Roubaix Challenge 2018

The conventional wisdom say to hit the cobbles hard and fast, best way to ride them. What they don’t tell you is that it is really really really hard to do that. Think the hardest turbo interval sessions you do, 5-8 mins in length. It’s that kind of effort while you are being violently shaken and trying to steer any kind of line and avoid other riders, debris being launched off bikes as they dance all over the cobbles and pot holes. Then repeat 28 times. Mentally and physically exhausting.

So the day began very early with a bus ride out to Busigny for the start of 172Kms, 28 sections of pave over 55Kms (we miss out the pretend last one) and 6000 riders! Weather could not have been better, warm, dry, a south east wind. Met Ciaran and Jamie at the start which is not crowded (we were all on different buses), and you set off whenever you like. So perhaps not as big a razzamatazz as some events with mass starts, but a lot less stressful than starting with thousands of others!

The plan was to get round, we didn’t care how long, just finish in the velodrome. So no racing around, a long day planned, save the legs for the pave, stay together and help each other.

After a nice 11k warm up we hit the first section of pave, my first ever, and what a shock to the system. Nothing prepares you for the bone and bike rattling and how difficult it is to maintain any kind of speed, your legs burn. You try and pick a good line trying to stay on the crown, but that’s not easy with everyone else having the same plan. Then you need to pass slower riders and try and judge the best route to stray off the centre and swing round them as the rougher sections are even harder to ride.  Going slower is not an option as that just makes things even worse! After 2.2Km it was over, first section conquered. It was awful and it was only *** (sections are rated 1 – 5 stars), there are harder and longer to come, and lots of them!

There are 3 timed sections and the first of those is early on. Ciaran and I came to the end to find Jamie missing. So we waited and waited and then after 20 minutes Jamie appeared – 2 punctures in the same section. We all thought the same things, is this the start of things to come for us all?  Thankfully not, as these were the only punctures of the day and other than Jamie shipping a chain once, no other mechanicals! We were very very lucky. The whole route is littered with folks changing punctures, bikes in bits and sadly the aftermath of a few bad looking accidents!

We made our way round, taking it easy on the tarmac, slogging through the cobbles. By the first feed stop (6 sectors down) my hands were raw with blisters and bruises (how do you even get bruises on your hands?!).  Thankfully Ciaran had some tape and I taped my hands under my mitts to stop rubbing – pretty sure without it I would not have made it round.

The pattern of taking it easy on the tarmac and slogging through the cobbles continued relentlessly. I confess I did get goosebumps in the ride up to Arenberg as we passed the old mine, but was so pleased once it was over.

The rest of the ride was just a slog, after any initial enthusiasm, the love of cobbles had well and truly gone and we just wanted to get round. Sectors, villages and tarmac came and went as we ticked them off, counting down to the end. The last ***** section is Carrefour de l’Arbe, 17Km from the end. Get through that then surely we will finish okay. It was awful, legs and mind tired, trying to find a line in the gutter on the edge, I touched the side and down I came, narrowly avoiding taking Jamie out too. Thankfully I was not going at Sagan speed and was more like the slow motion fall at the traffic lights we have all done! No harm done, me and bike okay, lets get this over with!

After the last section, we were home and dry, just had to navigate through the traffic jam in Roubaix (no closed roads for us) which was a bit hairy.

Then, there it was, the Roubaix velodrome and we cycled in the path of all of the greats, it was utterly amazing. We rolled round the track and crossed the line together. I was in bits, physically and emotionally.

Slumped on the track, the ever wonderful Team Wheelers DS Lindsay went off to get the beers in. It tasted fabulous. As we sat there we all said the same thing – thank god we all finished it as there is no way we are ever coming back to do that again.

No official time for the event, just the 3 cobbled sections, but those that had working Garmins, tell me it was 6:26 riding time and 7:28 elapsed time. Couldn’t care less what the time was, we all finished 🙂 The only century ride I have ever done all in the big ring, but one of the toughest ever!

Organisation was fine, although not in the same league as some of the other events I have done. It was well marshaled but no food and drink at the end and closing (or coning off a lane) of the road for the last 2-3Km would be a lot better. You should try it, just the once, just to appreciate it, as no words or video or TV can truly explain the feeling. It is like no other bike ride, truly unique. Many times we said, how on earth can you race on this, it is phenomenal what the pros do.

