Monthly Archives: April 2012
I’d checked out the weather report for the weekend, and Sunday was looking a tad windy, Saturday dry and sunny, so my plan was to get a decent ride done then rather than playing with the wind on Sunday. This also worked out better with my non-cycling activities, as I was playing catch up with folk I’d not seen in a while on Saturday night/ Sunday. I’d met Mark M for a few drinks at the Stand comedy club on Friday night, and he and his pal Mark D were up for “a few hours” on the bike on Saturday morning. The plan was set – meet at the corner of Byres Rd and Queen Margaret Drive at around 9.30 and we’d hit the road for a few hours.
Saturday morning came, and a text from Mark M that he “wasn’t going to be any use ’til midday”. I replied I’d head out anyway to meet Mark D, then got a follow up that as he was now up (turns out another friend had phoned with good news, so any chance of him getting back to sleep went out the window) so he may as well come out. I arrived at the rendezvous round about the 9.30 mark, but no sign of either Mark. No worries, it was a bit chilly, but the sun was out, so I just kicked back and watched the traffic go by, checking out the occasional passing bike and roof-down convertible (the sun is out, get that roof down!). Mark M phoned soon after, “give me 10 minutes”, but no sign/ call from Mark D. So it turned out to be a 2 man outing, and Mark unsure of a throat/ chest infection brewing, we decided on a 40-50-ish miler. We set off up Great Western Road, through Annniesland and made our way on to Dumbarton, through Renton and on to Balloch, taking it easy and chatting as we turned the cranks. As we left Balloch, we turned on to proper country roads, not the smooth tarmac of our week in Majorca, but a mix of reasonable condition surface with the occasional pothole or two to keep us on our toes.
A minor ‘bump’ of 80m or so lead in to a few miles of quiet rolling roads, for the most part allowing us to cycle side by side and keep the conversation going, occasionally switching to single file when any vehicles (or a couple of horses) came into view.
Eventually we passed through Croftamie, and a sort of proper climb began, 180m or so over the next few miles of hilly road, which Mark intended to use for some speed work – standing up on the pedals and working hard to put in a burst of effort up each rise, back on the saddle as it levelled out (or if we were lucky, a short downhill). For the most part, I worked to keep up, but on some of the longer sections, I was left behind, catching up as Mark eased off.
A solid workout, rewarded with a short break at the Carbeth Inn for a coffee/hot chocolate and the chance to get some warmth back in the fingers. We stayed long enough to finish our drinks, then got back on the bikes for a nice roll down the hill to Bearsden, nipping through the woods between Maryhill and the Switchback roads. A few short miles through some of my old running routes from when I was a West End dweller and we were at the Botanics, where we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes.
A solid ride, not a particularly great average, but a good mix of easy cycling and speedwork done. As it was a bit shy of my planned mileage for the weekend, I did a wee cheeky 20 on Sunday to top things up, having missed out on a Duke’s run with Gio and Bryan as I was staying overnight with friends.
Definitely ready for the Drumlanrig Tearfund Challenge sportive next weekend, though I’m planning an extra 80-ish miles either side of that to mix a visit to my Mum’s (near Castle Douglas) with the sportive.
The French Riviera, a place I first visited over 20 years ago during an Inter-railing holiday with John. After spending most of our 3 weeks in a 2 man tent in camp-sites on the edge of major cities we hit some accommodation good fortune. Luckily for us, but perhaps not for the family, Carol (John’s girlfriend now wife) was working as an au-pair in Eze, a hilltop town just along the road from Nice. The family kindly let John and I stay for a couple of days and we experienced a different side of life. Real food, not just rottisseire chicken that we have been surviving on up until that point and having a private swimming pool at our disposal. That was the life. The downside to this was of course, me becoming a goosberry. I had met Stephanie (my girfriend and future wife) earlier that year and we hadn’t spend much time apart. Before, we left for interailing Stephanie had been in Egypt for 3 weeks and apart from a brief passing moment in London as our holidays overlapped we were going to be apart for 6 weeks. So, at night I would retreat with my Sony Walkman and the mix tape Stephanie had given me but I could never get passed track 3 Spandau Ballet’s ‘Through the Barricades’…..
You might ask, what has this got to do with cycling? Well, I am back in Nice this week on a holiday and with most plans these days, there has got to be some sort of cycling interest in there. With my optimism around Lejog varying from day to day, a week of eating pizza and baguettes was never going to increase that significantly so a cycle was put into the mix to keep the fitness up. The Nice area is quite popular with professional cyclists due to the favourable climate and the access to some great mountains as Nice is at the end of the Maritime-Alpes. This was where Lance Armstrong made his winter base for a number of years and specifically tested himself on a mountain by the name of the ‘Col de Madone’. He felt this mountain gave him a good test and he was always knew where he stood in terms of fitness by how he performed there. 32 minutes was his record. This mountain also became the name of TREK manufactures who sponsor Lance Armstrong range of road bikes.
