Bike Route: Beauty even in the downpours

I received an email from the Yorkshire Lass Cycle Club this week inviting me to try their ladies-only Yorkshire Lass Sportive course before the big day itself on Sunday, August 20. There are three rides on offer (30 miles, 60 miles and a whopping 103-miler) and I opted for the middle one. I have to admit I had a bit of a nightmare start to the day but don't let that put you off '“ the route itself was an absolute cracker.

The clouds gather above the Vale of York but no rain falls to bring relief to struggling crops as this drilled field at Grafton near Boroughbridge shows no sign of life .


I got going outside the Carlton Lodge Activity Centre in Thirsk and was on the pan-flat backroads in no time at all flying along through Kirby and Newby Wiske before my first setback came near Warlaby. I’d been told by a road worker that his newly-laid concrete would be fine to cross but instantly found out that he was either wrong or taking the mick. My tyres didn’t burst but were completely covered in a layer of sticky asphalt that took the best part of 30 minutes to pick off with my car key. I managed to remove all trace of it and continue on my way, but my mood by that point had begun to darken, just like the weather.

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The drizzle started in Yafforth and by the time I’d made it to Northallerton it was starting to pour. The roads quickly turned into rivers. This was also where the route began to undulate and the section from Borrowby to Felixkirk featured a few tricky ramps which had me out of the saddle. The rise out of Knayton was definitely the toughest, but even there the gradient rarely crept above 10% and I was treated to some amazing views across the Vale of York as I climbed.


Despite the rain, I can’t overstate enough how pretty the villages are in this part of the world, and you’ll pass through plenty of them. Kilburn and Coxwold are among the pick of the bunch and they straddle a five-mile section that takes you into the Howardian Hills. As I exited Kilburn I was pleasantly surprised to see a giant white horse etched into the hillside and later learned it is the largest and most northerly hill figure in England. Dropping into Byland Abbey as well, I realised I’d visited it on a previous ride and passed under a stunning ruined archway as the abbey itself came into view.


I had 38 miles in my legs by the time I exited Coxwold and the long drag up to Oulston proved a bit of a slog but again, it never put me in the red. That was the last of the significant climbing , and it was relatively flat all the way back into Thirsk. The proceeding fast section just north of Easingwold was a definite highlight.


There was a short lump on the approach to Husthwaite but from then on it was all plain sailing and I could soak in the panoramic views as I traversed Sessay, Dalton and Sowerby before arriving back into Thirsk. Once I’d made it into the town centre I followed signs for the A61, and when Thirsk Racecourse appeared on my right-hand side I was less than two miles from home. More information on the Yorkshire Lass Sportive can be found at