Category Archives: David
Sunday. Day 2 of the Lakes expedition. After a poor nights kip for some (snoring, oversoft mattress, loud expulsions of windy-pops) it was up and at ’em for breakfast. Various goodies had been acquired/ brought with the team, our milk safe in the fridge overnight thanks to sticky labels (OK, I maybe went a little overboard, but when I was in student residences, milk was always getting nicked). We chatted to a few other folk staying in the hostel who were doing a bit of walking and watching their friend take part in a big swim event later that morning. Breakfast done, we packed up, grabbed our gear from the drying room, spent ages trying to find John’s overshoes in everyone elses bag only for me to find them – in his bag – then we were off. The plan was to head along the “Fred” route and sort of pick up somewhere along the route were we left off to get the other hills done. More parking fun was to ensue, the swimming event and the triathalon meaning that there were people everywhere and not a space to be found. Eventually we found a layby space and decamped, the rain starting to fall as we got kitted out.
We set off along the flat route, through Ambleside to the first climb of the day – Holbeck Lane leading to Troutbeck (what great names some of these places have!). I got off to a bad start here, my front mech jamming, unable to swap from the big to the small ring. With no hope of getting up the hill in those gears, I yelled to the others to go on (no, its not another puncture), clipped one foot out, banged my foot on the mech and turned the pedal to get the chain to shift over. Result. The others were quickly vanishing, so I pushed hard to close on them as they toiled up the hill. After a short while I was back in touch, breathing hard as we all slogged up the slope, the occasional car squeezing by us as we made our way further up to the Kirkstone pass. As we climbed, dozens of cyclists (triathletes) started to stream toward us, down the hill. A few “hello’s” from John at the front were ignored (seriouz bizniz this triathllon?), only getting the occasional nod, until, to our surprise, a huge yell of “Guys!” – our very own Gio belting down the hill. We responded with our own cheers and hello’s as he vanished down the hill behind us, and kept plugging away at the hill. Soon we were passing an ambulance attending to an unfortunate triathlete on a corner, a convoy of cars behind us only able to pass us once we’d cleared the accident. We continued upwards, calling out to the steady stream of downward cyclists to watch for the accident, and after thirty or so minutes of climbing we reached the top.
The steep descent required serious braking, sharp corners, oncoming cars and the occasional walking or slow, tired cyclist to watch out for. The slope levelled off, and several miles of flattish roads were ahead, time for the train to come in to play. Sadly this was not to be, as we hit a short rise, my front tyre was looking decidely flat, so I had to stop. Pumped up (slow puncture?) and we moved on, but it wasn’t more than a few miles before I had to stop again for more air. Then again as we turned to climb to Matterdale End. And at the top (well, the first top, there was a second not far ahead). And at the bottom. At least the (pricey) tube I’d bought at the top of Whinlatter had a valve that agreed with my pump. This was getting silly, so a new tube went in. Tyre patches also applied as it was clear the tyre was seriously gubbed, gauging roughly where David had seen air coming out the tyre wall on one of the many previous stops. Patched and tubed, we moved on, this time, my tyre seeming to hold the air without issue, but planningon heading to Keswick to get me a new front tyre to be sure of no further incidents today.
