The organisers decided before the start that the wind was just too ferocious and so the route was amended to go straight on at Tornapress to Shieldaig, cutting out the Bealach Na Ba climb and the “rolling” road round the headland. This also cut the route down to 62.5 miles, rather than the sapping 90 it usually is. Felt gutted for the Welsh bloke I was chatting to before the start who had driven up especially to do the climb, but a sensible decision by the organisers. The weather was mainly wet and very very windy, even at sea level. It seemed like a fair few had decided against coming as the start seemed quieter than usual, but it turned out there were 297 starters, compared to about 420 last year, so about 70% were daft enough to be here….
There was not even the pretence of trying to stick together for this one, it is every man for himself so the only time there was more than 3 of us together was at the start line 🙂
Kate and Joe had set off a wee bit earlier as advance scouts, then Ian, John, Graeme (me) and Neil Young from the Thistle set off. After last year, and given the weather was even worse this time, it was a relief to see everyone had made it safely over “John’s Grid” as it is now known – they even have an ambulance with full flashing lights parked at it ready and waiting (no joke).
The 4 of us had joined up into a group of 10 or so as we hit the climb out of Kinlochewe, which was at a good pace and when I first found out my legs just weren’t playing today (a common occurrence for the day). Ian was behind me and I was dropped by John and Neil as they effortlessly crested the hill and with a bit of a tailwind soon disappeared off to Achnasheen. I then spent the next 6 miles trying to close a 15 second gap. I don’t think my heart rate had been below 175 since the start, but knowing that if I didn’t catch them before the wind direction changed I would have had no chance of seeing them again. I did a last dig and finally caught them at the Achnasheen roundabout as we turned towards Lochcarron and into a ridiculous headwind. The group now swelled to about 20 or so as we passed groups battling through the wind and rain. The run down to Lochcarron was interesting as we tried to do through and off in a bunch even worse disciplined at it than we were that day going to Forfar. Lots of slow, slow, fast, fast, jumping over gaps people left, guys 6 back deciding they wanted to take a flyer – all good stuff.
The climb out of Lochcarron always splits a group and today was no different, with Neil and a couple of others heading off with John and me just behind. The descent is then down towards what should have been the start of the Bealach climb, but we were now routed straight on, became another chase as John and I bridged across to Neil and 3 others and I clung on for all I was worth to Shieldaig. Neil was leading the way, all those Alpine miles in the Haute Route must be paying off.
We then stuck together to Torridon and turn right to finish the last drag up all hoping for a tailwind that took too long to materialise. Neil was doing a fine job of keeping the pace up, dragging my sorry legs up the last rise. A few glances round and then the boot went in the guy in the CSC top put in one dig too many with only John able to respond. The two of them headed up the road leaving Neil, me and a young chap Hugh to battle on. Then with 5 miles to go the tailwind really kicked in and we were flying home, John just a little ahead in the distance.
Finally the end was in sight and one last burst for all it is worth and stop to dib, done for the day and my last event of the year.
Turns out John, Neil and me all had the same time – if you don’t count the seconds, which I don’t, but John certainly will 🙂
A big WELL DONE to John for getting the third best time of the day and an even bigger thank you to Neil from me for dragging my sorry carcass round as I really couldn’t have done it without the help. Looking at my Garmin stats post ride my average heart rate for the whole ride was 86% of max (168 bpm for 3 hours) so a tough day for me, my ride stats are here.
It was then time to grab some food and drinks and find out how the rest of the Dundee folks did as they arrived back. The fastest two times of the day were 2:58, 2:59 and then John with 3:03:
John basking in the glory of first Dundonian and a podium finish and the well wishes from his team mate :
Must be due some sunshine and a full route next year…..