Ken Laidlaw Sportive 2013

This is one of the best run and challenging sportives in the UK and I’d recommend it, a beautiful, tough run and always gets a good turn out. Can’t fault the organisation, marshalling, signage, event HQ etc etc. It’s a tough day out though!

The Ken Laidlaw is unique in the sportive world in that it is a mass start, all participants ride out behind the lead car complete with load PA announcing us to anyone awake in Hawick at 9am on a Sunday (no long lie if you live in the town). A mile or two outside town he pulls over and it’s all systems go.

As per usual, the fast bunch hare off, splitting the groups and it’s not long before you hit the first climb, which split the leading bunch down to 30 or so. The pace didn’t let up as we raced up and down some testing climbs, and descents (couple of near misses). My legs were already burning and as we hit Newcastleton, around the 30 mile mark, I lost contact on a nasty steep climb which is followed by a long, long drag. The lead bunch were split and there were now stragglers over the road.

After the descent into Langholm there was a group of 6 of us working together and the next 40 miles were a pain fest as the undulating route doesn’t really let up. Unlike previous years however, the weather was very kind, warm, sunny and little wind. I was so tempted to really sit up and just enjoy it – maybe next year (I’m sure I’ve said that before).

Around the 80 mile mark is the climb of Witchey Knowe and my legs finally gave up in a painful cramp, so I waved bye to the other 5 and made my own way round for the last 20+ miles. Thankfully most of the last 10 miles are downhill, except for one nasty short steep ramp around 102 miles in – I almost wept. Then you hit Hawick and pick your way through roundabouts and red lights before a final 1Km blast to the finish line.

As the event HQ is Hawick Rugby Club there are plenty of showers and changing facilities and they also provide hot food / coffee / sweets along with your finishers medal!

The fastest time of the day seems to be 5:06 and the times for the Dundee folks I know were there are:

Brian Sproul 05:23:34
Graeme Carruthers 05:32:30
Kenny Frater 06:30:40
Jim Walker 06:30:40
Stephen Knight 06:38:41
Kate Russell 06:41:23

I will put some photos up once they are available – which you get for free.

Here’s the Garmin stats:

Run Report 18August

There were 7 of us at The Gates for a 9am run out to the Test Hills.

I think it was a headwind the whole way out, which made for a bit of a slog. Bill turned off leaving 5 of us to head out past Murthly, on the A9 past Birnam and then left up the hills toward Amulree. Iain Anderson’s knee problem then forced him to turn back, leaving 4 of us to slog it out through Glen Quaich.

Then we hit the test hills where we all went at our own pace to the top and regrouped after the descent down the longer side to Kenmor, dodging sheep as we went. The test hills is steep from the south side, but it’s shorter, still think it’s worse from the Kenmor side.

Kenmor marked the turning point and finally a tailwind πŸ™‚ Stopped at the Highland Safari cafe at Dull (twinned with Boring, Oregon) for some much need refreshments.

Then it was a much faster blast back home via Logierait, onto Dunkeld and back the middle road via Newtyle. Another good steady day out.

Run Report 11 August

There were 7 of us at The Gates on a cloudy and windy morning. Set off to Newtyle, Meigle then right towards Kirri and then a left for some lumpy stuff and some cyclo cross through the roadworks.

The road up to and down from Balintore is in a state with lots of gravel, pot holes and the added fun of an oncoming vintage motorbike rally. Also think after the 113 miles the day before my legs were in a huff πŸ˜‰

Bit of a quick descent towards Peel Farm and a much needed (or me) coffee and cake where we met David McCallum.

Home run was helped at times by a tailwind as we went via the Alyth, Meigle, Newtyle way. Got as far as Camperdown before the sky got dark and within the next 10 minutes I was drenched. By the time I go home 10 minutes later the sky was blue!

Here’s my stats…..



Return trip to Tomintoul – Saturday 10th August

Four of us set off from the gates just after 7am – myself, Brian, Angus and Charlie. I was feeling pretty apprehensive about what lay ahead – a repeat of the worst bits of the Snow Roads, but twice over?!! It looked like the weather was going to be kind to us – dry, slightly over cast, not too hot and very little wind.

As is always the case on these epic rides, the pace was steady. Its a question of completing the run – no extra points for racing it. First time I’d climbed Cairnwell from this side, and I was relieved that it was perfectly manageable – more of a long slog than anything too terrifying. A great run down into Braemar, and a quick stop at the shop for the first sandwich of the day (I knew from the Snow Roads the importance of eating, I also knew that the worst stretch of the day was just about to come).

