Monthly Archives: May 2012
The Sunday outing – emails had been flowing during the week discussing a coast to coast in late June, which then turned into debate over a Lakes ride instead and ended with the decision of doing a “Fred” (named after Fred Whitton, turns out this is a 112 miles ride of 9 peaks, some hitting 15%+ – no easy feat). The end of this email exchange also sorted Sunday’s training ride, a plan to take in the Dukes pass run with an extra 50-odd mile extension via Crieff, for a 120+ run. This time there was the promise of a lunch stop.
As this was going to be a long run, and the lunch stop was going to be timed to meet non-cycling family, needed to be up at silly o’clock for Big J picking me up at 7am for the start at 7:30 from the ‘club house’ (Gio’s place). We started as a 4 man group – Bryan, Gio, John and myself, with Gio intending to join us for the first 40 miles or so. The first 20-odd miles flew along, even with the wind against us we were easily topping 18mph average as we hit Aberfoyle and the climb up the Dukes pass.
We rode up as a group, with only the last section splitting us slightly, Bryan dropping back a short distance. I barely had time to take a few snaps before he was with us, “I’m not a climber” as he pulled alongside. The descent went without incident, the only traffic a bus toiling upwards, giving us plenty of room as we streamed by.
Just after the 40 mile mark, a quick stop for farewells to Gio, as he turned toward Callander and home, the three of us continuing onwards to Strathyre. The road rolled for the next several miles, the sun growing stronger and the shadows it was casting through the trees making it hard to distinguish potholes from leaf patterns adding in the occasional clunk and jolt to the ride. John took the pace, holding us steady for a long stint, switching back to turn-about as we passed by the glassy calm of Loch Lubnaig, the shores dotted with folk enjoying the early sun. We were making good time, enjoying the excellent weather and were soon turning along the A85 at Loch Earn, passing campers and day-trippers scattered along its edge, with barely a hill to be seen. The nice level tarmac saw us to Comrie (home to a fine golf course) and it was only another 10 or so miles to Crieff and a welcome stop at Yann’s.
We sprawled on the grass or at the table and were served coke and iced water by the friendly staff while waiting for Bryan and John’s other halves, enjoying the sunshine and break from pedalling. They soon arrived, and we sat down for a fine lunch – not quite a cake stop, but just as good: onion soup with a cheese topping followed by rump of lamb with minted-peas and chips for me, others partook of mushroom soup, black pudding salad, Arbroath smokies with mains of La Potee (Toulouse sausage & ham broth), fish pie and eggs Benedict; the kids tucking in to fish gujons, lasagne and chips. The only slight downers to this fine feast were the grumpy folk at the next table over-reacting to the excited children, and having to pass on dessert from being stuffed.
Bottles refilled, we said our goodbyes to the families, and hit the road for the remaining miles. A steady climb taking us through Muthill, then down to Braco and to Dunblane before turning off to Doune. Here we made a short stop to grab some energy drinks, the chilled water in our bottles (well, mine and Bryans were iced by the folk at Yann’s, John had refilled from the tap) already warm. The temperature in the small square was hitting 33-34°C according to my Garmin, as I tapped in our target of Kippen into its GPS, getting us on our way to Thornhill and the hill beyond. We rode up the first section together, John and I pushed on a little harder on the next steep section, but by the summit we were all together again for the descent down into Fintry and the Crow Road hill.
We trundled along the flat section, John announced himself ‘done’ but as soon as the climb came into view, he forged by me. My ‘thought you were done?’ was replied to with a ‘last throw of the dice!’ as he stood on the pedals into the corner and pulled away. I stuck to my pace, sat on the saddle, feeling ok considering the 110 miles we’d now completed and just kept turning the cranks. John was still in sight, standing at every turn, but I was beginning to reel him in. Feeling a bit short of energy (the lamb and magic minted-peas wearing off!) I struggled with my pack of Zip-vit sweets, trying to pry the now sticky, half melted goodness out of the bag while maintaining my momentum. Eventually got one out, chewed it down, and returned to focussing on John’s back wheel in the near distance. After a few more minutes I was in touch, with not far to go to the summit. “Where’s Tubs?” he asked, “not sure” I replied, and we moved on together. We stopped at the top, Bryan soon appearing, and we waved him on, then followed for the ride down into Lennoxtown.