Was deeply saddened to hear on Monday of the tragedy that struck and the death of young pro Michael Goolaerts. Such a sad reminder of how tough and sometimes dangerous our sport can be. Thoughts are with his family, friends and teammates.

Reliability Season 2018 Round 5 – Dundee Thistle

After our own Round 4 Trial was cancelled due to Snowmageddon, it was a lovely morning that welcomed the end of Reliability Season with the Thistle event. As per all the Reliability Trials there are runs and groups of various lengths and speeds to suit all. The fast group is for those that want to have a “good go” but the others are more club run social pace.

The fast group set off and was fairly swift from the off, surely won’t keep this up for 70 miles! The fast group does split as folks drop off, get mechanical issues etc and is usually a whittling down process as the run goes on. The first split usually happens in the run up Little Glenshee and this year was no different. However it was good to see the “comfort break” at the ford (which was calf deep after the snow and rain) was reinstated and we regrouped and sped down towards Bankfoot. The Little Gelnshee road is hairy at the best of times and the snow and rain hasn’t helped, as it is now a loosely connected series of potholes and boulders. Best avoid the puddles as don’t know if they are 2 inches or 2 feet deep!

A turn left at Bankfoot and a brisk climb up Waterloo and right at the top of Birnam Braes where we passed the steady 50 mile group looking like they were having a more relaxing time 🙂

The next test is the rolling roads towards Clunie where the young whippets got a slight gap that we just managed to close before the turn towards Blairgworie. The group was down to about 12 now and the pace hadn’t slowed any as I clung on at the back by the skin of my teeth! The bunch did split on the road to Newtyle and up Pitnappy where my legs finally gave in as 4-5 left me trailing. Did manage to catch Scott Taylor (Thistle) around Auchterhouse and we came home together.

The buffet was fabulous, great effort by the Thistle. The other groups soon arrived with various tales of mechanicals, punctures and sore legs. Sounds like a good job of marshalling on the other rides kept the groups together.

Thistle Reliability – DONE

Strava says it was the fastest Thistle Reliability since they changed the route a fair few years ago, my stats were –

 

Reliability Season 2018 Round 3 – Perth United

The traditional middle weekend off is no more with this new event hosted by Perth United CC.

Some idiot (me) had the bright idea to suggest riding out to the start at Murthly. A fair few Wheelers met at Millennium Hall at 9:15 for a social ride out and sign on at the Uisge Restaurant at Murthly. There were long and shorter routes for faster and steadier groups, catering for all. Time for a coffee and then just before 11am the fast group were called out to the start. PUCC had a very nice start clock and an official flag waver set us off bang on 11am.

A fairly frenetic pace as we sped along back towards High Kettins and the first slope of the day saw some shelled out the back. The group then pretty much stayed together all the way round at a tempo, but not brutal, pace. Route was good, rolling rather than monster hills, just the usual state of some roads to contend with. We kept it steady over the lumps and all were working well to speed us along back to the start and a wee dig at the end to see us over the finish line.

Thanks to PUCC for hosting this event, all went very well and hopefully be a permanent fixture on the calendar. They even managed to organise fine weather for a February morning.

The steady groups then all came home safely as we enjoyed the post event buffet of soup, sandwiches and big cakes 🙂 Have to say the ride back wasn’t filled with joy as we battled sore legs and a headwind at a relaxed pace. If I suggest riding out next year, talk me out of it or organise a bus back 🙂

Garmin stats (include sitting around at the start and end, so around 2:53 moving time @ 19.9mph for the actual reliability run):

Reliability Season 2018 Round 1 – Fife Century

Definitely comes round quicker every year – yes it’s the early season Reliability Rides (also known as people who race trying to pretend they aren’t racing 🙂 ).
First off is the Fife Century run on Feb 11th. It was a very cold morning, with ice patches on the main roads, so no surprise that the route was changed to avoid the worst of the conditions. Numbers seemed down, but the arrival of Team Spokes en masse swelled the numbers of the fast group to around 25. Off we went on the A92 from Freuchie to Parbroath and then down to Newburgh. Pace was tempo rather than full gas and even managed to chat at one point! All that changed as we hit the climb of the day at Glenfarg where the decision seemed to be to ride uphill faster than we had been riding on the flat. This had the unsurprising effect of splitting the bunch as the climb dragged on longer than I remembered. I was in no mans land, solo. I pressed on as best I could as now had a tailwind as we headed back along the main road toward Strathmiglo. It was here that with the help of the cars managed to get back to the bunch. Back to Melville Lodges and then Cupar and a left turn for the drag back toward Parbroath where we lost a few riders. It was through and off time back to Melville Lodges for the 3rd time -I could barely make out 28mph on my Garmin through the tears. My legs were shot and it was all I could do to cling on at the back. The final stretch back to Strathmiglo and then the sprint back to Falkland finished me off. The run was just a shade under the 60 miles in 2:45 at about a 21.5mph moving average so a bit quicker than my usual Sunday Club Run! It’s all worth it for the buffet though and this year didn’t disappoint 🙂 Note that there are rides and groups to suit all, you don’t have to be in the fast group, so I’d recommend it for everyone.

