|Kendal, the Auld Grey Town (© Ally McGurk, CC2.0)|
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Stage 2 is a considerably shorter ride than Stage 1 at 137.7km, but with a Category 2 climb in the first 10km it should have all but the fittest climbers feeling the burn early on. There are a pair of Cat 3s later on in the race, but a relatively flat section in between will allow the pack a chance to catch up, putting the pressure on the climbers in an effort to redress the balance and ensuring that everyone will be glad to see the finish line. However, since the finish line is marked by Blackpool's 158m tower, they're going to be able to see it while they still have a long way to go - and that saps will like nothing else when your legs are hurting and you've had enough; especially in the horrible weather predicted for today. As Geraint Thomas says, "May not be the strongest that wins today, simply the last man upright and pedalling. Can't wait!!"
|Scafell Pike (© Ann Bowker)|
In former times, Kendal was known as Kirkby Kendal - meaning a village with a church in the Kent Valley and derived from the ancient name Cherchbi, as recorded in the Domesday Book. Its nickname is derived from the grey limestone used to construct many of the buildings in the town. Today, it relies on tourism and IT as the basis of its economy, but in times past it was a centre of cloth manufacture - some manufacturing industry remains, including a pipe tobacco facility, a firm producing turbines and a baby food canning plant operated by the multinational Heinz company. The race begins, as ever, with a neutral zone; which today starts at approximately 10:30 in Abbot Hall Park and heads south along Dowker's Lane before two right turns lead onto the A6 Highgate. This carries the peloton north as far as Stricklandgate, where the riders turn right again onto Blackhall Road and over the bridge for Sandes Avenue and Station Road, following the bend and going straight ahead onto the A685 Appleby Road. After 4.2km, the neutral zone ends at Stocks Farm and the race proper gets underway (54°20'53.35"N 2°42'40.39"W).
|Grayrigg (© Alexander P Kapp CC2.0)|
|Low Gill Viaduct (© David Ashcroft, CC2.0)|
|Ingmire Hall (© Keith Wright, CC2.0)|
The peloton arrives at Sedbergh after 18.6km (54°19'22.80"N 2°31'51.69"W), meaning that it is now in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. For many years, Sedbergh's economy has been based largely on its famous boarding school established in 1525 - however, the school was an addition to an already-established town rather than the town growing up around the school, as is made plain by the existence of a Saxon motte-and-bailey castle, the 12th Century parish church and a house dating to the 14th Century. It has also become known as a "book town," the six large independent bookshops and several book dealers bringing further income (and very pleasant employment opportunities) to the community. The stage's first intermediate sprint begins just before the town by a sign for Fairfield Mill (54°19'13.96"N 2°32'40.35"W). The route then takes a very tight right corner to join the A683 (Station Road). The road narrows in some sections before following the banks of the river for 100m and coming to a medium left - potential slurry again, being adjacent to a farm - 0.4km later. 0.55 from the corner is another narrow bridge over the River Lune. The bridge's exit, a slight right under overhanging trees, is also potentially hazardous due to slippery leaves, thorns etc. There is a Roman milestone, a pillar carved with Latin inscriptions, around 1.89km south of the bridge.
|Easter Grotto, Ease Gill Caves|
|Ruskin's View (CC3.0)|
Having turned left onto the much wider road, the peloton round a sweeping right bend and come to a junction and tight right turn leading back onto the A683, immediately crossing the border into Lancashire - in fact, there are sufficient points of reference here that with careful use of a GPS device or good old-fashioned map reading skill, it should be possible to locate a point here where a person would be in Lancashire, Cumbria and North Yorkshire simultaneously.
|Thurland Castle (© Karl and Ali CC2.0)|
|Wennington School (© J Scott CC2.0)|
Though a tiny rural village, Wray has three claims to fame: first, it has an advanced wireless broadband network offering not only internet but also high-definition television, maintained by Lancashire University; second, it's the Scarecrow capital of England; third, it hosts the not-quite-world-famous Annual Maggot Races. You know it's got to be a great place to live.
|Hornby Castle (CC2.0)|
|Artle Beck (© Karl and Ali CC2.0)|
|Strickens Lane - if you're following the route, pay close|
attention to your map through the Quernmore-Whittingham
section: there are several corners and junctions and the all
look much the same as this one! (© Tom Richardson CC2.0)
A short way ahead, the road bends sharply left as a smaller road joins from the right, continuing on through Barnacre and past a turning onto Sullom Side Lane before becoming Sandholm Lane after 81.7km. At what appears to be a 90 degree right bend 0.52km later, the race continues straight ahead to remain on Sandholm Lane (following the apparent bend leads onto Ray Lane), past a farm on the right and onward to another crossroads. Turn left to remain on Smithy Lane, arriving presently at a junction with a potentially slippery left turn under overhanging trees onto Lodge Road running parallel to the M6 motorway and passing through some thick copses to a junction where left carries the race onto Ducketts Lane.
|Inglewhite (© Chris Shaw CC2.0)|
Passing straight through on Inglewhite Road, the peloton arrive at a crossroads while still in the village, travelling straight across and on towards a junction where a road joins from the right. The route goes straight ahead again here and a short way ahead when joined from the same direction by another road, arriving soon at a crossroads where Mill Lane and Syke House Lane join from right and left. They pass straight through once again and arrive at a 90 degree tight right 0.75km later, opposite a farm; travelling through an industrial site a short way ahead - as ever, potential for hazardous diesel spillages. Another crossroads marks the passing of Horns Lane, then a medium 90 degree left 0.37km ahead leads into a much wider right and a medium 90 degree right 0.61km later.
