Apologies for the delay in getting around to writing about my last day of the Festive 500 and my first ride outdoors.

The day started well with a fantastic breakfast of scrambled free range eggs on oat bread and a cup of tea in my favourite mug:

The weather forecast for the day didn’t look too good with both wind and rain forecast but I wasn’t going to let that put me off. Thankfully, it didn’t put Nathan, Jamie or Megan off either although Megan did bring enough spare clothes for an arctic expedition and despite being very mild, Nathan wasn’t ever going to take of his new Rapha Belgian hat and Jamie was looking as fit as ever despite protesting about the excesses of Christmas. I’m both fortunate and very unfortunate to get to cycle with such a competent fast and strong group of cyclists. They just about manage to kill me every time.

We all met up and I was already feeling the lack of real cycling in my legs – the exercise bike is no substitute for actually getting on a bicycle and never will be. It’s an almighty climb from the centre of Leeds, out of the city to the North and into the countryside. Our route took us through Hawksworth and up and over the moors to the famous Cow & Calf – it’s a stiff climb up there and we stopped at the top for a welcome break and a banana. It breaks my heart cycling past the famous Cow & Calf pub after such an effort but with many more miles to enjoy, it’s for the best….

Nathan was kind enough to take a couple of (non action) shots so I shall add these when I see them.

We continued out ride down into Ilkley trying not to get swept off the road by the vicious cross-wind – a fantastic descent with the added excitement of a cattle grid and a mini roundabout to negotiate just at the moment you start to reach terminal velocity. It makes it all very exciting.

From there, we cruised through Ilkley and to the quieter (and much more muddy and floody) back roads out towards Bolton Abbey. The extra couple of miles out to Bolton Abbey for a coffee and a cake is necessary for the return journey, especially as we were to tackle the double chevron’d 20% joy that is Langbar. There’s a car park which is always populated about halfway up, at the steepest point so it’s important to make this part of the climb look effortless, which isn’t easy. unless you’re Jamie who sprinted past me and onto the top in a beautiful display of climbing.

The descent, again into Ilkley is superb, with a couple of technical S bends to both check your speed and test your skill. It’s certainly a favourite part of the ride before the relatively flat and fast section following the river along the valley before a gentle climb through Askwith and to the prize – the Cock Pit Farm Cafe – a beautiful oasis of cakes and calm with custard that can only be made from EPO judging by the performances after the stop.

It’s the kind of place that I never want to leave, especially when the weather started to take a little turn for the worst and drizzle was felt in the air. This didn’t last long, just long enough to fool us all into putting our rain jackets on and nearly cooking to death on the ride into Otley…

Another relatively flat section through Otley and Pool before deciding not to climb the brutally steep Black Hill and take a the slightly easier option up into Adel before the section back into Leeds, stopping at The Stables for a quick pint before home whilst there was still enough light to get home with.

All in all, it was a thoroughly lovely day, hillier than I’d planned but also shorter at 76.1 kilometres to give me a final total of 703 km and 127th place overall in the league table. I’m pretty happy with that considering the circumstances.

Happy and dirty, I arrived home in a great mood and ready to start the new year celebrations!

That little taste of freedom and the wind in my hair means that the middle of February, when I go on leave for a couple of months, can’t come soon enough. There will be some serious cycling to catch up on. Until then, it’s just me and the cave but once per day will be enough from now on!

But wait…. Was it the ride for redemption? I did weigh myself on Friday and I’m pleased to report, although not surprised that nothing has changed. I weighed exactly the same as when I started so I guess I was indeed redeemed and all my Christmas treats were well and truly pedaled away:

I’m still a little bit surprised at how odd my feet look. I need to make sure I keep these hidden in future….

So, congratulations to all of those involved who made the distance and those whose blogs helped me and kept me going through the dark cold days in the cave.

Same time next year?