Category Archives: Tubs
Saturday was to be our last ‘team training’ ride before the LEJOG. In the end there were four riders – Bryan, John, Sam and myself. John cycled to mine and we headed the 5 or so miles to the “Club House” to meet the others. The four of us set off to do an ‘easy pace’ 60 miles or so, but we were soon moving at a blistering pace on route to Stirling, a slight tail wind helping us reach a comfortable 20mph+ average. The miles slipped by, with us occasionally riding 2×2 to chat as we easily moved along what felt like gentle downhill roads, with barely any inclines in our way. We passed through Denny and Bannockburn, and soon arrived at Stirling. A small boy called out “look, its the Tour de France” as we whisked by – the first (and probably last) time I’ll be mistaken for a pro’ cyclist.
As we turned back from Stirling along the A811, the effort required jumped up as we were now facing into the same wind that had helped us along so far. Bending low on the bars for my stints behind the man at the front to save energy, tucking even lower when my turn at the front came along, we worked our way along the road, breaking the momentum in our changes only briefly to snap a quick ‘overtaking’ photo for John.
This turned out to be costly, as unaware of our antics, Sam powered on while the rest of us messed about, and a ‘chase’ to get back on his wheel ensued, lead by myself as the next man in the train. Just as we caught him up, his 0.5 mile stint completed, and I took over at the front, still out of breath from the pursuit. Not to worry, once my turn at the front was over, I’d have time to recover on the back of the train. Not quite, as just as I peeled off the front, we were starting the climb up the Kippen hill, so drafting was going to be of little help. Bah.
a fun 4.5 minutes going up the Kippen hill
We climbed pretty much as a group, pausing briefly at the village to regroup for the final stretch of the ascent. At the top, a quick stop turned into a slightly longer break as Bryan fixed a creaking saddle and Sam’s electronic gears needed some attention.
The ride down was taken steadily, with only a brief mile or two before the Crow Road and our second and final climb of the day. The Crow Road was at the end of my first ever outing on the bike, back in a chilly, wet November last year when I was completely new to modern cycling and could barely work the gears and worries of falling off while ‘clipped in’ were a distinct possibility. So it was apt that the last climb in my final training ride before our LEJOG would also be on that same hill. Back then, cycling up-hill at any sort of speed was a distant dream – I’d chug uphill at barely over walking pace, often thinking I’d be quicker hopping off the bike and running, as my more cycle-experienced team-mates fast vanished into the distance, seeming to glide uphill with barely any effort. Not so today. We all moved up together, Sam and John taking the lead, our speed barely dropping below 10mph except on the steepest sections. Bryan fell off a little, so as we made the top we were one man short, but the descent would be followed by a stop to regroup. My bottle bounced out of its cage at the car park, a fellow cyclist going uphill recovering it for me, as I braked hard and was working out how on earth to turn back up hill to recover it when sat in my top gear (walking was my plan). Bottle back on board I continued down to the turn-off, Bryan soon with us and the four of us got back ‘in the train’ for the last few miles home.
A slight detour at Torrance from the ‘normal’ route added an extra 4 miles. After a stint at the front, knocking back some water, I found myself off the back of the group, and struggling to regain their back wheels. My recent “these hills are easy” self confidence was vanishing as quickly as the group were into the distance. A red light ahead spurred me to catch them, but they all stopped for a quick ‘which way is it’ just before the lights, allowing me catch up, chow down a banana and let them know “I’m suddenly done in”. Not good. We got going again, my energy slowly returning, but I still struggled on some of the slight uphill sections, pushing hard to stay in-group. The downhill to the second to last junction caused a bit of a stir, Sam in the lead coming to a near stop before shooting out, leaving the rest of us unclipped waiting for the traffic. As we’d just been coming downhill, I was in a high gear, so stood up and pushed hard up the first section of the last short hill before home, zipping ahead of Bryan and John, who not liking this ‘attack’ returned the favour as I hit ‘lactic acid’ threshold, sitting down as they zoomed by me before they too slowed up near the top. I rolled after them, catching up on the roundabout as we turned in to stop at the “Club House”, comparing averages as we hopped off our bikes and loaded them onto the cars. 18.5 mph. That was an ‘easy’ training ride? There’ll be none of that crazy speeding on the LEJOG.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Saturday 2nd June. Aviemore-ish for the Cairngorm Classic sportive. Some wag obviously thought that having an organised 100 mile ride in and around Aviemore could only work if they started from the ski-station car park. Which is at 632 m. On top of a mountain. We arrived in 2 cars, Bryan and Sammy in one, Big J and myself in the other.
First thing we found after parking was that being on top of a mountain in June at 8.30am is decidely chilly. We were in summer gear, not our winter layers. Still, it was bound to warm up, or so we told ourselves as we checked in and picked up our ‘dibbers’ (timer chips you wear on a lanyard round your neck). We returned to the cars, swapped to cycle shoes, blew up my front tyre (the valve flew off, most irritating, needing a new tube), swithered over long sleeves/ leggings then made our way to the start. After accosting another cyclist to take our photo, we moved to the start, dibbed our dibbers and started off for about 7 miles of downhill, the air chilling us as we zoomed down the hill. It was hard not to think at this point that you’ll be slogging back up this same hill at the end, after having cycled for 90+ miles with 5 odd hours in the saddle.
We split as we descended, Sammy vanishing in the distance, John slipping behind, though I could see Bryan just ahead of me. He stopped as the hill was coming to the end, wondering where John had got to, so I pulled over too. A big train of about 2 dozen cyclists whisked by, John yelling “come on” from within. Bryan and I shot off in pursuit, but had no chance of catching them. I think I struggled after the group longer than Bryan, but was soon in a smaller group on the road around Nethy Bridge, which was swallowed up by another, this second group had Bryan in its midst. 2/4 of our team back together as we hit a flatter part of the route. A few miles later, John appeared ahead, slogging it out solo and was absorbed into our train. 3/4. At about 20 miles we started a climb. I’d slipped toward the back of our train, and as we began the ascent the different climbing abilities of the folk to my side became problematic, 2 riders clashing, one coming off in front of me causing me to wobble into the verge to avoid falling on top of him, as he yelled his disgust at the other guy who’d swung accross and clipped his wheels. As a result of my near stop, I’d fallen off the back of the train, now a good hundred yards further up the hill. I struggled to regain the back of the pack, pushing hard to try and catch them, but working solo was hard going. I finally caught them, slotted in at the back, tired from the chase, just as we hit a steep hill. Not having any time to recover, I was soon adrift on the climb, and as the road split (50 milers left, us 100 milers to the right) I was again a good 100 yards behind on a slight incline. It was no use trying again to catch them, but I tried for a mile or two to regain the group before giving up. The next dozen or so miles I spent working my way along the route solo, hoping for a train to come by, but with no luck. The occasional fellow solo rider or duo would appear ahead of me, but few if anyone came by me.
