Event Review

Ronde Van Calderdale REVIEW

by Emma Osenton (Images: Jonathon Jolly)


Date: Sunday 7th April
Distances: 40miles(ish) or 77miles
Participants: 200 entrants
Start: Spen Valley Sports College
Roberttown Lane, Liversedge, WF15 7LX
Plenty of free parking.
Event village at start/finish with toilets.
Feedstops: 2
Catering: Sports drinks, bananas and croissants
Timed: none
Signs: small black arrows marked with RVC some on yellow background
Roads: Mix of Cobbled climbs, back roads with a few nasty main roads marshals. yes
Goody bag: bar, map
Photos: Jonathon Jolly

The Ride:

The idea of running the Ronde Van Calderdale (RVC) came from Mick Collins (an ex-pro racer) who has a passion for the 'Classics'. In a bid to recreate the atmosphere and drama of the Tour of Flanders with its cobbled climbs, this is Calderdale and Kirklees answer to it.

Lots Of Good Riders

2012 was the first running of the event, it proved to be a challenge for many riders with the 12 cobbled classic climbs and circa 80 mile distance that are a key part of the 'draw' for those looking to test their mettle.

For 2013 they have added a shorter ride to encourage more people to have a go at tackling some of the areas finest climbs, many of which are off the beaten track. Riders are encouraged to wear vintage kit too.

The event is based more on the older style of Reliability trials which have a mass start, personally I'm not sure this is the safest option as the numbers have grown considerably from when the event began last year and letting 200 riders off onto a main road start certainly seemed to confused the traffic, I saw a few red lights jumped too. Remember cyclists, you are representing all of us when you do that!

That aside there was a pretty friendly bunch of cyclists out for the day. I think the shear brutality of the event had kept many novices away and it was really nice to see so many club jerseys out in the spring sunshine. The event raises money for the Kirklees Cycling Academy which helps kids get started with cycling and with racing too.

The route begins in Liversedge taking the main road south for a while before turning onto smaller lanes. This is where the fun starts, for those of you not familiar with the area, the South Pennines, its rather hilly, in quite an unrelenting way. You're either going up or down. The large pack had split by the time we'd made it to smaller roads. A silly steep descent leads you to the first of the many cobbled climbs, and most of those cobbles have 25% sections on them. It adds a whole new dimension to picking a line to climb up, as the cobbles can be like a row of wobbly teeth with gaps that look like they should swallow your wheel. There's something very beautiful about them though.

ride hard
Cobbled Climbs

The whole route takes you round a mix of industrial mill towns and wild open moorland, no sooner have you scaled the cobbles you're out on the tops, and on this occasion straight into a head wind. I'm lucky, I'm used to these roads and their cruelty, slowly grinding over Saddleworth Moor, I know at the turn I'll be rewarded with the most amazing descent and then some more challenging descents as the route winds it's way into Slaithwaite, don't pronounce it as you see it, they're know you're not from round 'ere!

Winding it's way back up again on the outskirts of Hudderfield I manage to miss one of the little signs, now to be fair there were lots of little signs, but in order to get all of the quirky climbs of the area in the route is quite complex and you need to be on the ball to spot them. I knew the route overlapped itself so continued to follow the RVC signs, straight back down the whooshing descent at Outlane and straight back up the 25% cobbled climb. Hang on I thought. Now thankfully we were supplied with a map, using that and my phone and some local knowledge I was able to add a mere 10 miles and some extra climbs on and get myself back on the right route. It's a good job I like climbing!

Skirting round some of the more main roads of Brighouse we then head through the old industrial villages, sounds a funny phrase. To appreciate the area you have to look at what it once has been, black gritstone cottages huddle together mixed in with beautiful carved stone buildings. Mills and their chimneys still decorate the skyline, the cobbles themselves show what hard work has gone on in years past. You might never ride these roads on a regular ride, but to not do so means missing out on what has made this country great. The progression of the buildings as they've shut down, become dilapidated and then be reborn into something new. Even the grain silos have been turned into a climbing centre.

Past Brighouse you head towards Hipperholme, it's a very hairy junction crossing a large main road, thankfully a truck spotted me and let me across, I wasn't keen on being in the centre of the road. To be fair though you're either on the tops or on the main valley roads and if you want the best climbs you'll have to cross them at some point.

Good Fun On The Cobbles

Now for the climb of the area, I've never done this one before, I've never known where it is! Hidden behind Shibden Park is Lee Lane, affectionately known as Shibden Wall, it's like a yellow brick road dancing up into the sky, twisting and turning as it does so. Just under a kilometre of cobbled climb, steeper and steeper it winds, the gappy cobbles leave you with little choice but to just keep on climbing (I hear some boys took an easy line up the pavement, chickens!). It's brilliant. I loved it, even the challenge of my tubs sliding on the salt that was still down from the unseasonal snow we've just had.

Up and over more climbs and cobbles you go, I passed a couple of folks who were just deciding where they could cut it short, they said they'd had a wonderful day but wanted to make sure they made it home in the light!

Down into Luddenden village and it's straight up Old Lane, straight up! The cobbles beat me and even I walked this one. Cheery smiles at the top from local club Condor RC, all a little puzzled as they thought I was ahead of them, they laughed at my extra miles. Croissants eaten, bottles filled kindly and I was off up over Wainstalls. This section had to be cleared by Calderdale council as it was still snowed in mid week!

Then we join the climb over Cock Hill, the Tour de France is coming this way too. It still seems bonkers that they'll be on our local hills!

The views up here are stunning, no other word for it, rolling hills go on for miles and miles. The sense of space is amazing, snow still down in the ruts of the landscape. This was under 15' drifts last week! The ride then goes along Heights Road, industrious valley life visible below from open moors. Soon I'm back at the feed where I run into the boys from Alba Rosa CC, Leeds, they're also a bit puzzled as to how they've managed to get ahead. Still extra miles are all good eh! We all roll off from the feed station, thanking the couple who've been there all day.

It's four cobbled climbs to go, we all know Trouper Lane is the last one but nobody yet knows what it's like, the cobbles climb at silly angles, they really take it out of you. I'm so glad I was on my Ti Kinesis with it's climbing set up, it took the cobbles in it's stride. Finally we're at the bottom, last climb, it starts steep and stays steep and then gets steeper, and cobbled and narrow....it's absolutely bonkers. I manage half, walk a bit, ride a bit then walk a bit. Some of the Alba Rosa boys do it in one, amazing stuff, we gather at the top, joined by local kids all cheering for the others. Such fun. Big smiles at the shear steep potty roads. A whoosh through Brighouse again and we're back at Liversedge and the finish.

A top day out, highly recommended, but have a good look at the map first. It's in the budget end of sportives with no numbers or timing and entirely staffed by volunteers, but at least you know you're £20 is going to help kids get started in our sport and that's worth a lot.

Official Review

1. Feed Stops (correct foodstuffs and energy drinks, the right many, well spaced) 5 out of 10
2. Timing (correct and easy to use) 6 out of 10
3. Signage (Clear, concise, maps, profiles, route card) 7 out of 10
4. Facilities (HQ, Parking, Toilets) 10 out of 10
5. Support (Sag Wagon, Outriders) 9 out of 10
6. Friendliness / Professionalism (Sign-in, marshals, support) 8 out of 10
7. Website - ease of use (Online and postal entry, clear concise) 8 out of 10
8. The Course (Area of outstanding beauty/scenic, quiet roads, cleverly designed?) 8 out of 10
9. Would you recommend it. (Would you ride again?) 10 out of 10
Overall Rating 78.9%

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