One of the hardest sportives in the UK
The Goose Eye Grimpeur Sportive will give you a day to live long in the memory. With a saw-tooth profile of 3612m of climb over 200km, wild high spaces and lush river valleys, it is Beauty and the Beast in one dose of tough love. This why we get into cycling – to test ourselves, to do it all, see it all and share it all in good company. Fail, fail better, finish, come back and do a better time – that’s the Goose Eye.
The Goose Eye can be broken down into three chunks:
- From the start over the South Pennines to Gargrave, which has as much climb per mile as any event in the UK and virtually no flat roads at all
- From Gargrave over the Bowland fells to Chatburn, with rolling lanes and steady climbs
- From Chatburn to the finish with another series of steep, long, testing climbs over Pendle and the South Pennines
Section 1. From the start to Gargrave over the South Pennines
You’ll have a welcome 10k to warm up and wake up rolling through post-industrial, post-Saturday night Rochdale before getting to the first climb up Blackstonedge. Dan Evans has the record for the hill climb here at 7.10, but it might be an idea not to chase this today. Just enjoy the millstone grit Edge in the morning light, easy does it.
From Blackstonedge the fast descent of the A58 on the other side was used by the Tour de France. Lars Boom reached 82km an hour on the here, or you can freewheel it at 60 km/hr plus; either way Great House Lane will wake the legs up again. It’s a stiff little cobbled climb.
After some nice lanes in a classic South Pennines patchwork, Mill Bank is reached by a steep, twisty descent of Foxen Lane. This climb (the clue is in the name ‘bank’) will help you realise if you have made the right gear choice for the day – if you are already in your lowest gear, boy/girl will you have fun later! It’s a two part climb with Lower Mill Bank Road leading via a sharp left-then-right of junctions onto Birks lane. Take it steady, this is one of many, with the notorious Stocks Lane next….
After Sowerby village you’ll be heading down the steep, technical descent of Sykes Lane to Luddenden Foot. Watch out for locals driving up, and especially the sharp downhill left at the bottom immediately into a steep bank which will have you merrily crunching gears if aren’t ready for it. In this photo you can see Wainstalls on the horizon, the highest point on the Goose Eye:
After crossing the river Calder and turning into Luddenden Dean comes the notorious Stocks Lane to Wainstalls. Stocks lane is a tough climb in itself, which has been used for the national hill climb championships, but the climb continues past Wainstalls in a testing series of draggy steps up to the highest point on the route on Cold Edge Lane and the huge spaces of the Pennine moors.
By now you will be starting to get that Goose Eye feeling. On any ordinary day what you have ridden so far would be a respectable route in itself: this is not going to be an ordinary day. An exhilarating descent down Nab Water Lane and Hill House Edge Lane follows, with a great view across Bronte country and the series of steep-sided valleys you’ll be crossing towards Skipton.
After a small climb up Moorhouse Lane, the second cobbled climb on the Goose Eye Grimpeur soon rears up. As you climb Howarth Main Street You will again be following in the wheels of the Tour de France as you rattle up this stiff and unique hill, dodging tourists and fending off Bronte memorabilia sales people. Give it the full Emily, not the half Branwell.
With no respite it is straight down and up what JP and Chrispy, cyclist friends who live at the bottom call “Vicious Dip” Tim Lane is an unsung but a tough little climb up to Oakworth. This is going to keep happening, so get used to it. Going at a sustainable pace is key to your day: overcook this first section to Gargrave and things will get ugly later and that’s not nice….
After Oakworth comes the climb after which this sportive is named, Game scar Lane, known to cyclists as Goose Eye, home to a a brewery taking its name form Goose Eye Brow at the top. It is pretty steep, with a blind corner – drivers meeting here in opposite directions can get a bit testy with eachother at is not a good spot to reverse or do a handbrake start. It isn’t a good spot for a cold start on a bike, come to think of it: there are three parts to this climb, all steep. Nice though, you’ll like it.
The climb continues (quelle surprise) on Greensykes Rd then flattens out briefly, bringing you to a brow with a lovely view north across Lothersdale, with the Dales in the background before a very fast 16% descent to Cross Hills. As the small print says, the value of your investment can go down as well as up – in this case, hooray!
The village of Cross Hills feels like a city after the empty countryside you’ve been through, you’ll need to watch out for the correct turning left which takes you onto a long draggy climb back onto the moor on Lothersdale Rd and Babyhouse lane. Babyhouse; you might be liking that idea by now, someone to tuck you up nice and cozy and rock you to sleep. It ain’t happening, up you go!
