Category Archives: Mark

cyclists vs midges

Saturday 14th. Probably the last proper team training outing before the big day on the 27th. Start point was to be Callander. Big J and Sam were going to ride an extra 30 odd miles from John’s place, but Bryan had offered to give Mark and myself a lift to the start point. Turns out the drive over took a lot longer than anticipated, and the 12:30 start slipped about an hour. We got parked up, grabbed a quick bite and set off. I immediately regretted going single layer-short sleeve, as although the sun was sort of out, it was chilly on the bike. However, once the train got going at a solid pace I soon warmed up and we were making good time along the road. A minor collision with some on-road debris resulted in a possible puncture for Sam, so a brief stop to check it out was called. Re-inflating the tyre seemed to sort it out so we restarted.

The weather soon turned, and drizzle was upon us as we hit a slow climb out of Lochearnhead. The drizzle turned to rain, so a stop for jackets-on for yours truly was made (yeah, I still can’t put on a jacket in the saddle). The hill continued, the rain relenting as we reached the top, but Sam’s back tyre had deflated on the way up, so needed a new tube. We pulled over in a lay-by and he changed the tube. The rain had stopped, and the midges were out, thousands of ’em. I’m usually a prime target for these little beasties, and this time it was no different, swarming round me as I held Sam’s bike for him as he hurriedly worked the new tube onto his wheel. However, the sheer number of the wee beasties resulted in everyone getting chewed at, as we swatted and splatted them as best we could. Tube changed, back on bikes, escape the beasties down the hill!

midge_mayhem

the aftermath of cyclists vs midges

by_cottage

fold your arms, and no smiling!

On through Killin and to Glenlochay, with a brief stop at Big J’s in-law’s cottage for a quick photo session and chat about the hill to come – the road is a bit ‘rough’ and there are gates in the deer fence on the hill that need opened and closed to get through. There’s also a bit where you need to get off the bike… not liking the sound of that. We were soon at the foot of the hill, having already picked our way through some very pot-holed and gravel covered sections of road. The first gate lay ahead of us, Bryan in the lead opening it for us, but we all had to dismount to get by the cattle grid, Big J’s hope of just cycling through was not happening. Clipping-in on the slope was a challenge, and avoiding the numerous holes, rocks and gravel strewn over what was left of the tarmac was not making this climb any easier. Mark and Sam took to the front, I was in the middle followed up by Bryan and John, all of us picking our way carefully through the mess that was once a road, while working hard to get up the hill. Another gate and cattle grid lay between us and the top, this time we were able to slip through the ‘kissing gate’ at the side. Again, clipping in not easy on these kind of slopes, but everyone eventually got to the 500m high summit.

Bryan_n_BigJ

Bryan and Big J on one of the better bits of road

The downward section was not the normal relaxing descent, the road equally pitted and scattered with obstacles as the ascent. At the bottom we regrouped, Big J rolling to a stop, having picked up a front puncture somewhere on the last section of the descent.

tyre_burst

help me Mavic Man!

Wheel off, tyre quickly checked for thorns, new tube in, inflated with the gas, when BANG! the tube exploded. Mark and John started to put in a second tube, taking their time to avoid another issue.  However, there was something up – the tube was starting to bulge out the wall of the tyre. An inch-long gash in the sidewall was responsible. Not looking good, but Sam produced his tyre patches and the tyre was fixed up, inflated as best we could without bursting the patch and we set off, John cautious at first to be sure the tyre was going to hold.

The road rolled on, the mostly downward section offering a welcome respite from the recent climb, but this was a short-lived 10 mile section before the long climb up the road of Ben Lawers. Five miles or so of steady uphill was before us, but not as harsh as the previous climb.

ben_lawer_climb

could that be a cakey shop ahead??

lochan at top of Ben Lawer

the top reached

We were soon cycling alongside the lochan at the summit, the flat soon becoming a steep descent, picking up speed as we headed down toward the A827 and the return section to Killin. The final short climb back up to the ‘midge’ spot and it was mostly flat or downhill all the way ‘home’, Bryan taking the front to ‘get some exercise’ for several miles, with the last 3 miles seeing a burst of speed to finish the day.