We turned on to the A66, Sam taking the lead, the rest of us following, the road starting to head downhill. We spread out a little, mostly keeping to the left of the white line at the edge of the road to give the fast, overtaking traffic more space. We must have been doing around 25mph when it happened. I was at the back, and suddenly and seemingly in slow motion, I could see Sammy was in trouble – his front wheel slid from under him, tipping him over the bike, his head hitting the tarmac, and he lay there motionless as we all careened to a halt. Bryan got to him first – “don’t move him” I yelled as I got off my bike. “Sammy, you ok?”. A few moments passed. “I think so”. “Can you move?”. “Yeah”. “Help him up, slowly”. Bryan and I helped him to the kerb of the junction we were now at and sat him down. “You alright?”. “Mmm”. I’m no medic, but I’ve got a fair bit of experience of dealing with a postictal Dee, so started to apply some of the cogntive checks I’d picked up over the years. “Follow my finger with your eyes”. Left, right, up, down. All seemed well. “Can you move your fingers?”. Yup. “Toes”. Yup. “Anywhere hurting?”. “My head” (surprise). “here” (waist/ hip). “Do you feel sick?”. “No”. So, no concussion (probably?), so far, so good (ish). “What year is it?”. This seemed to pose an issue for a few moments… “2012?”. Ok. “Where are we?”. “The A66, Lake District”. “Who am I?”. “You’re Ian…. I’m feeling a bit funny now”. A quick conflab with the rest – we’re getting him an ambulance, he’s not right and needs a proper medic to check him out. Bryan got on the phone, 999, me using my wee Garmin to call our rough location, getting John to keep him talking, don’t let him fall asleep. Bryan relayed our location, the controller at the other end getting him to ask Sammy his name. He got that right, but was now getting more confused about where we were going, where we’d just been, and was getting cold. I whipped off my jacket for him as Bryan got off the phone. We didn’t have to wait long for the blaring of sirens and the flashing blues as the ambulance arrived. The paramedic took his time to check Sam’s neck, then got him to follow his finger (turning his neck) left then right, head up, chin to chest (neck working ok). “Was he unconscious?”. “Maybe, but only a second or two, can’t be sure”. “OK, seems you won’t need a brace, lets get you in the ambulance”. “where you taking him?”. “Carlisle”. Hmm. “Can you take his bike?”. “I’m not supposed to, but I’m a cyclist too, ok, wait while we get things sorted, then we’ll take it for you”. We took charge of Sam’s car key, took his Garmin for safekeeping, then passed the bike to the ambulance crew, who were quickly off, sirens and lights down the road.
Ok, now what? Back on the bikes? Keep going to Keswick John reckoned, bike shop, ditch bikes, grab a taxi back to the cars. Sound plan. The rain was tipping down, we cautiously made our way along the road, cars dangerously close at times, all of us extra aware of the drains, bulging cats-eyes and any potholes that could lie ahead. The longest four miles ever were ahead of us, the four of us moving in mostly silence, mulling over the recent events. We got there, found the bike shop from the day before, John and Bryan going in to see about a taxi. They were soon out – turns out we’re less than 30 minutes away from the cars, bike shop guy reckons we’d be as quick biking it as waiting for taxi. So a quick refuel with gel/bars and we got ready to set off back up the road. Bryan’s phone went – Sammy! Seems they’d turfed him out of A&E, his ride in the ambulance seeing him mostly recovered, the doc showing more concern over his hip than his head. Good news. Less so for the road, as we were immediately on a hill, working hard to get to the top 4 or 5 miles further on. The rest of the route we fell back into the train, taking our 0.5 mile stints at the head of the group, as we set a quick pace on the favourable roads, some shorter upward hills but a good few downward or easy flat sections allowing us to hit decent speeds all the way back to Ambleside. Ok, where’s the cars? Erm, not sure. Think its this way (stupid Garmin not playing ball with the ‘back to start’ function). An extra loop of Ambleside’s one way system and we hit the right road, a mile or so further on and we were back at the layby and the cars. Ride done. 50 miles (5 or so missing from me stopping my Garmin at the Sammy incident).
A fun drive from Ambleside to the M6 (Sammy’s in-car GPS taking us the ‘scenic route’), and we were soon at Carlisle, picked up a bored (and much better) Sam, only effected by a sore hip and a bit too much daytime TV while he waited for us, and headed home. Curry in Cambuslang rounded off an eventful weekend – not really the 170+ planned for the weekend, and missed out on a chance to try the infamous Hardnot and Wyrnose climbs, but I reckon we’re excused due to all the other hills, weather, punctures, accident, floods and er, hills.
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The original plan (well the current original plan which was one of many but don’t let that complicate the story) was simple. Me, Sammy and David would be meet Ian and John in Coniston at 0930 and start riding soon after. However, since it was raining (pretty hard) John decided a new jacket was required and Keswick was the place to get it, prompting a change in the start of the ride to Keswick, a place we were due pass through on our ride. Same ride, different start point……..
The background to this is the weekend just passed was supposed to be the pre-lejog, big 2 hard days in a row cycle to ensure that everyone felt what it was like to get up 2 days in a row and cycle.
