MOD Rocking in the Ranges
There’s a month to go until the Pedalling Squares MOD Rocker sportive sets off from Alwinton. We thought we’d take the chance to look ahead at this ride through the central fells of Northumberland National Park. The Otterburn ranges are only open for a short period every year to allow for lambing to take place and this is the prime opportunity for keen bikers to saddle up and get through. Let’s have a look at the changes for 2020. Small alterations will lead to a completely different feel.
The ride is still based at the quaint Rose & Thistle pub in Alwinton. If you wish to stay the night before then the field behind the pub is available. It’s free to stay and it’s courteous to go and buy a drink from the pub as it’s their field. Try not to get sloshed! This year we’ve added some timing in the form of a barcode reader that is on your race number. This means you must have your number clearly displayed on the front of your bike throughout the event. Each rider will need to be scanned before setting off with multiple people processing riders. In essence it doesn’t matter when you set off, the clock starts for you when you have been scanned.
The start of the ride is the same as every other year. The Upper Coquet valley provides a fantastically remote scene as it gently rises over several miles before culminating in the triple hills at its head. The last of these is Chew Green, a name to strike fear into the hearts of even seasoned riders. Luckily this comes early doors and peoples legs should have enough fizz in them to endeavour to reach the top without dabbing out a pinky for a rest. But hark, has too much gas been blown out of the tank for the rest of the ride?
Once up Chew Green Northumberland truly lives up to its moniker of the Land of the Far Horizons. The hills gently fall away for miles after mile to the south and you can even pick out the distant peak of Cross Fell or the edge of the Lake District on a clear day. To the east the Cheviot stands proud, indomitable amid its lesser peaks. Once at the Royal Marines memorial point people are in to the Otterburn ranges training area and it sits as a vast grass covered bowl. Just imagine the endless fun that soldiers have tramping round this unforgiving terrain in driving rain. Joy.
Traditionally the ride captured one of the only true alpine style passes in the county. The preceding climb all the way from Alwinton was matched by a long, fast and edgy descent all the way to its terminus at the A68 trunk road. This year we’re avoiding the A68 and hooking a left instead of a right. This results in a large descent down the climb which would have led to the first checkpoint out in the middle of the ranges. Expect the usual plethora of snacks and drinks picked out by Eric. After a quick refresh and recharge you’ll be back on the road and ticking off those miles.
There are a couple more alterations on the ranges section that we’re sure you will be appreciative of. Before the camp there is a completely unnecessary drop off and climb back up to the main thoroughfare. This serves no other purpose than for our own amusement. OK so it’s got some nice views in amongst the cycling. Then there is the drop off out in to Elsdon where you pass through this quiet little town before tackling the arduous Bilsmoor climb. It’s probably this point where you will be re-evaluating life choices but it’s too late to pull out now.
Once the route veers back on to the ranges it’s a familiar track as the pedals are pumped before eventually exiting at Holystone. The Hepple hillside is traversed underneath the watchful eye of Simonside looking down from above and eventually leading to the town of Rothbury. There will be a checkpoint stop here where you can take 5 and rest weary legs and minds. The old stop of Tomlinsons no longer exists so we’ll be moving around the corner to the Newcastle Hotel where people can kick back and relax while carefully looking at taxi numbers on the wall of the hotel. How much is a taxi back to Alwinton…
The route back to Alwinton has changed. The trip out to Thropton remains the same but it now arcs round Snitter instead of ploughing straight through the middle. It means an extra hill but none of you expected that, right? Once riders hit Netherton there is a small climb before hitting the high road to Alwinton. A sweeping descent brings people back into Alwinton where numbers are scanned before disappearing into the Rose & Thistle for some post effort re-hydration.
There you have it. 2020 looks like it is going to be a cracker. 68 miles and 6000 feet of climbing await you. Have a sneaky prayer to the weather Gods for some sun. We’ll see you there on the big day.