With this is mind I organised a trip and bike hire with a local company specializing in tours of the area, all booked through the internet and e-mail. http://www.cyclecotedazur.com/ The company is run by a former Commonwealth games cyclist and since I didn’t know the area it would keep me from getting lost. This would also keep Stephanie happy as my last cycle trip abroad I decided to go up a different mountain at the last minute and didnt tell anyone!
With my big ride not due until the Wednesday I thought it might be wise to get the legs moving before tempting out to the mountains. This however, proved to be probably the most brutal ride I have undertaken this year. With a bike duly rented from the local beach front store and extra seat duly attached I set out along the Promenade D’Anglais, the famous sea side walkway.
What I had not reckoned on was the gale force winds that were buffeting the coast which was making a struggle to move in my 7 speed dream machine.In the easiest gear, I was barely moving and was glad my Garmin was not attached, reporting a 5 mph average would not have done my street cred much good. A couple of miles up the coast and enough was enough, not sure the wee man was really enjoying it and I certainly wasnt and decision to turn round was taken. What a difference, without barely a turn of the pedal I was getting blown back along at a fair old pace.
On the way back we decided to hire a car a do a further recce but only ended in getting more lost in Nice’s one way system and going round in circles.
With my ride day quickly approaching, it was time to pick up my hire bike. It was a 10 minute walk from the apartment further into Nice, a new area for me, I am guessing where the professional people stay, judging by the Marks and Spencer’s express style MONOP shop and fancy coffee shops that abounded. I reached my pick up point and met who was going to be my guide for the trip, Mike. Mike who is Australian, currently over for the wedding of the owner of the tour company and spending some covering while the owner was on honeymoon. With the pleasantries out the way, my bike for the day was wheeled. A custom built ‘ Harry Hall’ carbon bike with top of the range Shimano ‘Dura Ace’ groupset, things are looking good. I hadn’t heard of this particular make but research later showed this to be a make of great repute. I then enquired about the gears on the bike, and was told it was a double set up. For those without knowledge (me included), the double means having 2 chain rings(the part where the pedals attach) with sizes of 53 and 39 (the number refers to the number of teeth) respectively, the bigger the number the harder it is to push but potentially faster. Given this was to be a hilly ride this was not the best news. What about at the back I ask? That’s a 25/12 I am told, the bigger number on the back makes it easier, 25 was not that big a number. At home I have a 50/34 on the front and a newly installed 28/12 on the back, giving me about 4 easier gears than I was getting on this ride and given I am famous for always keeping my easiest gear in reserve ‘just in case’ this was a worry. However, I smile manfully and say ‘sounds great’ and continued with the bike set up. Mike did a great job of setting me up after I advised him of some calf problems I was having and off I rode home into night. The bike felt great on the 5 minute journey and what was the point of worrying, it wouldnt do the legs any harm to work a bit harder. Although, John’s text after I told him about the bike set up was not exactly encouraging ‘ Enjoy the walk’ he said!
With my kit and food all duly laid out, I retire to bed but instead of going to sleep watch 3 episodes of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ with Stephanie, the adventures of an outlaw biker gang in California, top rated holiday entertainment. I am excited about the ride tomorrow and struggle to sleep but eventually dropped off.
With trip day finally here I was up and atom early and had my porridge and berries and was ready to go. It was 08:15 as I rolled out the door into the streets of Nice and my meeting point on the Promenade d’Anglais. Mike was there to meet me and also there was Daniel, a Columbian student studying in Nice who was going to be doing some guiding during his summer recess. A couple of photographs later and we were off.
The route today was going to be 2 major climbs. The Col de Eze (0 to 600m) back down to the sea and then the aforementioned Col de Madone (0 to 950m). We started slowly on the cycle path avoiding the traffic lights on the road proper, firstly round to the port where we join the road , less than a mile from the start and then we start climbing. I am already in the easiest gear , maybe it’s the good bike or the warm weather but it doesn’t feel too bad. The route planned takes in a road called the Grand Corniche and climbs up and along the coast. There are fantastic views as we climb and then look down on the sparkling blue water.
Mike was doing a good job on keeping a good but not blistering pace. I am known for knocking myself out early and leaving nothing for the end plus I am holiday and it’s nice to sometimes smell the roses along the way. We reach Eze and I look down on the village to try and recall where the house was I stayed but nothing is coming to mind and then we turn a corner and we can see the snow capped mountains of the Alps in the distance. Then it’s time to come down, a super long descent to the town of Menton, it’s a beautiful sweeping road and any car drivers are being patient as we speed along. Soon enough, we are in Menton and the real fun is about to begin.
