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The Fred Whitton Challenge is a renowned cycling event that takes place in the Lake District, England every May. Lovingly delivered each year in memory of Fred Whitton, a well-respected member of the Lakes Road Club, this challenging ride covers some of the most picturesque and demanding terrain in the region.

 

What is the Fred Whitton Challenge?

 

The Fred Whitton Challenge is a 'non-competitive' sportive event that attracts cyclists from all over the world. Participants tackle a grueling 112-mile route that includes over 3950 meters of climbing, taking in iconic climbs such as Kirkstone, Whinlatter, Newlands, Honister, Wrynose and Hardknott Passes.

 

 

Why is it so popular?

 

The Fred Whitton Challenge has gained a reputation as one of the toughest sportive events in the UK, drawing cyclists who are looking for a true test of their abilities. The stunning scenery of the Lake District adds to the appeal, making it a bucket-list event for many riders.

 

When did you decide the Fred Whitton was on your 2024 calendar?

I’d never heard of the event prior to moving back to the UK from Switzerland. I started working in a bike shop and would hear people referring to ’The Fred’ in reverent tones, I guess from that point on it was inevitable I would want to do it.

 

What was the draw of the event for you?

 

After seeing the buzz around the 2023 event and feeling like I’d missed out, I signed right up. It’s probably worth mentioning that I’m a mountain biker and base jumper so this event was definitely straight in the deep end of a new sport for me.

 

What has your training looked like for 'The Fred'?


Being asked this question has made me realise that this is the first time I’ve trained for a specific event. I took it pretty seriously, keeping a training log, working on nutrition and obviously riding a lot. I focused on just training regularly and consistently rather than detailed workouts. I did my first couple of 100 mile rides to get a taste for the suffering that would ensue. Before tapering prior to the event I was doing some form of riding 4/5 times a week.

 


What was the biggest challenge, and why?


This is where the excuses come in…but seeing as you asked :-) I am stood up 8 hours a day at work and have been battling knee and shoulder pain from previous injuries, so training for this event has been an absolute struggle. Trying to motivate yourself to go ride up hills after work, in the Lake District winter when you’re already in pain is tough. I would have loved to have gone into the event feeling good but I felt broken before I started!

 


What was your favourite part/aspect?


I’ve always ridden solo, so being suddenly dropped into a chaotic moving mass of 2000+ cyclists and feeling like you're in the Tour de France peloton was definitely an experience. The route is incredible, at least what I saw in a few fleeting moments between scanning for potholes and double vision from getting rattled down descents. And lastly, the spectators and marshals were awesome, there was so much encouragement at every turn.


Best moment of the event for you?

 

Photo credit: Steve Fleming

 


Hardknott Pass was certainly a highlight. So many people (totally reasonably) were pushing their bikes at that point and it felt good to be grinding up there still on the bike. Admittedly I took a strategic dab to make sure I got a clean run on a couple of the climbs but I rode everything and am happy with that.

 

 

How to Fuel The Fred Whitton - What did you eat to hit your strategy?



I think one thing that went really well was fuelling.  I set off with two 750ml bottles, one with Hydrate Smart Formula and one with Fusion Fuel. The only stop was a quick bottle swap at Whinlatter (thanks Laura Lasmane!) for the same again plus a banana and a couple of cheese and onion rolls. I pre-segmented a variety of Pocket Rocket and Powr bars into a top-tube bag and continually grazed throughout the race. Not sure exactly how many I got through but probably an average of about 1 bar (45g carbs) an hour. I had a big bowl of granola, a coffee and a banana for breakfast to fuel up before hand. Being vegetarian, I have to make sure I get plenty of protein, so in training and post race I was using Rapid Recovery Shake and RecoverFudge.

 


Top 3 important pieces for a sportive? 



I nearly bought a new bike for this event but decided to stick with my trusty aluminium 11 speed BMC from Switzerland. I gave it some love with an ultimate service at Wheelbase and some new Continental GrandPrix 5000 tyres. The old gal didn’t let me down, (even when I hit a pothole with the front wheel flat-out) and the gearing was perfect.

 

Maybe less so during the actual event, but definitely during training my Shokz bone conduction headphones were a good buy. I can hear traffic coming while taking my mind off the suffering with a podcast or music.

 

The Rosti kit VOOM kindly donated to me was awesome too…but I did feel a bit of imposter syndrome having such nice kit as a total beginner.

 


Top 3 tips for someone else looking at taking on Fred Whitton?


1) Do it. 

2) Strength training. In retrospect I wish I had done more strength training as well as on the bike training.

3) Take days off work before and after!

 


What’s next? Upcoming events, challenges and trips?

 

I turned 40 this year and am consciously trying to book as much into the calendar as possible to prove to myself I’m not over the hill just yet. I recently returned from an epic BASE jumping expedition in Algeria where we opened some new exits. I’ll be racing the Ardrock enduro event in summer and am heading to Les Gets soon for some downhill riding. I have one big challenge I really hope to get done this year, but I’ll keep that quiet for now. And unfortunately, I was nowhere close to the time I set myself for the Fred so there is unfinished business there too!



 

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