19th April 2023
Angus and Megan, First Pair Home | Dales Divide 2023
You may have already heard of Angus Young and his various exploits on the ultra distance cycling circuit. Known for his pace and commitment to speed, he's recently set the new FKT on Dales Divide in 2022, riding the entire 600km course in 35Hrs & 43 Minutes.
The Dales Divide is a 600km MTB race that has quickly become the go-to season opener for UK bikepackers. This year, nearly 200 riders answered the call to push themselves to the limit, making it the largest gathering of its kind in UK history. Last year's race was particularly memorable for me, as I not only brought home the win but also set a new FKT. It was an opportunity to put my gear and a new bike to the test for the upcoming HT550, but it came with a price: intense fatigue. So this year, I managed to convince my partner, Megan, to take on the event as a pair.
It would be her first ultra, and while she is fast and trains hard, it would bring many new challenges to light. The night before the race, we stayed in Arnside, and the weather was on our side, providing us with glorious sunshine on race day. The start was steady, and we took it easy until the first hike-a-bike section. After that, we encountered some bogs before returning to smooth gravel under the famous Ribblehead viaduct. We quickly settled into a rhythm, and I took on the role of gate opener, making sure the chain was constantly tight and our progress steady.
The first 150km of the course had the most elevation, but we managed to power through it with ease. As evening approached, we prepared for the night ahead, donning our warmest layers and devouring a pizza in Boroughbridge. The section from Boroughbridge to York was flat and fast, and we sped through the city centre, taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling nightlife. It felt like an alien world, having only been out for 15 hours or so. We planned to ride for another hour or so and then make camp. So we bivvied down just after 1 am in a damp cow field. I took the opportunity to test some sleeping gear for the HT550. But as the temperature dropped, I found myself shivering and unable to sleep that well so had to put on some of the spare warm kit. The 4 am alarm was a rude awakening, but we got going again and soon fell back into our familiar tempo through Driffield and over the Wolds. The coldest time of day, from 6-8 am, was upon us, so we tried to keep up the pace.
We arrived in Scarborough at around 10 am, refuelled with a bacon sandwich, and continued on our way to the North York Moors. The next 100km or so were a challenging slog, with steep, technical sections and plenty of bog-pushing. But catching sight of other racers gave us a much-needed morale boost. We stopped in Northallerton, deciding to push through the night on the second night. We got a kebab, went to the loo, and stocked up on snacks at the Tesco's before heading back into the Yorkshire Dales. By 1 am, we were feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, so we set our sights on the Bothy just before Askrigg. We arrived to find a warm, dry place to rest for a few hours before tackling the final push.
The grassy field section before Askrigg was a tough climb, but we made it just as the sun was rising. As we ascended the famous Cam High Road, the excitement of finishing the race began to set in. We pedalled on, switching to our granny gears and chatting away, enjoying the stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Surprisingly, the climb felt much easier than we anticipated, and we were left wondering if our lively conversation had served as a welcome distraction.
After a final climb up past Newby Head, we were rewarded with a thrilling descent before the remaining hours of flat farmland and gates. After 52 hours of intense cycling, we finally reached the finish line, surpassing our initial expectations. Throughout the race, Meg and I had a great time together, with very few low moments or disagreements. As we reflect on our experience, people are already asking what's next for us as a pair. While we haven't made any concrete plans, we are excited to see where our next adventure will take us.