For those of you who don’t know, The Buttress is a little cobbled road that winds out of the centre of Hebden Bridge towards Heptonstall. It’s only 400 yards long – that’s just under a quarter of a mile or around 365m – but it’s very steep, relentlessly so, and even has a handrail for pedestrians.The relatively new Up the Buttress challenge happens every year at the beginning of September, and entrants try their best to make it to the top.
Why on earth…?
No-one really knows why anyone would want to attempt this seemingly impossible feat;. It hurts. However, if you make it all the way and manage to beat the opposition, there are prizes for 1st and 2nd place in each category. There is a raffle with some brilliant prizes, including this year an Orange Clockwork bike, and your race number is your raffle ticket. All riders are cheered, laughed at, encouraged and or heckled for most of the way, and there are even some hand chalked inspirational quotes written on the cobbles on the way up, like ‘Go Big or Go Home…’
Hmmmm…got any tips?
Well the first 2o metres or so is the steepest, and takes you to the first obstacle, a drainage channel, or The Lip. There is much debate (usually on the bridge) about how best to tackle this section. Set off at top speed in a low gear from the bridge and you’ll end up doing a cartoon pedal spin on the slightly flat bit just before the first cobbles, made doubly embarrassing because it’ll happen right in front of the largest and most vocal crowd of spectators. On the other hand, leave the gear change for the steep bit too late and you’ll end up stalling before you get there. If you stand up to pedal you risk spinning your front wheel, but sit and you might risk the front wheel lifting. The Lip itself is a tricky one. Spectators know this is the most likely place for mishaps, so they will gather to shout helpful phrases, like, ‘Keep Going!’ but beware. The Lip is higher one side than the other, get it wrong and will seem like a superhuman effort to get over the extra couple of inches. Don’t let the presence of the crowd divert you!
Is that it then?
This is where the real pain starts. The next 300m are the true challenge. The gradient is less severe, but it feels endless. Riders at this stage are battling the beginnings of lactic acid build up, with increasingly heavy legs and that sharp pain in your throat and chest from heavy breathing and exertion. It’s at this point that the true fighters dig deep and try to get into some sort of rhythm. Spectators are thinner on the ground, mostly due to the effort walking that far up, and the voices that were unhelpfully cheerful at the bottom are exchanged for the voices in your head questioning your sanity. The final 50 metres is as psychological as much as physical. Your body’s had enough and the finish line suddenly becomes visible but still feels a long way off. Keeping a straight wheel becomes increasingly difficult and to compound the trauma there are now pedestrians walking faster than you. But you’ve made it…! Pretty much the same person you were when you set off at the bottom. You’re heart rate will, in a few hours time, probably return to normal. And just like childbirth, or so they say…you’ll soon forget, and be back next year to do it all again. Honestly.
Where do I go for this pain?
This year’s Up the Buttress is on Saturday 12th September. Register between 12 and 3 on the day. collect your race card, and wait your turn. If you haven’t bottled out by the time your number’s up, riding will take place between 1pm and 5pm. Afterwards, hand in your race card to be entered into the raffle, stick around to cheer and heckle others, grab a bite and a beer and wait for the prizes.
And don’t say we didn’t warn you.