I soon hit a feed station, and being on my own, stopped to grab a few cakes, hoping that I could pick up a group, but most other folk arriving were in ones or two’s. I set off after a minute or two, slogging on, sighting an orange top in the distance as a target. As I approached him, another rider slowly worked by me, so I tagged on his tail. He moved out immediately, looking back at me unhappily, so I backed off and let him go on. Odd fellow. Shortly after, a group of half a dozen Dunfermline CC started to overhaul me, so I asked if I could join, which they were happy to allow. Two of their group were around my level, the others either tired or less able when it came to the short climbs, so I put in my fair share at the front and we made good progress once I’d worked out their odd system (starting at the back they’d move to the front, overtaking the train on the outside before settling on the front, soon followed by the man behind). There was little chit chat, but a good atmosphere between them, and we worked together for a dozen or so miles until we hit the next feed station at around the 60 mile mark. Here the others were waiting (20 minutes it seemed), I thanked my temporary team-mates for the previous miles, and quickly grabbed a few bits of millionaire shortbread and a banana before we set off as 4/4 Team DIFD. We worked as a team up the hilly section that followed, pushing hard into the wind, on the drops to avoid as much wind as we could. We were making good time, overtaking many solo or duo riders as we went, the only event of note was my chain deciding to jump off as we piled down a hill which was soon sorted.
Just after Boat of Garten a “10 miles to go” sign signalled that we’d soon be on the final stretch (uphill all the way, joy), and the DIFD train had picked up a couple of extras. One kept with us as the route began to slope upwards, taking his turn at the front (but pushing a bit too hard) as we slogged on. As the hill began proper, I was done, my earlier efforts trying to catch trains and solo-ing so many miles taking their toll, so I told the rest to go on. I could see them working their way by a few struggling folk as I followed slowly, still overtaking a few other cyclists myself as I went, with the occasional person walking up the hill. As I crested the first rise, took a quick cakey break (been carrying all that food, may as well eat it before I finished) andgrabbed a few quick photos before zooming up the last few bits of hill (cake power!).
Overall, a hard but fun ride, 17.6mph average, around 5:35 hours to do the 98.2 miles for me (the others around 20 minutes quicker).
The Sunday outing – emails had been flowing during the week discussing a coast to coast in late June, which then turned into debate over a Lakes ride instead and ended with the decision of doing a “Fred” (named after Fred Whitton, turns out this is a 112 miles ride of 9 peaks, some hitting 15%+ – no easy feat). The end of this email exchange also sorted Sunday’s training ride, a plan to take in the Dukes pass run with an extra 50-odd mile extension via Crieff, for a 120+ run. This time there was the promise of a lunch stop.
As this was going to be a long run, and the lunch stop was going to be timed to meet non-cycling family, needed to be up at silly o’clock for Big J picking me up at 7am for the start at 7:30 from the ‘club house’ (Gio’s place). We started as a 4 man group – Bryan, Gio, John and myself, with Gio intending to join us for the first 40 miles or so. The first 20-odd miles flew along, even with the wind against us we were easily topping 18mph average as we hit Aberfoyle and the climb up the Dukes pass.
We rode up as a group, with only the last section splitting us slightly, Bryan dropping back a short distance. I barely had time to take a few snaps before he was with us, “I’m not a climber” as he pulled alongside. The descent went without incident, the only traffic a bus toiling upwards, giving us plenty of room as we streamed by.
Just after the 40 mile mark, a quick stop for farewells to Gio, as he turned toward Callander and home, the three of us continuing onwards to Strathyre. The road rolled for the next several miles, the sun growing stronger and the shadows it was casting through the trees making it hard to distinguish potholes from leaf patterns adding in the occasional clunk and jolt to the ride. John took the pace, holding us steady for a long stint, switching back to turn-about as we passed by the glassy calm of Loch Lubnaig, the shores dotted with folk enjoying the early sun. We were making good time, enjoying the excellent weather and were soon turning along the A85 at Loch Earn, passing campers and day-trippers scattered along its edge, with barely a hill to be seen. The nice level tarmac saw us to Comrie (home to a fine golf course) and it was only another 10 or so miles to Crieff and a welcome stop at Yann’s.
We sprawled on the grass or at the table and were served coke and iced water by the friendly staff while waiting for Bryan and John’s other halves, enjoying the sunshine and break from pedalling. They soon arrived, and we sat down for a fine lunch – not quite a cake stop, but just as good: onion soup with a cheese topping followed by rump of lamb with minted-peas and chips for me, others partook of mushroom soup, black pudding salad, Arbroath smokies with mains of La Potee (Toulouse sausage & ham broth), fish pie and eggs Benedict; the kids tucking in to fish gujons, lasagne and chips. The only slight downers to this fine feast were the grumpy folk at the next table over-reacting to the excited children, and having to pass on dessert from being stuffed.
Bottles refilled, we said our goodbyes to the families, and hit the road for the remaining miles. A steady climb taking us through Muthill, then down to Braco and to Dunblane before turning off to Doune. Here we made a short stop to grab some energy drinks, the chilled water in our bottles (well, mine and Bryans were iced by the folk at Yann’s, John had refilled from the tap) already warm. The temperature in the small square was hitting 33-34°C according to my Garmin, as I tapped in our target of Kippen into its GPS, getting us on our way to Thornhill and the hill beyond. We rode up the first section together, John and I pushed on a little harder on the next steep section, but by the summit we were all together again for the descent down into Fintry and the Crow Road hill.