I missed my clips as I started off, the others were fast vanishing as I finally got my left shoe in, so I was playing catch up down the hill. Pushing hard, I glanced down at my Garmin, to see it reading 45mph (!) scaring myself a bit, so eased off as I passed the car park and the turn. The wind soon put paid to any speed I was carrying, and I could see John and Bryan ahead, folded over the bikes as they disappeared from my view round a bend. I caught them at the bottom, waiting for me at the turn. John lead us for the next section, but as I swapped to the front, I offered to take a longer stint, to which there was no dissent. Strangely still feeling strong, I pushed on, the others hanging on to my wheel for a change. Stopping only for lights and junctions, Bryan asking if I’d been on “the EPO”?, “nope, just feeling ok” as we completed the final miles back to Gio’s to pick up the cars. The only momentary struggle on the final short hill before home, I was well pleased to have been able to return the favour of many a ‘carry’ for the last miles of an outing! A sterling ride by us all, 127 miles done, a proper “LEJOG” distance completed in around 7 hours, average 17.6mph.
Sunday saw a return of the “team Sunday cycle”, agreed on Friday evening at the Race Night to be 8.30 starting from Big J’s place. In the end only three of us could make it, so John, Sammy and myself decided on a ‘to Largs and then see how we’re feeling’ outing. The weather was looking promising, and saw 2/3 riders in shorts from the outset. We set off at a steady pace, slipping easily along the roads in our trio-train, with only a small detour due to a closed road near Bishopton altering our route from the norm.
The first incline of the day the up-and-over to Kilmacolm I stuck to John’s wheel, to see if the last few months of training had paid off, and I could now keep up with the “Monsters”. It seems I’ve been doing something right, as we hit the top with me still close on his tail, but Sammy seemed to have dropped back. I took the opportunity to shed my leggings as the sun was making itself felt, while we waited the few moments for Sammy to reach us with a “I’m pacing myself” (this was to be a sign of his experience over mine as you’ll soon see). We forged on down into the village, then out onto the country roads to the next climb into Greenock, with a brief stop to sort a rattling bottle cage on Sammy’s bike. The three of us topped the hill together, then hit the drops for the fast run down into Greenock itself. I hit my personal best top speed on this section, 41.4 mph, so the day was looking good. The road out of Greenock climbs up the Old Largs Road, and soon has a very steep section which used to fill me with dread and required use of the Sharpova technique. But not today, I took it again closely on John’s heels, wise Sammy again taking it at his own pace. A brief halt at the top to chow down a banana, we regrouped and started on the rolling roads before the descent proper, with an increase in the normally traffic-free route due to the main road being closed nearby. This caused us a few minor slow-downs as we pulled in to passing places to allow cars to get by.
We soon made Largs, for a toilet break and a few quick photos. My appeals for a cake stop denied (! don’t these guys understand the Majorca way of cycle training? they’d be telling me next no lunch stop for a beer n cakes…), we made our way to the next big hill of the morning, the Hairy Brae. We headed up in group, me taking a few snaps at the hairpin (Majorca one-handed ascent & camera handling techniques applied) and the climb was soon over. We passed a fellow cyclist near the top, the same chap we’d seen and left behind on the Old Largs Road, his confusion as to how he’d overtook us explained by a ‘toilet stop in Largs’ as I puffed by.
Everyone was feeling fit, so the “normal” Largs loop back home direct to Lochwinnoch was to be extended – extra mileage taking the form of a loop to Dalry then Stewarton, Dunlop and Lugton. At this point, my Garmin started to misbehave as we swept downhill to Dalry, reading 5mph as we belted downhill. I pulled over to restart it in the hope this fixed things, with Sammy suggesting I kill off the cadence/speed sensor which could be askew from the various bumps and potholes of the day. A second stop after a restart and this advice was followed, so there may be some oddities in my Garmin output for the day. This was the least of my worries, as around the 50 mile mark I was starting to suffer from my ambitious climbs earlier in the day. With no cake stop to off-set my energy sapping exertions, I was beginning to struggle to keep up with Sammy and John. I began to eat everything in my pockets and feed bag, sloshing down snack bars with my lucozade, but was still having a tough time keeping the pace on the inclines. I dropped back as we approached Auchentiber, one short climb resulting in me losing touch with the others. A mile or two on they waited for me. “Its definately cake o’clock now!” I cried, but to no avail, an energy gel my only solace as we moved on towards Stewarton. I was familiar with parts of this route, having done a 45 mile loop this way a few weeks ago. As we approached Lugton, my spirits were lifted – “there’s a place that does a mean roll and sausage near here!” but sadly we turned away from the chance of some greasy sustenance on the Neilston road, instead heading the other direction, on toward Beith.
