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:

Gran Fondo Stelvio 2016

After last year’s Etape du Tour Heatstroke Hell, the main decision this year was how much winter clothing do we need in June?!

Three of us (Ciaran, Jamie and Graeme C) had signed up for this event sponsored by Santini and Mr Santini himself is there to wave you off and home (if you’re fast enough, he doesn’t hang abut in the snow for too long). Starting in Bormio and taking in the fearsome Motirolo and finishing 2,760 metres up on the Stelvio.

We decided to do a wee warm up climb the day before and so we climbed the Gavia, a mere 25Km climb, topping out at 2,652 metres. As we climbed up and up the weather changed to rain, then the snow comes, lying thick either side of the road. By the time we got to tthe top there was no visibility, it was freezing and you could ski! And tomorrow the Stelvio is 150 metres higher! The descent was awful, absolutely freezing, shivering, hands barely able to break. A real eye opener for tomorrow.

Lovely June day

After thawing out, we went to register and pickup the goodie bag (which was actually pretty good) and then the race briefing. As the 2 hosts chatted and joked away, we were understanding nothing of it at all.Then I realised half was in English, the tannoy was just so bad you couldn’t understand a word 🙂

There was a thousand checks of the weather and lots of decisions what to wear, at least I didn’t have to descend the Stelvio at the end as Lindsay was coming to the finish and would drive me down. Ciaran and Jamie dropped off their clothing bags that they take to the finish so you can change into dry, warm clothes for the descent. We were in different start pens, but as I was in pen 1, Jamie pen 2 and Ciaran in 3 there was every chance we would all meet up as they caught and passed me. Usual hanging about waiting for the off, but the weather was fine.

The first few Kms are neutralised behind the race car, which was “interesting” as people sped up to get behind the car only to then slow down, a concertina start / stop as folks all shouting and brakes screeching. The car peeled off and then all hell broke loose. The pace was stupidly fast (for me) and as it was mainly downhill and with a big day ahead I really took it easy, just spinning and keeping safe.

After about 30 miles you go through Bianzone and hit the first real climb. On the event profile it is a mere blip, in reality it is a 3 mile climb at 9%+ average! After so much descending it was a shock to the legs and I spun up keeping it steady. Half way up is a really steep ramp going through a narrow arch and was a bottleneck but at least nobody in my group had to get off so we made it through and up to the top.This is where Jamie caught me and we stayed together on the descent and the flattish section until you get to Sernio hill (only 2 miles @ 5.1%).

After 50 miles and 2.5 hours we hit the Motirolo – 7 miles @ 11% average. It was, as expected, brutally, unrelentingly tough for the first 5 miles. Some of the ramps are 15-20% and go on for what seems like an eternity. I was managing it okay, trying to keep out the red and just slowly getting there. Jamie had pushed on and disappeared. Then you hit a flattish bit, just enough to get the legs spinning and get ready for the last 1.5 miles. It was around here Ciaran caught and passed me in his usual mountain goat style. Then bang, with a mile to go, you hit a ridiculously steep, rough, cobbled, wet section with ramps 25%+. It is very narrow, very steep and being wet your wheels spun – so almost everybody gets off and walks and you pretty much have no choice with the traffic. Walking was harder than peddaling it! Then get back on for the final push to the summit. It had taken me 1hr 25 to go 7 miles! I filled my water bottles and set off.

The fearsome descent was less so and wasn’t too bad, was expecting worse and even I was passing some folks – unheard of. After 9 miles of downhill, pass through Tialo Basso, a town at 677 metres, and then the realisation you still have 32 miles and 2,000 metres ascent to go and it is all uphill from here.

The next section was a slog, on my own, crawling along and constantly thinking “I still have the Stelvio to climb”. It was nice getting back to Bormio with the crowds cheering and knowing there was just 1 more hill. But what a hill, 21Km and 7.1% average.

Time to engage bottom gear and enjoy it as best I can. After 2 Km I saw Lindsay by the side of the road – it was closed to cars and she couldn’t get to the top! Oh dear, I have to descend at the finish and no warm clothes for me….. I actually enjoyed the climb, it is spectacular,weather was great and views amazing. It did take a longgggg time, but eventually with 2-3Km to go the snow walls start and the scene turns from warm summer to winter again. Finally crossed the line at a crawl and was handed the coveted Finisher’s Cap.