We trundled along the flat section, John announced himself ‘done’ but as soon as the climb came into view, he forged by me. My ‘thought you were done?’ was replied to with a ‘last throw of the dice!’ as he stood on the pedals into the corner and pulled away. I stuck to my pace, sat on the saddle, feeling ok considering the 110 miles we’d now completed and just kept turning the cranks. John was still in sight, standing at every turn, but I was beginning to reel him in. Feeling a bit short of energy (the lamb and magic minted-peas wearing off!) I struggled with my pack of Zip-vit sweets, trying to pry the now sticky, half melted goodness out of the bag while maintaining my momentum. Eventually got one out, chewed it down, and returned to focussing on John’s back wheel in the near distance. After a few more minutes I was in touch, with not far to go to the summit. “Where’s Tubs?” he asked, “not sure” I replied, and we moved on together. We stopped at the top, Bryan soon appearing, and we waved him on, then followed for the ride down into Lennoxtown.
I missed my clips as I started off, the others were fast vanishing as I finally got my left shoe in, so I was playing catch up down the hill. Pushing hard, I glanced down at my Garmin, to see it reading 45mph (!) scaring myself a bit, so eased off as I passed the car park and the turn. The wind soon put paid to any speed I was carrying, and I could see John and Bryan ahead, folded over the bikes as they disappeared from my view round a bend. I caught them at the bottom, waiting for me at the turn. John lead us for the next section, but as I swapped to the front, I offered to take a longer stint, to which there was no dissent. Strangely still feeling strong, I pushed on, the others hanging on to my wheel for a change. Stopping only for lights and junctions, Bryan asking if I’d been on “the EPO”?, “nope, just feeling ok” as we completed the final miles back to Gio’s to pick up the cars. The only momentary struggle on the final short hill before home, I was well pleased to have been able to return the favour of many a ‘carry’ for the last miles of an outing! A sterling ride by us all, 127 miles done, a proper “LEJOG” distance completed in around 7 hours, average 17.6mph.
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.
The French Riviera, a place I first visited over 20 years ago during an Inter-railing holiday with John. After spending most of our 3 weeks in a 2 man tent in camp-sites on the edge of major cities we hit some accommodation good fortune. Luckily for us, but perhaps not for the family, Carol (John’s girlfriend now wife) was working as an au-pair in Eze, a hilltop town just along the road from Nice. The family kindly let John and I stay for a couple of days and we experienced a different side of life. Real food, not just rottisseire chicken that we have been surviving on up until that point and having a private swimming pool at our disposal. That was the life. The downside to this was of course, me becoming a goosberry. I had met Stephanie (my girfriend and future wife) earlier that year and we hadn’t spend much time apart. Before, we left for interailing Stephanie had been in Egypt for 3 weeks and apart from a brief passing moment in London as our holidays overlapped we were going to be apart for 6 weeks. So, at night I would retreat with my Sony Walkman and the mix tape Stephanie had given me but I could never get passed track 3 Spandau Ballet’s ‘Through the Barricades’…..
You might ask, what has this got to do with cycling? Well, I am back in Nice this week on a holiday and with most plans these days, there has got to be some sort of cycling interest in there. With my optimism around Lejog varying from day to day, a week of eating pizza and baguettes was never going to increase that significantly so a cycle was put into the mix to keep the fitness up. The Nice area is quite popular with professional cyclists due to the favourable climate and the access to some great mountains as Nice is at the end of the Maritime-Alpes. This was where Lance Armstrong made his winter base for a number of years and specifically tested himself on a mountain by the name of the ‘Col de Madone’. He felt this mountain gave him a good test and he was always knew where he stood in terms of fitness by how he performed there. 32 minutes was his record. This mountain also became the name of TREK manufactures who sponsor Lance Armstrong range of road bikes.
With this is mind I organised a trip and bike hire with a local company specializing in tours of the area, all booked through the internet and e-mail. http://www.cyclecotedazur.com/ The company is run by a former Commonwealth games cyclist and since I didn’t know the area it would keep me from getting lost. This would also keep Stephanie happy as my last cycle trip abroad I decided to go up a different mountain at the last minute and didnt tell anyone!
With my big ride not due until the Wednesday I thought it might be wise to get the legs moving before tempting out to the mountains. This however, proved to be probably the most brutal ride I have undertaken this year. With a bike duly rented from the local beach front store and extra seat duly attached I set out along the Promenade D’Anglais, the famous sea side walkway.
What I had not reckoned on was the gale force winds that were buffeting the coast which was making a struggle to move in my 7 speed dream machine.In the easiest gear, I was barely moving and was glad my Garmin was not attached, reporting a 5 mph average would not have done my street cred much good. A couple of miles up the coast and enough was enough, not sure the wee man was really enjoying it and I certainly wasnt and decision to turn round was taken. What a difference, without barely a turn of the pedal I was getting blown back along at a fair old pace.
On the way back we decided to hire a car a do a further recce but only ended in getting more lost in Nice’s one way system and going round in circles.
With my ride day quickly approaching, it was time to pick up my hire bike. It was a 10 minute walk from the apartment further into Nice, a new area for me, I am guessing where the professional people stay, judging by the Marks and Spencer’s express style MONOP shop and fancy coffee shops that abounded. I reached my pick up point and met who was going to be my guide for the trip, Mike. Mike who is Australian, currently over for the wedding of the owner of the tour company and spending some covering while the owner was on honeymoon. With the pleasantries out the way, my bike for the day was wheeled. A custom built ‘ Harry Hall’ carbon bike with top of the range Shimano ‘Dura Ace’ groupset, things are looking good. I hadn’t heard of this particular make but research later showed this to be a make of great repute. I then enquired about the gears on the bike, and was told it was a double set up. For those without knowledge (me included), the double means having 2 chain rings(the part where the pedals attach) with sizes of 53 and 39 (the number refers to the number of teeth) respectively, the bigger the number the harder it is to push but potentially faster. Given this was to be a hilly ride this was not the best news. What about at the back I ask? That’s a 25/12 I am told, the bigger number on the back makes it easier, 25 was not that big a number. At home I have a 50/34 on the front and a newly installed 28/12 on the back, giving me about 4 easier gears than I was getting on this ride and given I am famous for always keeping my easiest gear in reserve ‘just in case’ this was a worry. However, I smile manfully and say ‘sounds great’ and continued with the bike set up. Mike did a great job of setting me up after I advised him of some calf problems I was having and off I rode home into night. The bike felt great on the 5 minute journey and what was the point of worrying, it wouldnt do the legs any harm to work a bit harder. Although, John’s text after I told him about the bike set up was not exactly encouraging ‘ Enjoy the walk’ he said!