I had no choice but to soldier on, Lochwinnoch and the hill up to Carruthmuir I was back to solo-ing, the others able to sustain the pace of the day, while my lack of cake was taking its toll. I was forced to eat the last of my “goodies”, a less than appealing pineapple and toe-clippings flavour Torq bar that I’d been avoiding for weeks, in the hope its meagre calories would boost me for the last dozen miles home. S&J awaited me at the turn-off to Bridge of Weir, no cake-stop to be had, but a promise of ‘cake when we are done’. We set off together on the mostly flat, remaining section of the ride. The Houston Road of last weekend, a tail-wind paradise was this week a slog, clinging to the back of the group after my turn at the front had me crying ‘no more!’, the others graciously letting me draft them the remaining miles home. Losing touch for the last half mile, I rounded the final corner a few minutes shy of the others, but good on his word, John produced a few cakes which were quickly dispatched. Not quite the day I’d envisaged, but still a good 92 miles (86 or so for the others missing out on my cycle from Glasgow to Renfrew) on a fine sunny and dry day.
After this proper (if a bit late) cake stop, I declined Sammy’s offer of a lift home, the 6.5 miles would see me close to the 100. I set off at an easy pace, hitting home without incident, but still 1.5 miles short of the hundred. A quick loop of the Green and the Garmin pinged out the 100 mile ‘lap’, and so ended my second century cycle. A decent average too, assuming the oddities of the Garmin after Largs didn’t mess up things – 16.9mph average. No injuries, no mechanical breakdowns, just need to work out how to carry and eat cake on the move…
just a quick post to express our thanks to everyone who helped to plan, organise & run the Race Night last night, donated & collected prizes, sold races, made sandwiches, cakes and all the other loverly grub, the volunteers and helpers at St. Brides who made us so welcome, and of course all the folk who came along and were so generous with their donations to our charities. Together we raised over £3,000 on the night (we’re still counting the last few pounds coming in!), which with the donations we’ve seen already, puts us well over the half way mark of our target £10k by the end of the LEJOG. I hope everyone had a good time!
This night was such a boost, helping us towards our goal of helping those with epilepsy and brain tumours in memory of Dee. It will spur us all on in our training.
Dee would be so embarrassed at all this “fuss”, but quietly proud of what we’ve achieved so far. Thank you all so much.
Long weekend, so what better to do than a few miles on the bike?
Friday. I’d checked the weather, and unusually there was to be a NE wind on the Friday, so a trip to Castle Douglas on the bike would see me getting the wind on my back most of the way, a nice 88 mile ‘warm-up’ for the Drumlanrig Challenge (62 miler) the following day and a chance to spend a few days at my Mum’s. I set out around 10.30, as little weight in my rucksack as I could get away with, and with an easy pace in mind. First target, Eaglesham, and the moor road – a bit of a hill, but it looked to be nice tarmac and low on traffic on Google streetview, so a fair compromise. And of course, the pay off from going up hill, is the descent. When I actually arrived in Eaglesham, which was uphill all the way, found that the initial ascent to the moor road was a bit nastier than I expected, but dug in, stood up and got up without any problem, except for a bloke in a camper van messing around slowing/ speeding up then trying to park right in front of me. The road passes a nice wind farm and has a few boy racers, but the single track road has a cycle lane most of the way, so there was plenty of room for me. The descent soon began, and hitting 30+mph was easy, slightly regretting still having my winter Gatorskin tyres on, their higher resistance slowing me a bit. The B-road ended at the A77, now quiet due to the nearby M77, and downhill most of the section I was taking, allowing me to easily maintain 20+ speeds.
I turned off towards Waterside and Moscow (yup, there’s a Moscow in Ayrshire) then on to Galston, where my el cheapo B-twin bottle holder rattled loose, the metal prongs working free of their plastic mounts – no chance of a fix, so I tossed it and put the water bottle in my ruckack. Not ideal.
I coninued along the 716 until it reached the A76 and my big mistake. I’d not checked this part of the route out, and it turned out to be a very busy road, with a disproportionate amount of bad drivers towing caravans intent on wiping me out. The closest near-miss I was virtually brushing up against the guys caravan! Still, the fear of being splattered kept my average up. Just beyond Cumnock I escaped the 76 onto more bike friendly B-road, low on traffic, but big on hills.
Throw in a bit of ‘road closed’ fun (duly ignored by pedalling me, gate across the road easily climbed and bike dragged over) and poor tarmac on some of the descents (bone shaking) and I was soon at Dalmellington and decided to take a short break for some eats.
