Team JMC arrived in the Great Langdale valley to an almost perfect morning. A little chilly and a Northerly wind, but blue skies and spectacular views. This event has grown immensely in popularity over the few years it has been running due to the challenge it presents and there were now 650 riders on the start line, most of whom looked ‘handy’. After some banter to get the mood going, off we set.

Just under 70 miles to cover, but with indescribable climbs that look impossible to ride – thats why we came. First steep climb over Loughrigg Terrace served to get the heart rate up then a tricky descent into Ambleside followed by a slog to Keswick. Shortly after came the first real test of the day, Whinlatter forest climb. After the first feed station we fell lucky and drafted a club peloton moving quickly through undulating roads to Cold Fell out towards the rewarding views of Seascale nuclear plant on the west coast before working our way back inland to Eskdale and the final feed station. We were greeted by a lovely lady serving lemon drizzle cake with “aha Team JMC … didn’t you win the Dirty Dozen MTB!?”

After 5 miles of riding with very little conversation, mind games and tired legs comes the infamous Hardknott pass (the steepest road in Britain), Wrynose (not much better) and Blea tarn (the final straw). “Good Luck” we wished each other as we hit the bottom of Hardknott and realised we already had no gears left. Looking up, you’re presented with full view of the monster road of pain winding up towards the sky as your heart race finds new limits and you attempt to zig zag the switch backs to keep the wheels turning. Many riders cramp, most walk and for those still riding, you suffer. Elation at the crest quickly turns to a focus on the next climb just 3 miles away. Wrynose was never going to beat us after clearing Hardknott, but it tests the best. At the top, we played samaritan to a guy whose chain had snapped under the strain. This lost us 15 minutes but the day had never been about a time. After a crazy descent into Little Langdale, Blea Tarn couldn’t hurt us anymore and we arrived safely at the finish line in a little over 5 hours.

A brilliant challenging day with great company, memories and a new member of Team JMC recruited (welcome Chris Heys). We don’t do these things because they are easy, we do them because they are hard.