Driving down, the call came in from Ian ‘John wants to buy a jacket, going to Keswick for it’, ‘Ok, we will just come there and save a bit of time and start the trip there’ we respond. Our response is paraphrased, the real response would have involved word like selfish, unprepared, **** (insert swear word here) etc….. It’s not like rain wasn’t forecast. However, at the time it seemed like an ok plan.
As we drive into Keswick we spot a bike shop and John’s car. Ian’s bike is strapped to the back unsecured, we think about taking it to teach him a lesson but think better of it. Ian’s view of security gets even stranger as he padlocks his carton of milk to the fridge in the youth hostel for fear of theft.
The rest of us troop into the shop and find John trying on various jackets, posing as if he was on a bike to ensure the sleeves are long enough, this is not a quick process but eventually a jacket is settled upon. Everyone then has to take a shot of the shops toilet and we are ready to go. Well nearly, there is a job of driving round Keswick trying to find a non paying parking spot, but eventually we end back in the centre of town at the Pay and Display. Of course no one has any change for it, but luckily you can phone a number and pay by card. Great, but seemingly the computerised system doesn’t do ‘Scottish’ and it’s off to the newsagent to buy a packet of mints to get some change. Nearly there, just the weekly discussion about how many layers to wear, which gloves to use, overshoes or not…. Given that it had been raining for 3 straight days, pretty much meant everything was going to be worn.
We eventually set off about 11:15 and immediately find out that however bad a road is in a car, it’s 10 times worse on a bike. The roads are in a terrible state, flooding everywhere and rocks and scree all over the road. We cycle gingerly, not knowing what’s around the corner. There are no land speed records getting set this weekend.
The 112 mile route we had planned to do has 9 big hills, but although we have the route mapped in Ian and Sammy’s Garmin gps no one is quite sure when the hills are coming. After about 10 miles Sammy thinks there is a hill coming and having put too many layers on, everyone is already sweating and it’s time for some to come off to help us the hill. Suitable ready, off we go. Now what we were expecting was a hill, not a wall that had slightly subsided. This hill was near vertical, the 25% signs suddenly appearing in view, the recrimination of the route owners began. ‘You didn’t say it ramped up so quiclky, ya ****’ ‘Is this one of the big ones’ ‘ How long does it go on for’ are the shouts heard. Nobody knew and quickly no one could speak as everyone used all their energy to keep moving, this hill was tough and it went on for miles. Some decided that weaving all over the road from side to side lessened the gradient, others decided that nearly falling into a ditch at the side of the road was the way to go. However, in the end everyone made it up to the top without stopping. I think it was one of those situations where had one stopped, everyone else would have quickly followed, but no one did, pride forcing everyone onwards. At the top we re-gathered and had a chat about the experience. But not for long, it was cold, jackets back on and then down. Brakes stuck on, this was not an easy descent, windy thin roads with debris everywhere, cramp in your hands as you grip too tightly. But soon we were down and back onto the flat in a group. But not for long.
Onto hill number 2, again no real idea of what to expect, the expression ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ comes to mind. This hill is hard but not too hard and has a nicer feel to it, it is semi enjoyable. We come to the top, stop and take in the view and then quickly get going again. This descent is better, smoother roads, wider turns and we bundle down and eventually it bottoms out. However, there are only 4 of us now. Ian is not with us. We remember him putting his jacket on but surely it doesn’t take that long. We look back up the hill to try and spot but it’s a long hill and hard to see in the rain. Eventually a lady in a car stops and tells us that Ian has a puncture. It’s a relief that we know what’s wrong but know that there could be a wait as Ian wont be in the Guinness book of records anytime soon for the fastest time to change a puncture. And then we wait, and wait, it’s getting cold and eventually the decision is taken to start going back up the hill to help. We go about half way back up and find Ian. The puncture has been changed but the valve on tube keeps coming off when getting pumped up. We get Sammy on the job, he is known as the ‘Mavic man’ after the yellow cars that follow the Tour de France to provide mechanical help. After a bit of toing and froing it is fixed and we are on our way. Not for long, we manage another couple of miles and psstt…… Ian’s tyre is down again. This is not going well. Another new inner tube, another check of the tyre, it is pumped up and off we go again, all the way back down to the bottom and ready for hill number 3.
