Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Steve Tonge
Cycling Correspondent
2:02 AM 15th July 2020

The Cycle Diaries: The Challenge Begins

The Cycle Diaries – cyclist Steve Tonge’s challenge to complete over 1000 miles in ten days across the county of Lancashire.

Lancashire is a great county for cycling, as we are often told. Many of us have embraced new forms of exercise over the past few months in response to lockdown, and for many, too, there has been a pressing need to get back out into the great outdoors for some fresh air and exercise.
Steve's Lockdown Challenge Shield
Steve's Lockdown Challenge Shield

One Lancashire cyclist, Steve Tonge, had grown dissatisfied with the turbo trainer he kept indoors, disappointed he wouldn’t be able to cycle Lands End to John O Groats as planned due to lockdown, and so decided that to embrace his return to road cycling, he was going to set himself a big challenge before the inevitable return to work, as a driving instructor, that was to follow.
Ten Days. Ten 100-mile Routes (or “Centuries” as they are known to cyclists). And what a glorious county to experience the trip in.

Let’s follow Steve on his epic journey and mad challenge, taking note of all the sights and sounds he encountered along the way. And, of course, not forgetting the decent café stops where he will consume many calories to fuel him along – he’ll be found with a full English and several lattes before returning to the country lanes.
It might even inspire you to plan a route… let’s read from his diary of the experience to find out.

Day 1 – The Challenge begins…

“My first ride on Saturday 13th June was a rather dull & overcast affair. I encountered some light rain early on, but after a couple of hours the clouds broke a little and it turned into a pleasant day!

The route I chose was one I had wanted to plan for a long time! I headed South East in a clockwise loop around Manchester, skirting the edge of the Peaks along the excellent Middlewood Way to Macclesfield where I had a short pit stop.

Brushing the outskirts of Holmes Chapel I then headed north again through quiet lanes of East Cheshire past Jodrell Bank and back to Bolton via Warburton Bridge, Culcheth and the East Lancs Road Cycle Path to Worsley. The final part used the excellent Loopline (old rail track) from Monton to Farnworth.

Near Jodrell Bank
Near Jodrell Bank
Fuel for the ride consisted of home-made rice cakes, a coffee from a petrol station in Macclesfield, half a dozen Jelly Babies for the last 30 miles and four bottles of energy drink to help stay hydrated! 103 miles with 3,500ft of climbing at a sedate pace averaging 15mph… if I can have plenty of rides like that I may be able to do this…

Day 2 – Sunday 14th June. Sunshine in Southport…

The day began with the usual pre-ride breakfast of porridge with golden syrup at 5.30am consumed on my garden patio; today I was to ride with my good friend Danny.

We met at 6am and headed towards St Helens for a ride to Southport. The chill of the morning made us keep the pace up. Our conversation helped take my mind off the aches in my legs from yesterday’s ride!

We made quick time and soon enough we were heading north on the Formby by-pass past Southport Airport and to our delight the coast road into Southport was deserted and we flew into town.

We arrived at the perfect time for King’s Tea Room which was just opening for takeaway breakfast barms! After breakfast we continued along the coast road towards Banks before taking the quiet Holmeswood Road to Rufford and Croston.

Ashton Canal
Ashton Canal
I was struggling a little now, as we had pushed the pace on at over 18mph average, and we now had a headwind! The hot bath of “muscle soak” was more than welcome on my return and I was trying my very best not to think about the enormity of the challenge of the next eight days!!