June 16, 2017, by David Greenaway

Nottingham Life Cycle 7: The Way of the Roses

Almost all the first six Nottingham Life Cycles involved endurance challenges. Last year it was 1,350 miles around the four points of the compass in Great Britain, which raised £700,000 for breast cancer research.

There is no endurance ride this year, partly because I retire at the end of September, partly because we wanted to promote a broader range of activities.

But we still wanted to build on the Life Cycle ‘brand’ which has come to signify more than just endurance cycling, and has been an excellent vehicle for broader community engagement around a cause.

So, we decided on two weekend cycling challenges, but a Community Day (on October 1st) focused on walking rather than cycling. And we have added a range of other activities including (300 so far) running the Robin Hood Half Marathon; School and Departmental Bake-Offs; and a seasonal party at KMC.

All of this is aimed at raising funds to support the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, and we have set a target of £500,000.


The first cycling challenge was ‘The Way of the Roses’ (http://www.wayoftheroses.co.uk/way-of-the-roses-route.php). This is a 170 mile ride from Bridlington to Morecambe, and we had 31 cyclists. These included members of staff, representatives of local partners, and three of last year’s Student Union Executive.




It got off to an unusual start. Just before we were due to get on the coach to Bridlington, I was interviewed by John Humphreys on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, being broadcast from the Trent Building. Fortunately it was radio, I was in lycra.




When it came to the team pic, I asked Mr Humphreys if he would join us. Not only did he leave his producer and his headphones, but sportingly jumped on a bike for what was a great picture.

Then we were off, in the rain.

It was still raining when we arrived in Bridlington. So a wet start to the challenge for all. Our first task on day one was to get to York. I rode with Karen Cox and Nick Miles and we went via Driffield and Pocklington, through the Wolds. Despite the rain, it was a nice ride, for the most part on roads with little traffic, and therefore not too much surface water being washed up.

We were first in at the Travelodge on Hull Rd, where we were staying overnight. Everyone else was in by 1800. For those who were taking on a weekend ride for the first time, there was a sense of relief. It became evident through the evening that there was also a confidence boost.

I thought Saturday’s breakfast was available from 0700, and was all set to go, only to be told it was 0800. It was obvious that, with 31 cyclists there would be serious congestion at 0800, so Susan Anderson, Karen Cox, Nick Miles and I skipped breakfast, grabbed a banana and a couple of Hob Nobs and set off.

It was a good call, breakfast evidently took a while.

Conditions were good, dry and bright. Since were passing through the Ouse flood plain, it was flat. It is also a very scenic route, wide vistas, lovely villages, and even a wooden toll bridge (free for cyclists). We covered the 23 miles from York to Boroughbridge in pretty sharp time, before enjoying a breakfast in Café Chez Nous. Highly recommended. As we were leaving David Walker and Steve Davenport arrived.

From Boroughbridge to Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale, it is not flat. There are some really steep climbs. And despite the fact that I told new riders before we left Bridlington that ‘the Way of the Roses is so well signposted, it is almost impossible to get lost’, I now know it is possible. When we could see Harrogate on the horizon, we realized we had gone wrong.

Anyway, we recovered, found our way back and were first to land at Pateley Bridge. We decided to take a rest and some refreshment ahead of the famous climb up Greenhow. We paid a price for that. By the time we got on the hill, it was raining heavily.

This is a tough climb, about 4 miles and with a series of ramps of 15% to 20%. I got through the first couple then had to get off for some recovery time. We all got to the top in one way or another and regrouped for a fast descent into Burnsall, where we were staying at the Red Lion. All 31 riders and our Support Team of four (Gavin Scott, Paul Barrett, Ian Clifton and Louise Shaw) enjoyed a great evening.

The final day of Way of the Roses has a brutal start. You have no time to get warmed up before hitting a steep, narrow and winding climb. To avoid congestion on the first (of many) hills I set off before the pack with Karen, Nick, Chris, Susan and Kate. It was a good move and gave us the space to negotiate not only the first climb, but the many that followed all the way through to Settle, without worrying about traffic around us.

That said, we did run into a Sportiv at Airton which swarmed around us at various points, oblivious to everything but their own personal times. Fortunately they had gone their own way by the time we climbed to the descent to, then on, Settle Hill. The latter can be pretty scary, even with your brakes more or less fully engaged.

At Settle we picked up everyone else and enjoyed excellent sausage cobs at the Old Naked Man Café.

The remainder of the final day was split into two stretches. First, a wonderful rolling ride through the Forest of Bowland. This is my favourite stretch of Way of the Roses; very scenic, but with the joy of freewheeling up lots of hills. Then, after a lunch stop at Wray, a flat run mostly on a well surfaced cycle track all the way through to Morecambe.

Much to the disappointment of two of last year’s Student Union Officers (Elliott Denham and James Bramley) who skipped lunch at Wray to get a shot at glory, we were first in at Morecambe; a case of experience trumping youth – we knew a short cut!

We were in Morecambe by 1415, everyone was in safe, sound and happy by 1545. Then it was on the coach and back to Nottingham.

The 2017 Way of the Roses was a highly successful event. The mix of riders included experienced Life Cyclers alongside many for whom this was the biggest challenge they had taken on two wheels. The make-up was diverse, not only from across the University community, but also in the range of friends and partners involved, and all had ambitious fundraising targets. As always, even with a squad of 31 riders and our Support Team of four, the team gelled very quickly to ensure a shared endeavor was also an enjoyable experience.

Nottingham Life Cycle 7 is proving to be another successful series of events and activities, and thus far has raised £350,000 for the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre. That is tremendous, and we still have so much more to come to build on this.

A big thank you from me to the riders who took on Way of the Roses, and a big thank you to all who are supporting Nottingham Life Cycle 7, in whatever way.

Professor Sir David Greenaway


Posted in Life Cycle 7