Sammy kicks off first, followed by myself and then the other 3 are a bit slow in getting going. Sammy is setting a good pace but I am keeping him in sight, I check back a couple of times and can see John’s new yellow jacket. All present and correct. As the hill ramps up, you start to concentrate to keep going, a steady rhythm is required. My technique is counting down from 10 to 1, that’s easy, only 10 to do and then start again. I havent looked back in a while but when I do I dont see anyone but there are a few corners so they might be round one of them. I keep going. Eventually I stop just short of the top and decide to wait. Nothing. I eventually phone David and find out the bad news, Ian’s tyre is down again. So I wait and wait. Eventually, Sammy comes down from the top and we decide to roll back down to help and it’s nearly to the bottom. It is again fixed, but this is not a good sign, however there is a bike shop at the top of the hill and we will take it in there. Off we go again, my legs not enjoying the hill the second time around.
We reach the top, where the bike shop and a cafe are situated and Ian goes off to get help. John and I browse the shop and John decided to purchase another set of gloves to supplement the 3 pairs he is already carrying. ‘Super Waterproof’ or so they claim, they need to be. Sammy has replanned our route for the rest of the day, taking in most of the big hills but less of the flat in between. Ian’s tyre has been checked and been given the all clear and we decide to stop for lunch although we barely deserve it. The standard of lunch is reasonable for a forest cafe but the prices resemble a 3 star Michelin place. 2 soups, 1 baguette, 2 cakes and a drink, £20!
Lunch duly eaten, we set off once again. The descent is treacherous, water is pouring off the hills making handling tricky, stones everywhere. We make it to the bottom and guess what? Ian’s tyre is down again. This is turning into a nightmare. We try and work out what to do. One school of thought is a couple of us to go back and get the cars, but the quickest way is back over the hill we came. This is rejected due to the danger. So we decide on fixing Ian’s tyre once again and heading back to the cars a different way involving hill number 2 and hoping for the best. The trip back to car is fairly uneventfull although hill number 2 seems decidedly harder, although not for David who romps up and over in double quick time.
We make it back to Keswick at 17:32 just in time for the bike shop closing. Great! No new tyre. And only 45 miles done.
Quickly, we were locked and loaded and off to the Youth hostel. I think most of us would have preferred the luxury of a B and B and a nice comfy twin room but due to many events in the area, this was all the accomodation we could find. How bad could it be? Well in reality, not too bad at all. We had one room for the five of us, while not exactly Ritz standard was clean and tidy. The showers were hot and the setting was fantastic. Life was ok. Deoderant was sprayed on and we were ready to go out.
On the way out we chatted briefly to a hen party waiting on their lift. It turned out their lift was the hen herself who didnt drink and who would be taking 2 lots of her friends to the village for her night out. Sounds great for the hen!
The nearest town is Ambleside, a lovely spot with may fine restaurants. We decide on the ‘Jade Garden’ for rice and noodles to fuel us for the next day. It turns out to be a perfunctory by the book Chinese restaurant that wont be winning any awards anytime soon. However, the chat is good and everyone has enjoyed it so far even given the mishaps that has happened. It’s all about the journey.
We get back to the Hostel at 22:30 and Ian and David go for a drink as it too early for bed. The rest of hit the hay and dream of a better second day……TBC
The plan – 6 of team DIFD to head down to the Lakes to take on the “Fred Whitton sportive” route on Saturday, an easy 60 on the Sunday. The “Fred” is a tough 112 miles taking in 9 significant climbs, including some of the hardest in the UK with gradients of 25%. The guide to the route uses the words “painfully” and “very, very” an awful lot in front of the word “steep”. So, guess the hills were going to be tricksy… Sunday was to be a recovery day from the significant self-inflicted torture that Saturday was promising to be.
Saturday. 6.45am start. Rain. Lots of it. Mark M had dropped out (needing to get his cycle legs back after his last few weeks of focussing on his marathon training and better guessing the impact of the weather), so 5 of us were heading down in two cars, myself with Big J; Bryan, Sam and David in the other. Gio would be in the same area taking part in a triathalon on Sunday so was going to miss out on today’s fun. Did I mention the rain?
