Wednesday. Cloudy, but warm. We slept in. None of us were paying attention to the time, until Mark (or was it David?) realised it was 10.28, breakfast stops at 10.30, so it was a mad scramble down to the buffet breakfast hoping we could grab some calories before they put everything away. We just made it in time to grab a plate or two of grub and a few drinks of juice, rather than our more usual grazing leisurely over whatever fare grabbed our fancy.
By the time we’d got our act together, we didn’t get on the road until nearly midday. Ah well, the big 100 was probably not on, so we decided to do the Orient, a smallish climb of around 600m, about 30 miles or so south-west of us. We headed out along the “marsh road”, so named for the long marsh grasses growing along it, to Sa Pobla, wind in our face, so turn-about in the train to share the effort. From Sa Pobla we wound our way south, hitting a main road for a few miles before turning off on to a smaller ‘bike’ road – primarily used by tourist cyclists, but with the occasional car or van passing us by. A few miles along, the sun was breaking through, so we stopped for a quick photo opportunity, then pressed on to Santa Maria del Carni, almost all the journey on the cycle road.
We stopped for a quick bite in a roadside cafe, then headed out of town towards Bunyola, and up the Orient climb itself. The three of us climbed steadily, with two other cyclists in sight ahead of us.
As the slope eased off, we upped our pace before a sharp left and the climb continued. Mark started to pull ahead, soon overhauling the two riders in front, David and myself were also steadily reeling them in, and took the first then the second rider shortly after, passing a quick hello as we went by. We hit the summit a short while later, surprised that we’d completed the climb already. A short stop for a few photos, then we were on our way downhill.
My left knee pain decided to make an unwelcome return, stiffening up on the downward section, but with 40+ miles to go, no choice but to ride on. We were soon on the flat, then hit a small climb to the actual village of Orient, then into a long descent bypassing Alaro and in to Lloseta. A minor mess up at a junction resulted in David toppling over, whacking his knee, giving us two injured riders. We forged on making good time regardless passing through Selva, Moscari and Buger, before returning to La Puebla and taking the marsh road home. This time we had the wind with us, and our train motored along at 20mph+ all the way back home. Not quite the big 100 planned, but a solid 70 miler, averaging 15.1 mph.
Sunday. No ‘team’ ride on the table, so was planning on a solo effort until Mark M texted to ask if I wanted to join him and Mark D on a Sunday outing. Turned out it was to be a ‘biggie’, 80 miler to Dunoon, with the option of getting the train home or forging on for a 100+ miler. Sounded like a good challenge to me, 9.30 am kick-off, so why not give it a shot? Got round to Mark M’s a bit early, so a few minutes wait while he stocked up on sarnies and other goodies before we headed along to meet Mark D to head to Anniesland and beyond. The wind was up, though tolerable, was having an impact on our pace, knocked down to just shy of 17mph by the time we hit Helensburgh (last time we were in the mid 18s). On to Faslane and a small 100m climb past Garelochhead before passing along Loch Long on our way to Arrochar.
We stopped for a brief drink (coffee/ hot chocolate) and scone (jam + cream) at the Village Inn, about 40 miles done, and a big hill just around the corner, known locally as the “rest and be thankful”. I’d heard of this, but don’t remember ever travelling up it, in a car or otherwise, so not sure what to expect.
Our pace dropped as we took on this climb, the Marks allowing me to keep pace, slackening off if I dropped off the back to allow me to regain contact. After 20 minutes or so of this slog, we reached the top, and were rewarded with a 3-4 mile downhill section ending in Ardno and St. Catherines. Just shy of 60 miles and around 4 hours of cycling, my left knee decided it had had enough, and thought it should let me know by inflicting some pain on me. Not enough to stop me carrying on, but harsh enough that I knew about it with each turn of the crank. Drugs required. A garage stop allowed me to grab a 50p pot of paracetamol and Mark M to refill his bottle and we were on our way, with me no longer taking any turns at the front to nurse my knee on the remaining dozen miles to the ferry at Dunoon. Our pace was soon helped by a 12 strong group of club riders, we tagged on the back as they passed us, gaining the tow for the remaining half dozen or so miles to the ferry. Mark D joined the group proper, taking his turn at the front, myself and Mark M stayed at the back, with him pointing out to me how the change-overs at the lead worked so ‘next time’ I’d be able to put in my turn at the front. The hardest part of this group section for me was the corners, I’m still not quick enough on bends so the concertina in on the slowdown into the corner then the follow through on to the straight catching me out on several occasions, causing me to put in a burst of speed each time to regain the back of the train. Still, a welcome help to get us to the ferry terminal just as the ferry arrived.