Was worth it for this 🙂

As I put on my summer waterproof the hailstorm started! Quick message to see if Jamie was still at the top (no answer) and I set off. It was bloomin freezing again. After 2-3 Km I saw Jamie coming up – no idea how that happened or where I passed him but the confused look and my frozen brain were struggling to understand! (We reckon it was when he stopped in Bormio for water that I passed him) Thought at 1 point my brake / shifter was broken and then realised it was because 2 fingers were so numb I had no feeling.  After 19K of downhill I met Lindsay where the road closure was and shivering, changed into my warm clothes. Turns out the road closed at 9:3am, but the Police were very nice and even gave Lindsay some of their lunchtime wine while she waited :-0

So that was it – GF Stelvio DONE. Great event, well organised, well marshalled and a very tough iconic route. Highly recommend it, and Bormio is a nice wee town too.

The results for Team Wheelers were:

Ciaran – 7:03 (300th and 56th in age cat)

Graeme – 7:18 (348th and 70th in age cat)

Jamie – 7:31 (464th and 76th in age cat)

The winning time, was a quite frankly ridiculous 5:19 and in total, 3,100 took part.

 

3 Pistes 2016

So, so much better than last year – it’s all about the weather!

Last year this event was horrible, brutal wind all the way round and soul destroying, so this year had to be better, right? The Italian Mob (Jamie, Ciaran and me) were doing this as a last “social paced” warm up before we head off to Italy next weekend. We were also joined by Guest Rider for The Day Wee Phil. Sky’s looked ominous on the way up, but forecast was dry, sunshine and most importantly – no wind. After the usual faffing about at sign on, dropping bags, getting ready the 4 of us set off at 8:35 – fairly social time for these events.

Nice and steady up over the Moulin Moors and the weather was already fine. We were joined by a wee group, most of whom were too shy to go near the front 🙂 The rolling roads to get to the first Piste of the day are a bit sapping, but we were sticking to our reasonably social paced plan. The climb up to Glenshee was fine, but we had lost Phil so we had a quick pee stop at the summit and then the blast down to Braemar.

Just before Braemar we were passed by a group and latched on to their train, working well on the miles to the next climbing section. From Crathie to Tomintoul is 3 climbs of increasing difficulty! As we climbed the first sharp section, the group split and we agreed we would not chase the faster guys all the way to Aviemore – yeah right! The group did all stay together over the next climb and fast descent and on to Cockbridge for the brute that is The Lecht!

The wall of tarmac that greets you is impressive, as is the noise of everyone changing in to their smallest gear! No two ways about it, it is a grind for the first bit – get up it any way you can. Then it “flattens” out, get your breath back, next ramp, flattens out, one more final steep ramp before the faster section to the ski station. This is where we stopped for water and waited for Wee Phil to get back on.

The descent is nearly worth all the effort, but is over all too quickly. The 4 of us made our way to Tomintoul where the train from earlier caught us and we latched on once again. The pace was now slightly above “social”, but with a good group and a wee tailwind the effort was just about manageable. The blast back after Bridge of Brown all the way to Coylumbridge was a bit fierce and the thought of the last climb was looming large.

As we hit the main drag to the Cairngorm climb our social pace at this point was 95 miles in 5 hours and with 2 of the 3 pistes done! Then there was an almighty bang and much looking around to see who was the unlucky one – it was Ciaran – rotten luck. The group then fractured as the initial steep bit of the climb took its toll and we were all strung out everyone doing their best to get up. It does get slightly easier further up, but legs were bust by then and it was a slow drag to get over the line. A smiling Karen (and Steve) who had set off early, were there to greet us, as was Fiona D waiting for Alan who we had passed before Cockbridge looking like he was having a “fun” day.

Was a cracking day, weather held which made all the difference. Bring on the Wheelers Weekender where we get to do it all again 🙂

Turns out later in the afternoon there were thunderstorms and flash floods and the event was stopped for 45 minutes with 200 riders stranded at Nethy Bridge! So even on a good day in Scotland you’re never far away from winter!