With my kit and food all duly laid out, I retire to bed but instead of going to sleep watch 3 episodes of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ with Stephanie, the adventures of an outlaw biker gang in California, top rated holiday entertainment. I am excited about the ride tomorrow and struggle to sleep but eventually dropped off.
With trip day finally here I was up and atom early and had my porridge and berries and was ready to go. It was 08:15 as I rolled out the door into the streets of Nice and my meeting point on the Promenade d’Anglais. Mike was there to meet me and also there was Daniel, a Columbian student studying in Nice who was going to be doing some guiding during his summer recess. A couple of photographs later and we were off.
The route today was going to be 2 major climbs. The Col de Eze (0 to 600m) back down to the sea and then the aforementioned Col de Madone (0 to 950m). We started slowly on the cycle path avoiding the traffic lights on the road proper, firstly round to the port where we join the road , less than a mile from the start and then we start climbing. I am already in the easiest gear , maybe it’s the good bike or the warm weather but it doesn’t feel too bad. The route planned takes in a road called the Grand Corniche and climbs up and along the coast. There are fantastic views as we climb and then look down on the sparkling blue water.
Mike was doing a good job on keeping a good but not blistering pace. I am known for knocking myself out early and leaving nothing for the end plus I am holiday and it’s nice to sometimes smell the roses along the way. We reach Eze and I look down on the village to try and recall where the house was I stayed but nothing is coming to mind and then we turn a corner and we can see the snow capped mountains of the Alps in the distance. Then it’s time to come down, a super long descent to the town of Menton, it’s a beautiful sweeping road and any car drivers are being patient as we speed along. Soon enough, we are in Menton and the real fun is about to begin.
We take a left turn off the main road, and immediately we begin climbing. It’s a bit different from the alpine (ski type) climbs I have done as the scenery at this point is a bit more industrial/residential. Fences abound at the side of the road and the grasses and ground are dried and rutted rather than rich from the snow run off.
The road however is definitely a different beast from the Col De Eze, I am standing more often as the turns are sharper. The distance to the summit is 10km. The town of St Agnes sits half way up hidden behind a rock and that is the immediate target. My heart rate isn’t too high, about 160 when some climbs have brought it as high as 180. The views back to sea are still fantastic though and also some of the houses that we pass. Infinity pools seem to be popular, cant see them taking off in Burnside though. We pass our first group of cyclists, only 1 road bike in there but an overtakes is an overtake so I am happy. As the we come into St Agnes we hear the sound of play time at the local school.
A brief (less than a minute) stop ensues and a quick photograph ens. The road then starts to change at this point, it gets a lot thinner and the surface is markedly poorer, also there is a lot of rock fall from the side of the road to watch for.
But the other side of the coin is that it is also slightly easier and at points I have moved out of the easiest gear. We go through a few tunnels and any car coming down give a few toots to warn you of their arrival, not that this is a busy road, it’s mainly cyclists. We reach the top and it;s definitely not the horror show I thought it might be, did I do it in 30 minutes like Lance Armstrong? Not quite, but that’s not the point. We pause for a few minutes at the top and take in the views, the sea one side, the snow capped mountains the other way. The sign denoting the top of the mountain has been stolen but you can see the posts where it stood.
Then we are off again, swooping down the hillside. The road is better this side of the mountain but you still have to be careful. It would not be wise to go off the side, there is also a few hairpin turns to undertake which takes the speed down. We soon get onto a bigger road and I indicate to Mike that my legs are feeling reasonably fresh and he can put the boot down if he wants. The next bit although downhill is not greatly so and wind is starting to freshen. We are haring along and I tend to lose a bit of momentum on the corners and need to learn to keep pedalling but it’s still a fair old pace. We have a quick coffee stop in La Turbie and then we are off again, a slight incline to get us started and then the coastal road again for a bit. The wind is definetely up and it;s feeling a wee bit like hard work but it doesnt last and then we are on some steep stuff again. We go a different route back into Nice, round the back way and I manage to hit 42 mph on a clear bit of road, then quickly we are back into civilizaion. The pace slows as we dodge through trams, one way streets and traffic lights which takes us back to the sea where we started. I thank Mike and Daniel, they have been good company and clearly good cyclists although not sure they would last the pace in Scotland. Mike still had his winter gear on and Daniel has shaved his legs!! Back at the apartment I downloaded the Garmin and looked at what I had done. Nice!
As these things go, once you have done something once, you want to do it again. So utilising the course feature of the Garmin I headed out again at 0630 the next day for a near non stop trip. This time there was no stopping on the way up the Col de Madone. Couple of hairy moments on the way back down as I locked the brakes to avoiding hitting cars slowing down in front of me but apart from that just the same great views but not the same great conversations. The Garmin output seemed a bit strange though but I had a slightly faster moving average which was good.
“Dad, I read your blog. It’s boring”.
Thanks to my dear eldest daughter, who is an avid reader – just not of my material.
Anyway, not going to get less boring as I sandwich in between the Majorca exploits of the “kneesome threesome” and the Maritime Alps of young Turbine – plenty of pictures please Tubs.
For the Sunday ride from a couple of weeks ago, Turbine suggested focusing on the upcoming Etape Caledonia. The plan was to go over the well known route of the Duke’s Pass, sticking tightly together as a foursome sharing the workload at the front equally, having no stops over the 75 mile route and obtaining an 18 mph average.
A good shout from Tubby who was feeling good in body and mind, clearly, after a couple of very promising rides in the past couple of weeks.
The upshot? Tubs was feeling it on the Duke’s Pass – a worrying sign. After a bit, he decided to sit on the back – too much too soon last week? By Kippen he was well out the back door, and a decision had to be made. Stop and wait or push on over the Crow road and homewards trying for the 18 average. Considering the group consisted on myself, Sammy and Gio the decision will be no surprise – “he knows the way home” said Sam, and on we pushed as a trio (the Majorca boys would all have waited it must be recognised).
We fair belted on and Gio was beginning to go backwards up the final little hill at Torrance – always a nice feeling to crest any hill in front of the mountain goat – big Sam was clearly invigorated and powering on. However, we waited on him and duly returned to the clubhouse with an average of 18.1 mph. Mission accomplished (almost). Tubs rolled in 10 minutes later. Today was not his day – it happens. He’ll be back bigger and stronger next time.
So. Can we break 4 hours for the 81 miles of the Etape (requiring a 20 + mph average)? Time will tell, but with the big chain gangs to be found in this route, we’ve got a chance.