We take a left turn off the main road, and immediately we begin climbing. It’s a bit different from the alpine (ski type) climbs I have done as the scenery at this point is a bit more industrial/residential. Fences abound at the side of the road and the grasses and ground are dried and rutted rather than rich from the snow run off.
The road however is definitely a different beast from the Col De Eze, I am standing more often as the turns are sharper. The distance to the summit is 10km. The town of St Agnes sits half way up hidden behind a rock and that is the immediate target. My heart rate isn’t too high, about 160 when some climbs have brought it as high as 180. The views back to sea are still fantastic though and also some of the houses that we pass. Infinity pools seem to be popular, cant see them taking off in Burnside though. We pass our first group of cyclists, only 1 road bike in there but an overtakes is an overtake so I am happy. As the we come into St Agnes we hear the sound of play time at the local school.
A brief (less than a minute) stop ensues and a quick photograph ens. The road then starts to change at this point, it gets a lot thinner and the surface is markedly poorer, also there is a lot of rock fall from the side of the road to watch for.
But the other side of the coin is that it is also slightly easier and at points I have moved out of the easiest gear. We go through a few tunnels and any car coming down give a few toots to warn you of their arrival, not that this is a busy road, it’s mainly cyclists. We reach the top and it;s definitely not the horror show I thought it might be, did I do it in 30 minutes like Lance Armstrong? Not quite, but that’s not the point. We pause for a few minutes at the top and take in the views, the sea one side, the snow capped mountains the other way. The sign denoting the top of the mountain has been stolen but you can see the posts where it stood.
Then we are off again, swooping down the hillside. The road is better this side of the mountain but you still have to be careful. It would not be wise to go off the side, there is also a few hairpin turns to undertake which takes the speed down. We soon get onto a bigger road and I indicate to Mike that my legs are feeling reasonably fresh and he can put the boot down if he wants. The next bit although downhill is not greatly so and wind is starting to freshen. We are haring along and I tend to lose a bit of momentum on the corners and need to learn to keep pedalling but it’s still a fair old pace. We have a quick coffee stop in La Turbie and then we are off again, a slight incline to get us started and then the coastal road again for a bit. The wind is definetely up and it;s feeling a wee bit like hard work but it doesnt last and then we are on some steep stuff again. We go a different route back into Nice, round the back way and I manage to hit 42 mph on a clear bit of road, then quickly we are back into civilizaion. The pace slows as we dodge through trams, one way streets and traffic lights which takes us back to the sea where we started. I thank Mike and Daniel, they have been good company and clearly good cyclists although not sure they would last the pace in Scotland. Mike still had his winter gear on and Daniel has shaved his legs!! Back at the apartment I downloaded the Garmin and looked at what I had done. Nice!
As these things go, once you have done something once, you want to do it again. So utilising the course feature of the Garmin I headed out again at 0630 the next day for a near non stop trip. This time there was no stopping on the way up the Col de Madone. Couple of hairy moments on the way back down as I locked the brakes to avoiding hitting cars slowing down in front of me but apart from that just the same great views but not the same great conversations. The Garmin output seemed a bit strange though but I had a slightly faster moving average which was good.
“Dad, I read your blog. It’s boring”.
Thanks to my dear eldest daughter, who is an avid reader – just not of my material.
Anyway, not going to get less boring as I sandwich in between the Majorca exploits of the “kneesome threesome” and the Maritime Alps of young Turbine – plenty of pictures please Tubs.
For the Sunday ride from a couple of weeks ago, Turbine suggested focusing on the upcoming Etape Caledonia. The plan was to go over the well known route of the Duke’s Pass, sticking tightly together as a foursome sharing the workload at the front equally, having no stops over the 75 mile route and obtaining an 18 mph average.
A good shout from Tubby who was feeling good in body and mind, clearly, after a couple of very promising rides in the past couple of weeks.
The upshot? Tubs was feeling it on the Duke’s Pass – a worrying sign. After a bit, he decided to sit on the back – too much too soon last week? By Kippen he was well out the back door, and a decision had to be made. Stop and wait or push on over the Crow road and homewards trying for the 18 average. Considering the group consisted on myself, Sammy and Gio the decision will be no surprise – “he knows the way home” said Sam, and on we pushed as a trio (the Majorca boys would all have waited it must be recognised).