The local shop didn’t have much choice, so a chicken wrap it had to be, a Twix for a bit of a calorie boost, washed down with the juice from my bottle and then I was on my way again. The climb out of this small town lead on to the A713, a road I’ve driven in the car a few times without realising how much of it was uphill nor how bad some of the surface is for cycling. Still, there was a welcome distraction from these issues from a load of Dutch rally drivers – all in Minis, some classic, some the modern version, all zipping by me, many appearing to be lost or taking circular routes and passing by me several times. It wasn’t long before I’d passed Carsphairn and the end of any significant uphill sections, but still 20 miles or so to go. The wind wasn’t being as helpful as I hoped, not that strong, but at least it wasn’t in my face for any significant time.
I could see Loch Ken ahead, so knew I hadn’t far to go, but took a quick break to refuel and stretch my back – carrying a rucksack messes with your stance on the bike a bit, so I was getting some stiffness which I kneaded out with my knuckles. Refreshed, I carried on, noticing my average was still over 16mph, so determined to keep it there and to get to Mum’s for 5pm, dug in for the last few miles. I was soon on the familiar roads of Castle Douglas, then on to the back roads to Gelston, the end in sight and pulled up bang on 5pm. 88 miles in the bag, not feeling too worn out and looking forward to the Drumlanrig the next day.
Saturday. I’d knocked the idea of cycling to Drumlanrig on the head – 34 extra miles each way was going to push things a bit far, particularly if the sportive was going to be ‘speedy’, and I didn’t really fancy a 5am start. So, I borrowd me Ma’s car and drove it. Just as I was approaching the Castle turn off, my phone buzzed away in my pocket – the others wondering where I was. I was nearly there, so left it until I was parked. A quick phone to David established they were in the queue for their numbers, so I headed over to the tent to meet them, watching the earlier starters head off. I spotted David and Bryan, our team kit easily picked out from the crowd, just getting the numbers as I approached. A few quick hellos and we returned to cars, attached our numbers, swithered about gloves and overshoes, then moved to the start via the ‘facilities’.
We got going, turning easily down a gentle hill away from the start line with our group stringing out as we went. It wasn’t long before a few words between Bryan and myself resulted in us pushing forward to the lead cyclists of our group, as they appeared to be a bit more organised and taking advantage of slip-streaming. We tagged on the back as we started to climb upwards, and the first serious hill appeared ahead of us. Clunking down to the small chain and standing up, we were packed a bit too close for comfort and it was a nervous ascent. One unfortunate rider just ahead of me skidded his back wheel, hit a pothole coming to a dead stop, ending with him toppling sideways with a groan as he was unable to do anything to stay upright. A quick ‘are you ok?’ from David and myself (Bryan had avoided the melee by surging ahead) with a resigned ‘yeah’ (poor guy would have to walk it up due to the gradient preventing restarting) and we forged on. The top reached, the descent was as bad – potholes, gravel and narrow, twisting roadway to contend with saw me sitting on the brakes all the way down, though one rider (fearless or stupid?) zoomed by us, less concerned with the road condition than us.
We continued, climbing through Craigdarroch with Lynne (I think) from Ayr CC making our group into a four, swapping conversation and our places in the road as we went. The route became a long sweeping descent, I tucked in behind our Ayr buddy to follow her lines round the bends, guessing she’d know what she was at (she did), helping me to keep a solid pace down in to Glenhoul.
We were passing a few folk, rarely were we overtaken until a shout of ‘on your right’ from behind and a swarm of Johnstone Wheelers overhauled us – the cry to tag on the back went up and we dug in to maintain their pace, with a dozen or more other riders who had taken the same initiative.
Our average began to shoot up, the train making it easy to keep the cranks turning, but forcing extra effort after any sharp bends – the slow in, fast out of the train requiring a burn each time – or on anything but a short incline to keep up with the trains momentum. I missed the ‘bump’ behind between David and another rider, so escaped any incident of note in the train, but once we turned off the A702 and hit a proper hill, the train began to out-pace my “done 88 miles yesterday” legs and I, along with many other of the ‘carried’ riders dropped off. David seemed to waver between digging in to keep up, or holding back to wait on me, in the end choosing the latter, giving me a target to work toward as he slowed and chatted to a fellow rider as the climb levelled off. I soon caught up, and the route headed downhill, offering some respite from the recent climb. This was short lived, another hill to tackle before a longer descent and levelling off. It wasn’t long before a cake stop came into sight, and Bryan had stopped to wait on us, about 15 miles from the end. I dove in to the jam and cream scones, a few egg sandwiches and grabbed a flapjack and a banana as Bryan had spotted a group approaching to tag on to. By the time I’d got back on board, David and I were playing catch up, each time we seemed to be nearly about to make contact, a hill or junction foiled us. A final hill (or so it seemed) with 4 miles to go and the group had out-paced us, so we settled in to the climb, over taking some tired riders as we went along. A bit of 2 man train saw us pass a few more folk, before the end was in sight – a slightly mean of them uphill section to the line, where a beaming Bryan snapped us as we crossed the line, happy with his 18mph average, and we too pleased to have completed the route without too much trouble in a solid 16.4mph average.