A couple of weeks ago the official Do It For Dee kit arrived and was paraded on a team ride with 4 of the crew. After some gentle cajoling from big Ian, I now present team DIFD. The kit will never look more shiny than it does here (my long sleeve top was only minutes away from getting covered in oil, WHITE sleeve natch, cleaning a chain).
With the LeJOG team in various parts of the world, a solo ride was on the cards for me on Sunday. My normal solo ride would normally involve the Eaglesham moor at some point but I have a tendency when cycling alone to let my mind switch off up until the point where someone in flip flops and a basket on the front of their bike passes me which only then spurs me back into action. Also, having unfortunately had to work on Saturday, a long day in the saddle wasn’t going to happen. In the end, I opted for a short sharp shock where concentration would be essential, 2 circuits of the Lennoxtown loop which takes in the mighty Tak Ma Doon and Crow Road hills. 26 miles each time round.
However, no matter what preparation is done there is always something forgotten. It’s not like riding a bike as a child, when you jumped on your bike and went. This time I find my Garmin is not charged so no on the road output for me, it might be a good thing, at least I won’t worry about my average.
Last week might have brought out the summer bike with me but it was back on with the winter clothing. As I arrived at Lennoxtown, the temperature gauge on the car was showing 0 degrees!
I load up ‘Map my ride’ on my phone as an alternative to the Garmin but can’t watch while in the saddle, so all I need to worry about is riding.
Off I go, the roads are quiet and it’s a beautiful day all round, no worries about ice on the road even though it’s a low temperature. I am feeling good, don’t know that my heart rate is or speed is but it’s all going well – old school – just riding for fun. Couple of miles before the Tak ma doon, I pop my first gel of the day. Not my usual brand, but it was all they had in Asda but goes down well. I turn into the Tak Ma Doon rood but soon find out it is not the Tak Ma Doon road but the wee side street 5 yards before, the car coming out the junction put me off! So I U turn and up I go up the right one. This is a hill that used to hold a lot of fear, but doing it myself on the new bike it feels ok, possibly because I am not watching the G-train shoot up in front of me and feeling the need to try and catch up. I pass Kilysth golf course, it’s a golf course I have played and my minds starts debating about how I am going to squeeze in any golf this year. Golf and Cycling, the 2 hobbies that require the most time out of the diary. I push on and upwards and stop at the car park at the top, where I usually see the rest of the guys waiting on me but there is not a soul today. I take a picture of the horizon and set off again.
Straight downhill, which is always marred by having to slow down for the ford at the bottom and never being in the right gear when going up the wee hill at the other side.
I push on along the Carron valley, there is a bit of wind coming into the face and I am having to work hard. I pass a farm giving away ‘free manure’ but decide now is not the time to fill up. I had forgotten how bad the road surface was along here, soon to be feature on Sky ‘When road surfaces go bad’. It’s a beautiful scene, no other cyclist at the moment or anyone else. I finish the bit around the loch and start heading downhill to the start of the Crow road. The start of the Crow road is the worst, and there is a break and then it’s bad again but after that it’s ok, steady as she goes. When you see the fir tree with the Christmas decorations you know the worst is over and you can start to look forward to the downhill. I am starting to see some cyclists now coming up as I am going down, it’s hard to acknowledge when you are going fast but I do my best. I normally like to check out their bikes as well, but it’s time to concentrate, there is a big bend coming up, not sure I want to hit the ramblers in the car park. I get down without incident and have a quick stop at the car. A Nakd bar and a check of the phone, battery has went from 42% to 13% running map my ride, it’s not going to make round 2.
Off again, and I think a bit more effort is required. It’s only 09:30 so things are still pretty quiet. Newspapers and rolls are being bought for Sunday breakfast as I leave Lennoxtown. It’s fairly flat so I try and push a big gear. Nothing much of incident on the way to the Tak Ma Doon round 2, lots of thoughts in my head but have not fallen asleep at the wheel yet. I hit the Tak Ma Doon again, and I think I can feel it slightly more in the legs, possibly because I pushed harder on the flat. Up past the golf course, and it’s looking busy now, more debate in the head. I do love golf, and with the Masters starting this week, that feeling is sure to grow. Might have to start getting up at 5 rather than 6 every morning to squeeze in enough cycling for LeJog. Up at the top, I stop again and gaze at the slightly changing horizon, the sheep have woken up and are eating their breakfast, not too exciting by the looks of it, bit like some of the smoothies I have taken to drinking in the quest for cycling domination.
So, it’s back down the other side and as I join the main road, a couple of cyclists are going by and I come in behind for a rest, but they are chatting so the pace is not good. I go past them, but think I go off too fast but it’s no time now to slow down and face the embarrassment of them passing me again. I give myself a good few minutes before I look back and luckily I can’t see them. Back along the loch again and things are starting to liven up, I can see a couple of small boats with fisherman with rods looking for a bite. I pass another couple of cyclists, although I think one is a tourer and the other guy is just having a chat with him. I say my ‘hello’s’ and move on, swiftly again. I pop another gel before the Crow Road again and then I see the sign for Lennoxtown as I turn onto the road, 7 miles. In reality is 3 miles up and then relax, not too bad when you put it like that. Up ahead, I spot a couple of cyclists up the hill a bit and set myself the task of getting up to them. This would be an unknown phenomena for me but I see them standing quite a lot as they go so up think they might be struggling. It’s a good goal to have and I feel myself gaining on them, I get the feeling that comes when you have worked hard for a while and things start to click. I go by the first cyclist and then have a quick chat with the second, I get the feeling he is not pushing as hard as he could to support his friend but nevertheless an overtake is an overtake and off I go. I am flying now and looking forward to the last stretch down to the car. There is a bit of wind in the face, but it feels good to push the pedals downhill fast on the smooth road. As I enter Lennoxtown, the temporary lights change to green and straight through I go, down to the car.
