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Festive food frolics…

| Blog, Cycling Plus, Features | 17/12/2012 18:12pm

Arable farmland now dominates as we ride into the flatness of the Vale of Belvoir and turn back towards Leicestershire. We could add to our Christmas dinner as we pass fields full of potatoes, carrots and parsnips. One vegetable is notable by its absence though – try as I might, I can’t locate a single brussels sprout – my kids won’t be complaining! Laurel and Hardy once spent Christmas in the village of Bottesford, but we don’t hang about as the unpromising forecast finally comes to fruition and the heavens open. After a somewhat hairy crossing of the A52, we head back towards the Belvoir ridge, the turrets of the castle reappearing through the gloom. Here, a number of narrow, steep roads make their way up and down the escarpment, providing an opportunity to string together a succession of testing climbs.

First up is Terrace Hill – the only local road to make it into Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, it soon has us breathing hard and clicking down through the gears, as we battle the gradient and the wet tarmac. A thrilling descent into Stathern, sees us back in the Vale, before embarking on the next climb in the series. Harby Hill provided one of the biggest tests in the recent British Time Trial Championships, won by Alex Dowsett and Wendy Houvenaghel. I’m guessing their pre-ride nutrition was a little more scientific than ours – that Lincolnshire sausage is sitting a bit heavy as we struggle up the steep final section in what is now filthy weather.

Progressing further along the ridge, another plummet brings us to Long Clawson, for the last of our Christmas essentials. Like Melton Pork Pies, Stilton is protected by the EU, with only five dairies in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire able to produce “the King of English Cheese”. The Long Clawson dairy has a fridge full of their finest for us to sample. It might have been the hills, it might have been the weather, but somehow the pungent, blue-veined cheese seems like a snack too far – I settle for a takeaway portion.

Erm, say cheese… (© Tom Simpson)

With the previous crosswind now in our faces and bringing horizontal rain, we don’t regret skipping the cheese course as the final climb of the series rears up before us. Reaching Holwell, another narrow lane brings us to a surprisingly wild stretch of moorland, populated only by sheep and rabbits, before we drop back into the civilisation of Melton for a warming cuppa and an unsavoury, yet appropriately seasonal mince pie or two.

And what of that handy and transportable cycling snack? Can a pocket-sized pork pie survive a 76 mile ride in all conditions? Unfortunately not in my jersey pocket – I got a bit peckish in the Vale of Belvoir.

Andy needed big pockets for this beauty (© Tom Simpson)

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