Here we take a look at some of the climbs that feature on the Autumn Skylark Sportive. Set in the heart of the South Pennines, the Autumn Skylark tackles a variety of climbs, ranging from the huge Holme Moss, with its exposed summit and switchback approaches, through the longer, but more gently graded Cragg Vale, to the short, sharp climbs more commonly found on the many kilometers of minor roads that are so characteristic of the area and such a pleasure to cycle.
PART 1 – THE BIG STUFF!
Holme Moss – 2.2km at 9%. Difficulty:
One climb that everyone will be wary of is Holme Moss. Happily, the Autumn Skylark joins the climb in Holme village, thus cutting out the first couple of kilometers and leaving you just with the exposed, spectacular climb of the top section. Even so, this climb will test the grit and determination of all the riders. In the simplest terms it’s some 2.2km long and climbs 212 metres. The final climb up the exposed upper slopes at around 10% gradient all the way. A couple of twists and turns even add an Alpine feel to the bottom section, but it’s the final push to the summit that really hurts, before the ultimate reward of sweeping views over the Eastern fringes of the Pennines. In the first running of the Spring Skylark, we had to re-route riders off Holme Moss after strong winds made the final ascent dangerous. Despite clear blue skies and lovely spring temperatures, this climb still eluded the majority of the entry. You have been warned!
Where: 115km route @ 25km |50km route @ 25km| The Routes
Cragg Vale – 8.1km at 4%. Difficulty:
This beautiful climb is, at over 8km, the longest continuous road climb in England. Not especially steep, its challenge lies in its length and the fact that it faces into the prevailing winds. The scenic changes from river valley at the bottom to bleak heather moor at the top are breathtaking. And, thanks to one of the highest reservoirs in the UK, waves often break over the road at the summit on windy days.
Where: 100km route @ 75km | The Routes
Check out this video from the Spring Skylark – much of the road surface has been mended for the TdF since this was shot!
Isle of Skye – 5.0 km at 7%. Difficulty:
Named after a long-gone pub, this climb has something of the Scottish Isles about it as it takes you up onto the high Westerns escarpment of the Pennines, with spectacular craggy outcrops on both sides and glinting waters of reservoirs below. It makes a fitting companion to Cragg Vale and Holme Moss and is of similar dimensions. It’s the most consistently graded and therefore best engineered of the three and it is that relentless gradient, hardly changing for 5km, that really grinds you down. With over 330m of ascent, it’s true giant amongst British road climbs, yet easily overlooked next to its more illustrious neighbours. Watch out too for the exposed road that leads away from the summit, a challenge in itself on breezy days.
Where: 115km route @ 10km |50km route @ 10km| The Routes
PART 2 – THE STEEP STUFF!
Marsden Lane – 0.4km at 17%. Difficulty:
It may look like a pimple on the course profile, but this is a killer climb. Starting in the shadow of a railway embankment, it rises on a narrow strip of tarmac crushed between high stone walls, before wickedly steep right hairpin and a weird final ramp, half tarmac, half cobbles. The hairpin is as steep as 33% and almost unrideable unless you go really wide. Happily, it levels off rapidly at the top, before a gentler ascent takes you onto one of the route’s best sections of minor road, skirting round a mini side valley and offering lovely views and a sense of a rural world little changed in 50 years.
Where: 115km route @ 52km |The Routes
Ripponden Bank – 1.2km at 9.5%. Difficulty:
Less than 1.5km long, but at a steady 9.5% gradient throughout, Ripponden Bank has got some sting to it. It also comes late in the ride and will be all the more challenging for that reason. It also featured in the 2014 Tour de France route and is close to the facilities of Ripponden. The village is well worth exploring and contains a couple of the best pubs and restaurants in the district – plus public toilets by the main bus-stop.
Where: 115km route @ 93km | The Routes