I recently managed to spend a weekend over in the Lake District walking and cycling. The walking went well but the cycling less so, repairs needed on the disc brakes, sore ribs and a bang on the noggin (thanks helmet) after a tumble. The main reason for the trip however was to go to Harter Fell in the far West of the lakes in the Duddon Valley which was in effect a bit of a pilgrimage for me. My dad was from Cumbria and talked long and often of his time growing up in the area but as my dad got older he talked more of a particular place – Harter Fell, describing it as his favourite place in the world, let alone the lakes (it was also one of Wainwright’s favs). I’d never been there but the more he talked to me about the place I knew that it was somewhere that I to go. When my dad passed away a good friend and Lakeland expert took me over to walk up Harter Fell. Even in winter the Lakes can get pretty busy in places but the Duddon Valley is like entering another world, it is incredibly beautiful and isolated and there was no one around when we set off to walk it. Despite the leaden skies the weather was gorgeous allowing for great panoramic views, my Dad had always described that if you got up there on a clear day it was one of the few places where you could see England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from although that was not possible on the day we were there. Standing on the top, in the footsteps of my father was an emotional moment and something that I will always cherish and it will certainly be somewhere that I will come back to many times. Incredibly on the top you can look down onto the remains of the roman fort at the top of hardknott pass and despite the beauty of the place that must have been a lonely place to have been posted. So if you go to the lakes, take a little detour and head West into the Duddon Valley a place of true beauty where the spirit of a good man can be found.
I do enjoy a good chart or graphical display of information and was taken by these that were recently put up by the cyclingiq blog looking at rider nationalities in the world tour. Unsurprisingly what many would think of as the major cycling nations France, Italy, Spain, Holland and Belgium have the lions share but things are starting to change. Australia and Britain’s investment in cycling programmes geared originally to bringing in Olympic medals is profiting the road racing teams as riders move from the track into the pro team ranks. Kazakhstan’s state investment into the Astana team which acts as an advertising billboard for the country also sees them benefitting with enough riders to make it into the top 12 nations. What becomes apparent however when you look at the next 2 levels down below the world tour (pro-continental and continental) is that Belgium is clearly the king. Perhaps no surprise when they have produced riders as great as Eddy Merckx and last years world number 1 Phillipe Gilbert but mightily impressive for a country of roughly 11 million people.
click the diagrams for full size.