We seemed to race along the Deeside road and then took the left turn to Tomintoul – deep breath, head down and just keep pedalling. Inevitably, we separated on the hills. That suited me fine – I really didn’t want an audience for the climb up the Lecht. So there I was, heading passed Cockbridge, knowing exactly what lay ahead – a climb that I had previously only descended (both on the bike and in the car), which looked impossibly steep. Somehow I got to the top – sheer determination and fear (of toppling over if I ground to a halt and couldn’t unclip) driving me on. The combination of fear and elation hit me at the top and I didn’t really feel anything thereafter as we regrouped and headed onto Tomintoul.

Lunch in the Fire Station cafe was very welcome. Charlie made enquiries about the possibility of catching a bus out of Tomintoul, but would have had to wait until Thursday! So there was nothing for it, but to get back on the bike and start pedalling home. The climb up to the Lecht from this side is definitely easier, even with tired legs. I was looking forward to the descent off the Lecht as a rest from climbing, but not far off the top disaster struck as for the second time on that descent (yes, it happened on the Snow Roads), I got a speed wobble. For those of you who have never experienced such a thing, it is terrifying. I somehow slowed the bike gradually and stopped to calm my nerves, set off, and very shortly it happened again. By now, I was a bag of nerves and ready to sit at the side of the road and give in. But the pink balls wouldn’t allow that, so back on the bike I got and cycled on. It was a relief to start climbing again!

A long slog to the Deeside road and then back to Braemar for hot chocolate and cake (no baked beans to be found). Back up Cairnwell (easy after the Lecht) and another dreaded descent. Sure enough, the wobble struck again (no doubt because I was so scared and tense) – a combination of loud swearing and knee clenching brought the bike back under control…..but I still had to get to the bottom of the hill. It was a slow descent, when every tiny movement felt like it was going to be another wobble.

With the worst descent behind me, I relaxed and we headed for home. More climbing over the Hill O’Three Cairns, Aylth and then back up Pitnappy.

159m return trip. Not sure how many feet were climbed….a lot! Conquered the Lecht (can’t imagine there can be many more hills as scary as that). Survived three speed wobbles. Lot’s of laughs. Great team work. An epic day.

Run Report 10 August

There were 7 of us set off for a longer lumpier run. Nice steady pace out to Newtyle and Alyth. Li turned off before we hit the Hill of 3 Cairns leaving 6 of us to go over the first of the lumpy bits. After the descent it was on to Kirkmicheal where Ian and Jerry turned off, leaving me, Joe, Jim and Fergus to continue over the Moulin Moors and the drop down to Pitlochry.

On via Logierait to Aberfeldy for a quick pit stop to pick up drinks. The climb up to Loch Na Creige was the last big challenge and we regrouped at the top for the descent. On to Birnam for a well deserved cafe stop.

Final leg home was via the Estate and on to Newtyle and there were some tired legs when we got back to Dundee.

A cracking day out.


Prudential Ride London Surrey 100

I entered the ballot for this ages ago and was told in February that I had a place in the inaugural event being run by the folks who do the London Marathon, with the course similar to the Olympic Road Race and the new London Surrey Classic the pros are doing. Since then there has a steady stream of emails and updates on what’s happening and when, culminating in a book, yes a book, of instructions that was issued last month, along with rider number and start instructions. This is no turn up at a village hall and sign on event, the scale is just a bit bigger. Upshot is, there were 50,000 people in the ballot for 20,000 places with start times seeded on expected time to complete and you had to provide proof of other events you have done to get a good seeding. My start time was 6:02am and I had to be in the loading pen by 5:25am – yes it is still dark at that time!

Registration was at what was being called the Cycle Show being held over 3 days at the London Excel Arena. I went along on the Friday evening and wasn’t too busy. Registration was easy, proof of ID required, and was handed a bag with numbers, timing chip and yet more instructions. All very smooth and well organised – a theme for the whole event. Then wandered around various bike related and charity stalls at the show. There were various events and presentations and pros turning up over the 3 days and lots of bling to buy. There was even a German brewery selling low alcohol recovery beer!

On Sunday, I was staying less than a mile from the start in the Olympic Park, so I could stay in bed as long as possible, but was up at 4am trying to eat along with other nutters. There has been Internet chat about how to get to the start when the roads are shut, routes being marked, etc etc but in reality even though they said you couldn’t, you could cycle on the closed roads to the start and there was a steady stream of bikes and lights leading the way (and it was signposted too). Again,excellent organisation. There are 2 start locations Black and Blue with different route in to the Olympic Park and then split into fenced off holding pens. Loads of toilets and changing facilities, coffee and food available and a van to drop off a bag for pick up at the end. As I was in the first Blue wave it wasn’t too busy and really easy to find where you needed to be and get to the start.

On exact times they published things started to happen and we were moved along to the official start line, Blue on left side, Black on right side. At exactly 6am Boris waved his flag and off we went. The first 2 miles are neutralised to make sure everyone takes it easy and gets out the park and on to the closed roads safely – a good idea with so many people.