We fair belted on and Gio was beginning to go backwards up the final little hill at Torrance – always a nice feeling to crest any hill in front of the mountain goat – big Sam was clearly invigorated and powering on. However, we waited on him and duly returned to the clubhouse with an average of 18.1 mph. Mission accomplished (almost). Tubs rolled in 10 minutes later. Today was not his day – it happens. He’ll be back bigger and stronger next time.
So. Can we break 4 hours for the 81 miles of the Etape (requiring a 20 + mph average)? Time will tell, but with the big chain gangs to be found in this route, we’ve got a chance.
Friday. Sunny + windy. Our last day. David slightly overdid the sauce last night, so solo breakfast for me. Pottered around the apartment for a few hours giving him chance to get some extra kip, then went out for a short ride around town and to nearby Alcanada (11 miles round trip) on my own to return for lunch, David assuring me he’d be ready to roll after some grub.
Food down the hatch and we headed off to Petra as a known 25-ish miles away, planning to loop back on the same sort of route as Tuesday, but skipping the hill to the monastery giving us roughly 50 miles. First stage to Petra went without incident, almost caught the back of a large group, but they turned off not much further on.
Made good time to Petra, stopped in the square for coffee/ coke/fanta and cakes, and a bonus – free orange segments. More points to this cafe over Tuesdays effort, service was quicker too.
We headed off to Sineu, straight into the wind, so heads down and turn about on the front until we turned northwards, escaping the worst of the wind for a downhill stretch into Lubi, picking up some easy fast miles, continuing on to Sa Pobla. Got a bit confused as to the route at this point, so just told my Garmin to take us home, which it duly did, but it decided the best route was via Pollenca. Not ideal, as we were getting close to 6pm and had to have the rental bikes back by 7. Some fast miles, and a decent back road from Pollenca to Aldudia and we got home around 6.30, David sticking in his top gear for the last 30 miles as ‘its good training’. A quick jog up to the flat to get our trainers and the paperwork for the bikes then a mad dash to the rental place to hand the bikes in. Free socks for handing back our inner tubes intact, we headed home, a fine week of cycling and a solid intention of coming back next year, just maybe not to stay at the Bellevue.
57 miles, 16.7mph average, not bad for weeklong tired legs.
Thursday. Mark up and at ’em early to get his flight home, though we had a bit of a late night to celebrate the end of his cycling for the week. As a consequence of slight over indulgence by yours truly (large whiskies were bigger than I thought), had a ‘rest day’. Convincing myself its justified, allowing my knee a bit more time to sort itself out. David’s knee still not right either, though he went out for a gentle few miles around the town. We’ve got an easy 50 planned for Friday which should round off the week well, before flying home on Saturday.
Wednesday. Cloudy, but warm. We slept in. None of us were paying attention to the time, until Mark (or was it David?) realised it was 10.28, breakfast stops at 10.30, so it was a mad scramble down to the buffet breakfast hoping we could grab some calories before they put everything away. We just made it in time to grab a plate or two of grub and a few drinks of juice, rather than our more usual grazing leisurely over whatever fare grabbed our fancy.
By the time we’d got our act together, we didn’t get on the road until nearly midday. Ah well, the big 100 was probably not on, so we decided to do the Orient, a smallish climb of around 600m, about 30 miles or so south-west of us. We headed out along the “marsh road”, so named for the long marsh grasses growing along it, to Sa Pobla, wind in our face, so turn-about in the train to share the effort. From Sa Pobla we wound our way south, hitting a main road for a few miles before turning off on to a smaller ‘bike’ road – primarily used by tourist cyclists, but with the occasional car or van passing us by. A few miles along, the sun was breaking through, so we stopped for a quick photo opportunity, then pressed on to Santa Maria del Carni, almost all the journey on the cycle road.
We stopped for a quick bite in a roadside cafe, then headed out of town towards Bunyola, and up the Orient climb itself. The three of us climbed steadily, with two other cyclists in sight ahead of us.
As the slope eased off, we upped our pace before a sharp left and the climb continued. Mark started to pull ahead, soon overhauling the two riders in front, David and myself were also steadily reeling them in, and took the first then the second rider shortly after, passing a quick hello as we went by. We hit the summit a short while later, surprised that we’d completed the climb already. A short stop for a few photos, then we were on our way downhill.
My left knee pain decided to make an unwelcome return, stiffening up on the downward section, but with 40+ miles to go, no choice but to ride on. We were soon on the flat, then hit a small climb to the actual village of Orient, then into a long descent bypassing Alaro and in to Lloseta. A minor mess up at a junction resulted in David toppling over, whacking his knee, giving us two injured riders. We forged on making good time regardless passing through Selva, Moscari and Buger, before returning to La Puebla and taking the marsh road home. This time we had the wind with us, and our train motored along at 20mph+ all the way back home. Not quite the big 100 planned, but a solid 70 miler, averaging 15.1 mph.