Presentation Lunch 2017

Around 60 Wheelers and guests had another fabulous Presentation Lunch at The Woodlands Hotel. The scene was set with the prizes and the raffle all ready for the post meal presentations.

Glad to see so many folks made it out on a cold afternoon.






After a lovely meal we were presented with the extended trailer for the film “Roadworthy – Life on Two Wheels“, that Rising View and 81 Films have been making of the Club. It was fantastic and showed off the Club and Scotland very well. We cannot wait for the finished film in 2018! We then had a round up of the year from Niall Elliott again highlighting all the amazing things the members have got up to this year on and off the bike and a plea for more selfies, even if it’s just to keep Mike T from posting them all 🙂

Then the official business of the prize giving. All the well deserved winners were (apologies for having my grinning mug in all of them):

Fastest 10-mile Time Trial with a time of 23:03, fastest 25-mile Time Trial with a time of 58:29 and fastest 50-mile Time Trial with a time of 2:17:30 all awarded to Jim Petrie in recognition of another amazing year.

Hill Climb Award (Male) awarded to Ciaran Hannon with a time of 7:52 on the Rait hill climb.

Hill Climb Award (Female) and the Sportive Award (Female) awarded to Gill Peters with a time of 10:25 on the Rait hill climb and 176 miles in 2 sportive events.

Cyclocross Award – in recognition of his efforts in racing the cyclocross events across Scotland this is awarded to Jim Foulis. Jim was unable to pick up his award as he was on Mull, doing what he loves, racing cyclocross!

Tourist Trophy awarded by the Club Captain to Ian Anderson for his continued great work and support of the Club in all areas and for his knowledge and experience on the Club Runs.

Sportive Award (Male) with 898 miles in 12 sportive events and the Bob Kilhooley Most Improved Rider 2017 (voted by the Club Members) both awarded to Brian Barr for his great improvement this year and all the events he rode to raise money for charity.

Club Member of the Year 2017 (voted by the Club Members) was awarded to Gillian Elliott for her great work as our Social Convener, leisure clothing organising and all round support for the Club.

There was also a special award to Frankie Daillie nominated by the Club Captain Ian Simpson as Inspirational Rider of the Year. A much deserved award for Frankie who continues to help and inspire the club members. There was even a special video message from Round the World Record Holder Mark Beaumont to congratulate Frankie and to wish the Club well.

Well done to all the recipients.

Then the raffle was held where an array of wines and chocolates found some new homes before the official lunch was closed and the unofficial drinking competition started.

Thanks to the Woodlands for putting on a great lunch. Thanks again to Dale and Steve for a wonderful film. Once again, thanks to Gillian, Niall, Ian Anderson, Ally Mills and everyone who helped organise and host the lunch.

Bealach Mor 2017

Doesn’t time fly by when you’re enjoying yourself, as this was 10 in a row for me! Weather was unusually fine on the drive over to Kinlochewe, dry, mild, light wind. But, the sting in the tail hit us when we arrived and got out the car. Midges, billions of them, and all very hungry! A weird sight of folks waving their arms around and diving between car, hall, cafe to get some respite.

Everyone seemed keen to get moving and team Wheelers all set off at various times, as you need to time it to arrive at the foot of the Bealach for 11am when it opens for the cyclists and closes for the cars. I waited until 9:15 and set off with Brian from the Thistle and Rod from CoG. Rod set the pace up the first climb and we picked up wheels as we sped along to Achnasheen and the right turn to Lochcarron. A nice group, all working,if slightly erratic, and unfortunately a touch of wheels just in front of me saw 3-4 riders hit the road (didn’t look too serious as they were all up and moving).