And then on to cake! Well, sandwiches then cake. I stowed my bike, swapped my shoes, said “Hi” to Lynne (parked directly behind me, refilling her bottles) and wished her luck with the extra 38 miles she was off to complete, then met the others at the food tent. A variety of stuff was on offer, with a friendly ‘take as many as you want’ from the volunteers pulling out extra tubs of grub to replace any getting low. We chatted to the Wheelers and thanked them for the tow, and to a few other folk we’d met on the route. Cake was consumed (millionaire shortbread, marble cake, flapjacks, and various other goodies of unknown name), then we parted ways, 3 happy LEJOGers having completed a fine event, vowing to return next year.
Oh, and my plan to cycle home on Sunday? It went a bit awry – my phone was out of battery, and a solo run with no way of calling in help if anything were to happen on some of the back roads resulted in me sat on train. Not quite the memory of Largs, as this time the carriage with the bike store was full of stag party drunks, so I and a few fellow sober passengers ended up dodging their shoe slinging antics and tutting quietly to ourselves at their general misbehaviour until they had the good grace to get off the train, to the reflief of all. Made up for this non-cycle by doing a 45 miler (16.8 avg) on Monday morning, avoiding the worst of the rain to give me a nice tally of 195 miles for the long weekend.
Saturday saw the introduction of Ian and David to the sportive world. John and then Mark were meant to join us but were unable to do so for various reasons. A sportive (French) is an organised event where a marked/ signed route has been put in place and cyclists are timed round the course. There are normally different distances of routes (commonly 100 miles and 100km) put in place to suit differing levels of ability. Also, food stops are normally provided, and this is part of the fun for some but for others the thought of stopping would send them into a cold sweat.
For Ian and David, this was a placeholder in the diary as a mid term aim before LeJog. For me and originally John it was to be a tune up for the Etape Caledonia (a closed road sportive in Pitlochry with 5000 others) the following week.
This particular sportive was the ‘Drumlanrig Challenge’, so named as it started/ ended at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Country. This is a beautifully maintained castle set within a country park with adventure playground, forest walks and mountain biking trails. I was so taken with place after last year’s event that I came down the next day with the family for a picnic.
The sportive had been organized by the Dumfries section of a charity called Tearfund who ‘work globally to end poverty and injustice, and to restore dignity and hope in some of the world’s poorest communities’. One of the reasons for wanting to do this sportive again was the superb organization and friendliness of the volunteers helping out. With the entry form I had sent a note about why we taking part in the event and about our LeJog expedition and received a very nice reply back when we were given our entry acceptance. Some of the big sportives can seem very corporate but this one you genuinely feel that they care more than just about your donation. The other reason I wanted to return you will see evidence of at the end.
Ian in his wisdom had decided to cycle down and stay with his mother who lived relatively nearby (90 miles from Glasgow) on the Friday. I had suggested I would give him a lift down and he could cycle back, but he was adamant and who could blame him, the extra miles would do him good in the long run. For me, my offer of a lift was part selfish to ensure his legs were fresh for the sportive.
For David and I, the journey began early on Saturday morning. I picked David up shortly after 7am from Uddingston and hit the motorway. Google maps duly printed out and an estimated journey time of 1hr 20min. The motorway was quiet for a holiday weekend and we took it easy with 2 bikes on top of the car not exactly helping the aerodynamics. Google maps had us turning off at junction 13 which I thought was a junction earlier from the last time I was here but we took it any way and headed towards Leadhills. There was not a cloud in the sky and since the temperature outside was nearing zero there was a remarkable clarity of light as we travelled through the hills. As we went down past Wanlockhead and the extremely long hill that featured in one of today’s sportive routes, David recalled having camped down this way before. He also recalled having invented a new Olympic sport which was like skiing without skis down the scree off the side of the hill. There also had been a name attached to this sport which I cant quite recall at the moment. But then earlier than expected, we had arrived, met with the sight of the castle in the distance up the long drive way.