Tuesday. Sunshine. This is more like the weather we were expecting – blue skies, a slight breeze and the mercury rising to a nice 21 degrees (not that they use mercury any more, but you know what I mean). The Plan was to do an easy 50-ish, saving our energy for a big ride on Wednesday for Mark’s last day. We headed out of Alcudia, target Petra, a village to the south.
We turned off the main road and got a good session of taking turns at the head of the group, switching smoothly and rolling along at a decent pace, 18-20mph or thereabouts, not being too badly dented by the occasional rise in the road (not proper hills so I am told) or the wind.
We arrived at a square in Petra filled with cyclists sat around eating and drinking, so felt obliged to partake as well. Chips, cakes, coffee and juice were taken on board, and several photos of the hundreds of bikes and cyclists snapped.
We headed out of Petra, wanting to arrive at the next village on our route, Sineu. A slight mis-turn found us taking a climb up to a monastery at the top of a fairly decent climb, hairpins and blind corners (the usual for round these parts). We hit the top as a group, parked up and took in the view – you could pretty much see the whole north of the island, probably the whole place if you took the time to climb the tower itself.
We weren’t up for that, so headed down, returned to Petra and took another road out, back on route to where we wanted to go.
Sort of. We knew we wanted to take a right somewhere along the road we were now on, I was in the lead, Mark called a right, and we turned up an ok looking road. Not far along, we realised this road wasn’t going anywhere except to a quarry. Every Majorca cycling holiday should take in a quarry, highlight of the week.
We turned around, back to the ‘main road’ and followed it, eventually hitting Sineu (not much to see except the railway) and exited it toward Llubl. We arrived in Llubl, and stopped at a cafe for a quick drink, but no-one seemed to be about to serve us, so we pushed on. We tagged on the back of a group of 9 or so folk seeming to be going our way, so our pace increased a notch until we got to La Puebla where we took a different route. We found ourselves on a busier road to Pollenca, taking turn about at the front on a mix of ups and downs, the wind against us for most of it.
We stopped off for a welcome beer in Pollenca itself, enjoying the sunshine and a bit of chat with some cyclists at the next table. We then headed home, a similar route to our first days outing, and similarly got a bit lost missing a turn or two at the round-a-bouts but eventually getting it right and arriving home in one piece. Our 50 miles turned out to be 65.97 miles, but a decent pace of 16.2mph average.
Here’s hoping the weather holds for the rest of the week.
day 2. Monday. Raining again. Went for breakfast late on, hoping the rain would stop. No luck. Some more hardy team cyclists, rain gear on, passed us on a nearby road as we retreated indoors to plan what to do. Blogged day 1, taking ages to upload the pictures due to shoddy internet connetion. The weather was clearing, but still raining on and off, not looking good. Lunched on site too, and as we returned back to the apartment, all agreed we had to do something on the bike, so a 40-ish miler to Cap Formentor, the NE tip of the island was suggested – a shortish ride to a hill (surprise) followed by some more up and downs to the lighthouse at the end of the road.
We set off, what rain-gear we had on, to find the temperature was picking up a bit and the rain was holding off, so shedding a few layers we moved on through Alcudia and on to Port de Pollenca on easy flat roads, covering about 9 miles or so before the climb up Formentor with ease. The climb itself was straightforward enough, with us passing and being passed by a handful of other cyclists with a Hola! or Hi, the occasional car dodging by us too. Mark was worried about his knee, so hit the hill with gusto to get it working and judge the likelyhood of it holding out the full trip.
We hit the top for a short break and regroup, a couple of photos and quick swig of water then headed down the slope at speed, slowing for the inevitable hairpin bends. We were soon on the flat, but Mark’s knee was not holding up as well as he would like, and having done this route before decided to call it a day and head home, to save making his knee any worse for the rest of the week. David and I headed on.
The road surface was not up to the quality of what we’d seen so far, more like some of the worse B-roads from back home, but we carried on regardless, taking each bump as it came. The road undulated on for another few miles, before hitting a tunnel through the hill. The tunnel gave us a new problem, as although it was straight, it was long enough to cause us a bit of an issue with seeing where we were going in the gloom. Sunglasses off for David and we tried to keep to the right side of the road, ditches either side threatening to unseat us, but we made it through without any incident. The rest of the 5 miles or so to the end of the road passed without incident, though some of the steeper parts didn’t bode well for the return journey.
We soon arrived at the last short climb to the lighthouse, left the bikes to take a few photos and take in the view. Photos taken, we grabbed a drink and a muffin in the cafe, checked the time and reckoned we’d easily make it back along the road with daylight to spare.
