Cestria CC does the “Darlington 70” (Sunday, 2 July 2017)

[All photos courtesy Ronnie Cowley unless otherwise stated]

Ronnie Cowley (left) and club members at the start of the Darlington 70 (picture: Peter Scott)

Under Peter Sturmann’s encouragement and enthusiasm, a number of club members opted to enter the “Darlington 70”. To make it more interesting, everyone decided to ride from home and, as in previous editions, meet along various points on the A167. We started off with a stunning summery morning, although there was a brisk westerly wind. Ronnie Cowley was the only one to begin near Chester, and picked up Emma Glover, Gareth Clark and yours truly at the Duke of Wellington in Durham (the pub was closed at 07:15, of course!). we then mosed down the A167 to collect Peter and Ray Haldene at the Cock of the North roundabout just outside Durham, and then we all headed south until we picked up Mark Robinson, our last invitee, at Newton Aycliffe. Having arrived at event HQ, being the Dolphin Centre in Darlington, we left at about 08:30 and joined the official course down the A167 as far as Hurworth and turned right for Middleton Tyas. There was a bit of drama here as my carbon handlebars cracked, but I was able to continue. Everyone took a turn at the front and we then turned into the wind towards Melsonby and Forcett. Just before Winston the route turned SW and we got quite a bit of shelter in the sunken lanes in this area. The suspension bridge at Whorlton Lido is a real highlight, and you cross the River Tees in some style (and make a very satisfying noise across the boards as you do so). We then headed to Barnard Castle for the only checkpoint of the day, and a complimentary bottle of water from the organisation.

Gareth Clarke leads the peleton over Whorlton Lido suspension bridge (picture: Peter Scott)

Since it was a bit early for eating, we decided to press on to Richmond for coffee and lunch. We cycled over the bridge near the castle, and then turned left to climb up to the A66. We had a procession of cars pulling caravans behind us and they all waited patiently until it was safe to pass which was much appreciated. Emma Glover began to test her climbing legs and left all the men in her wake on this climb. At the crossing point of the A68, we spotted a farm shop and decided to have coffees there. The quality of food was excellent but we would have got a few moans about prices had some of the club regulars been there (my pot of tea and a delicious almond cake cost a sizeable £5.50, and Ray’s fruit slice and cappucino a whopping £6!). The route took some charming lanes parallel with the A66 and we now had a helpful tailwind. Having regrouped a few times with Emma again stretching her legs, we descended into Richmond but turned left, instead of heading into the town itself for Brompton upon Swale. We now passed through Scorton, with Ray and Ronne doing turns on the front. The village of Mounton prompted a discussion of folding bikes, and we passed through Middleton Tyas for the second time that day but on through Barton. This was a far better return than the time we did the “Darlington 50” which brought us back via the A167. Traffic was not too bad on the outskirts of Darlington and we reached the Dolphin centre at about 2pm or so.

Having signed off, we decided to head for Sedgefield where Peter Sturmann was waxing lyrical about a new cafe. With our lips drooling (you probably couldn’t see them for sweat and slaver, anyway!), we threaded through the east side of Darlo and out via Haughton-le-Skerne. From here we took the well-cycled road via Great Stainton, but there was a sting in the tail, caused by Gareth Clarke who took off like a man possessed (perhaps he wanted to be first in the queue at Sedgefield). Emma and myself followed in his wake, and we then stopped near Mordon to wait for the rest of the group (who had obviously stopped cursing by this stage). Having safely reached Sedgefield, we sat outside at the cafe (more-or-less directly opposite no. 4) and were treated to great prices, super service and a very enjoyable 20 minutes or so. I would highly recommend this cafe; it was even more fun because Peter discovered he didn’t have enough money to pay and Ray had to subsidise him!

Having said goodbye to Mark, who was going the long way home to get his ton, we took the back lane out of Seggie across the back of Fishburn. At the top of Coxhoe we finally all parted company and split into two groups.

It was a great day out; all seven of us notched up at least a ton, with Ronnie, Ray and Gareth getting over the 120 mile mark which was excellent. Thanks to everyone for their company andparticular thanks to Peter, and to Mark and Ray for navigating us around the course.