Times for the 4 Wheelers were:
Graeme Carruthers 5:44:55 (13th on the day)
Jamie Costello 5:46:03 (14th)
Ciaran Hannon 5:49:29 (17th, including puncture stop!)
Karen Knight 6:40:20 (1st in category and 4th female overall)
 

And for our Thistle friends :
Phil Morris 5:59:09
Alan Davidson 6:41:57
Steve Knight (couldn’t find time in the results?)
 

Garmin info / route etc –

Mallorca 2016

A wee update on the latest annual holiday training camp to Mallorca.

DAY 1 – Travel / Formentor

After the usual no sleep to Pollensa all night travelling, which all went seamlessly thanks to Jamie and Gillian for organising the buses to Edinburgh and Pollensa Park it was the now traditional afternoon leg spin to the lighthouse at Formentor. Weather was fine, run was all good and the goats were in good form. Then it was quick turnaround and the return leg where we split into a couple of groups as the rolling road took its toll. Re group at the top of the last climb for the blast back to Peurto Pollensa and the first (of many) stops at Tolos.

My stats for the day : 28.2 miles and 2,850 feet of climbing – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1143001648

DAY 2 – The Mountains!

A lovely morning saw us all head out in one group towards the mountains. Over the bumps and on to The Orient. A wee bit of early jostling saw the group split on the first climb, but we regrouped at the bottom, a pattern for the day. Then it was the climb of the Orient / Col d’Honor where the real “fun” started and the descent down to Bunyola for a much needed lunch.  Suitably refuelled and having waved Jerry and Gary off, we headed for the Soller climb, where we had agreed to “keep it sensible”, which we actually did. Got a nice tow from a local club and the climb is one of my favourites and doing at a pace we could talk made it all the more enjoyable. The descent down to Soller town is less enjoyable for me, far too technical, until you get down to the main road and a real blast for the last couple of K’s. 

Then on to the big one, Puig Major, not a favourite, but has to be done. Again we kept it sensible, tapping a pace that wasn’t too taxing, even more sensible given it was now the hottest part of the day. Eventually getting to the top and through the tunnel for the descent to the viaduct, our agreed meeting point. It was a wee while before we were all together as some stopped to take pictures, etc – what do they think this is a holiday 🙂 As the clouds were looking ominous some of us headed back as others recovered, splitting in to 2 groups.

The rolling roads from the viaduct back to Lluc are a real leg sapper, just what you need after 3 big mountains! But we did all manage to get down together and the speedy run in back to Pollensa. A cracking day.

My stats for the day : 84.6 miles and 8,050 feet of climbing  https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1144279168

DAY 3 – Wash Out

So the plan was to go to Randa and then swing past Alcudia on the way home for some of us to register for Saturday’s 312 event. Well the best laid plans….

It was raining, hard, and nobody wanted to go out! We waited and waited until it eventually looked like it was stopping. Suitably wrapped up, we all set off for Alcudia. It started raining heavy again. Roads were slippery and Gillian came a cropper, thankfully at slow pace and no major damage done. We decided we would skip Randa and just head to the event registration. Unfortunately that didn’t open until 3pm! So after some shopping and hiding in doorways to get warm, we headed home, gingerly, cold and soaken. A day to forget!

My stats for the day : 16.2 miles and 112 feet of climbing https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1145647343

DAY 4 – Lost!!

Weather better, we decided the best tapering for the 312 would be to do some hills!

So off we all went to Selva and the climb up the beautiful Sa Batalla climb. A fair pace set by the drink fuelled Ciaran was just not what was needed 🙂 Regrouping at the cafe at the petrol station we then headed to the viaduct (except Ciaran who decided having ripped our legs he was heading off). After the viaduct is a sharp climb to then descend Sa Calobra. What a stunning descent it is. Technical and you do have to watch out for cars / riders in both directions so makes sight seeing tricky. Once at the bottom we decided to head straight back up and regroup at the viaduct as I still have painful memories of trying the climb on a full stomach. It was a lovely climb, steady, not too windy or hot and fantastic scenery. At the viaduct some of us decided to head to the Puig and on to Valldemossa. As we started climbing up to the Puig, Ian Anderson turned back as he decided to head home with the rest. This left Jim F, Joe McF, Jamie C and myself to crest the Puig and the best descent on the island, 14K downhill to Soller for some lunch.