The final fun of they day – getting 5 men and 5 bicycles into one car. This involved various wheels being taken off and held on knees, but they were all squashed in somehow for the trip back to Glasgow, where a curry (plus unexpected karaoke) awaited us in Cambuslang.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/199377763

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For Want of a Nail (Part one)

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

Balloch loop

I’d checked out the weather report for the weekend, and Sunday was looking a tad windy, Saturday dry and sunny, so my plan was to get a decent ride done then rather than playing with the wind on Sunday. This also worked out better with my non-cycling activities, as I was playing catch up with folk I’d not seen in a while on Saturday night/ Sunday. I’d met Mark M for a few drinks at the Stand comedy club on Friday night, and he and his pal Mark D were up for “a few hours” on the bike on Saturday morning. The plan was set – meet at the corner of Byres Rd and Queen Margaret Drive at around 9.30 and we’d hit the road for a few hours.

Saturday morning came, and a text from Mark M that he “wasn’t going to be any use ’til midday”. I replied I’d head out anyway to meet Mark D, then got a follow up that as he was now up (turns out another friend had phoned with good news, so any chance of him getting back to sleep went out the window) so he may as well come out. I arrived at the rendezvous round about the 9.30 mark, but no sign of either Mark. No worries, it was a bit chilly, but the sun was out, so I just kicked back and watched the traffic go by, checking out the occasional passing bike and roof-down convertible (the sun is out, get that roof down!). Mark M phoned soon after, “give me 10 minutes”, but no sign/ call from Mark D. So it turned out to be a 2 man outing, and Mark unsure of a throat/ chest infection brewing, we decided on a 40-50-ish miler. We set off up Great Western Road, through Annniesland and made our way on to Dumbarton, through Renton and on to Balloch, taking it easy and chatting as we turned the cranks. As we left Balloch, we turned on to proper country roads, not the smooth tarmac of our week in Majorca, but a mix of reasonable condition surface with the occasional pothole or two to keep us on our toes.

dodge the potholes

blue sky, but Mark wishing he had an extra layer on, as it was a bit nippy

A minor ‘bump’ of 80m or so lead in to a few miles of quiet rolling roads, for the most part allowing us to cycle side by side and keep the conversation going, occasionally switching to single file when any vehicles (or a couple of horses) came into view.

road with hills in distance

yup, there's snow on them there hills

Eventually we passed through Croftamie, and a sort of proper climb began, 180m or so over the next few miles of hilly road, which Mark intended to use for some speed work – standing up on the pedals and working hard to put in a burst of effort up each rise, back on the saddle as it levelled out (or if we were lucky, a short downhill).  For the most part, I worked to keep up, but on some of the longer sections, I was left behind, catching up as Mark eased off.

Carbeth Inn

Carbeth Inn - somewhere warm to escape the chilly sunshine

A solid workout, rewarded with a short break at the Carbeth Inn for a coffee/hot chocolate and the chance to get some warmth back in the fingers. We stayed long enough to finish our drinks, then got back on the bikes for a nice roll down the hill to Bearsden, nipping through the woods between Maryhill and the Switchback roads. A few short miles through some of my old running routes from when I was a West End dweller and we were at the Botanics, where we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes.

A solid ride, not a particularly great average, but a good mix of easy cycling and speedwork done. As it was a bit shy of my planned mileage for the weekend, I did a wee cheeky 20 on Sunday to top things up, having missed out on a Duke’s run with Gio and Bryan as I was staying overnight with friends.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/172512449

Definitely ready for the Drumlanrig Tearfund Challenge sportive next weekend, though I’m planning an extra 80-ish miles either side of that to mix a visit to my Mum’s (near Castle Douglas) with the sportive.

Majorca training day 5

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.

Majorca training day 4

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.

Mark by field

Mark by the pretty field

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.

orient climb

going up the Orient climb

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.

top of Orient

the top of the Orient climb

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.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/169368134

Majorca training day 3

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.

team on the road

cumulonimbus?

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.

petra_bikes

Just a few cyclists and bikes in Petra

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.

cake

Obilgatory cake picture next to 'limon' drink with a mere 31g of sugar in it.

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.

Monastery wall, overlooking north Mallorca

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.

top o monastery

ok, back down the hill and then go that way...

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.

quarry

Nice quarry!

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.

mark beer

mmm, beer

ian beer

mmm, beer

david beer

mmm, beer

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.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/169082598

Here’s hoping the weather holds for the rest of the week.

Majorca training day 2

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.

Formentor

Top of the hill, no brewery in sight.

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.

fine road

Roads as good as home

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.

cap formentor

ok, we made it up, but now we have to go back again?

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.

Cap Formentor

smile, its not raining, yet...