A quick jaunt on the ferry, chatting to some of the other riders and we were docking in Gourock. A couple more paracetamol for my whining knee, and I took the decision to carry on rather than taking the train home. Whats another 30 miles when you’ve just done 80? That, and I was determined to get a 100 miler in the bag. Through Greenock and up a 200m climb for an easy descent on the back roads to Bridge of Weir, the GPS watch counting ever towards the 100 miles. We were making excellent time, the wind at our backs most of the way, when Mark M hit a rogue pothole, blowing out his back tube. A short delay while this was fixed, his odd (to me) rims causing problems engaging the gas inflators, resolved by my more traditional hand-pump, then we were back on our way.
The 100 for me hit just at Linwood, my first ever ‘century ride’ done in 6 hours 40-ish. Well chuffed with that, as we began the start-stop riding into Paisley and the final 10 miles into Glasgow. The group split at Govan road, me heading east (I was late for dinner with Mr & Mrs M), the Marks west for a well-earned post-ride pint.
111.57 miles, 16.7mph average and a guessed-at-by-the-watch 7,777 calories burned. More cakes for me!
The main Sunday ride was a Duke’s Pass run, planned for a 7.45am start from the Kirkie. Now the clocks were changing, so would effectively mean I’d need to be up at ‘old’ 5am (6am with the hour change) to get there in time. As I didn’t relish that idea, decided to dodge it, as Mark M had invited me out with his friend Mark D (so many Marks to keep track of) for a Saturday jaunt to Helensburgh. This seemed like a more sleep friendly outing – starting around 9am. Much more sensible. Headed round to Mark M’s for around 8.30, then met up with Mark D on Great Western Road, and we made our way to Anniesland and then on to Dumbarton. The two M’s were doing most of the work, with me tucked in behind and getting some practice at wheel hugging. The fairly flat route saw us making good time, and we were soon in Helensburgh, sitting on an average speed of mid 18mph. We made a brief stop while Mark M said a quick hello to friend refurbing a restaurant, had a quick on-bike snack, then were on our way to the first (and only) climb of the day at Glen Fruin.
We turned off the main road, dropped onto the small ring, and headed up the hill, a quick burst of speed over the first cattle grid and we settled in to the ascent. My climbing practice on the Hairy Brae from last week’s Largs trip was put to good use, switching between on-saddle and on pedals standy-up techniques to keep the pace going as best I could, giving an average speed of around 7.5mph for the mile up the hill. The two M’s were pleased with my attempt at the climb, Mark M in particular commenting on my improvement since we were last out together, so I guess all this training is paying off. The descent down to Arden saw us hitting around 35mph, before joining a nice busy A82 for a couple of miles before escaping the traffic onto the Luss road and making our way through Balloch and Alexandria, setting a solid pace as we went. Soon we were back on to the now dual-carriageway A82 for the return to Glasgow, Mark D leading the way, with only the occasional short split forming at round-a-bouts or traffic lights. The majority of the time though we formed a compact group and the last few miles into the city were soon behind us. As we returned through Anniesland, Mark D took a training tip from the great Robert Millar, and chased a bus halfway up the road in the outside lane (Mr Millar used to cycle after buses from Glasgow to Kilmarnock and Ayr). Not my idea of a good training strategy, but was amusing to watch.
My average speed was now sitting at 17.4mph, a record for me over the 55 or so miles we’d completed. Mark M headed off along Queen Margaret Drive, Mark D and myself continuing along Gt. Western road, before splitting at Gibson Street to head to our respective homes. Having to stop for the numerous traffic lights between this point and my flat knocked a few tenths off my average, but still a very respectable 17.1 mph average for 59.5 miles and my best average to date for a 50 mile+ route.
For the Garmin fans: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/161545729