However, we got moving swiftly as the sky was turning a bit grey and looking none too pleasant. We headed down the short hill from the lighthouse, up a brief climb and for the next few miles battled the wind and poor road surface as we headed homeward on a mix of up and downward slopes.
Just as we approached the tunnel, hail started to hit us, so when we cleared the tunnel, we stopped short under an overhang to wait it out, with 2 other cyclists having taken the same decision. It soon cleared, so they headed out, followed by us, the road now mostly downhill, back to a relatively flat, slightly downward sloping section of the route. We made good time, passing our hail hiding buddies on the flat, soon leaving the poor road behind and beginning the climb back up to Formentor. We set a steady pace up the hill, granny ring (the smallest of our 3 cogs) coming in to play early in the ascent, taking it easy all the way to the summit. At one point we thought the 2 hail-hiders were making an effort to catch us, but we lost them following a short burst along a flatter part of the climb. We stopped at the top for a quick gel and water break, then headed down the hill.
This downward section we mostly free-wheeled, aware of the cross-wind at certain sections, only occasionally putting in a bit of effort to keep the speed up on flatter parts of the descent. The last section we sort of broke the speed limit, our 30+mph to the last round-a-bout above the 50kph speed on the signs. No police around, so no worries.
The homeward stint was only blighted by a bit of GPS mis-directing, taking us through Port de Polenca, trying to take us down one-way streets or non-existant paths. Using a bit of parellel road following, we were soon back on track, and hitting a solid 22mph along the flat heading to Alcudia along the coast road. The Garmin again tried to direct us along a busy main road, which we ignored and took our route from the previous day, but it soon recalculated and took us back home along our preferred road. Minutes later we were back home, just shy of 42 miles, a hilly average of 14.1mph. Not a bad result considering day 1’s torturous climbs.
day 1. Sunday. Not very sunny…
Up and at em early-ish for a buffet breakfast to load up on calories and carbs, then back to our room to change and get on the bikes. We could hear thunder in the distance, and see flashes of lightning. This wasn’t looking so good. Before long the rain was hammering down as we watched from the balcony. Not ideal cycling weather, so we waited, watching the F1 on the tiniest TV in the world. The weather broke, the rain stopped and with the sun trying to get out we set off. We’d preloaded the Garmin with a sort of route of where we wanted to go as a “just in case” but hit the bike hire shop for a map, and while we were there, a rain jacket for David. A bit of round the houses to find the best road to where we wanted to get to and eventually we started to get the miles behind us. We were soon on quiet country roads, passing farms and orange groves, heading towards our first climb at Lluc. As we hit the town on Inca, the heavens opened, we got a soaking as we pedalled furiusly to find a cafe to hide from the rain. We soon found one, and drenched we had coffees and coke, while we tried to dry out hoping the rain would stop.
Our wait was rewarded some time later, the rain easing off, nearly stopped, so we hit the road again in a light drizzle, got a bit lost trying to get by the railway lines, but got on the right road as the rain stopped completely. This was more like it. The incline at Lluc was upon us, 3 miles or so of hairpin turns taking us up around 500m to the summit. We set a solid pace, around 9mph or so, each of us getting a steady rhythm, Mark leading us up with the occasional burst to get the worst of the corners out of the way. We determined not to stop til the summit, and we did so, arriving at the garage/ cafe at the top satisfied with our effort. We parked the bikes with the dozens of others, and grabbed some pizza and more coffee/ hot chocolate.
The sun was out, and with Sa Calobra around 5 miles ahead, we decided to give this monster hill a shot. The ‘mostly downhill’ route to the descent included a fair amount of climbing, nothing major, but enough to require small rings and slow speeds. We stopped at a small view point part way to the hill, where we could see the hill below us and the valley stretching for miles in either direction. I nervously posed with the others (a huge drop behind us with only a tiny wall at the edge), while we got a few passing tourists to take our pictures.
Back on the bikes and we moved on to the last climb before the 5 mile descent of Sa Calobra itself. I took the back, not particularly confident in my hire bike or myself as we were hitting 20-30mph on the straights, dropping down to a crawl for the twisty hairpins.
We were soon at at the base of the hill, for some more quick photos and a refuel in the cafe of strange pies and giant chocolate brandy cake.
The ascent – no other way back – was before us, a time check (6.15) and we were now a little worried about getting home before dark. We set a steady pace of 6-7mph and again determined no stopping. The climb was on, hairpin after hairpin, the occasional car passing us carefully, legs slowly turning the cranks and each corner passed us.
I grabbed a quick couple of photos on the move then passed my little Canon over to Mark for some more on bike shots. We made the last few turns and the top of the climb came into view, the biggest climb on the island done. On we went, but the climb was taking its toll, and injuries were thrown into the mix, making the of the end of daylight all the more real.