As we got closer to our target (Conniston), John was eyeing the weather from the car, noting how very, very damp the few cyclists we were passing looked and decided that a new waterproof jacket was in order. A quick phone call or two to the other car and a detour to Keswick was made, a bike shop found and John kitted out in new bright yellow Gore jacket. Some swithering over some Gore bib shorts that happened to be a close match for out team kit (decision was we’d come back for them later) and it was back to the cars to find a parking spot somewhere on the Fred route, as the morning was moving on. Seems despite the weather there were a lot of people trying to park.
A brief stop on a quiet lane was rejected as being too close to a river that looked to be already bursting its banks – didn’t want to be paddling back to the cars at the end of the day. More forays along quiet roads, passing through some serious flooding (bow waves and hissing engine from the depth of water) a call was made to just head to Keswick and face the cost of a proper car park. This had its own issues – very little change, so phone based payments attempted (succes for car 1, a jog to the shop for change for car 2 as ‘your network is not compatible with this service’) and we were parked, £7 down each. Waste of cake money…
A quick discussion on gear (long legs, 2 or 3 layers, definately waterproof jackets) and we eventually hit the road on our bikes. First stop, the flood we’d just been through (and back again), with a mix of taking the footpath (still under half a foot of water) or the road (equally flooded), picking our way through the water with care. The ‘train’ moved on, the rain coming down, the spray flying up, the road sodden – water streaming through the ironically named dry-stone walls in various spots, inches of standing water not uncommon, causing us to take to the middle of the road in an attempt to pass on through the shallowest part of the floods.
Nine miles done in half an hour (watery roads not condusive to speed) and we were at the first hill of the day – the climb to Honister Pass. A quick stop to shed our jackets (the rain had abated) and we started the climb, all in the small rings as this one of the “painfully” and “very, very” hills. Dodging to the side for a few cars/ bus we pushed upwards, Sam starting to traverse at the steepest section, David having a wobble and near dismount situation with a ditch. I pushed ahead a little to avoid the traversing (extra time on this hill? no thanks!) and reached the top, 2 mountain bikers watching us from a side path. I clipped one foot out to wait for the others right behind me, only for Sam to call “this isn’t the top, keep going” as he pedalled by me, the false peak a short respite only before more climbing to the real top a bit further on. We regrouped for the descent, as steep as the climb, so hard on the brakes as we headed down, avoiding the gravel and debris washed on to the road by the rain.
Through Buttermere and three miles or so on to Newlands, the second climb of the day. This was ‘easy’, at least compared to the last hill, again everyone climbing roughly together. A brief stop at the top to regroup, warnings to take care on the way down and we were off.
I was last to go, but punctured nearly immediately. I pulled over, the others fast vanishing ahead. I started to change the tube, tyre half off, old tube out, new tube in. A van stopped, asking if I was ok, I was – just tell the guys up ahead I’ve got a flat. Pumped it up. As I unscrewed the pump, the valve started to come out, deflating the tyre. Bah. Rescrewed the valve, pumped it up. Unscrewed the pump. Valve came out again. By this point the others had decided to come kick my ass for wasting their time, getting chilled in the rain. Dissing the pump, a gas canister inflated the tube, and we were off, making our way to Braithwaite. However, we’d barely gone on a mile or two and I’d punctured again (2). This time Sam helped me change the tube (dont want the new guy pinching another tube), pump still de-valving the tube so another gas inflate, and we were again on our way. We were soon at our third climb – Winlatter. A gentler climb this time, but we’d hardly got a few hundred metres before I had puncture number 3. Sam and Bryan were well ahead, but John and David were stopped with me. John took charge of this change, taking the tyre completely off the rim, checking it over carefully and getting me to do the same, David finding the hole in the tube to see if we could find something that was causing these punctures. Nothing. New tube, inflated. Ready to go again, as Bryan and Sam came back down to see what was taking so long. Up the hill we went, nothing too steep, but a fairly long slog. The promised lunch stop would be at the top as well as a chance to get my tyre checked over in the bike shop that was there too. We got to the top with no issues, I took my bike into the shop, the mechanic taking a look at the tyre and tube. His verdict? You’ve been unlucky, can’t see anything wrong, avoid the gravel. So purchased a couple of new tubes from the shop and off to lunch (and cake).
