The Autumn Skylark is a journey through the South Pennine uplands, until recently a relatively unheralded area for cycling. However, thanks to the 2014 Tour de France’s visit to the area, it is well and truly on the map, both as a place to cycle and also as a place to enjoy for its unique mixture of windswept moorlands, quiet country lanes, tiny villages and attractive towns, full of historical buildings and atmospheric remains of the industrial revolution.
Like the Spring Skylark, the 2014 Autumn Skylark Sportive includes the signature climbs of Holme Moss and Cragg Vale, which have both become must-ride landmarks of cycling in the UK.
Riders who took part in the Spring Skylark enjoyed these massive climbs, but they also remarked on the unexpected pleasure of riding the country lanes in-between: roads that the Tour de France bypasses, but which are beautiful, relatively traffic free and take the rider on a journey through an almost forgotten landscape of stone-built farms and hamlets and moorland edges full of wildlife and unexpected views.
Although some roads are common to the Spring Skylark – primarily around the Holme Moss and Cragg Vale Climbs – we’ve introduced over 60km (that’s more than half the total distance) of completely new roads and reversed many of the shared sections.
We think we’ve found some new gems, notably around the small town of Uppermill, and across the striking Norland Moor, on the southern fringes of the Calder Valley.
We’re also tackling Holme Moss early this time, so that those who missed out on the climb first time round can get to grips with it whilst still relatively fresh. Holme Moss is the centre-piece of the shorter 50km route we are also offering.
We’ve also slightly lengthened the longer ride out to 115km, though there is only a little extra climbing compared to the Spring edition.
However, we have slipped in a couple of stunning new climbs: most notably the locally famous “Isle of Skye” road (named after a long-demolished pub) which, in our opinion, matches both Cragg Vale and Holme Moss as a challenge. It also matches them both for the impressive surrounding scenery in one of the craggiest sections of the South Pennines’ western escarpment.
There’s also the steepest climb of the day, Marsden Lane, a few hundred metres of half-cobbled, stone-wall lined road that averages out at 17% gradient (near enough 1 in 6), but which is as steep as 1 in 4 for a hundred metres or so. Happily it’s payback time at the top as you enter a lovely road that loops round the head of a small side valley.
Read about the Autumn Skylark’s climbs on their dedicated page – Autumn Skylark Climbs
So, there you have it, the Autumn Skylark, another ride designed by local riders, with the emphasis on the quality of the riding experience: There are several lengthy stretches of A-Road, but they are all wide, spectacular and relatively lightly used; in-between which there are the many kms of winding lanes that made such an impact on our Spring Skylark riders.
When: The event takes place on Sunday 28 September 2014. Start times will be allocated between 8am and 11am.
Where: The event HQ is at Marsden Golf Club, an attractive moorland course, just outside the centre of the small town of Marsden. Here there is plenty of parking just yards from the signing on area. There are male and female changing rooms and both the sign on and post race meal will be hosted in the golf club’s warm and welcoming clubhouse.
Marsden Golf Club
HD7 6HU (please note, HQ postcode is actually for a farm 100m up the road from the venue)
The Routes: two options, 50km and 115km.
Support: There will be all the nutritional support you’d expect on a modern sportive, plus a hot meal and drinks awaiting you back at event HQ. In addition, we’ll have mobile first aid at HQ and on the course, plus mechanical back-up.