Last year The Viking Challenge was wet and very muddy. This year it was obvious before we started that it was going to be the total opposite. The Indian Summer made it hot and dusty :)

The plan was to meet up to sign on around 8.30 for a 9am start. The good weather saw a big turnout from our posse. I think there were around 15 of us that set off together and another 5 that went a bit earlier or later?

This year the route had been changed a bit from the previous few years. I was hoping it would be back to the original route now that the temporary closure of The Viking Way (that gives the event it's name) was over but this was not the case.

The first change was that the start took us off along the road instead of over the usual bridleway out of Redmile to get to the Grantham Canal. When we turned off the canal I was pleased when we did pick up the original climb up part of the Viking Way instead of the previous year's turn onto the old railway. However at the first food stop I was disappointed that we were picking up last years route instead of continuing along the Viking Way and up the "Kerbstone Climb".

On route to the first stop we had already got a bit strung out as I had expected. I hung back to wait for my youngest nephew Sam who was doing the ride for the first time. He was riding one of my bikes which is a bit big for him. At the stop we met up with Steve, Ricky and Tom but the rest had continued on without stopping.

Sam climbing near Denton

That was to be the last Sam and I would see of any of the posse that we started with until we got to the end. On the long road section towards Saltby airfield we were caught up by Robbo and Amanda who had started a few minutes after us. We had a bit of a chat as we cruised along the road.

Sam and I continued round at a steady pace and had a good ride. Sam did well considering he has never pedalled that far before. This year's route changes had also upped the distance above the 50Km it is advertised as to around 55Km.

Sam was flagging a bit by the time we reached Sproxton but a few choccy bars there and a banana at Waltham turned him round. It was also a help that the wind was now more behind us. Just past Bescaby is the only part of the route that could be described as vaguely technical. It is a tricky rutted section. I warned Sam about it and told him people in front would probably be falling off and causing problems. As we entered the riders in front didn't dissapoint and one was immediately off in front of us. Plenty of trackstanding, laughing and asking to get past folk later we had completed the short tricky section and continued on to the road.

At the finish we grabbed a quick couple of cakes before changing and heading round the corner to meet up with the posses who had commandeered most of the outside seating at The Windmill. A couple of pints sat in the sun were most welcome after the hot ride.

Click here to see all the photographs I took during this ride

A good ride in excellent conditions and all for charidee! Be good to get the route back to something similar to how it used to be though? A bit less tarmac.

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