Ah, lunch. Baguettes, soup, coffee, water and cake. Toilet stop. A quick chat to a mountain biker who had four punctures in a day (ridiculous! no-one is that unlucky…) then back out into the rain. Down the hill we went, the wind and rain battering us as we went. As we hit the valley floor, I was again feeling too much road through my bars – flat number four! Unbelievable. Another new tube, exasperation all round and a change of plan. Time was against us (it was nearly 5pm already) so a quick try to get a lift for me and my ailing bike from a couple in a van failing (“sorry, we just live over there”), it was change the tube then a few miles along the valley floor, back over Newlands, to get to the cars. The second time up the climb seemed tougher, particularly as I was watching my front tyre, concerned it was going to go at any moment. David pushed to the front, stretching himself to hit the top first, the rest of us soon there. Me puncture free so far. Down into Braithwaite, turning back to Keswick, the train making great time, the wind now helping us and the roads relatively clear of debris and floods – the ‘best’ bit of the day, a nice fast section for a half dozen miles. Soaked, not as tired as we expected, not even half the mileage we’d planned, we were back at the cars.
We packed up, made a quick stop at the Co-op for supplies and headed off to the Youth Hostel. Hidden behind Ambleside up a serious hill, this YH used to be a mansion. We checked in (here’s your key, bike shed round the back, drying room in the basement), claimed beds in the 3 bunk-bed room, grabbed a shower (or trickle depending on shower cubicle choice) and put our wet gear in the drying room. The bikes were locked in the shed, a quick chat to a hen party (you chose to stay here? for a hen night??) and we piled into Sam’s car to head to Ambleside for a Chinese. Not the best grub, but plenty of it, a beer for David and me, water for everyone else, then back to the YH. A quiet pint (the YH had a small bar in reception) for me and David, everyone else off to bed. We finished our drinks and headed to bed too.
The morning would be bringing better weather (right…) and a second crack at the Fred to finish the hills we skipped. A sort of enjoyable day (some good hills done), nice lunch, bad luck on punctures, rotten weather, ok room, passable dinner and my first sleep on a top bunk in 25 years. Part 2 (Sunday) soon.
I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently so decided to throw in a few words about Sunday’s fast run from the Clubhouse. It being Fathers Day we decided to go for an early start but after some discussion agreed 8am was civilised.
The usual four (myself, J, Tubs and Gio) headed off from Gio’s at a couple of minutes past 8 when a shout goes up that Young Dave had just pulled up. A quick about turn and a five minute wait til the wee fella got himself sorted and the train of five was off.
We headed off over the well cycled roads through Kirkie and Kilsyth making good time with an average of just over 19mph due to a slight tailwind. It’s a very strange feeling not to turn up the Takmadoon Road and our nemesis climb, and instead to carry on towards Banknock.
Onwards through Denny and into Stirling where we passed the start of the Trossachs Ton Sportive. As we left Stirling on The Carse road we could see some groups from the Sportive in the distance, heads down. The DIFD Train set of after them.
We passed fewer small groups before realising one group of three had tagged on to the back of our train for the ‘free speed’ a group provides. I got chatting to one of the guys for a few miles and it turned out they were from the registration team of the Sportive so set off last and enjoy doing the route reeling in the slower cyclists all the way round!
Only when we split with the Sportive route did we realise that Young Dave had dropped off the back. We waited a few seconds for him to arrive and headed off up the Kippen Hill towards Fintry, ignoring the signs warning of closed road ahead which wasn’t a great move. I decided to try the hills staying in the big ring at the front so kept a good speed up through the village. When we arrived at the road closed signs it looked ok to proceed as there was Tarmac there just not perfect. Further up even that disappeared and we ended up on the base of the road, which wasn’t doing the wheels and tyres any good. Soon we topped out and enjoyed the decent into Fintry on the uneven surface. Stirling Council take note!
A quick stop in Fintry to take on some food and drink, we discussed the possibility of adding a few miles via Milngavie but decided to head home and enjoy being spoiled! We headed off up The Crow with Tubs and I deciding to try the climb in the big ring whilst J and Gio trying to do a high cadence easy gear climb. The decent into the Lennoxtown was a bit hairy with about a dozen sheep loose on the road making it very stop/start after the car park.
On the road over to Torrance my Garmin battery died meaning I only got 51.8 miles registered rather than the full 56 but we managed to achieve the 19mph average for the full run. A smashing route, I must say. Apologies for the lack of photos!
