The West Riding Classic Extra-Long Route
Distance: 75 miles/120km
Total elevation: 2223m
75 miles for many sportives would not be considered an extra-long route with many topping out around the 90 mile mark. However, a combination of half-a-dozen significant steep climbs and the relentlessly up and down nature of the course makes this tougher than the raw figures suggest. The total climbing of 2200 metres is significant, making it a perfect early season challenge for serious riders hoping to set some milestones later in the year. The West Riding Classic Extra-Long route is a very beautiful ride taking in some classic Yorkshire Dales scenery such as Kingsdale, Dent, Cowgill and Ribbleshead, Stainforth, Halton Gill, Littondale, Malham and Settle. The route takes in two sides of Ingleborough, two sides of Whenside and one side of Pen-y-ghent. This route is based on mostly very quiet roads with great scenery.
For those familiar with the area, the significant climbs come out of Kingsdale towards Dent, out of Cowgill towards Newby Head, out of Stainforth towards Halton Gill, out of Arncliffe and out of Malham towards Settle. The descents are often ‘on your brakes’ – a hidden gate lies around one corner (signposted and briefed on the day) and much of the terrain between climbs is a series of troughs and rises. On a still day, or with the wind on your back, the descent from Newby Head to Ribblehead viaduct is long and fast. But if the wind is in your face, as it often is, then even this can seem tough.
All three routes start in Clapham with free tea and coffee, the hand written official ride-log with all previous rides and rider times, some maps to peruse and a briefing in the ‘club house’ at Clapham village hall. Once you’ve clocked-out using the analogue timing machine and race card riders start the first climb of the day up Clapham Old Road towards Ingleton. Here, the three routes split with the Long and Extra Long rolling down through the village and over the rivers Doe and Twiss before the steady climb up Thornton Road to Deepdale and Dent. A spectacular steep and windy downhill to Dent is interrupted by a hidden gate on the corner! Once you’ve bottomed-out in the valley a lovely ride against the flow of the river Dee brings you through Cowgill before the road pitches up suddenly, under a Victorian viaduct – one of the highest in the country – before levelling off at Newby Head, a exposed and wild feeling high moorland. Then a long fast descent to Ribblehead viaduct (unless the wind is against you!)
Once at Ribblehead you turn left before the viaduct and head along undulating terrain towards the feedstation at Horton village hall. Here, the best feed station in the UK awaits. The West Riding Classic coincides with the epic Three Peaks Fell race where runners complete the same distance as a marathon but over the three peaks of Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside. Runners and riders may well be at this point sat the same time which makes for a brilliant scene.
After lunch, it’s a roll down (down-ish) the Upper Ribble valley to Stainforth before turning left through the village and immediately up another steep climb up Goat Lane running on the side of Pen-y-ghent. This road is classic Yorkshire riding, high up on the open epic landscape of Silverdale. A number of descents and climbs before suddenly opening into a new valley and descending steeply into Halton Gill – beware the cattle grid.
The route now follows the River Skirdale downstream in the truly beautiful Littondale valley. Riders should enjoy this respite from climbing and breaking because once through the hamlet of Litton the route leaves the valley floor and climbs relentlessly up to the tops above Malham Tarn before descending steeply between high stone walls next to the famous Malham Cove escarpment.
Once in the valley floor the route undulates relatively gently to Kirkby Malham before climbing once more until you are high above Settle and to the edge of the Yorkshire Dales with the Trough Of Bowland Area of Oustanding Beauty opening up across Lancashire in front of you, the Dales at your back and the Victorian Market town of Settle under your front wheel – a steep descent with hidden switch-backs, high stone walls and cattle grids.
Once through Settle we cross the A65 and meander relatively gently back to Clapham via Eldroth – but there’s still plenty of troughs and climbs to sap the remaining energy from your legs!
This route takes in a variety of scenery and landscape, offers a serious cycling challenge and is at the tougher end of a typical 75 mile sportive. The roads are mostly very quiet and brilliant for cycling and the tone of the day is a friendly club-like atmosphere welcoming all riders.
A good independent review of the route can be found here.