Fortunately everyone was able to push through, and after a few more miles of rolling ups and downs, we were rewarded with a long descent to Pollenca. We filtered through the narrow streets, wishing we could stop off for a beer or two in the local cafes and bars, but on we pressed, out on to the main route to Alcudia. We were setting a blistering pace, racing to get as far as possible before night fell. I’d donned my flourescent jacket, and switched my rear helmet light on, so took the back of our trio, as we made town in the dark. Some swithering about the actual way from town to the apartment, then we hit a half recognised road and my Garmin now seemed to be making sensible route decisions so we followed it and were home, tired but
happy to have completed the climbs and a total distance of 83 miles done, David’s best to date.
I decided to take advantage of the two Bank Holidays at Easter and set myself a challenge of completing 300 miles on the bike over the four days. The aim was to take it as a shortened trial run and to see how I would cope with getting on the bike and doing decent miles for a few days in a row.
Friday was a late start as I had to do some IT work for one of the LEJOG sponsors, Adam Laurie Properties, so I set off just after 2:30pm hoping to get some good miles in on familiar roads with some decent hills. Things were going well as I headed through Bathgate, over the top of the “Bathgate Alps” into Linlithgow and onwards towards Winchburgh when the rain started. I ploughed on through Ratho and up into Balerno. At this point I turned into the strengthening breeze which was now carrying the rain, it was getting hard going.
I fought my way down the A70 almost to Carnwath before turning back for the final 15 miles, wind behind back to Livi. What a contrast to the battle outwards.
Day 1 : 65.36 miles; 4hrs:4mins:39secs; av speed 16.0mph. Garmin link
Saturday meant an early start as I had to be in Glasgow at a decent time as Julie and I were off to Big Al’s 40th party in the evening and I had some big miles planned. The morning was still as I headed off past my golf club, Harburn and out on to the A70 towards Carnwath (been here before?). I continued on past Carstairs towards Douglas. I was really enjoying the good quality road surfaces of South Lanarkshire but the legs were starting to grumble a bit on the uphill sections. As I passed under the M74 I joined what will be part of our LEJOG route (Day 6, Lockerbie to Balloch) which put a bit of life back in the weary legs and got me to thinking about just how big a challenge we are undertaking. Just after Muirkirk I turned off the A70 and on to the rolling B roads towards Galston. The ups were short and steep but the downs were great fun; fast and flowing making the miles fly past. After a short stop at an exotic lunch location in Galston (my Facebook friends will know what I mean) I headed through one of Scotland’s best know villages . . .
By this stage I was in North Ayrshire and cruising through some familiar towns and villages; Fenwick, Stewarton, Dunlop and Lugton. The road up to Barrhead was lovely (honest!) my speed was up and I was flying. A train passed on the line up from Kilmarnock with Celtic scarves hanging out of the windows and a loud rendition of Championeeeeees. I chuckled along and my inner song was set for the rest of the day! The roads down into Glasgow flashed by and before I knew it I was doing a quick round the block in Shawlands to tick over the 90 miles for the day.
Day 2 : 90.17 miles; 5hrs:40mins:19secs; av speed 15.9mph. Garmin link
I took it easy-ish on Saturday night at Al’s 40th in Bishopton. A few bottles of Magners but nothing significant . . honest!
Sunday morning was an even earlier start but meant some company for the day with a couple of my LEJOG chums, Big J and Turbine(?). I cycled the 6 miles to our Renfrew meet up and off we went on one of our familiar routes round Renfrewshire (and Ayrshire?). The wind was up and we headed out to Bishy; my legs were happy for me just to sit on the back of the line and let the two fresh boys take the strain. The first slight incline and I was dropped . . . the boys waited for me to trundle up the first couple of hills and we soon regrouped in Greenock. As we headed up the Old Largs Road I heard the dreaded sound . . . ppssssssssssssssssssssssssttttttttttttttt! A puncture up front and the lads headed back to help me repair it.
It was nice to have some chat while we cruised over the tops. As we descended into Largs the drizzle started, I was getting used to this. Next came the bit I had been dreading most, The Hairy Brae. How would my legs cope with this beast, 3 miles with the first mile and half of gradient 8-12%. Again the other two shot off and I settled into a nice rhythm but a lot slower than normal. Before i knew it I was arriving at the top . . no dramas. We settled into the train, 0.5 miles each at the front, wind behind . . . we were motoring. The last climb of the day out of Lochwinnoch soon arrived. Again, I trudged up; again the boys waited for me, this team thing is quite good, actually. The final 10 miles from Bridge of Weir were the highlight of the whole four days . . we hammered along in formation averaging 25mph swapping every 0.5. Back in the Frew . . I was done. A great team day out and I took an easy cruise back to my lovely Easter lunch courtesy of my Bro-in-Law, Brian and family.