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.

twisty

catch the car, win a prize

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.

formentor

the top of Formentor, on the return leg

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.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/168787499

Majorca training camp day 1

day 1. Sunday. Not very sunny…

sunny BelleVue

Sunny Alcudia

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.

top of Lluc

After the Lluc climb, before pizza

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.

Looking down on Sa Calorba

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.

A pretty big hill...

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.

Giant chocoloate 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.

back up the big hill

back up the big hill

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.

Hairpin bend number 34

Hairpin bend number 34

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.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/168677420

111 miles

Sunday. No ‘team’ ride on the table, so was planning on a solo effort until Mark M texted to ask if I wanted to join him and Mark D on a Sunday outing. Turned out it was to be a ‘biggie’, 80 miler to Dunoon, with the option of getting the train home or forging on for a 100+ miler. Sounded like a good challenge to me, 9.30 am kick-off, so why not give it a shot? Got round to Mark M’s a bit early, so a few minutes wait while he stocked up on sarnies and other goodies before we headed along to meet Mark D to head to Anniesland and beyond. The wind was up, though tolerable, was having an impact on our pace, knocked down to just shy of 17mph by the time we hit Helensburgh (last time we were in the mid 18s). On to Faslane and a small 100m climb past Garelochhead before passing along Loch Long on our way to Arrochar.

coffee and cake stop

coffee and cake stop

We stopped for a brief drink (coffee/ hot chocolate) and scone (jam + cream) at the Village Inn, about 40 miles done, and a big hill just around the corner, known locally as the “rest and be thankful”. I’d heard of this, but don’t remember ever travelling up it, in a car or otherwise, so not sure what to expect.

Mark D and Ian

40 miles, I'm not tired, even if I do have a flag in my ear

Mark M and Mark D

the Marks enjoying the brief food stop

Our pace dropped as we took on this climb, the Marks allowing me to keep pace, slackening off if I dropped off the back to allow me to regain contact. After 20 minutes or so of this slog, we reached the top, and were rewarded with a 3-4 mile downhill section ending in Ardno and St. Catherines. Just shy of 60 miles and around 4 hours of cycling, my left knee decided it had had enough, and thought it should let me know by inflicting some pain on me. Not enough to stop me carrying on, but harsh enough that I knew about it with each turn of the crank. Drugs required. A garage stop allowed me to grab a 50p pot of paracetamol and Mark M to refill his bottle and we were on our way, with me no longer taking any turns at the front to nurse my knee on the remaining dozen miles to the ferry at Dunoon. Our pace was soon helped by a 12 strong group of club riders, we tagged on the back as they passed us, gaining the tow for the remaining half dozen or so miles to the ferry. Mark D joined the group proper, taking his turn at the front, myself and Mark M stayed at the back, with him pointing out to me how the change-overs at the lead worked so ‘next time’ I’d be able to put in my turn at the front. The hardest part of this group section for me was the corners, I’m still not quick enough on bends so the concertina in on the slowdown into the corner then the follow through on to the straight catching me out on several occasions, causing me to put in a burst of speed each time to regain the back of the train. Still, a welcome help to get us to the ferry terminal just as the ferry arrived.

A quick jaunt on the ferry, chatting to some of the other riders and we were docking in Gourock. A couple more paracetamol for my whining knee, and I took the decision to carry on rather than taking the train home. Whats another 30 miles when you’ve just done 80? That, and I was determined to get a 100 miler in the bag. Through Greenock and up a 200m climb for an easy descent on the back roads to Bridge of Weir, the GPS watch counting ever towards the 100 miles. We were making excellent time, the wind at our backs most of the way, when Mark M hit a rogue pothole, blowing out his back tube. A short delay while this was fixed, his odd (to me) rims causing problems engaging the gas inflators, resolved by my more traditional hand-pump, then we were back on our way.

The 100 for me hit just at Linwood, my first ever ‘century ride’ done in 6 hours 40-ish. Well chuffed with that, as we began the start-stop riding into Paisley and the final 10 miles into Glasgow. The group split at Govan road, me heading east (I was late for dinner with Mr & Mrs M), the Marks west for a well-earned post-ride pint.

111.57 miles, 16.7mph average and a guessed-at-by-the-watch 7,777 calories burned. More cakes for me!