We were efficiently directed towards a space in the grass car park, there was already plenty of cars there and a nice atmosphere starting to build. It was cold, but the sun was shining and all the signs were good for the day ahead. First job to was to register and get the numbers for the front of the bike. On the way we phoned Ian, no answer. He had threatened to cycle from his mum’s (30 miles) and that was possibly why he was not answering but at that point we were in the dark. Numbers duly received, we spot Ian driving in and wander back to the car to get kitted out and get the bikes ready.
Just before 9 we joined the queue of riders to be let loose on the road. To avoid disruption out on the road, you are normally let out in groups of approx. 15 a time. We took time out for a quick photocall and then after a few instructions on road conditions(a bit like the roll call from Hill Street Blues ‘ Be careful out there’) we were off.
We set out last in our group, and initially kept rolling with the same people we started with. It was a chance to get the legs warmed up and get a feel for group riding. After a couple of miles, we decided to start moving up, it has been a while since I had seen the guys but it looked like the Majorca trip had worked wonders. We upped the pace and joined another group further up, things were going well. Soon enough though, we had a short, really steep hill. It was terribly potholed and very thin. There were bodies everywhere, some riders were still riding two abreast, not giving much room for maneuver. On a hill like this you really want to go at your own pace, and I had to jink through a couple of riders to break free and I pushed on up to the top of the hill and waited on David and Ian. They had got stuck behind a couple of guys and also watched the as a rider got a backwheel stuck in a pothole and had fallen over.
We then headed down a equally steep and potholed hill, it was a very dangerous descent and I went down not exactly slow but not exactly fast, however I was still passed by someone I thought was going dangerously fast. Maybe he was a local..
Soon enough, we were back together and had picked up a rider from Ayr Cycling Club, she was down herself and was in training for a time trial the following week. We continued as a group for a while, passing others and not being passed, it was going well. At some points, I pushed my heart rate up and went ahead, testing myself to see what the legs would take and then drawing back together. Then quickly we were getting swarmed by yellow jerseys, I indicated to Ian and David that it would be a good idea to get on the back of this group and let them do the work. We duly joined the group and so it seemed did a few others, there was at least 40 riders together. The yellow jerseys belonged to the Johnstone Wheelers and they seemed to have the group in control, moving their riders around at the front to take the wind and giving instructions to the group of the dangers ahead. Within a tightly bunched group, you cant see the what’s ahead and rely upon shouts or hand signals. We were flying along, upper twenties mph but with about half the effort, one of the reasons why you do these events. David and Ian were loving it and so was I, sometimes you had to push to keep on the back if you let your mind wander but it was worth it. The other side of this coin was the danger in riding in close proximity to others. As were cruising along, I heard the sound of bikes colliding and shouting, and looked round to see David wavering from side to side. I dont know how many sits up he has been doing because it took a lot of core stability to pull it back from the brink and not go over. Apologies given from the guy behind and we kept on rolling.
We soon then hit a big long hill and the group starting to string out, I pushed on hard to keep up with the Johnstone Wheelers, I knew it’s what I would need to do in the following event to get a good time. In my concerted effort I had lost touch with David and Ian but I had decided to stay with the Wheelers for a further bit and give myself a test. I rolled along for another few miles and then stopped at the last feed station to wait for David and Ian. I indulged in a bit of fruit loaf while I waited and chatted with the volunteers and it was difficult not overindulge, given the quality of baked goods on show. However, there was still around 16 miles to go and I didn’t want to be weighed down. The cakes could wait.
David and Ian arrived shortly after and for Ian it was like being given a free pass to Greggs (the nations favourite baker) and he worked the table like a pro, sampling everything and anything. David and I eventually pulled him out and reminded him that they also did food at the end of the race. After a quick chat with the guys I decided to push home alone, I needed to dig deep to see what I had, and off I went. I passed a few more cyclist and the average was sitting at 18.2 mph and I wanted to keep it above 18mph. After failing to do so in a group ride a few weeks previous, I was looking for redemption. I was feeling good and then I hit a hill that I had forgotten about 18.2, 18.1, 18.0, 17.9, 17.8. The average goes down a lot quicker than it goes up. Hill over, the fun began. 3 miles to find 0.2mph. I tried to watch the road, keeping the body still, not wasting energy, pushing hard, ‘breath and push’ ‘ breath and push’. I hit 18.0 average and am on the road back to the end, I can relax now. Not really, there is a hill ahead, my speed drops to 16, is that going to blow the average, I push again, legs sore. The finish line comes into view, I hit the line, slam on the brakes and stop the clock. An 18mph average achieved.
I sit down at the side of the road, still high with the adrenaline. David and Ian then appear and I catch them coming over the line, all smiles.
