Around some of the feed stops, yeah it can get v busy!! If you dont plan to stop at the initial ones, then better you get away early yes. Set off as quick as you can, as soon as posible, that will give you a better chance too
I did it last year and similar story that I wanted to shoot off and aim for a good time. But I started late at 6.50 and would definitely recommend going off earlier, especially if you’re going to be passing many people. The first real tester was Honister Pass and it was so crowded. IIRC there was a small bridge to cross before the road ramps up, which acted like a funnel - there really was no space and it forced me to unclip as the wall of riders in front virtually came to a stop because of all the zigzagging. Then I grumpily walked a little while because I couldn’t clip in and get going on those gradients.
There were a couple more occasions were the big number of riders on narrow and steep gradients ‘ruined’ it for me, at the time. In retrospect I should have just enjoyed the ride and the experience. Especially as I had totally underestimated Hardknott
I’ve done this two times now. I think its probably my favorite route, such great scenery if the sun comes out!. I headed off earlyish (6:30) last time as had to drive home after. Bit of a mixed blessing as didn’t have to wait for anyone, but on the flipside as I got round in a quickish time (6hr 20) it meant I spent a fair chunk of the ride on my own. Other tips would be don’t think too much about the hills in advance (they’re gonna come whether you like it or not - no point worrying about it - you see lots of faces of dread in the leadup to hardknott!). Also bit of a no brainer, but check your kit. First time I did it turned out my small chainring was completely worn, so had to do the whole ride in the big ring. This. Was. Not. Fun.
I grew up in the Lake District so know the area well. One thing that doesn’t get mentioned much is that most of the climbing on the Fred Whitton isn’t on the major “named” climbs. Look up the height gain on Strava for Kirkstone, Honister, et. al. and it adds up to about 40% of the total.
With the numbers that do the FW I think that unless you set off very early and are way out in front then you are always going to get bottlenecks of riders on the narrow parts of the route.
I have ridden the Whitton 5 times and will be doing my sixth in June.
I have generally started between 7;00 and 7:20 and haven’t experienced too much trouble with either walkers or slower rideres. I have put a link below to some go pro footage I took in 2017 (finished in 6:09). I started that year at 7:15 and was through the bulk of the field by whinlatter. Honister didnt seem too bad to me but looking at the footage i am threading through the crowd rather than keeping to the right hand side all the way up. If you give people notice which side you are passing most everyone holds their line. By the time I hit Hardknott it was empty but on the occasions I have taken it easy I haven’t been baulked or stopped by other riders.
You say that you want to whizz through the feeds. The Buttermere feed is chaos and the road is chocked outside but you will lose 20/30 seconds max picking your way through. The Calder Bridge feed can be bypassed entirley if wanted by riding round the car park rather than through it and if your’e on a good ride you will be there before the bulk of riders anyway. Personally I havent used the feeds since 2013 as I am local so have support out on the road. If you can get a friend to hand up bottles/food it will help.
I would say that the earlier you go the less full Fred experience you will get.
I’ve done the Fred 3 times but didn’t get a place this year.
I’ve always started around 7am and not struggled with traffic, even on the early narrow slopes at the beginning.
There have been some big crashes in the past so starting early makes it less likely that you’ll be held up by one of those. Last year I was waiting at the top of Honister for around 20 mins while someone was airlifted away. The first feed station wasn’t too busy but the 2nd one was rammed. I’d recommend carrying enough food for the entire ride and just grabbing water top ups and emergency food rations from the feed stations.
I’ve done it 3 times between 7h20 last year and couple in the 8.15-8.30. One of my favourite events but I just fond it seemed a bit too expensive this year.
Personally I’d go later around 7.15-7.30 there’s plenty of room to overtake until Honister and worst case you lose 30 seconds to a minute on the steepest bit (so long as you don’t need to put a foot down to avoid someone zigzagging). Leaving later you generally find you can join the rapid groups along Patterdale, the A66 and Borrowdale but behind the main wave of earlier starters on Honister (but then try to stop very breifly at Buttermere and get past the masses.
Agree with the above about it’s not just about the main climbs, cold feld is always the hardest bit of the route for me together with every single undulatation in Langdale
I did it last year. Awesome ride. Its a very nicely flowing course and if you can get in a good bunch you can really pick the miles off. I got lucky and hopped onto a group of about 30 riders for about 40 miles before I needed the loo and got dropped!
Kendal Cycling Club (in the blue kit) seem to take it very seriously so if you want a decent time you might want to consider trying to hang on with them.
This is why I’m building a bike with disc brakes and fatter tyres It’ll be my first Fred Whitton this year with my buddies. I’ve done a Coast 2 Coast through the Lakes (2017) and the Helvellyn Triathlon (2019), so I’ve done Honister pass once (failed, had to walk) and Kirkstone/The Struggle twice (failed once, nailed it the second time!) I’m a bit fitter these days and hopefully my decidedly average 3.something w/kg will get me around