It’s 11:30 and 52 miles are done. I put the powder in my spare bottle for my recovery shake, my loss % is only 5%, down 8% from last week and drink it down. Bike on the car, radio 5 live on and off home. Arrive shortly after 12 and next up is the park, to the climbing frame with the wee man who is looking like the new Chris Bonnigton. Go up Again? Ok Again 🙂
Sunday. 6am. The things I do for this cycle training malarky. Up and at ’em to get round to the starting point for the day’s cycle to Largs (remember the train?) – Big J’s house. So I’m getting in an extra 6 or so miles as a ‘warm up’ by cycling over to his place. When I arrive (a couple of minutes later than the 7.30 start time) everyone’s getting kitted out in the new cycle jerseys which arrived a few days before (John, Sammy and Brian). A smart looking team get lined up for photo’s, with poor Niamh (Big J’s 11 yr old) roped in at this early hour on Sunday morning as photographer. A few “drive-by” photos and we’re ready to go, except John is having some sort of issue, and is in and out the house for bits n bobs. The rest of us, getting a bit chilly standing (sitting?) around waiting head off, knowing he’ll soon catch up. I lead off, calling behind for directions as I’m not sure which way we’re going (Largs is somewhere I drive to. In a car on motorway/ dual carriageways. Which is sensible, its quite far away). We’re soon working our small train of 3 well, setting a good pace and its not long until we’ve left the more built up areas for the countryside. Brian and Sammy are not happy at the spatter from the occasional puddle/ damp stretch of road soiling their pristine new jerseys, but I’m not paying much attention as I’m starting to wonder if I overdid the training this week (3 pacey 6 mile runs and two 15/18 mile cycles). The first incline of any note and I’ve dropped off the back. They wait at the top, and we get to admire the view – the sun is out, though its still chilly – as John appears a short distance behind us. He goes to pull out his camera, but can’t find it in any of his pockets – he has the case though. Has it fallen out on the road? A quick phone call home confirms he actually left it behind, so camera phone it has to be. John’s new carbon Trek is ‘not feeling right’, swapped wheels and tweaked handlebars are not what they should be, but some road-side mechanicking from Sammy seems to do the trick and we’re good to go.
I take off a little ahead of the group (chance to go a bit slower til they catch me up), but have only gone a mile or so around the loch and there’s no sign behind, so pull over, grab my phone and take a few piccies at Loch Thom. Sammy and Brian round the corner, but John isn’t with them.
He turns up moments later, something not right with his gears now. More quick fixes and we’re off again. The road gets a bit hilly and I’m starting to regret my sub-40 10k on Monday, and drop behind the rest again. But its not long before there’s a good downhill stretch and not being with the group is of little consequence – the road down in to Greenock is steep and allows for a good turn of speed.
We regroup at the bottom, and I refuel on a Torq bar, a gel, a few Zip-vit sweets and wash it down with some lucozade. There’s a nasty little ‘thigh-burner’ coming up and I want to be ready for it. We set off, the first left turn is up a fairly steep hill, then a right up a slightly easier incline (I’m dropped, again), left twice more before the wee bugger of a hill I remember from back in January. At this point, no-one is in sight, but I recall school shot-putting practice – I was rubbish, but a fellow pupil from my athletics club (a chunky thrower) recommended grunting will get you an extra few feet, so decided this must translate into hill climbing, go all Sharapova and grunt my way up the hill, putting in a decent (for me) turn of speed to reach the summit.
We travel on and down into Largs without incident, though I seem to lose touch with the group with regularity, we regroup outside the ice-cream shop. A snack break, then a few photos of us looking dapper in our team kit with the seaside behind us (though I’m too busy snacking to get my camera-phone out), and we take off towards the next challenge – the Hairy Brae. We are instantly put at a disadvantage, the lights are red at the start of the climb, forcing us all to start from a standstill before we can push upwards. I stick to the group for the first section, but am soon left behind, and a lorry gets between me and the group, causing a concertina of traffic behind it. I’m tempted to hang on to its trailer as it passes, but decide thats probably not the best plan in the world. No way am I stopping on this hill, so just keep plugging away, hoping the vehicles will get by without bumping me or the leading group. The lorry eventually gets by and the other traffic thins out, the climb continues, and I give a few brief attempts at upping my speed by standing on the pedals. This works out ok, so try and work in a few more ‘standy-up’ bits as I continue upwards. As the incline lessens, I start to speed up a little, trying to remember how long it is to the top (you don’t really pay attention to these things when you are driving the car along). I glance up along the now straight road, to see Mr. Whitevanman hurtling towards me on my side of the road as he overtakes a couple of small cars – I’m not liking the look of this, the road isn’t that wide, so move as close to the gutter as I can, and am missed by feet, though it feels much closer as I’m buffeted by the van as he zooms by and I offer him some unheard driving advice and a few choice words of abuse.
The top comes soon enough, and the rest wait in the roadside parking bay, arguing whether a 54/25 or 26 (28?) is the way to go. I’ve no real idea what they are on about (something to do with gears/cog sizes I gather), so just take the opportunity to slug back some juice while they come to any sort of conclusion. We set off in a train, the rolling of the road is such that I’m able to keep pace comfortably, and we pick up a roaring pace as the road takes on a combination of level and downward slopes, with few upward sections to slow our progress. At one point I find myself at the lead, zipping downhill and unable to keep up with the pedals and no bigger gears left. Realising the futility of continuing pedalling when I’m not actually achieving anything, and the slighly scary speed we are at (knocking on 40mph) entering a corner, I stop pedaling. Apparently this is bad form, to which John yells – keep pedaling! so I do, to little effect other than looking like I’ve a vague notion of what to do. I guess I need another cog somewhere for these odd speedy bits. 28?
The pace settles down as we pass Kilbirnie before another ‘hill’ is to come (around Lochwinnoch) after which I’m warned we take a right turn on the downhill. The “up” doesn’t take long to spread us out, and its not much longer before I’ve lost sight of the team again. The ‘hill’ seems to be over and there’s no sign of a right turn or in fact anything much other than traffic cones on various bits of ‘road closed except for access’ sections. I occasionally see road bike tyre tracks leading out of puddles so think I’m going the correct route, but begin to wonder if I’ve somehow missed a turning somewhere along the way. I’m not that bothered, as I’ve a vague notion of where I am, as I’ve a recollection of being round these parts in the pouring rain/ wind with Mark M a few weeks previous, so tootle along regardless, with a plan of working out a way back home solo if need be. My concerns are soon over, as I hit a downward section, and can see a few black and white jerseys ahead, as the three others wait in the promised right turn. We regroup, as a couple of other cyclists head down the hill I’ve just come down, the second yelling to his friend to ‘go right’ as he zooms on oblivious. We have a short conversation, offering ourselves as a target for him and his buddy once he realises he’s missed the turn. We set off again, and I’m struggling to maintain contact, but notice I’m averaging just around 15mph over the route as we head into Bridge of Weir. The road flattens out, the team keen to hit their target 17mph average, but I’m fading and not up to their pace. However, I’m still keeping my own pace well above 15, so am happy enough on my own, though regretting not hanging on the back a bit longer as I’m not really sure where I’m going. I soon see a junction ahead signed for Paisley to the right, Erskine left, can’t see the guys, so reckon Paisley is the way for me (it isn’t). As I close in on the junction, I see them on the left, so slow to a stop. Left it is. A squad of purple/blue clad cyclists come by as we discuss my proposed route (apparently the Paisley road way ‘wouldn’t be fun’ and ends up on the motorway), one of whom plays with the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road eliciting a few angry beeps from a car. We turn left, and I tuck in behind John determined to hang on for the last few miles.