We roll back through the castle grounds to the cars and stand and chat about the day. It’s been a great success and everybody has enjoyed it. Recovery drinks taken, we wander over to the food tent, firstly stopping to chat to the Johnstone Wheelers and thank them for their effort. We joke with them about not taking a short of the front because we dont know their system but they are not daft but not exactly worried either. They are soon off to Italy for a sportive in the Dolomites and it sounds a little bit hard. Gran Fondo Nove Colli – translated 9 hills.
We hit the food tent, first the sandwiches, tuna, ham, cheese, cheese and pickle, cheese and jam. I go tuna and then ham, one eye on the cake stand. The second reason that I wanted to come back to this sportive, many sportives promise home baking but few deliver like this. It was time our efforts were rewarded. First the tablet, then the caramel shortbread and to finish some chocolate shortbread combo. Volunteers thanked, it was back to the cars and off home.
David and I hit the road, leisurely wandering back up and shooting the breeze. A nice end to a good day.
So. Last Sunday Sammy and myself did the “Wrynose or Bust” sportive starting in Lancaster and heading into the Lake District. The big chap said that he would write it up. As Diana Ross says, “I’m still waiting”.
Therefore, it’s up to me to do the work. WHich should not be an issue as I surely was ‘invited’ to do much of the work last weekend. Hence the title – in the first 90 miles, the Sam was ahead of me for about 5 of those miles. Do the math for the rest.
Anyway. A 112 mile route with 20+ mph winds forecast (gusting to 40 mph) and serious rain forecast for much of the day. Pretty daunting.
On the Saturday, we did a recce of some of the course. The weather was awesome. Surely the forecast was wrong? The recce showed some tough hills, with some steep gradients. However, Wrynose itself did not look to bad (easy said from the comfort of the car). Easy or not, there was not doubt that we were tackling the hill from the not-hard direction. The descent would be brutal with 30% gradient and twisty turns on a road that “wasn’t great” (so say the locals. Compared to a lot of what we ride up here, the roads were joyful). In truth, we were both disappointed. Wrynose is one of the climbs from the previously mentioned “100 Greatest Climbs” – but not this way round. Anyway, it ensures that we will have to return.
So Saturday involved a large pasta lunch before heading to Lancaster and our hotel. The hotel looked smashing on the website. When we got to Lancaster we went twice round the block and missed the brilliant white exterior of the hotel. On the third lap we spotted a rather less brilliant white and realised this was indeed the place. Photoshop is a wonderful application is it not? That said, the hotel was fine.
And so to dinner. A half pasta starter (same size as a full pasta just about) followed by a bowl of pasta. And to large pizza shaped garlic breads. Carbed up and then some (young Tubs aka Novak will be reading this and will be aghast about the ingestion of bread).
Up in the morning at 5 am. Not a bad sleep, with only two rude awakenings from Sammy’s turbo-charged snoring – he’s defo getting better. As the belly gets smaller, so too do the snores it seems. The lovely fruit-laden muesli filled the bellies (which were already full of the pasta that was finished about 25 minutes earlier it seemed). Showtime.
The race started at the Halton Army training camp in Lancaster. We entered the site and about 500 direction arrows directed us round to the completely obvious car park. This was the best signposted quarter mile in the history of signposted routes – which would prove ironic.
Not long after 6.30 we were on the way. I pushed on followed by Sam (‘get used to it Johnny boy’ was not something he uttered, but it would have been appropriate). We hit the first hill after a quarter of a mile and passed a few riders. The truth is that we were hoping to pick up a group to share the work load a little. However, the pace of these riders was too slow for comfort. At the top of the ride though, we noticed a chap had tagged on the back. A nice chap (Mark) and we got working together. 3 beats 2.
After a few miles, 3 riders went past at a good lick – “I know those shirts – the Glasgow Nightingales”. Sam seemed reluctant to follow them, worrying the pace was too tidy. I urged him on and of course the pace was just fine – 6 beats 3, especially when they seemed happy to take more than their share on the front.
Not long after we hooked up with the chaps, Sam was caught in discussion with one of the nightingales. The word got round. The turn at the mini-roundabout, with the poorly positioned sign (remember Halton?) now had the GPS (the good old 800 version with maps that Sam and now Ian own) was telling us that we were off course. So we turned back. And met another bunch of riders. And turned back again. And rode till we came to a junction. With no sign. And turned back again.
Yes, our 112 mile sportive was now destined to be a 120 mile sportive. However, the good thing was that we now had a good going group. The peleton was on. The nightingale boys picked anther route but we joined them after a few miles in our group, which was marshalled by a beast of a boy on a mountain bike who was knocking out a really tidy rhythm.
