Challenging Times
The road between Garsdale Head and Dent was once the main route between these two Dales centres. It was also the road connecting the two high railway stations serving these isolated Dales communities. On Sunday (26th Feb) it hosted the turning poinof the Lune Cycling Club’s 5th Coal Road Challenge. The primitive mines above Dentdale were abandoned after the railway
brought cheap coal from farther afield. But the traditional name remains and road is a testing focal point for Northern cyclists. The 155 riders tackled the steep slopes, as part of the 67 mile circuit.
Leaving the Bull Beck car park, near Caton, the riders, in groups of 20 and spread between 3 categories, set off through Wray to High Bentham. Here they turned to cross the A65 at Ingleton and started the climb towards White Scar Cave and Ribble Head. As expected the groups split and in handful numbers the cyclists continued to climb up to Newby Head before swooping down to Hawes. The next section to Garsdale Head is a rolling section and when the riders reached the halfway control, by the railway viaduct, they were all ready for a quick break, to grab an energy bar, courtesy of sponsors and a chance to refill depleted drinks bottles.
The climb of the Coal Road reaches nearly 500 metres and is the high point of the challenge. In previous years this high moorland section was covered in deep snow but the recent mild spell had cleared this winters cover.  On this day the tops were shrouded with mist. The road, re-surfaced a couple of years ago, gave a testing but smoother ride before the swoop down to Dentdale. Once beyond Dent village the route led over the short but steep climb to Barbondale and the more familiar roads to Casterton and Kirkby Lonsdale.
The final miles were via Whittington, Arkholme and down to cross the River Lune at Gressingham. The last few miles were on the busy road through Hornby to finish at the Bull Beck car park where between three and a half and five hours earlier the adventure had started. As the riders relaxed they exchanged stories of the more testing moments of the ride and agreed to be much fitter for the 2013 version of this now well established event.
This year the proceeds from the Coal Road Challenge,in the order of £1000, are going to help the recovery of Gordon Helme. Gordon; an active Lune club member, a British Cycling commissaire and supporter of Lancaster’s junior cycling club, the Cog Set. He had a freak cycling accident nearly a year ago and after most of the time in hospital is still on the long road to recovery. Gordon was able to greet the cyclists at the finish of the ride and chat to his many old friends.
My thanks to all the helpers, who had to deal with the very large turnout, to all those who rode and donated and to Gordon and Paula, who have asked me to thank you all for your support all year and in particular for all your efforts and kindness on this amazing day. Brian G