There will be a feed station at Broughton, just before the A59, after which a dog-leg right then left takes you on rolling Lanes to Gargrave, which has a pub and a café. The café used to be a famous cyclist’s meeting point, always piled up with bikes outside, until it changed hands. Now there are so many flowers outside there are fewer places to leave you’re bike, but they still sell the usual…
Section 2. From Gargrave through Bowland to Chatburn
Turning left by the pub before the main road in Gargrave the easiest section of the Goose Eye Grimpeur takes you via Bank Newton. It lovely riding this, except for a couple of kilometers to Newsholme on the A689 which has some fast traffic to beware of. Then it’s back onto classic Lancashire lanes to Bolton By Bowland, then onto Grindleton (which has another feed station you will pass through again after a loop into the Bowland area). The climb up Easington Fell from Waddington on the B4678, Slaidburn Rd, is a long gentle gradient which kicks up a little at the end, leading to a fantastic descent with views north to the Bowland fells. Oh yes!
You’ll love this descent towards the Hodder Valley, but make sure you keep an eye out for the left turn for Cow Ark near the bottom. This takes you onto a narrow lane which contours lumpily along and then over the western flank of Easington Fell. Even Google don’t know the name of this hidden gem of a road.
A nice descent of Hall Hill to Whitewells on the river Hodder and a right turn takes you to the valley road, which rolls through succulent countryside to Dunsop Bridge and Slaidburn, both of which have cafés – often containing cyclists as this is one of the best cycling areas in the UK, and you might bump into messers Wiggins or Yates.
From Slaidburn you are heading back for a third time over Easington fell, this time over it’s eastern flank south towards Pendle. This is another lovely section over a high empty moorland plateau, starting with a short pull up from the Hodder on the B6478 then right onto Smalden Lane at the top. A series of shallow steps take you up onto the moor: take time to look around this huge space to the Yorkshire Three peaks on your left, and across the moors to Pendle in front and to the right. It is the land of curlews and lapwings up here, a delight on a good day and a slog on a bad one; but again it takes you on the Goose Eye to a cracking descent back down to Grindleton, where the feeding station can be re-vsited.
3. From Chatburn over Pendle, Widdop and Cragg to the finish
It has all been very civilised and maneageable on the loop round Bowland back to Grindleton, but things are about to get a wee bit testing again, and the various distractions and cop-out routes home are going to get more tempting, especially if you overcooked it on the first section – I told you not to! There is a shop and an ice-cream parlour at Chatburn – how much nicer than the hard slog through Downham (another nice pub!) and up to the big end of Pendle on Pendle Road and Barley Lane, which by this stage of the game is going to look bigger than it normally does to your tired eyes. You can make it to the finish if you pace it, keep well fed and hydrated and treat the route with respect – there are three big land masses to get over, including multiple incidental climbs.
After a fast twisting descent to Barley, which has a toilet by the car park on the left, you turn left and follow the river to Roughlee, where the steep bank of Pasture Lane takes you over to Barrowford and a dog-leg left then right onto the B6247 to the town of Colne. Signposted for Coldwell Activity Centre, Bridge Street leads you onto the steep climb of Knotts St, which then keeps climbing onto the moor towards the splendidly testing Widdop and on towards Hebden Bridge. There are no shops or facilities in this 20km section which takes you up high into the weather (if there is any) so again you need to make sure you have enough to eat, drink and keep warm with you – it’s not a good section to bonk on.
At the end of this fantastic road a fast wooded descent bi-passing Heptonstall takes you down to some traffic lights, where a left via the turning circle takes you through Hebden Bridge, which is full of café and shops, and Mytholmroyd, which has a Co-op on the left. You are going to make it now, there is just one climb left to get over: it just happens to be Cragg Vale, which is reputed to be the longest continuous climb in the country, with 958ft in 5.5 miles. Now, there is a possibility that your ickle pickle legs will be a ickle pickle bit tired now, but be re-asssured, it is not steep, just long. We won’t talk about the typical cross-headwind here, I’m sure it will be a tail wind when you do it. Winners in the various hill climb events up here might do around 14 minutes, which is quicker than the Tour de France, which used the bottom as a feed station. During the Tour bunting stretched alll the way to the top, and you can still see rider’s names sprayed on the road. Not that I’m saying your head will be down or anything….but by all that’s holy, what twisted sadist decided to put this nightmare at the end of….come on, hold it together, you can do this.
Unbelievably there are no more climbs left, you’ve just got to keep your concentration down the fast descent of Blackstonedge, the whole Lancashire plain laid out before you with views to the Welsh hills if it is clear. Yes, it’s true, a few weary kilometers back to the HQ and finally a day to remember will be over. Well you’ve done it you’ve got to the end of one of the toughest web-posts….I mean one of the toughest sportives in the UK. What do you think? See you on the day?
Route on Ride with GPS where you can also download cue-sheets and GPX files