Bang on time, hit the Bealach climb at 11am, getting good at this timing malarky! The group inevitably split, with my usual tactic of taking it easy on the climb, saving something for the 2nd half. Up and down, all in one piece and with no scary moments this year.  As I rolled round the magnificent Applecross bay I saw the unmistakable orange jersey of Brian a minute or two up the road with 3-4 others. So I pushed on to join up, only took me 10 miles! Almost immediately after tagging on to the group the cramp started and I had to sit up and let them go.

The lumpy bits to Shieldaig were pretty awful as I had to ease way back to avoid the cramp in both legs, and I almost came to a stop on a few occasions. Finally made it to Shieldaig and then the last climb before Torridon.

The legs were in a world of pain as I pushed on as best I could for the last 10 rolling miles. Rather surprised to see the orange jersey up ahead and was slowly closing the gap. With about 3 miles to go finally caught Brian who dragged me and the top lady finisher to the line at a fine pace. Finished, well and truly finished.

Weather wise a great day, one of the best.Views stunning. Route,one of the best,challenging runs you’ll get anywhere. Well organised. Good food at the end too.

My time was 4:58, considering the last 30 miles were cramptastic, happy with that. Soon other Wheelers arrived with battle scarred faces and tales to tell. Everyone always says “never again”, but that soon wears off and you look forward to next year 🙂

Garmin route and info –

 

UCI Gran Fondo World Championships – Albi 2017

No medal. No goodie bag. No hat. No t-shirt. Just very sore legs.  This is a race, not a sportive and there are World Champion Rainbow Jerseys up for grabs!

The 3 Team Wheelers who qualified and signed up for the Amateur World Championships set off for Albi as part of a massive Team GB representation. There were around 2,400 riders from 53 countries, with Team GB by far the largest. There are in fact 18 races across all the age categories for male and female riders! Each category has a mass start, with commissaire car and moto support with 7 minute intervals between each race. The largest race was my group of 50-54 year old males with 340 participating. There was also a special 100 year+ category with a 106 years old male rider who looked amazing for his age :-0

Sign on and race brief was on Saturday, all very easy and smooth. Suggestion was to park at the finish and ride the 3Km into Albi for the start and they even put on shuttle buses for the support crew to cheer you at the start and finish. Race brief made a point of emphasising the riders responsibility for doping control! Turns out you have to check at the end to see if you are one of the random checks and failure to turn up results in positive result and a 2 year ban from the UCI!

Look it’s me

Team Wheelers

Even with a reasonable start time, we were still up at 5am for breakfast and set off from our hotel at 6am! Parked up at the Albi Race Circuit where we finish and get ready before we ride into Albi to the start area.

The glamour of riding the Worlds

Each age group sets off at specific times, so Jamie bids farewell and off to his pen, Karen’s last off so probably still in bed at this time 😉 We then have some fantastic French organised chaos. Could get some lessons on start protocols from the other euro events! Somehow we all manage to get to the line at our allotted time. My age cat has the biggest number of all with 340 in a mass start.

Ready for the off

The first 2.5Km were apparently neutralised behind the commissaires car and outriders. It was carnage! Almost wore out my brake blocks as the peleton was squeezed, sprinted, stopped, repeat. The first crash of the day was in the first 2Km, there were many more! The speed was not very neutral.

At the km 0 sign the flag dropped and hell was unleashed. It was fast, very fast and unrelenting and not my usual Sunday run! I have no idea what the route was or what the scenery was as I saw nothing but the wheels in front as we made it to the first climb at 35 miles in 1hr 25. The race then blew apart. Found myself in groups for the lumpy section as we all pushed on as best we could.

The middle section was hilly and then the sun came out. It was way too hot for a pasty Scot. Temperature apparently was 35-38 degrees. It felt like riding in a sauna with a hairdryer blasting your face. Reports that they ran out of water at the second feed stop, which is just unacceptable at any time, never mind the heat we had. So the last 25 miles were torture as cramp set in due to excessive heat and excessively sore legs! I limped home, barely able to hold any wheels that passed.

Did get a bit of lift towards the end with help from a kind Aussie and then the final run in as we turned onto the Albi Race Circuit for the last Km on the race track. I didn’t trouble anyone in a sprint and rolled home, burst.

So fast you missed me 🙂

The greatest thing of the day was the lady with the hose showering you as you finished – bliss. Caught up with Karen who had a superb ride and Jamie who like me had a tough day at the office.

The greatest shower ever!