Garmin output : http://connect.garmin.com/activity/190026982
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.
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.
When it comes to writing blog posts Ian is straight out of the blocks. For the rest of us, not quite so good. So here is the training entry for the Sunday that Ian was going to be doing until he was alerted to the condition of his tights – ripped.
Me, Sam, Tubs and David and the route was as the previous week. Tubby was upset at the blog title – “Rolling with the Big Beasts”, so he came buzzing ready to give it some welly. He also took the sheen off David’s new shiny bike with a new trimmed down steed himself.
The whole Duke’s Pass ride is a beauty on many levels. It splits into comfortable, manageable sections.
Section 1 – Rolling to Aberfoyle. Come July, 7 of us will be looking to sit tight together and share the burden of riding 100 + miles every day for 9 days. Keeping it together and learning to conserve energy in the pack is a must. The first 18 miles to Aberfoyle from Strathblane easily allow everyone to sit together, rolling at a nice pace and taking turns at the front. This was only David’s second time riding amongst a group and I’m sure he appreciated this mainly flat, pacey section.
Section 2 – The Duke’s Pass. A lovely hill enjoyed by all. Why? Is it the generally fine road surface (a bit gnarly at the bottom but
really smooth further up)? The welcoming flat sections after having to push? The nice scenery? The general absence of cars? Probably all of the above. Tubs, Sam and David pushed on up the hill and I came up behind them. I passed and Sam came along with me most of the way to the top. The big fellow remembers last year when he tried to stick with “the G Train” (Gio) up here and died a thousand deaths come the finale (don’t mention the fact that Tubs crested the Crow road before him that day – prickly). Not long before David and Tubs joined us at the top.
Section 3 – Rolling up and down all the way to Callendar. Again some great, quiet roads along lochs Achray and Venachar and before you know it we’re in Callendar. All the team looking good and feeling fine. (We really could have done with Ian along – he usually has some kind of issue, be it falling off or puncturing or having a bonk, which makes for more interesting copy).
Section 4 – Callendar to Kippen has a bit of incline. David’s feeling it a touch and falls back a little. After a quick regroup at Thornhill we push on for the last few miles before the next challenge of the Kippen hill. It’s a straightforward 2 and 2 here. Me and Sam push up followed by David and Tubs. Big Sam looking good – as usual he mentions baked beans. Apparently, he’s carrying 20 cans of baked beans on his back that I’m not – I should try it some day. Perhaps instead of me bringing the beans along, he could try and leave them at home for a change? Whatever – Sam and his beans make it the top and in good shape. There’s a bit of breeze getting up now and it’s getting cold so we push on to Fintry and wait there. Tubs rolls up and David a little bit later. All set for section 5.
Section 5 – The Crow Road. The wind is beginning to whip up now. Waiting at Fintry a couple of riders go by – targets. They get a good lead on us and it might be a push to catch them on the Crow, but I’ll certainly be giving it a go, by George. At the bottom of the Crow, Tubs isn’t even interested in pushing on and Sammy shouts “too rich for me” at the first steep incline on the bend. I’m on my own with the two riders ahead. I give the legs a good squeeze (feeling much more energised that last week when the Crow was a real toughy) and pass one then the other with plenty to go. Really windy now and a heavy fog up the top of the hill. The average speed coming down the hill is a good 10 mph slower than last week. All because of the wind.
Section 6 – Lennoxtown to Strathblane. The last 5 which can be lovely or a bit torturous depending on your form. It again ends up with me, Tubs and Sam with a couple of targets to pass. Sam goes past me on the front, but I take over again on a little uphill section. He assumes that I have gone to the front to look the bees knees as we pass the ladies in front – not so. Just using a bit of spare energy for the incline to help my fellow riders.
And so to a frenetic last mile as Sam powers on down the hill trying to show a little dominance. However, Tubs and myself are wise to his game and it ends with the 3 of us pelting along almost side by side down to the final roundabout just by the Kirkhouse Inn. David rolls up soon after, and another team 60 miler is in the bag. Now for the cake stop (lacking the elegance of Ian’s Saturday stop). Some of Julie’s (Mrs Sammy’s) mighty fine carrot cake and the always wonderful For Goodness Shakes. Bring on the next run.