I rolled along for the first mile then the groups started to form and at mile 2 the timing mats signified the real start and then it was all a blur for the next 50 miles πŸ™‚

A large peloton formed (easily 100+) as we sped through quiet closed roads. As we were the lead group on the road we had a lead car, motorbike riders and pretty sure a helicopter was following for most of the way too – real pro feel to it!

I have no idea where I was or had been, except I do remember passing Harrods at one point and getting to Richmond Park. With such a large very fast moving group it was eyeballs out, staring at the road and wheels ahead, staying safe. Sometimes only the screech of someone’s brakes was all the warning you had there was a sharp bend or other obstacle. It really was a fast interval session as we were a steady 25mph on flat roads and then the elastic stretching and snapping back after every turn as you sprinted to get back on.

This frantic pace kept up all the way until the Surrey Hills, around 45 miles in. The first one was Newlands Hill which I don’t remember climbing at all, so not sure that qualifies as a hill. Then at about 55 miles in was the first real climb, Leith Hill, around 1 mile at 7% average. It does have a couple of sharp ramps and did split our group a little, but it was less taxing than a usual blast up Tully is! The lead bunch regrouped on the descent and was a little thinner now, but still 50+. The descent off Leith Hill was interesting, fast, but with so much trees over the road it was dark and wet and was like being in a very long tunnel. Β As soon as the descent was over, Box Hill arrived and what a fabulous piece of road, must be the smoothest tarmac in the UK. I gave this too much respect, thinking it was going to be a couple of miles of climbing, but it really is nothing, any weekend club run we do has harder, longer hills. So my decision to take it at my own pace and regroup on the descent never really happened as the lead bunch rode off never to be seen again as there was nothing to slow them up! It is a nice “climb” but it is not difficult.

There were still a good size bunch of us regrouping on the descent and then it was a very very fast frantic blast back to London. By now the crowds had appeared en route and the support was fabulous. Pretty sure we had a member of the UK Youth Team in our group, full kit, ridiculously skinny, pro number hanger on bike, but as I never got past him to see his face I can’t confirm who it was, but I could probably recognise his arse in a line up after following it for 30 miles πŸ™‚

As the mile flew by towards the end it wasn’t until we hit Whitehall with about a mile to go I actually had any idea where I was. Then a left hand bend took us on to the Mall and the last 500 metres to the finish where the sprint kicked off as we hit the finish line with a good crowd cheering us on.

Past the finish line we got medals and shown past Buck House to pick up a goody bag and on to the bike store and meet and greet in Green Park. The goody bag actually had some good stuff in it, including recovery milk drink, water, pistachios, etc and bizarrely a sachet of salad cream? All very well organised and marshalled and went off without a hitch.

Not sure the weather could have been kinder, warm but not too hot, and a tailwind home, so can’t see me ever doing a faster 100 miles or finishing in a more iconic stretch, not in the UK anyway.

My ride time was 4:10, making me 87th fastest out of the 15,050 that seem to have completed the full 100 miles. The fastest time on the day was 4:03. I bumped into Charlie Marr afterwards while waiting for the pro race to finish, he enjoyed it too, and his time was 5:01

In summary, a fantastic well organised and run event with closed roads on a very very fast circuit. Great support out on the roads and a real pro feel to it. One for a fast time, not difficult for club riders, but also one that is “doable” for non cyclists as a challenge / charity event.

I’d recommend it for the experience, entries for 2014 open on August 14th 2013…….

Link to my photos and video clips areΒ here.

Garmin stats here, includes 2 mile neutral zone and the 7 mile ride back to my hotel from the finish:

Club Runs 3rd and 4th August

Saturday – 8 at the gates on fine but breezy day with new rider Kieran joining us along with Martin from the East Kilbride club. Decided on Perth/Newburgh in a change to the advertised route of Glen Prosen to benefit from the expected tailwind on the return leg… relief to some.! Good steady pace going out with some through and off to help against the strong breeze. Lionel and Bill turned before Scone leaving 6 of us to head to Abernethy for the ubiquitous cafe stop. Change of owners at the Culdees resulted in a long wait for coffees and cakes etc…! Anyhow a good steady pace back to Dundee, then Kieran was faced with the run back to Coupar Angus …..back against the headwind… good effort as his mileage would be close to 90 for the day. Otherwise around 60 miles for most of us.

Sunday – …….erm…. Perth Newburgh…again, however different route going over the climb at Pitlowie this time and some twists and turns to get to Perth. Cafe stop at the farm shop at the Bridge of Earn was pleasant then the return leg saw the pace increase and the bunch split into smaller groups. Again around the 60 miles.