Positively glowing

This was definitely not your usual sportive, a different class of rider, which you’d expect with a Rainbow Jersey on offer for each age cat winner! Was a great experience though and seeing all the various countries in national colours was great.

The results for Team Wheelers were:

  • Karen 2:55 for the 97Km route for 13th in her age category (winner was 2:37)
  • Jamie 4:52 for the 155Km route for 150th in his age cat (winner was 3:53)
  • Graeme 4:45 for the 155Km route for 216 in his age cat (winner was 4:02)

Nothing left but to relax and a well earned beer or two for us and the support crew.

Cheers

Even the DS can now relax

Qualifying ride is Ayrshire again for the 2018 Worlds being held in Varese, would recommend it, great experience.

The Garmin stats and route are:

 

 

Maratona dles Dolomites 2017

You know when you are doing an event and you see some poor soul at the side of the road with broken bike and think to yourself “there but for the grace…”. Well my luck finally ran out and I was that poor soul 🙁

It had all been going so well up to that point. All the travelling was fine, Jamie’s chauffeuring over mountains to get us to the hotel was great (for me anyway). The hotel turned out to be a 2 bed apartment with a bathroom each, living room and kitchen – sorted. And it was 2km downhill to the start and 2km downhill to the hotel after the finish, bonus!

Only snag was the rather damp weather. Saturday morning was fine though and a wee warm up loop was agreed. A little 32 miles over 2 of the Maratona’s climbs, in reverse, and about 5,000 feet of climbing. A steady pace, practice for tomorrow. It was bloomin freezing on the descents though, rethink clothing strategy for the Maratona. Back home we agreed if we kept that same pace we would be will inside the 7 hour target for tomorrow.

Then on to registration, all very well organised. Great goodie bag of Castelli top, gilet and lots of nice bits and pieces. A wander around the Expo with Jamie’s pennies burning a hole in his pocket! He was so disappointed to find that none of the exhibitors were actually selling anything, it was all just for show! We went for lunch, and bumped into the other Dundee crew – Eddie Flynn, Eric Schlordt, Darren and Steve Cassels – what are the chances! Apparently, the hills have gotten longer and steeper since they were last here 😉

Dinner and an early night as up at 4:30am for breakfast!

Joined the mass of cyclists down to the start, cool, but importantly, dry. Jamie and me were in different start pens, so I was getting a 20 minute head start. Usual hanging about getting cold, but slight frisson of excitement as helicopters buzzed around. The race is live on Italian TV! Soon enough with a mighty canon blast bang on 6:30am we were off.

I was fortunate in that not too many head of me, having heard of traffic jams on the first climb, so could keep to my steady pace. Top of the Campolongo (5.8Km @ 6.1%) bang on schedule and the first descent. What did catch me out was even though I knew there was not any flat roads, as soon as you hit the bottom of the descent the next climb starts immediately! Up the Pordoi, a longer slightly steeper second climb (9.2Km @ 6.9%). The weather was spot on for a Scotsman, cool and dry and no wind – perfect. Over the top of the Pordoi and slightly ahead of schedule. Next up the Selva (5.5Km @ 7.9%), with the most amazing views of the Dolomites, feels like they are almost coming over the top of you, spectacular. The descent was fast and not technical, a real blast. Soon enough bounced at the bottom and on to Gardena. A climb in 3 stages (5.8Km @ 4.3%) – a steepish 2K, a flat 2K and a last 2K to the top – all still going well and was 5 minutes up on my plan. The descent back to Corvarra was where disaster struck.

Descending fine until “bang!”, a steady grab of the brakes and stop safely, out of the race line. The first puncture I’ve ever had at a euro event and my first in 7 years of many events! Changed and back on the road. Descend for 200 metres and then “bang!”. The second puncture I’ve ever had in a euro event! Oh, that’s my last tube now used and still 55 miles and 3 climbs to go! Descending now very very slowly as the air wasn’t staying in the 3rd tube of the day! I came to the conclusion that my race was over 🙁 I eventually got back to Corvarra where the finish line is and crawled over as the majority split off to do the longer routes. I couldn’t force a smile for the finish line photo and getting a finishers medal seemed a tad fraudulent. I had completed the official Sellaronda 55Km route!

It was only 9:30am, a long wait for Jamie. So back to the hotel, pack bike, changed and walk back to the finish area to see the riders arrive. A certain Sir Bradley cycled past me as I walked back to town and I met the GCN boys (Dan Lloyd and Mat Stevens) too. Time passed quick as all the riders crossed the line to cheers, smiles and hugs from friends and family. Even got to see Mr Maratona himself, Michil Costa, resplendent in tweed plus fours greeting the riders.

