Cragg Vale

Distance: 8419 metres, Ascent: 300 metres, route map

Every weekend you will see groups of cyclists working their way up this hill. They come from miles around to have a go partly because hey, it’s the longest hill in England, partly because it was on the route of the Tour de France 2014 and partly because it’s a great ride. And with five solid miles of continuous climbing ending up with an exposed grind into a strong headwind, what’s not to like?

That prevailing wind means that if you’re looking for a fast time then you’ll need to pick your moment. Get a rare tailwind though and you could get a flier.

Once you’ve found the start, the route itself couldn’t be simpler. Find your way to Mytholmroyd (did I mention it’s the home of the World Dock Pudding Championship?) and leave the A646 onto the B6138 south. Head under a railway bridge, past the Shoulder of Mutton pub, over a bridge and look for a pale blue traffic sign on the left which marks the start of the climb. There is also a white line painted across the left-hand half of the carriageway and some useful information.

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The writing on the road tells you all you need to know – you follow the tarmac for 8.38 kilometres to the finish and you’re done. The ride starts off so flat you’d be forgiven for wondering if it is a hill at all but the climbing proper starts as soon as you leave Mytholmroyd behind you and cross Dauber Bridge.

In case you hadn’t heard it’s the longest continuous incline in England and that means that, even with nearly a thousand feet of up, the climbing is sufficiently spread out that it’s never more than a steady ride. On the Tour de France route it didn’t even qualify as a “Côte”. Obviously, it’s a little tougher if you’re towing a grand piano behind your bike but I can’t imagine that anyone would be daft enough to try a stunt like that.

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What it does mean is that you can really enjoy the ride. Cragg Vale is attractively wooded in its lower stages, getting steepest as the buildings and woodland finish and the moorlands start. You’ll be spotting all the kilometre signs on the tarmac as you progress and while there’s still some distance to go once you’re out on the tops there isn’t much ascent left. In fact the road gets so flat in places you might even wonder if this continuous ascent doesn’t have some slight downwards slopes. Banish such heresy from your mind, stamp down on those pedals and motor on to the finish line – another white line across the road just short of Blackstone Edge reservoir.

Keep going to the junction if you fancy some refreshment as there’s usually an ice-cream van thereabouts. Or, if you’ve done a time you’re proud of, you might want to cycle back down into Cragg Vale and seek out the cycle-friendly Robin Hood pub where they have an informal hall of fame – and a fine selection of beers.

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