Forty or so early-morning road miles during a lull in the stormy weather we’re having. Just over half-way round our loop, Windy Hill wasn’t all that windy for a change, but naturally we’re not going to tell anyone that. Besides, it’s a long drag with a couple of nasty kicks at the end by way of a sting in the tail, so even without a headwind you work to get up there. Booth Wood Reservoir was overflowing down the dam wall after the past few weeks’ rain, a spectacular sight as we wound our way up the opening ramp of the climb. The lights of the M62 diffusing through traffic-spray and reflecting in the water looked almost pretty as the dawn grew in the east.
From the reservoir onwards you can see the communications mast at the top of the hill, always seeming further away than you want it to be. I used to be scared by it as a young child for some unfathomable reason; I recall trying to hide from it in the car, and I must have driven my parents mad with my irrational fear every time we drove past this structure on the way to my grandparents’ house. I have no idea what it’s for, but it always seems to interfere with my phone if I’m near it. Very suspicious.
At the level of the dam the road flattens out and undulates along, tempting you to push faster and faster, but you should save something for the final section, ramping up progressively harder until the two final steps up and under the motorway junction. Beyond Oxygrains Old Bridge you start to climb again, and either side of the motorway the gradient gets more severe before finally levelling out at the summit. I gave it my best on the last section, but I was glad to finally see the lights of Rochdale and Manchester below me. I stopped just over the brow to wait for my mates, caught my breath and tried to look nonchalant, and a few minutes later we rolled down through the rain into Saddleworth, with only a handful more miles and one more hill to go.