Then as the time was approaching the 7-hour target who should appear but Jamie, a bit weary, but he’d done it! A very respectable 6:54, which included his 10-minute lunch stop at the top of the Giau.

It was very busy now, but even though the pasta party looked chaotic, service was quick and excellent and a post ride beer was enjoyed. All that was left was to review the day and start the recovery rehydration process with a few beers.

Although massively disappointed to not finish the race I was here for, it was an amazing weekend. The area is a cyclists’ paradise. The event was very well organised and I thoroughly recommend it. I have unfinished business, I will be back.

PS the winning time was an amazing 4:37!!!

Tour of Ayrshire Gran Fondo 2017

The inaugural Tour of Ayrshire Gran Fondo in Kilmarnock is different from the usual sportives. First off it is the closest to a European style event in the UK that I have taken part in. Second, it is a race at the front, you need a Full British Cycling Race Licence to sign on and enter the Race Pens at the start (split into official UCI Age Categories). The Sport riders (usual sportive rules) set off in start pens after the race pens. Thirdly, it is a UCI approved event and is the only Scottish qualifying event for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships, being held in Albi, France in August this year.  Added bonus, closed roads. All very new and a tiny bit exciting 😉

The 3 C’s, that’s Ciaran, Costello and Carruthers set off at the crack of dawn – so much for the late 10am start – still trying to eat breakfast at 5am!  Getting there was no problem and getting to the VIP Parking was well sign posted (long story but Ciaran was a VIP for the day and we all went in one car so used his parking voucher). Sign on was dead easy as it was still very quiet as we were very early!

Hanging about for an eternity, there were some stalls to look and a fine display of old bikes – Vic and David McC would be in their element! The start pens opened at 9am, but nobody was up for standing in the freezing wind for any longer than they had to, seeking shelter in the school Event HQ, behind vans, anywhere. So at 9:45 the organiser basically called us all to the start – to then tell us there was a 15 minute delay as there was a house fire and fire engines on the course!

Eventually, the first 3 age groups set off in wave 1 – bye Jamie. Five minutes later the next 3 age groups set off – Ciaran and myself included. BANG!! From 0 to 25 mph in the bat of an eyelid and we were going uphill! A bunch of 150 soon thinned out as bodies shed everywhere. Basically Ciaran and me hung on for about 4 miles then with the thought of another 65 miles at this pace decided to sit in the second bunch instead.

The group we were in then stayed pretty much together for the next 40 miles or so. The course was rolling, no major climbs, just constant up , down, turn around. A fair few of the surfaces were pretty awful too – seems a common theme across the whole country! What was a constant factor was the god awful gale wind that never seemed to be at your back – always seemed to be headwind or side swiped!

Need to look at my Garmin to see the route, as I really have no idea where we went. The joys of closed roads, didn’t have to look at signs or know where to go! There were great crowds on the roads, lots of the villages were busy with cheering and cow bells – was all very good.

About 50 miles marrk, going over a particularly exposed section with brutal wind, I was nearly taken out by someone who rammed my back wheel. I stayed up, he went off road into gorse and mud. It was just then I spied a solo Jamie a few hundred metres up the road and with a burst of rage and adrenalin (post ramming) I set off to catch him, dragging a few others with me.  What was now a group of about 8 then tried working together, not always successfully, over some last lumps. The last few ramps seemed to take their toll and I pushed on with one other guy and when we looked back the rest were distanced. So with 5 miles of mainly downhill and at last a tailwind we worked well speeding to the finish and over the line. He did easily beat me in the sprint, but as he wasn’t in my age cat I didn’t care 😊

Finish was all set-up well, good crowds cheering you and a medal to all finishers along with water and alcohol free beer! Soon Jamie came home and then a few minutes later we were joined by Ciaran. It was then time to set off for some food and await the results.

We were joined by Karen and Steven Knight (surprise late entrants) and watched the podium presentations. The top 3 in every Race age cat were awarded prizes by the Kilmarnock Mayor who does seem a bit of a character (in a nice way). The podium presentations were an eye opener to how good some of these folks were – in every category. Once all the podiums were concluded it was time for the results to see who qualified for the World Championships. As you can see below, four of us did – Karen, Ciaran, Jamie and myself and we picked up our UCI Qualifier’s Medals. So we can head off to Albi in August and represent Team GB at the World Championships :-0

The event was well run, tough course, very tough weather and as usual pretty shocking roads. Would recommend it. There was a Chrono on the Saturday for the testers who want to go to the World Championships too, not just for roadie’s.