|There are many Dun Cow legends in Britain. Most probably|
recount fanciful tales of the extinct aurochs, wild cows
far larger and fiercer than the domesticated variety
|Whittingham Hospital - once the largest mental asylum|
in Great Britain (CC2.0)
|Chingle Hall, scene of much spookiness|
As would be expected, locals tell of all sorts of unearthly goings-on taking place in the hospital buildings at night. Just west of the village, 14th Century Chingle Hall, said to be the most haunted place in Lancashire. Tapping noises are supposedly heard coming from the known priest holes; regular claims that ghostly figures have been seen gliding around the house and grounds, including various monks around the hallway and stairs; a poltergeist is blamed for moving things around in the kitchen and orbs, mysterious lights, disembodied voices and other similar stuff is recorded whenever anyone gets permission from the house's owner to carry out an investigation (it's funny how ghost hunters never leave a property saying, "Nope, didn't find a thing," isn't it?)
|Goosnargh. Looks normal, doesn't it? Ooooh no. It was|
designed by Stephen King and Hieronymous Bosch. When
they were both on LSD. (© David Metcalfe CC2.0)
Oh, and as if giant cows, haunted houses and derelict mental asylums aren't enough weirdness for one rural English village, the parish was home between 1962 and 1991 to the UK Warning and Monitoring System which left a huge, then top-secret, nuclear bunker lying derelict many metres underground; a facility that would have been the Northern Britain Command Centre had the Cold War ever developed into an atomic war.
|Mid-18th Century milestone in Broughton.|
The symbol on top reveals it to be a point
where Ordnance Surveyors have
measured altitude above sea level
(© Trish Steel CC2.0)
A bridge carries the road over the railway, then it arrives at Woodplumpton after 107.1km, missing the larger part of the village as it skirts around the northern side by continuing along the B5269. Local weirdness reappears here, because the village churchyard includes the grave of one Meg Shelton - otherwise known as "The Fylde Hag." Said to have had the ability to change into animal shape at will, she was apparently buried vertically with head pointing downwards and her grave covered by a heavy boulder after she refused to stay in it! She could also transform inanimate objects into apparently living creatures, as when she turned a bucket into a goose to disguise the fact that she was stealing milk - the farmer only caught her out when he saw milk dripping from the goose's beak and kicked it, at which point it turned back into a bucket.
After turning right at a T-junction near the village, the peloton come to a wide left bend followed by a narrow bridge over the Lancaster Ship Canal 0.16km later. The first 0.94km of the road into Inskip is straight, but there are several difficult bends and corners in the remaining stretch. The first is a medium right/left Z-bend at the junction with School Lane, followed by a medium-tight 90 degree left corner near a farm 0.22km - this one being made potentially more hazardous by overhanging trees. A tighter 90 degree right lies 0.1km ahead, leading into a 0.4km straight, then a medium left and a medium 90 degree right 77m later. Another medium left 0.27km further along leads to a 0.35km straight, then a medium right. All of these corners are made more hazardous due to their location on arable land, making diesel spills and slurry a possibility. The remaining road into Inskip is straightforward with one simple bend right before the village.
|Inskip radio masts, now disused (© Keith Wright CC2.0)|
|Poulton-le-Fylde market square. The stone "bench" is in|
fact a fish slab, from which fresh fish was sold and the ball-
topped stone pillar is a whipping post, to which petty
criminals were tied before being lashed. Just out of shot
are the stocks (© Alexander P Kapp CC2.0)
|No.712, a double-decker tram at Blackpool|
|The Miners' Home (© Tom Richardson CC2.0)|
The tramlines run along their own fenced-off strip parallel to the road here, meaning they no longer pose any danger as the race arrives at North Pier and enters the famous Golden Mile - actually seven miles (11.27km) - and Britain's first seaside resort, having grown up to provide for the needs first for the wealthy and fashionable socialites of the 18th Century who came here to "take the cure" and, later, for the vast numbers of workers who flocked here from the industrial towns and mills of North-Eastern England in the latter part of the 19th Century. From here, it's a final flat, straight, high-speed sprint over 300m to the finish line at the Tower (53°48'56.98"N 3° 3'21.40"W).
|Blackpool Tower (© Steve F CC2.0)|
Predictions: Well, we did fancy Jens Voigt for this stage - it looks like the sort of parcours that can be won by attacking hard all the way, and that's what Jens does best. However, as we all know, bad fortune struck LeopardTrek once again in Stage 1 and Jens was forced to abandon. Mark Cavendish was always going to be a favourite today - the course is reasonably flat for much of its length and end with a flat, straight sprint that suits the HTC-Highroad lead-out down to the ground. But, Cav has a very powerful enemy for today - Nature. With Hurricane Katia showing off out in the Atlantic, north and west Britain is being battered by strong winds. Heading up to the finish line, these are going to form blasting crosswinds smashing into the race from the right. That's enough to mess up even the most well-rehearsed tactics.
Weather: This is the Lake District. How do you think all those deep glacial valleys became full of water? The region has some of the highest average rainfall anywhere in Europe - it's looking at present like the wide band of rain expected to cross the region early in the morning will be followed by a dry period, but accurate forecasting in this part of the world is difficult even without a hurricane complicating matters. Temperatures will rise no higher than 17C and should fall no lower than 14C - but with the wind (and rain, if it does), it'll feel much colder. The wind is likely to cause problems - while there is no Met Office weather warning for the area currently, there's an official Yellow Alert (risk of disruption to transport and the possibility of damage to trees and stuctures) in place for NW England for the entire of Monday.
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