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/163892302

Chasing buses

The main Sunday ride was a Duke’s Pass run, planned for a 7.45am start from the Kirkie. Now the clocks were changing, so would effectively mean I’d need to be up at ‘old’ 5am (6am with the hour change) to get there in time. As I didn’t relish that idea, decided to dodge it, as Mark M had invited me out with his friend Mark D (so many Marks to keep track of) for a Saturday jaunt to Helensburgh. This seemed like a more sleep friendly outing – starting around 9am. Much more sensible. Headed round to Mark M’s for around 8.30, then met up with Mark D on Great Western Road, and we made our way to Anniesland and then on to Dumbarton. The two M’s were doing most of the work, with me tucked in behind and getting some practice at wheel hugging.  The fairly flat route saw us making good time, and we were soon in Helensburgh, sitting on an average speed of mid 18mph. We made a brief stop while Mark M said a quick hello to friend refurbing a restaurant, had a quick on-bike snack, then were on our way to the first (and only) climb of the day at Glen Fruin.

Cattlegrid at the bottom of Glen Fruin

Cattlegrid at the bottom of the climb up Glen Fruin

Climb up Glen Fruin

The climb up Glen Fruin - it's steeper than it looks

We turned off the main road, dropped onto the small ring, and headed up the hill, a quick burst of speed over the first cattle grid and we settled in to the ascent. My climbing practice on the Hairy Brae from last week’s Largs trip was put to good use, switching between on-saddle and on pedals standy-up techniques to keep the pace going as best I could, giving an average speed of around 7.5mph for the mile up the hill. The two M’s were pleased with my attempt at the climb, Mark M in particular commenting on my improvement since we were last out together, so I guess all this training is paying off. The descent down to Arden saw us hitting around 35mph, before joining a nice busy A82 for a couple of miles before escaping the traffic onto the Luss road and making our way through Balloch and Alexandria, setting a solid pace as we went. Soon we were back on to the now dual-carriageway A82 for the return to Glasgow, Mark D leading the way, with only the occasional short split forming at round-a-bouts or traffic lights. The majority of the time though we formed a compact group and the last few miles into the city were soon behind us. As we returned through Anniesland, Mark D took a training tip from the great Robert Millar, and chased a bus halfway up the road in the outside lane (Mr Millar used to cycle after buses from Glasgow to Kilmarnock and Ayr).  Not my idea of a good training strategy, but was amusing to watch.

My average speed was now sitting at 17.4mph, a record for me over the 55 or so miles we’d completed. Mark M headed off along Queen Margaret Drive, Mark D and myself continuing along Gt. Western road, before splitting at Gibson Street to head to our respective homes. Having to stop for the numerous traffic lights between this point and my flat knocked a few tenths off my average, but still a very respectable 17.1 mph average for 59.5 miles and my best average to date for a 50 mile+ route.

For the Garmin fans: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/161545729

Fine Scottish Weather for Cycling

Emails sent mid-week trying to decide on a full group run had lead to a split of folk for Saturday and others for Sunday, so in the spirit of getting more bike miles in, I’d planned on doing both. So Saturday was to be Mark M, Mark C and myself, but Mark C had to pull out, leaving the two us. A rough plan of “40 ish miles” was made, with Mark calculating routes that would allow me to ‘escape’ if my knee injury resurfaced. We met at the BBC building, and headed towards the Paisley road to hit some countryside. We’d barely gone a mile before I showed my inexperience and messed up my stopping by forgetting I was clipped in and toppling over – at least I’ve learnt to fall left (saves the derailleurs from getting bashed) and realised that landing on my gluteus maximus is the best way to go. We soon got on our way, and approached the first hill of the day, a 200m or so ascent around the Glenliffer braes. Up we went in the pouring rain, the wind blowing, Mark sticking with me most of the time to offer advice and encouragement (and a bit of wind protection), but occasionally zipping ahead to get some challange and anaerobic workout for himself. Beyond the ‘summit’ the elements still against us, we picked up the pace a little, and I got some practice at ‘tailing’ Mark as much as I could, but the cross winds and wet conditions were not the best. The view lost in the mist and rain (I’m sure it would be very picturesque if only it could have been seen), I managed a few good stints of sticking to his wheel, but improvement is still required.