We hit a roundabout, and it seems Brian has been left behind. In the team spirit of the moment (polite translation of what passes between the guys – “he’ll catch us up”), we forge on, but John and Sammy’s pace is proving hard to match. They leave me on a slow climb, but a dozen or so of our purple/blue friends appear behind me soon after, so I put in a surge to latch on to the last in the group as they come by (Mark M’s words of “closer” echoing in my head). Now this is more like it. I’m barely putting in any effort, and am cruising along at the back of this three-wide group. Bliss. Sadly this easy going is short-lived, as they all turn off, bar one, a short distance along the way. I thank them for the tow, and try to hang on to my new friend, who has spotted John and Sammy ahead, and has upped his pace to catch them. He reaches them stopped at a set of lights lights. I start to get into range just after the lights change and they’ve surged off, but 70-odd miles are taking their toll and I can’t match their speed. I drop off before making contact, but am not that far behind as we near the round-a-bout leading to John’s house. Purple/blue goes straight on, J&S turn right, but I’m not going to catch them now. I roll up to John’s slightly ahead of Brian – turns out he couldn’t get clipped in back at the Paisley/Erskine turn and was playing catch-up all the way, missing out on the tow-advantage of team purple/blue that I was lucky enough to get.
Top result for me – 15.5mph average, 72.08 miles. My best average to date and my longest ever cycle in the bag. And even better – no train-ticket required.
More photos (proper camera not my basic phone one will hopefully come via Big J), carrot cake (thanks Mrs. Sammy!) chit-chat about the day, and then I take a ‘recovery’ ride for the 6-miles back home.
Shouldn’t have reset my Garmin, got an extra 0.1 mph speed on this last 6 miles…
Sammy, me and Tubs out today. Gio drops out as he is allergic to runs that do not start from the Egasa clubhouse – his hoose. The idea was to bag one of the hills from Simon Warren’s “100 Greatest Climbs” book – the Rest and Be Thankful. Sammy and myself did this last year. After I got home I had a wee look in the book and discovered that indeed we did NOT do it. Yes, we got up to the Rest and Be Thankful from Arrochar but that’s not the hill in the book. Oh Bother (1).
Fully researched this time, we knew where we were going. A 60 miler planned taking car or cars to Luss and cycling from there. Sammy mentioned that his brother was interested in coming – so a route change to start at his brother’s in Dumbarton. An 80 mile route now. Finally, after a chat with Sammy and a throwaway joke about just starting from mine (where we were going to meet in the cars), and yes, the joke became reality – the first 100 miler of the season planned – 107 miles in all.
The first few miles match my commute until we head to Erskine. Going down a I little hill just before the bridge I pull the brakes (with my new expensive brake pads on). Nada. The Mavic man Sammy comes to the rescue and we get the brakes infinitely better – in that they work. Just as well that little hill was there. If I needed the brakes coming off the bridge there could have been carnage. Nice to prove that we don’t need Ian along (hangover) to have a wee mishap.
Once we leave the towns behind, the route really shows its class. As soon as we turn off the A81 towards Gairlochhead and hit the rolling ups and downs the route is a cracker. A lot of the road surfaces were brand new – we were all flying along enjoying the surfaces (especially Sammy with his new GP 4000 tyres in play – here comes summer).
Young Tubs is beginning to show some form – he drops back a bit on the hills but it’s no longer the dramatic collapses that he’s been known to experience earlier in the year – the fitness is coming as he ups the training.
Gairlochhead and Arrochar zip by and it’s up the Rest and Be Thankful the non-book way. We met up with 3 chaps and make some kind of progress up the hill together. I was grateful of the support of one of the chaps (Colin?) as we took turns towing each other up the hill. Some tales at the top of upcoming trips to Alps had me misty eyed (still trying to get Mrs M to agree to a wee alpine sojourn in June with the Tubbys but she’s still not wearing it – I’ll need to have another go. Better idea. My lovely mother will be reading this – she can have a go at convincing Carol. For your son, mother dear)?
Freezing by the time we went down the hill, but we soon warmed up as the mist and light rain abated. Then we hit the road to Lochgoilhead. An absolute cracker of a road – loved by one and all.
A little stop to regroup with the real hill just ahead. We then encounter some muppet in a car doing his dinger because we’re ‘blocking’ his route on the road. Aye right, pal. Move 3 cm to the right and continue (or move 15 feet – you’ve got all the space in the world and not a car in sight). Some choice language to send him on his way – not by me though, ’cause my mum’s reading. At this point my GPS batteries gave up the ghost. Oh bother (2). I’m very anal about recording my stats so this is a bummer. Teach me to upload the stats more often and get the device charged. Surprisingly, it’s charging as I write this now.
And now the hill. The other guys said it was a real toughie. I wasn’t so sure. There are lots of flattish parts to recover and only a couple of 16% bits to have you on the pedals. However, it sure is a nice ride. So, back round to the Rest and Be Thankful and the long descent to Arrochar and another regroup.
Only really one other significant climb on the way back, although it should be noted that Sammy and myself wait for our amigo Tubs two or three times when he has a rough patch on hills – remember this.
As we approach home Sam and myself are close to energy out. No need for a gel – we’ll coast home and get something to eat. We look round to make sure Tubs is still there – he’s not taken a turn at the fron to help his brothers for quite a while – no matter, he ain’t heavy. And then the boy does it. He shames himself by making a sprint in the last half mile. Shameless.
Tubs outrageous behaviour apart this was a cracking run with some great roads. A grand choice.