After lunch we set off at a social pace to Valldemossa – possibly the best road on the island. As we made our way to Deia we saw what looked like a Wheeler coming towards us?  It was Ian Anderson, but how?? We carried on the climb and it transpired that Ian had changed his mind again, decided to carry on up the Puig to catch us. He then set off up to Valldemossa and turned back as he didn’t know when the climb ended! As we finally got to Valldemossa, Ian said he was about 200 metres from the top when he turned back, oops!

The fast descent and team time trial saw us arrive at Santa Maria after 88 miles for a final coffee stop. After discussion, we agreed Ian’s “it’s only 95 miles” from the previous night was a tad optimistic and we still had 30-35 back home. NOTE – some may dispute this next section and there’s no blame attached as I was just following wheels 😉 Setting off there was a shout from Joe to turn right, this was our first mistake as we headed off towards Sencelles and then towards Sineu where Ian A shouted right (second mistake) and we set off towards Sant Joan and round to Petra and then back to Sineu! It was now dark, we had no food or drink and we found a supermarket for some fuel. Ian A and Joe did now know where we were and we set off on the correct road for Llubi and Sa Pobla. It was then over the bumps in the pitch black, with the helpful drivers honking their horns and shining their full beams at us to remind us we had no lights!

Thankfully the roads are in good condition as god knows what would have happened if we hit a pothole as we made a fast track back to Pollensa and then back to the hotel. It was now 9:30pm, dinner missed! Turns out we did 52 miles to get home from Santa Maria and if we had taken the direct route it was <30, oh well you live and learn. I learned I NEVER want to cycle in the dark with no lights again and that even after 140 miles when you can still hit 25 mph when you’re desperate to get home!

My stats for the day : 140.8 miles and 11,100 feet of climbing https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1146946845

Day 5 – Not the 312!

After yesterday’s 140 mile taper and no dinner, I was up for breakfast at 5am as this was 312 Day. Met Jim B and Oonagh and after seeing the forecast and the fact it was already raining, decided to bail. REALLY didn’t fancy the descent in the wet with 4,500 other riders and the risk of serious damage just too much. So back to bed and then up at 8am for a second breakfast.

We sat about waiting for the rain to go off, which it did around 11am and Ian A and Davie Ross and me set off for an easy, flattish day. Out to Alcudia and then on to Arta and loop round to Manacor where we found what looked like the only open cafe in the town (don’t like Manacor always looks desolate and shut!). Thankfully we had stayed dry but as we pulled in for coffee the rain did start again. Coffee and cake were great and we got chatting to a Finnish former pro ice hockey player who bought us some rocket fuel brandy!

Jackets on we set off home, and quickly had to remove jackets as it turned out nice 🙂 Back to Can Picafort where we were passed by the biggest rally of motorbikes I’ve ever seen – must have taken 15-20 minutes for them all to pass! As the 312 was still going ahead and it was closed roads, there was some fun and games getting back to Alcudia, but the last few miles on empty traffic free roads was great.

As we approached the 312 event village we went off the main road on to the parallel side road, only to find we were actually on the finishing straight. Very sheepish and red faced we crossed the official 312 finish line to cheers and clapping and the official photographer 🙂 We even got tickets for our finishers t-shirt and pasta party!

Back through Alcudia to home the traffic was a nightmare going the other way as the event closed roads caused some major issues! We rolled home in empty roads back to Tolos. Considering the weather and skipping the event, turned out a pretty good day.

My stats for the day : 80 miles and 2,650 feet of climbing https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1147808223

DAY 6 Randa (at last)

We awoke to more wet, unsettled weather and a sombre mood as this was our day to commemorate the passing of Jim Brewster 7 days earlier. We all donned black armbands in memory or Peem as we set off on a cold, wet morning towards Alcudia to pick up Brian and OCD. It was freezing and very wet and we hid in a bike shop trying to get warm, we didn’t. Then off through Alcudia where I was still shivering while cycling even with 4 layers on! Decided that if things were no better once we turned towards Sa Pobla I was heading home! Turned out things did changed and soon the sun was out, and started to get warmer, just as well as we waited for Joe to fix a puncture then another!

Spirits lifted, we did a Brian magical mystery tour to Inca and then somehow we split into 2 groups?!? We all knew where we were heading to eventually so we carried on to Sineu, Montuiri and then Randa for the climb to the monastery – where we met the other group.

After lunch we got a photo of us all, a mark of respect and memory for Peem and set off towards Petra, Sineu and home. Once again, after a miserable start, the day turned out well.

My stats for the day : 100 miles and 3,660 feet of climbing https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1149741218

DAY 7 – Leave it all on the road day!

This year was no different from previous as the various levels of fatigue and desire takes its toll on what everyone plans for the last day. But, as the weather was now the best it had been all week and it was the last day, the plan was to head out flattish and then some can head for the hills or home. We all set off to Selva, where the first split happened with some heading up to Lluc / Sa Calobra and the rest of us heading on to Santa Maria for coffee and cakes. Then the second split happened with everyone bar Jamie and me heading back on a flat run, leaving us to go to Valldemossa.

A cracking run saw is keep it very social over Valldemossa and the descent to Soller for lunch. We then managed to get lost in Soller’s 1 way system, taking 3 miles of back roads / mazes to finally get out and on to the climb. A first for us going the reverse to the usual way. It was another cracking climb, steady, no steep bits and lovely weather. After the technical descent the straight downhill back to Bunyola is a real fast blast, yeeehaaaa.

Now with a lovely tailwind and the sun on us, it was a blast back to Inca and then Selva, where we decided we hadn’t done enough miles and went on to Campanet and Sa Pobla (okay we missed the turn and took a long way home). Back home over the bumps was a bit of a slog as we now had a full on headwind but it didn’t spoil what was a cracking day.

That was it, no more cycling time for beer and ice cream. My stats for the day : 107 miles and 6,100 feet of climbing https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1151083117

So that’s the cycling from my perspective, see Facebook for all the other non cycling shenanigans 🙂 And if anyone wants to get me an alarm clock for Christmas it would come in handy!

Evans Callander Ride It Sportive 2016

What a difference a year makes. Last year we had gales, rain and sleet and even though it’s being held a month earlier, the weather was ideal (for March). Only challenge was deciding what to wear so as to not overheat! There were 4 in Team Wheelers (Robin, Karen, Ciaran, myself) joined by a guest Thistle Steve K for the first timed event of the year for us. The event HQ is the Mclaren Sports Centre in Callander, so parking , changing facilities etc all available. Registration was painless and easy and you get a High 5 Race Pack as a goodie bag too.

The plan was to stick together until the last climb and so we set off as one social bunch. You don’t get much time to warm up as you hit the first hill of the day after a mile (according to Strava is known as Cockhill). It’s a steady climb into what feels like the middle of nowhere before a fast descent to a left turn. Ciaran and myself waited at the bottom as we split up on the hill and regroup at the top / bottom. Just as we thought “they should be here by now” and we set off back to find them, Robin, Karen and Steve came flying down the hill to us. An early mechanical for Karen, but all sorted. We then head off towards Thornhill and another wee rise and descent almost back to the first junction before heading off on some rolling roads towards Doune.

After Doune a left turn and through some flattish sections towards Kippen and on to the busy main road for a blast along to Cambusbarron. Legs all warmed up, it was time to hit the hilly bits….Some tough little climbs takes you out to the Loch Coulter and beautiful views before a descent to Carron Bridge. It was here that Robin had a puncture, which given the state of the roads was not a surprise. What was a surprise was this was the only one we had in the group all day! Just as the midge bites were getting a pain, we set off on the lovely road past Carron Valley Reservoir and then a blast down towards Fintry.

Coming out of Fintry is a drag of a climb to what’s known as The Top of the World, where we regrouped for the descent to Arnprior. On the rolling road along towards Lake of Menteith a couple of hills saw Ciaran and myself a wee bit ahead of the others and with Ciaran’s leg warmers becoming ankle warmers we decided to push on and wait at the feed stop before Aberfoyle while he sorted himself out. Turns out unlike 2 years ago, there was no feed stop before Aberfoyle!

So now all we had left was the climb up Duke’s Pass (couple of miles about 5% average), which starts off steep through some hairpins before becoming more of a drag for the second half. Great descent, not too technical and then a right turn back towards Callander with great views over Loch Achray and then Loch Venachar. We both remembered this as a quick blast back to the HQ, but we had forgotten there were a couple of nasty little rises that test the legs after 75+ miles. Unlike last year we didn’t miss the turn off to the sports centre and so we did avoid having to go through Callander centre!

Cairan and myself then got showered and up to the sports centre cafe for some sugar rush and soon Robin, Karen and Steve joined us for a debrief. All agreed it was a good day, a cracking route, but the elephant in the room once again – the state of the roads was shocking. Steve raced there as a 15 year old in the Tour of Trossachs and we reckon that’s the last time the roads were surfaced! Shame, as it is a great early season event.

Cairan and myself had a moving time of about 4:45 for the 81 miles, so with stops and puncture added a wee bit on. The official times are:

Ciaran (who shows as DNS??) and myself were 5:07:53
Steve K was 5:26:44
Karen was 5:26:47
Robin was 5:27:03

The route from my Garmin:

Kennoway Reliability 2016

After last week’s non starter, this was the first road event of 2016 for most and what a difference a week makes. The weather was much better, a balmy 4 degrees, sunny, but as usual a bit of a gale wind!

There were 7 Wheelers signed on, Jamie, Ciaran and me for the fast group with Ian A, Rob, Davie R and Andy A on the steady group. Bang on 10am we set off on the tailwind fast section! The first hour was a blur as we averaged 24mph out through Colinsburgh and round to Kingsbarns and through St Andrews. Then on to the Guardbridge bypass due to the road closure and it was here a load bang was heard and shout of puncture. So very sportingly, and a first I think, we pulled in at the top of the rise out of Guardbridge to wait. A couple of riders then came up to say the guys tyre was ripped to bits and pointed to me and Cairan and said “one of your guys”! We thought Jamie was missing! Ever the good teammate Cairan said we should turn back but there really was nothing we could do so…..we all set off for Dairsie then Balmullo and drop down to St Mikes to get back on the route.

As usual Gauldrie marked the start of the “race” as the strong boys (and girl) made a break for it. About 6-7 got away with 3 of us trying to chase back on in a headwind – was never going to happen. The descent down from Gauldrie was awful, road really broken up, lots of rubble and just not safe at all, so caution here was the sensible option. There were 4 of us together as we crossed the A92 and could see Rachel C about 30 seconds up the road, with the rest of them out of site now. It took the 4 of us working very hard together to reel Rachel back in on the road to Cupar, but I really think she had sat up and waited for us as she didn’t know where to go! Up the Hill of Tarvit I took it at my own pace, which was about 100 metres behind the others, and managed to get back on at the top as they slowed to let us regroup. There was now 4 of working into the wind on the section towards Kennoway on the way home, bit of a slog. The little downhill section to Windygates was welcome and we were soon back home where we started.

My stats were 64 miles in 3:10, so 20.2 mph average, which given the windy day I can’t complain.

Glad to see Jamie made it back to the hall ahead of me, but surprised to also see Davie R and Ian A too as I couldn’t remember them passing me en route 🙂 Turns out Jamie had been rescued by Ian Stewart (early entry for clubman of the year coming out to rescue him) and Davie and Ian had decided at Dairsie to carry straight on to Cupar, missing out the loop round Gauldrie. Cairan soon arrived and a little later Andy A who had done the full 64 mile loop. That just left Rob out on the road and soon enough he arrived home safely too.

The post event buffet was excellent, soup, stovies, and loads and loads of sandwiches and cakes, well worth the effort.

So one down, 2 to go….