Mark was having a problem with his drive train, the chain making an occasional nasty clunk in a worrying fashion and not wanting to switch between the rings at the front, but we forged on to Howwod and then on to Lochwinnoch. Here we hit the second climb of the day, a more gentle incline of around 140m. The roadside ‘watch your speed sign’ picked our speed up as we passed, my regular 6mph climbing pace lit up as I slogged by, Mark flashing up a 12 mph burst. We soon reached the top and were rewarded with a long run down into Bridge of Weir, topping 30mph and making good time, with a fun, slam on the brakes corner to add to the mix. I was after a food break (still can’t eat and ride, need to practice that), so we escaped the rain in a small cafe for coffee/hot chocolate and cake.

mmm cake

mmm cake - free soft focus effect with misted up lens

Refueled, we headed back out, the chill from our damp gear soon gone with a fine pace being set, while playing with the traffic on a busier A-road heading into Paisley. Some stop-start riding while negotiating round-a-bouts and dodging cars – one who decided it was fair game to turn left right in front of me, missed it by inches. The final few miles went without incident, except for a mountain biker who had the audacity to overtake us at the lights, causing Mark to fly off, dragging me behind to ensure we regained our road-bike honour. We split a few miles further along, our homeward routes diverging, but a good 46 miles in the bag, and a decent (considering the weather) 14.2mph moving pace .

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/152687930

My plan for a 2 cycle-outing weekend didn’t come to pass, as Sunday I bailed, feeling worn out, having a slight head cold/ sore throat starting (excuse #145b) so decided to take a rest day rather than push my luck on the main group’s planned 60 miler.

My wind problem.

So here I am, sitting in front of a blank screen, thinking about writing my first ever blog post. Takes me back to writing an essay at school. I even have a teacher demanding that my essay is completed and handed in today. Yes, Mr McGivern. Sure thing!

Julie and I were heading out on Saturday night in Glasgow to celebrate my birthday, 41, who’d have known. I decided I was going to cycle to Strathblane where my Mum, Dad and Sara were going to look after Aiden while we galavanted. It seemed as good a time as any to get some time on the bike and cycle over to Strathblane from Livi. One phone call led to another and before I knew it some of the LEJOG lads were getting together and my route was taking a detour over the Campsies.

I awoke on Saturday morning and could hear the wind in the trees outside. I was already dreading it! It was only a 20mph Westerly gusting 40mph. What’s not to like?

I set off into the monster wind and within 6 miles I was in the bike shop in Bathgate getting some running repairs. The brake blocks were completely worn through. My first time at Hooked On Cycling; nice guys; I’ll be back there for further repairs methinks.

Anyway, after the short interlude I was off in earnest. Up out of Bathgate, through Torphichen and past our wee cottage. Who can believe it’s over 10 years since we lived there? Through the Avon Gorge just to get the legs working; I was up out of the seat on that one, I can tell you. Onwards through Brightons and past Polmont Young Offenders! Who came up with this route?

After what seemed like an eternity into the gale I met up with John, Mark and Gio on the road between Banknock and Kilsyth. We headed off to take on my nemesis, the Takmadoon Rd. This beast runs for 4km out of Kilsyth up into the Campsies and is regularly above a gradient of 10% maxing out at 19%. Cycling with three whippets is one way to improve your climbing but my 90kg lead weight soon had me out the back door of the peleton.

I plodded my way to the top managing to keep the guys in sight which I was pleased with but I’m sure they’ll tell you they weren’t out of second gear! After the short decent to the Carron Valley we turned into the ever increasing gale. We formed the formidable Egasa train and were pretty much stopped in our tracks. I have rarely encountered a wind so strong when on the bike. We trudged along taking 0.3 mile each on the front. Without embarassing anyone it’s fair to say that the lead rider speed was variable on this section. Some of us have some work to do on the base endurance quite clearly! 🙂

At Fintry we turned to tackle the Crow Road . . the wind was behind . . Alleluia!! Off we tootled with a spring in our pedals and again the three whippets shot off and left me on the steeper, lower slopes. I paced myself well, dear blog reader, and slowly started reeling them in. I picked off the weakest first and then Gio was in my sights. As the gradient eased near the top I put in a Cavendish like sprint to nick the second spot at the summit!

The decent to Lennoxtown was a joy. Wind behind and on the lovely, new surface they have laid I maxed out at just over 42mph without even trying. Even had time for a wee look over to take in the view of the magnificent Celtic training ground!

We regrouped in Lennoxtown before the guys headed off towards Bishopbriggs and I turned to take on the monster wind for the final 5 miles to Strathblane. The mushroom soup that awaited me was well worth the effort. Thanks Mum!

Total distance ridden 52.22 miles with a vertical ascent of 1255m. That’s almost the height of Ben Nevis you know. A pretty poor average speed but into that wind it was to be expected. The Garmin output is linked below for the geeks amongst you.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/140037381

All comments on my first ever blog more than welcome!