Day 3 : 76.31 miles; 4hrs:44mins:19secs; av speed 16.1mph. Garmin link
Monday . . the final day . . back on my lonesome . . did I have motivation for this? I enjoyed a long lie after the late night finish of The Masters and a leisurely breakfast with Julie and Aiden whilst I mulled over a route for today. I needed roughly 70 miles to achieve my goal of the 300 total for 4 days. Where to go? I then remembered Big J talking about how nice the roads are in the Borders . . and quiet too. I thought back to the tough route of the Bethany Sportive last June; I would muster something together from that.
So I’m on the M8 almost at Edinburgh . . . argh . .the Garmin is still attached to my PC at home. Doh! An even later start . .
I’m off and running with a couple of miles on the A7 to loosen the legs and it’s back into the wind as I head up the first climb; it’s long but only 3-4% and them I’m freewheelin’ into Innerleithen. Time is getting on so I decided to stop for a late lunch . . . toastie and a coffee . . . lovely. As soon as I step out of the cafe it start raining . . heavily. Again upwards and then downwards and upwards etc etc. Is there any flat on this route? I turned left on to one of my favourite climbs, The Swire. It’s a couple of miles, it’s steep but the scenery takes the mind off any pain.
The remainder of the route is VERY rolling. By this stage my legs are pretty done and I’m relying a lot of getting out of the saddle to get up the hills but I made it back to the car and the goal of 300 miles was in the bag!
Day 4 : 74.05 miles; 5hrs:3mins:31secs; av speed 14.6mph. Garmin link
All 4 days in numbers : 305.89 miles; 19hrs:32mins:49secs; av speed 15.6mph; elevation gain 5204m; calories burned 11,452.
All that is left for me to thank Julie and Aiden for their love, support and understanding whilst I went awol for 4 days over the Easter holidays! xx
Sunday. Easter Weekend and I’d an invitation to go see friends in Edinburgh, so a perfect chance to give my new toy, a Garmin Edge 800, a solid test. Not really sure of the best way to go, so I’d plotted a route on bikeroutetoaster and exported it to the Edge. The course was mostly bits of A-road trying to follow the M8 fairly closely, to keep it reasonably short and hopefully avoid too much traffic, guessing most folk would be on the M8 itself. The unit lived up to my expectations, giving decent warnings of upcoming turns, round-a-bouts and anything else requiring a change in direction. The first section of my route out of Glasgow gave it a bit of workout, as a section of the London Road is closed to traffic, causing the Edge to bleep away as I took the diversion and went “off course”. It set about recalculating a way to get back on track, so not so different to car sat nav, but with all the extras of a bike computer (cadence, HR monitor, speed etc).
The rest of the route went as planned, the only mishap when I stopped atop a hill around Shotts to take a photo, stopped the Edge and forgot to restart it until I’d been zooming downhill for about 4 miles, messing up my stats. Oh well. This roughly marked the halfway point, and it was pretty much all easy downhill from then on – this is what cycling should be all about – down/ flat sections and easily hitting 20mph+. Just over 2 hours and a nice average of 19.1 mph, with the bonus of no real near-death experiences with cars on the A-roads. I arrived at M&Ts in time for a late morning bacon roll and soon had a beer in my hand followed by a fine afternoon of great company and great food. Yum.
Monday. I’d already loaded the return route on the Edge (using TCX converter to reverse the route from bikeroutetoaster) and set off sans-hangover (good call on some sensible drinking) after thanking my hosts for a great previous day/ night. The Edge immediately tried to take me ‘the wrong way’ as I reckoned the route I take by car would actually be quicker than the route I’d plotted previously. I ignored its beeping and carried on, soon to rejoin the plotted route. The return leg was not such a joy, as the weather had turned for the worse, a bit colder, wetter and the westerly wind making things not the best for cycling. Got to practice using the small chain ring, battling head winds and the first 20 miles of uphill giving me more than enough climbing training. I counted off the miles to Shotts and the relief of the downward section. The constant drizzle somewhat sapped the fun out of the downhills, but focussed on getting my average speed back up to 15mph to take my mind off how wet I was getting. I was soon on familiar roads, so switched the Edge’s screen to show the ‘stats’ instead of the map, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the unit would automatically switch to the navigation screen at turns/ junctions then back to the stats again. Handy feature, will stick to using this method in future trips. I was soon home again, managed to get the 15mph average, so happy enough with that bearing in mind the conditions.