You know it’s going to be an interesting day when you get rudely awakened at 5:30 am by the noise of driving rain on the windows! I’ve done the Bealach once in sunshine, the rest of the time it has been cold, wet or windy. This year we were treated to all 3 during the event and the sunshine after the event – only in Scotland…..
Arrived for sign on with an ominous heavy grey sky to be met by the TV crew recording for the BBC2 Adventure Show. Sign on was as usual quick and easy in the hall and then time to get ready. Met the other Wheelers (Jim F, Ian A, Joe McF and Fergus) as they were getting ready and off to the start – still dry and not too cold…..
Waiting for Fergus…
Always good fun judging when to leave, too early and you may arrive at the Bealach before it opens at 11am. Ian set off, as he was planning to take it easy and not go all the way round.
Here he is, is it a duathlon?
Then Joe set off, and finally Jim, Fergus, me and Brian S set off and were joined by a small group. Up over the first climb we lost Fergus, who continued round with Joe. A good sized group assembled over the top and on towards Achnasheen. It was now driving rain and I couldn’t see a thing so glasses were removed! We picked up Ian after Achnasheen and sped along to Lochcarron, tailwind helping, with Jim and myself working with a few others to keep us moving in the awful weather. Always find it best to be nearer the front on this stretch as the road narrows and oncoming traffic dodging can be fun!
Lochcarron climb is where the selection starts and the group thinned down as we got over the top and down to the start of the Bealach climb itself – perfect timing as we arrived at bang on 11am! Brian, Jim and myself had agreed to regroup at the bottom, and see if we can form a group to help get round the peninsula. So off we set at our own pace, by now the weather was atrocious and on reaching the summit, it was howling gales, freezing cold and lashing rain. I almost got blown over stopping to “dib” and didn’t hang around, electing to hit the descent without my jacket on just to get off the hill! Descent was scary with wet slippery road and very strong crosswind – glad I didn’t have deep section rims, some did! Almost worn my brakes out as they were on the whole way down, trying to brake while shivering with numb hands is no fun and I did have Fred Whitton Flashbacks to my crash in May, which wasn’t fun! At the bottom, got my rain jacket on, just as Brian, Jim and a few others reached Applecross and so we kept together from there.
Round the peninsula was the usual slog, this time cold, wet and with a headwind! Jim was doing very strong shifts on the front dragging us along as the group swelled with each rider we passed. The undulations finally got to some and as we got closer to Sheildaig there was a core of 6 or so. A quick stop for water and to take off my jacket as it was now dry and warmer! Tried to catch back on to Jim who was 20 seconds up the road and it took me the next 5 miles. My wife passed by me in the car, but she needs lessons on how to pace a struggling rider back to the front as she drove on past 🙂
Eventually got back to Jim and Brian just as we hit the descent to Torridon and the right turn for the last 10 miles, which were into a very strong headwind.
Look closely, Brian and myself are tucked in behind Jim….
What a slog, brutally hard and soul destroying with Jim once again doing a big shift to get us there. I managed to come through for a wee spell, just as we passed a TV camera. Would be an injustice if that’s what makes it onto the show. Last 3 miles were downhill, so a little easier, but still strong wind as we tried to push the pace on and give Jim a welcome break. I hit the front for the last 1/2 mile to lead out Jim for the final sprint where there was only ever going to be one winner! The last 10 miles had taken us 15+ minutes more than last year!
Home at last.
So the 3 of us Jim, Brian and myself crossed the finish line pretty much together to finish 13, 14, 15 overall! All the times seemed to be down this year on 2011’s (last time the event was run as last year it was cut short due to the stormy winds). Only 6 riders under 5 hours, there were 46 in 2011.
At the HQ we learned that Kate had to turn back due to the return of the speed wobbles and that Fergus had a crash. His wheel slid away from him just after Kishorn, before the start of the Bealach, and he was bloodied, battered and bruised, although no bones broken. Joe had stayed with him making sure he was okay and got picked up and looked after. There seemed to be a fair few casualties in the hall, no surprise given the terrible conditions. Expected to see Ian at the finish, but he was not far behind us, having “taken it easy” under Doctors orders and went the whole way round!
Results for the Dundee folks are:
||Bottom of Climb
||Top of Climb
*couldn’t see a time for Ian.