and higher, the rain stayed away.

The route initially took us out of Yorkshire and into County Durham, towards Barnard Castle - the home of questionable eye tests. Before reaching Barnard Castle the route took a sharp left and onto the first big climb of the day, The Stang.

The Stang is a long climb which rises across the moorland and through the Stang Forest. It almost feels Alpine with its steep switchbacks towards the summit, riding through dense trees. 5km at over 5%, it was a solid early test for the riders.

Once we summited The Stang, we had a superb descent to look forward to. As we rode south back into North Yorkshire the mist lifted and the open views of the Dales appeared. It's views like these that we love so much, and why we love the Dales.

After the fast and flowing descent it was time for a quick re-group before we hit the longest climb of the day. Tan Hill. 10km in total, although undulating, it's never too steep or too hard, but the climb offers incredible panoramic views of North Yorkshire. As we reached the summit the sight of the Tan Hill Inn was very welcome. The Inn is the highest pub in England, and is always a nice spot for lunch or a drink. There was no time for a rest here today however, as we had more climbing to do.

The descent of Tan Hill towards Keld is incredible. Fast, flowing, and so quiet, meaning you can really take in the views or push on and gain some speed through the corners and long straights. The final two switchbacks into Keld are particularly steep, so the group took care to navigate its way down the final section safely.

A short rolling section took us past the right turn to Hawes. A glance upwards and we could see the infamous Buttertubs Pass staring us in the face. Sadly there was to be no ascent of Buttertubs today, as we had other plans for the riders, with steeper climbs to come.

Now half way into the route, it was time for our Feed Station by OTE Sports. It gave all riders to top up on bars, gels and electrolyte drinks. The highlight of the stop were the new OTE Raspberry and White Chocolate Anytime Bars. We were amongst the first to try them before their official release - and they went down a teat, with the empty box as evidence.

The feed stop was also a great chance for riders to catch up and share stories of the early ascents. The camaraderie of the group was amazing to watch. It became clear that very few, if any of the women had taken part in a women's only ride like this. The sense of community and togetherness was shining through, as the sun tried to break through the clouds.

Immediately after the feed stop we faced perhaps the steepest climb of the day, Oxnop Scar. 4.9km at over 5%, it starts with a super steep pair of switchbacks hitting a whopping 25%. The climb brought one or two riders to a standstill and forced them to dismount and walk - no shame in that on todays ride with a large group on the road, fighting for the outside line to minimise the gradients.

After cresting the steepest section of the climb, there was simply no recovery. The climb continues to rise and rise with gradients hitting 10% regularly. The reward? A stunning final section through a gorge-like break in the hills.

With Oxnop Scar conquered it was time for two further climbs, back to back. The Fleak, with it's steep and constant gradients, and the classic Grinton Moor, which was more gentle than its near neighbour. Grinton Moor crosses over the North Yorkshire Military ranges, with warning signs of tanks and fire risks lining the route like Alpine style KM markers.

With a final regroup at the bottom of Grinton Moor, it was time to ride back into Richmond to the finish, not before a final steep 15% short kicker into the town.

With all riders safely back at the finish, it was time to swap stories, share experiences and upload our rides to Strava. The Band of Climbers Merch bags once again going down a treat amongst the group.

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