The times for the Wheelers were:

Name                      Time        Cat Position
Graeme Carruthers 03:33:56 15th
Jamie Costello         03:42:19 24th
Ciaran Hannon        03:42:47 27th
Karen Knight           04:15:33 2nd !! – very well done, especially as “I’m not doing any events this year” 🙂
Stephen Knight       04:15:34 52nd

The route and stats on my Garmin:

Bealach Mor 2016

After last year’s near perfect weather it was never going to be 2 in a row!

Forecast was wet & windy so was surprised to get up on a lovely sunny calm morning. All that changed in the drive to Kinlochewe as it got grey and then wet and then even wetter! Didn’t even dampen down the midges which were out in force helping themselves to lovely bare legs for their breakfast!

Signed on and met Karen who had ridden the 9 miles form the hotel to the sign on and was already cold and soaked before the start! Steve wasn’t well and had to be a DNS, but was on hand to bring some dry stuff for Karen. No sign of other Wheelers and numbers seemed down from previous years. Perhaps a combination of it’s been running a few years now, more and more events every week and the weather, have made this less popular then it used. But it is still a great event and one of the best routes, I’d recommend it.

Karen had already set off when I left at 9:15 and hit the first climb after 1/2 a mile. It was miserable, wet and headwind and I was solo. Over the top, did manage to get in a wee group of 5-6 trying to work our way to Achnasheen and the right turn into the block headwind and driving rain! This section was pretty brutal, trying to get any kind of working group was hard although did have a tandem working with us for a while which was great to draft! Reached the level crossing, whose tracks claim victims every year and this year it was almost me. I have no idea how I stayed upright as my bike flapped about like a fish out of water until after what felt like an age, but was probably less than a second, the wheel gripped again and I had control again. Phew that was close.

Pushed through Lochcarron and up and over the testing hill and down to Kishorn where out of the blue there was a voice I recognised – Yorkshire Rob was doing the event! Got to Tornapress and the weather was starting to clear, so I disposed of rain jacket and set off up the mountain! Done this a fair few times now, so l know what’s coming and the wind was fierce at times, so it was steady over the first section, grind up the horrible middle section and push on through the hairpins to the top and it’s all over for another year.

The descent is very technical at the start and in the strong crosswind, wet greasy roads and poor visbility it was on the brakes from the start. Screeching round the real horrible corners, where the ambulance usually sits, it wasn’t there and it crossed my mind that I hoped it wasn’t needed somewhere. Then my bike had a fit and tried to throw me off, pitching left and right and sliding towards the wall and a rather long drop! Again, no idea how, but it gripped again and I got control back, and slowed to a stop. Must have given the lady behind me a real fright. I then descended so so slooooooowly just making sure I got down in one piece.

The run from Applecross to Shieldaig is well know as the toughest section and was a tale of 2 halves. The first was fast (ish), tailwind assisted, but the second half was brutal as wind and hills took their toll. At least the weather was now bright and sunny. I was pretty much solo all the way from Applecross to the finish (40 miles), with only a 5 mile or so section with anyone else working with me. Seems we all had the same story – just no groups on the road to help each other! My near misses were playing on my mind so even though the roads were now drying out I was still very very cautious on all the descents.

After Shieldaig and then the last couple of horrible hills to Torridon, it’s a draggy 10 miles to the finish, but just couldn’t seem to get any decent speed and felt like a headwind at times. The last 3 miles are downhill and time to empty the tank and blast to the finish as best I could.

The post event is always good, hot food and more cakes than you could eat and trust me I tried 🙂 Soon Rob and Karen arrived with similar tales of solo slogging and glad it was over.

The fastest time was 4:50 this year, and the Wheelers were:

Pos Name Time
6th Graeme Carruthers 05:05:16
33rd Robert Harworth 05:37:45
47th Karen Knight 05:48:04
174th Jonathan Mack 07:07:16

Well done to Karen for finishing 2nd female on the day. Even though not my fastest time, given the weather, very very near “misses” and the fact the majority was under my own steam with no groups to help, I am more than happy 🙂

The stats from my Garmin: