Sportive St Andrews August 26 2012

This is the inaugural event, for charity, starting in Kilrymont School and looping round the East Neuk of Fife, Cupar, Newburgh, Freuchie and back. What can be described as a “rolling” course, i.e. lots of wee hills and some bigger ones too. As this is the first time for this event and its for charity, can’t be too harsh, but there are a few things for them to improve on for next time.

Arrived at the school at 7:45am for registration to be met by two lines of cyclists waiting at two tables outside. Not sure why the registration was outside, as there was a massive school building behind them, but I was glad the weather was kind. After about 30 minutes sign on was eventually complete.  I picked up my free water bottle and High5 gifts along with a timing chip (which was a sticky strip to attach to your helmet, simple but worked well). The rest of the Wheelers arrived and it took them even longer to get through registration.

Eventually, after 9am, the five of us head out for the 80 mile circuit– Ian Anderson, Jim Foulis, Joe McFadyen, John Osbourne and myself (Graeme). Kate was signing up for the 48 miler with her son, his first cycling event and given the time they did I’m sure he’ll be out giving us all a good kicking soon.

Having cycled a wee bit in Fife over the last few years I knew the route. Just as well as the signage wasn’t always up to much and I’m sure lots of people who don’t know the area will have missed a few turnings. As usual the plan was to “stick together”, where have I heard that before…. But we did try to, even though we weren’t all in tip top shape – some self inflicted hangovers (no mentioning names, Joe and Ian) and some man flu (me). Not one to crticise anyone’s training plans but I’m not sure going out on the lash the night before riding 80 lumpy miles at a reasonable pace would work for me, but credit to Joe and Ian, they are giving the Hangover Training Plan a good go.

The first part of the loop is a fair drag round towards Crail and then on to Pitscottie before the first descent into Cupar and then a rolling up and down section to Hazelton.  It was after 32 miles at Hazelton that we lost Joe….

Descending into Newburgh Jim needed to top up his water at the first feed station, only to find there was no first feed station….They hadn’t turned up yet. Not good, we were late starting and so there must have been a fair few folks passed through already – confirmed by the numbers outside the local shops. Quick thinking by John and soon Jim gets some Holy Water from the local church and so with some divine intervention we set off.

Up over Glenfarg, across to Glen Tarkie and down to Falkland, then over to Freuchie and a nasty wee climb up. This is where we lost Ian as he was seeing stars at this point.  We decided he would be fine and we would wait at the feed station at Hill of Tarvit (we didn’t).

Arriving at Hill of Tarvit, the feed station was a bottle of water and a banana followed by the bumpiest speed bumps you’d ever want to avoid – not ones to hit at full speed with carbon rims.

So the 3 amigos pushed on to the end with the nasty hill up to Strathkinness finishing us off before a blast down to St Andrews. The finish was a wee bit underwhelming as the registration table now had some bottles of water and a few tray bakes. Would have been nice to get a cup of coffee and some proper food, even if we had to buy it. Unlike other Sportive events where you get some memento and / or certificate we didn’t get anything (not that this matters to me, but I think there were a good few folks doing this as a challenge for charity and I’m sure they’d have liked some sort of souvenir).

The positives are that it was a good rolling testing run in cracking weather and at least 3 of us did manage to stick together to the end. I’m sure the organiser will take on board the feedback as he was keen to talk to people and with a few issues sorted out will be even better next year.

Results for the Wheelers and Thistle are:

Position Forename Surname Time
15 Graeme Carruthers 04:16:29
16 John Osborne 04:16:34
17 Jim Foulis 04:16:41
26 Ian Anderson 04:30:56
37 Jim Walker 04:36:49
51 Joe Mcfadyen 04:46:27
3 Kate Russell 02:45:58
Thistle Folks
7 Brian Sproul 04:11:00
9 Martin Lawson 04:12:58
36 Kenny Frater 04:36:47
22 Steve Knight 04:26:27


Photos are in the gallery (available to buy from

Here’s the link to my Garmin file for the run (think it had a wee fit as I’m sure I’d remember hitting 69mph max speed) –

Ken Laidlaw Sportive 2012

This is one of the best sportives in my opinion. Run by Hawick CC and based at the Rugby Club, the facilities are good and the route is “challenging”. There were 4 from the Wheelers (Ian, Jerry, Kate and Graeme) and Brian Sproul from the Thistle taking part this year in the sell out crowd of 500.

Now we all know a sportive is not a race, but this is as close as the regulations must allow. A mass start, behind a commissaire’s car through a neutralised zone and out of Hawick when the flag is dropped and the fun begins!

The weather was kind this year, warm and no winds. The route is on quiet roads with hardly a car in sight. Unfortunately the winter weather has taken its toll and some surfaces are pretty bad so caution required at times.

The marshalling and signage is excellent and evryone involved is enthusiastic and seem glad to be there. I’m told the feed stations are excellent and maybe one day I’ll stop at one and try it 🙂

My Garmin says it is 104 miles with 7,300 feet of climbing and the the times for the Dundee folks were:

No Surname Forename Time
65 Carruthers Graeme 05:25
421 Sproul Brian 05:33
9 Anderson Ian 06:06
443 Toy Jerry 06:06
384 Russell Kate 06:40

I’ve heard Ian and Jerry had a fun filled day involving lost pumps, jammed chainrings and punctures so a typical day out then. Kate set yet another PB, well done.

I’ll add some photos (which they provide free) once they are available.



Run Report Saturday August 11th 2012

On a cloudy warm Saturday 9 of us set off from The Gates towards Newtyle, Meigle and on to the main fun of the day. Route was “rolling” which is a nice way to see it was bloomin’ hilly. We kept it together with everyone behaving themselves, now our Run Captain is back. We made our way over a fair few hills before a welcome break at Kirri.

Then it was back via Lumley Den for a final leg sapping climb.

A grand day out.



Run Report – Saturday August 4th

After playing a game of “hunt the start” some of us made our way from Camperdown Gates to Baldovie.

There was Jim F, John O, John M, Graeme C, Joe M, Kate, Jerry T, Andy as we rolled out on a magical mystery tour. Some fun at “through and off” kept the pace high until Kate won the annual hide and seek award. Some expert Cav like sprinting from Joe at the 30’s and on to the cafe for a much needed rest.

For any new folks out there – it’s not always this chaotic, we just miss our Club / Run Captain….

Here’s a routemap from my Garmin here

Etape du Tour Act II July 14 2012


The word EPIC doesn’t do it justice and not used lightly, but this was an epic day in more ways than one. After last year’s taster stage, stage 16 is the real deal, a full 201Km and 5,000m of climbing over 2 HC (Aubisque, Tourmalet) and 2 Cat 1 (Aspin, Peyresourde). I’ve never cycled 125 miles in one go, never mind the 4 mountains.

Fair to say that I was apprehensive and my tetchiness was rubbing off on the ever magnificent support crew, but after 3 hours of sleep the day dawned. Well not quite dawned as it’s still dark at 4am. Trying to stuff food down at 4am in the dark, in a hotel room, when the stomach is churning is no easy feat. So just before 5am, the car is packed, and as Gavin sleeps on, Lindsay drives me the 30 minutes to Pau (from Hotel Le Rex in Tarbes). We have already been along this route yesterday to the Registration, but we didn’t go to the actual race start and this has prayed on my mind – panic attacks about not being able to find the start – kind of like those nightmares where you turn up at school for exams in the nude….No worries though, as the driver finds her way no problem. Already a stream of cars and cyclists congregating and 500m away is the start. After what can only be described as Olympic standard faffing as I get ready, I can delay no more, and roll along to the start pens. A farewell hug from Lindsay and this is it, on my own for the next god knows how long. Again, more worried about Lindsay getting back to Gavin, leaving Tarbes and finding me in Luchon, never doubt that I’ll be there fine.

Due to last year’s result, I’m in pen 4 this year (pen 9 last year) and as I settle down for the next 45 mins waiting for the “gun” the atmosphere is definitely colder, not much chatting. I have rehearsed so many times the route, breaking it down to what mileage at the foot of each climb and what time I expect to be at each summit, but really entering the unknown and no idea if my timings will be anywhere near accurate. Nothing I can do about it now.  After a baking hot day before, the weather is cloudy and cool, light breeze, pretty much perfect for a Scot!

At 7am the first pen ride up to the start and with a wave of the flag from Sylvain Chavenel no less, they are off. Start is more impressive than last year as we are all corralled together in one area, there is even a grandstand for the spectators to wave and cheer us off. At 7:10am it is time for us in pen 4. Deep breath, stay calm, stick to the plan.

The start is fast and furious as the masses start the natural selection process. Jumping from group to group until finding the “right one” that suits the pace I want. Very soon find myself in the middle of the largest peloton I’ve ever been in, zipping along the French countryside at almost 30mph, heading for Laruns and the first climb of the day. As we speed along the closed roads, motorbike convoy leading the way for us, feeling like a pro, cheers from the sidewalks, hits home how big this is. Amazing organisation and execution all so we can play at being pro for a day.

Glance along and in the distance the weather is very grey and cloudy, hmmm, this could get interesting. Not much I can do about the weather, can’t be any worse than a Scottish Summer, can it?

After just over an hour and 25 miles, we hit Laruns and the start of the Aubisque (16.6Km, 7.2%). Stick to the plan and keep it steady, around 83-84%MHR, not easy but manageable and on target for the first time check at the top. As we climb ever upwards, the weather takes a turn for the worse, not sure if it’s just cloud, but effect is very wet, slippery roads.  Not so bad going up, but something tells me descending for any length of time will be tough. Official climb takes 1hr 12 and at the top decide to plough on, as most stop to put on jackets etc. Descent is as bad as I thought it would be.  Everyone else must agree as not many flying by and even I am passing some as we are all nervously picking our way down. After a few K the road kicks up again as we ascend the Souler – surely the easiest Col to bag from this direction. Lots of people on the Souler cheering us on. What follows is a blur as the cold, wet and wind freeze me to the bone. I don’t start shivering though, so not as bad as I have been a couple of times before, and with the cloud cover disappearing the lower we get, decide to carry on. My plan was to stop at Argeles-Gazost for water, but haven’t drunk much in this cold so carry on – now on a 1 stop strategy.

The next section is a drag through the Luz valley, thankfully in sunshine, so thaw out. Get in a smallish group working well and push to catch the bigger group ahead. Even try drafting a Police motorbike, which gets me into trouble… As we catch the larger group, we sit up and stay with them for the few miles before the big one. It is a fair uphill run to the official start of the Tourmalet (19km, 7.4%), and then we are on it. Having driven over the day before in fabulous warm sunshine I know what’s coming. Only today I will not see any of it, with visibility under 100m. Same strategy, keep it steady, don’t push it hard as this is a long way to the top. I climb steadily, legs feeling okay, back into the cold and wet. The second half is definitely steeper and it is a tough slog to the top, made all the more difficult as I know what fabulous scenery we are missing. Official climb time is 1hr 32 and it is all over for now. Another HC climb ticked off!

If anything the descent is even worse than the Aubisque. The road is technical for the first section until past the awful looking town of La Mongie. Have to dodge some cows who are undecided about where and when to cross the road. As if the wet slippery roads are not bad enough, trying to keep control when your hands are freezing, the road is covered in slurry which makes for some slip sliding along. In my head I know the conditions are impacting the better descenders than it does me, but we are all losing time.

Freeze even more this time and such a relief to get under the cloud, but still shivering as I reach Sainte- Marie de Campan and a massive crowd of well wishers, but don’t stop and so immediately hit the Aspin (12.8Km, 5%). On any other day this would be a fair doddle, but not after two HC climbs, 6 hours riding and the freezing conditions. Starts gentle, big ring stuff and it is only the last few K’s where it kicks up. Only takes 26mins, not sure of its Cat 1 classification, before cresting the top, in freezing wet cloud again. At least the descent is not long this time so only mild hypothermia sets in.

Not sure how but arrive at the last climb of the day the Cat 1 Peyresourde(10Km, 6.6%). This climb kills me off and is one too many. Unlike the other 3 major climbs where I have sat around the 80%MHR I can’t push hard enough now and speed is slower. It is amazing how long it takes for the miles to tick off when you’re this slow. Wish I could remember the profiles I have been looking at for 6 months, but all I have are the kilometre markers, all of which seem to say it is 8-9% for the next K.  With 1K to the top and after 8hrs in the saddle I get the familiar twinge of cramp starting – does that mean I gauged my effort almost to perfection? Sit down and twirl up the last 1000 metres of uphill. Tough last climb and takes me 43 mins, not bad as it is comparable to the Bealach climb and it is after 100 miles.  As per usual for the day the climb is in wet and fog. Oh well, only one more blast down to the finish now!

Look at my watch as I crest the last climb and I’ve been on the road for 8hrs and 7 mins with just under 16K of downhill to the finish. I could get under 8.5 hrs if I push on. On a dry day the descent would be amazing; on a wet epic day it is still amazing as thankfully the it is not too cold, roads not too wet and not too technical. Even manage to let go of the brakes and hit my top speed. Just a few corners to worry about, but overall a fabulous blast to the end. As I enter the town of Bagneres de Luchon a right at the roundabout and under the Flamme Rougue, what a feeling. The route is along the main high street, which is fenced off and the throngs are out to cheer us on – feel like a pro. With 300m to go and the finish line in sight, time to do my best Cav impersonation and sprint for the line (don’t think he has anything to worry about).

Hit the brakes as I go over the last timing mat and stop.

So, in reflection, how was it? Tough. Very tough. The weather didn’t help and a LOT of starters didn’t make it, with a shortage of foil blankets!  I did finish it in 8:25 @ 14.9mph (last 16K in 18 mins), which was good enough for 386th out of 4,696 starters (with 3,829 finishers). I was 163rd in my age class. Well I wanted it to be epic and it certainly lived up to it. The winner was at 6:44.

Footnote, a few days later some slightly better bike riders completed it in 5:35 with the slowest at 6:08. I can’t comprehend what it takes to do that.