Now that wind. The early parts of the course were hard going, but once we got into the group you really didn’t notice the effect so much. This was a really enjoyable stage of the ride and the miles flew by. Me and one of the nightingales seemed to do a fair amount on the front. At one stage, the nightingale looked around for a bit of help. “On you go Sam”, I said. “There’s no point wasting energy” said the bold one. So again, I went on the front.
The big climb at Grizedale (I think) put paid to the large group. I was climbing really well here. Eventually, one of the nightingales came up and we chatted a bit. He was a fair one for getting up on the pedals I had noticed earlier. Because he wanted to or he had to? Answer – he wanted to. This guy was clearly class, and was holding loads back waiting for the other 2 who weren’t quite as nippy.
A fast descent, another couple of climbs and we regrouped at the first feed station (cracking chicken and stuffing sandwiches). Sam came in and we decided to wait for the nightingales. Our earlier friend Mark was skulking around, looking like he’d rather not hook up again – the hills had caught him out a bit. Waiting for the nightingales wasn’t the greatest idea as we separated from them pretty sharpish (yes, more hills). However, we would meet up with them at various other parts of the route.
On we battered, seeing some familiar faces from the earlier group. The miles ticked by, the hills rose and fell, and the wind really began to blow until eventually we were in the valley looking to the distance and Wrynose Pass – the easy way. Not today, my friend. In the valley, Sam and I worked together, taking very short bursts at the front. The road was flat here and we couldn’t get to 10 mph. And we were overtaling everyone on route. The wind was now hellish. Hopefully, the slope of the hill would prove some respite from the wind, or getting up without pushing would look to be an impossibility.
And so we go to the base of the hill – and the slope proved to be no respite. This was hell. I was up on the pedals and turning them sooo slowly. Please let me get up here without coming off. I looked round for Sam. He was still there and suffering as much as me. “One more turn, one more turn, one more turn”. I looked up and realised it was too far, too windy, too steep, too hard. If I was Ian I would be giving it full volume Sharapova grunting now. But I gave it an inner “aaarrrrggghhh!!!!” and fought on – and made it. The summit! Oh Lord in Heaven, thank you so much. This was a real sense of achievement. Next time I’m struggling, it’s going to be the go too place in the memory banks – the day I stepped into the hurt locker.
Now the descent. Absolutely daunting. The roads are narrow and the occasional car would come up the hill. It’s hard work gripping the bike so tense (I know I shouldn’t) and braking as much. However, down we go, meeting up with the lead nightingale again, for the last time (they DNF’d – don’t know why). After some remonstrations with some mad old lady in a car, trying to pass where there was absolutely no room, we ventured away from Wrynose in agroup of 5 that became 4 then 3 then me and Sam. Alone again (naturally). After a while we reached the 2nd and last food stop. Here we put on our jackets. I wasn’t going to, but decided to at the last minute – just as well. We hooked up with another chap here (the 90 mile mark) and would stay with him until the end). “At this point I asked Sam, have you enjoyed it so far”? “Yes, it’s been tough but great” he said. And till that point I would have agreed wholeheartedly.
The rain now came belting down and I took several miles trying to retrieve my thicker gloves to wear. Signs looking ominous with the cold hands. I only got one of the gloves out (the other would make an appearance at the end of the ride). Sam was now looking very strong. To the point that he took an extended turn at the front. In truth, that turn lasted about 20 miles. I was the 3rd man in the group and staying there. Although my legs felt pretty good, it was tough keeping up and my hands were feeling very strange in a “is this frost-bite” kind of way. Soon enough, I couldn’t really change gears and braking was torture. The rain just kept belting down and this was serious work. Let’s just get home now.
Eventually, we made it (although Sam missed the most obvious sign in the race, especially with a bunch of riders heading up the route). Back to the training camp, into the showers for the agony and ecstasy as the warm water got to work on the hands and the rest of the freezing body, but mainly the hands. A bit of hotpot and into the car and back up the road, convinced that Sam’s bike was going to blow off the roof – it was doing some serious wobbling). Of course, once we hit Scotland, the wind had abated and the rain gone. All just a dream perhaps?
in Retrospect? A belter of a route with 2500m of climbing. Average of 15.4 mph, which was commendable in the conditions. The conditions? What doesn’t break you can only make you stronger. It’s all good.
Final verdict. Awesome. We’ll be back – probably. Although, the Fred Whitton (Wrynose or Bust’s “Big Brother”) is definitely going in the diary next year. Next stop Etape Caledonia. Bring it on. All right Sam, you can come out now. It’s all over.