By Matthew McGrath
The Lagans Challenge! I have taken part in this event solo twice before, both times being the 40mile route with 4000ft of climbing, I was looking forward to riding the course with Team ASL and the challenge of the additional 30miles + Hunters Hill.
Pre-Event preparation for this consisted of something I do as a ritual before a long distance event the one and only Su’s chippy chicken fried rice… and yes I had the full portion.
The ride began with the nice group of 9 riders steadily climbing up Sheep House Lane, there seemed to be a sense of relief in the group as the past year did not reflect the word “steady” this didn’t stop David Stammers setting his own precedent as he shot up Sheep House at his own pace.
We all Re-grouped at the Black Dog Pub and worked together as a team through the nice rolling section of Tockholes and onto the fast descent of Broken Stones Road; this pace continued on up through Brinscall and to the foot of Anglezarke, Again Dave shooting up at his own pace as he shot up the climb which hits gradients of 17%, I tried to keep with him but just couldn’t manage it so backed off, deep down I wanted to get to the bottom and catch him on the flat but my head said no at 20 miles in its best to re-group!
After the Climb of Anglezarke we were treated to a 15mile rolling section which was nice to loosen up the legs ready for Hunters Hill, which I hadn’t done as far as I remember since the Ironman 16’ and it hadn’t gotten any easier!
Now for the finale of the race, Foxholes… Matchmoor… and the climb up to Sheep house for the descent to the finish. In my head this is where the fun began; before we got to foxholes I began to rid myself of all excess weight, pouring what juice I did not need away, then I prepared myself for what was about to unfold. After seeing David peel away on the hills all day I dug deep and went for it up Foxholes, I managed to create a gap but joined at the top by Ben Dobson and David, there seemed to be nobody else with them so I gave them the nod and asked if we were having this… I assumed we were so I went full gas and got half way up matchmoor turned round and realised they weren’t there with me and I just thought why not… so I went solo descending down edge lane swerving the usual pot holes… gravel… HORSES…
It was in my head a 15mile TT to the finish that’s it you’ve done it first back! I was checking back along scout road, Belmont Road and I couldn’t see either of Ben or David, so I just kept on pushing. Then, from nowhere, Ben appears on my wheel at the Top of sheep house, my legs where due some recovery period so we both rolled through the final segments together, both wondering who’s going to be first back… and it was on the final climb from Yew tree up Ben was out of the saddle and pushing hard, my attempt to get on his wheel was denied by my legs giving way!
After all my efforts to get away I had to watch as Ben powered onto the finish taking the Long Route Winners trophy!
I’d like to Thank Lagans Foundation for putting on a superb route, well sign posted and marshalled and also capturing all the best local climbs around and all towards a great cause. I would also like to thank Graham Balshaw who, on the back of this ride, invited me to race for Team ASL-Bolton for the 2018 season.