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.
Another Sunday, another LEJOG training run. Not such a big turnout this time, but four of this summer’s seven riders made the early 8.15 am start (Brian, Gio, John and myself), and were joined by a friend & colleague of Gio’s, Stuart (or is it Stewart?); though Sammy turned up in person to give his apologies. We set off from Strathblane at a solid pace, but had barely got going before we hit our first hitch – Brian’s cleat on his left shoe was just not engaging in the pedal properly. A bit of faffing around didn’t completely fix the problem, but his decision was to go on. We soon got into a good rhythm, with each rider taking their 0.5 mile or so leading the train over a good 15 mile stretch.
We reached Aberfoyle and our first hill of the day, comfortably under the hour – the Duke’s Pass – a new hill for me, and a new challenge. I took it slow, tucking in behind Stu and Brian as I got a feel for the slope. As the climb continued, Stu slipped back and the two of us chatted about running, work and my cycling experience (or lack of!) . The gradient was not so bad, no real thigh-burning sections, and we made the summit without too much effort, though Brian, just ahead of us most of the way up, was still having a bit of bother with that left cleat. A quick respite at the top, with a waiting Gio & John, then a nice downward stretch skirting round Loch Achray. Well, nice except for the tourist filled bus that came at me round a blind bend – in the middle of my side of the road, half-way down the hill. My brakes worked well, so collision avoided.
We were now again on gently rolling roads, so back into ‘train’ formation all the way to Callander, where we attempted to find a bike shop, with no luck. We headed south, toward Kippen and the second hill of the day. I took up my command position at the rear, again with Stu for company and we worked our way up the incline, the occasional zipvit energy chew and drink to keep us going. Just as were cresting the last rise, I was the lucky recipient of my first puncture. A thorn (or something spiky) into my back tyre, flattening it instantly. Another master class in tube changing commenced, with Gio in control, taking care to ensure the last bits of the thorn were removed from the tyre (nothing would be worse than replacing the tube for it too to be damaged). Brian got to try out his new gas cannister toy to fill the new tube, then we were on our way, downhill for a good stretch, working the pedals to get the chill from our stop out of our bodies. We soon arrived at Fintry, and a quick refuel stop (I must practice eating on the move) before taking on the Crow Road (“the right way round”). At this point my left knee decided to join Brian’s cleat in not working quite right. After a few of the early turns in the ascent, every rotation of the pedals was causing a sharp niggling pain just under my kneecap. As the hill continued, so did the pain, so reaching the top and being able to freewheel down was a great relief. The last 4 miles back to the cars was less than fun for me, trundling along barely breaking 10mph (unless going downhill). Still, got to the end in pretty much one piece and just over 60 miles in the bag:
Stuck an ice pack (good old Birdseye frozen peas) on knee at home, and hoping it goes away with a couple of days rest. Seems ok today, but will give it until Wed to ‘test’ it on a run.
For those unaccustomed to the world of long (or short for me at the moment) distance cycling, there exists a ‘condition’ known as the bonk (or Fringale as the French put it). Essentially, if you don’t eat properly before the cycle and during the cycle your body can pretty much shut down and it makes it difficult to keep going at any sort of pace.
Unfortunately, I found myself in this position in yesterdays group training run. This was a momentous occasion anyway as all of the magnificent 7 cyclists for Le Jog turned out (a blog entry in itself). However, I found myself after 35 miles going along quite happily in the front group talking to Sammy only to find myself quickly staring into his back light (otherwise known as the abyss) which was getting smaller by the second, gallantly counting down from 10 to try and keep my pedals moving. I am soon caught by the back group who initially think I am being a team player in helping them along but I thought the game was up for me. I struggled on vainly to Strathblane where the rest of the guys were waiting. I explained my predicament and out of David’s pocket came a block of tablet. This peculiarly Scottish delicacy consists of sugar, butter and condensed milk formed into a hard block and if it came from a posh shop maybe a drop of vanilla. One section was taken and then another and eventually David knew he wasn’t getting any back and the whole bar was gone. Slowly, we set off again and life started to seep back into my body, and the pedals started to flow again and life was good. The big nutrition companies will try and convince you that their latest sports gel will keep you going and has been formulated to the max but I think the Scots have known the formula for years….
See link below further about this, it can even happen to the best – try Lance Armstrong.
John, Sammy, Tubs and Sam’s brother David out for a training run together. The first run for Tubs since Beallach Na Ba at the very start of October. I don’t know if he’s over the hell he experienced that day, but we shall see.
Anyway, I had taken my bike into the shop for a quick gear tune up after replacing the front mech cable and struggling to get smooth shifting. Next day I got the bike back. Cost of quick tune up? £170. In full – new front mech, jockey wheels, rear cassette, chain, bar tape (really nice and grippy) and a part for the rear brake. It’s only money right?
Consequently, I shot off up the initial hill like a man reborn – bike functioning beautifully. However, the rest of the chaps were already well back. Two of them caught up quickly enough, but there was a wee concern that the 4th man had fallen back badly. Too many german sausages for the Tubby lad – work to be done.
The route then went up and over the Crow road, which is always nice and then from Fintry towards Kippen, turning off to Arnprior on a really horrible road as we headed to Aberfoyle and on towards Drymen. We stopped to wait for Tubs and soon enough he turned up and gave us the onwards signal – clearly he was fresh and wanted to push on so we set off knowing he was right behind us as we headed up and over to Drymen. Sammy punctured at the top, so we fixed that and headed down into Drymen to wait for Tubs, and wait, and wait. And wait. It was now getting dark, my rear light had conked out, the rain was coming on heavy and it was getting really cold. However, we were worried about our wee buddy Tubs. Surely he didn’t go ont he main road at Aberfoyle to avoid the hills? No he would have told us. Eventually, we got in touch with David (who was heading home in a different direction) – he thought that Tubs was going straight on. And finally, we got a call from Tubs – sitting in his car, getting toasty warm and claiming that his hand signal had meant that he was going a different way. We’ll teach him a thing or two about hand signals next time we see him.
Sammy and I then pushed on for the last few miles in the dark, me with no back light, him with a pathetic front light into pouring rain and the wind in our face. It was grand to see the wee lad sitting in his car when he rolled in. Oh, and a happy birthday to you Tubs. Now get yourself fit or LEJOG is going to be SORE.
A happy new year to one and all.