Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast

Where to begin…. I will undoubtedly have forgotten a lot, so please everyone else feel free to add their thoughts, comments and memories too. I will post up videos and photos over the next day or two and if anyone else has photos either link to them in the comments below or send to me and I can add them.

A cracking crowd gathered at the Broughty Ferry pier where we had some photos taken with the castle as the backdrop before we set off. Lots of well wishers to see us off which was really nice.

Team photo

Unlike normal club runs we actually left on time at 8am, with a group of 30+, swelled by some folks coming to Dunkeld. Have to say the peleton looked magnificent as we swept through Dundee with the vast majority in the new club kit, all looking fabulous.

Up the Kingsway, over Tully, to Coupar Angus where we even had a crowd cheering us on (okay it was Ciaran’s nephew with a sign, but it was great). Out to Dunkeld where a few who weren’t coming all the way turned off, leaving about 25 to head down the A9 and on to the first cafe stop at Aberfeldy. So far so good, everyone in good spirits even though the weather was a wee bit dreich it didn’t dampen the mood. Only wee snag was “losing” Lionel coming in to Aberfeldy, so he did some extra miles going to Kenmore and then back to meet us.

The second leg to Tyndrum was next, with the 22 who were going all the way going along the north side of Loch Tay before the descent into Killin where we had the first puncture of the day. At least the weather had picked up now.  Setting off past the Falls of Dochart, Jim F punctured. So as the group “toddled along” a few of us waited to help pace Jim back to the group. Once the puncture was repaired Jim then enjoyed the chase as he set off at team time trial pace, dropping us all and only a traffic jam slowed him down 🙂 A nasty accident between Crainlarich and Tyndrum had the road closed, but we managed to cycle down past the 3 mile queue of traffic. We then did some off road hill walking through the woods, on to a gravel path, past the accident and back through the trees to the road to cycle past the 3 mile queue of traffic heading towards the accident! We climbed up the drag to Tyndrum and all arrived safely at The Green Wellie for lunch number 2.

The Green Welly @ Tyndrum

As we left Tyndrum and turned left towards Oban, the road closure behind must have opened as a lot of traffic was now all heading to Oban at the same time, so it was a busy stretch. Unfortunately Gary (I think) punctured after a couple of miles and again a few of us waited as he got fixed with the rest once again “toddling along”. Jim then again set off like a rocket as we blasted along trying to catch the steady bunch. Then disaster as Jim punctured for the second time. As he fixed it, some decided they would get a head start as the time trial pace was fast leaving 4 (?) of us now to chase back on. It was a blur, but we eventually picked up the bunch and a lot of traffic just before Connell Bridge – about 30 miles of us hammering it to catch them (it was great fun).

As the road was very busy we split into groups and even pulled over a couple of times to let the traffic clear. So we rolled into Oban just after 5:30pm and along to the Youth Hostel, while some took a scenic detour to the harbour to see the boats before joining us for the official “we made it” photos.

We made it – Dundee-Oban Day 1 done.

My Garmin had a little over 127 miles and 7hrs of riding time, with some cracking spikes during the “chase”.

We all checked in to our various accommodation, got changed and met up for a few beers and pasta. The Hostel was very good, all very modern with toilet and showers in each shared room of 6 bunks. We had a relaxing evening of tiredness, cramps and a couple of beers but particular highlights were Room 202’s encounter with Father Jack (also known as Lionel’s Night Terrors) and the quite frankly astonishing Olympic standard snoring from Ian Anderson and all within 10 seconds of his head hitting the pillow- chapeau.

Breakfast the next morning was great and we all stuffed ourselves ready for day 2 – except perhaps Matthew, something he may have regretted later on when the knock was rapidly approaching – he’s young and learning 🙂

As the next door church bell rang out 9am we were rolling along once again – on time two days running… The climb out of Oban woke the legs up! We pushed along at a steady / brisk pace, mainly single file to let traffic past. A few lumpy bits going east and a few climbs that I must have passed in a blur on the way out. We soon arrived back at The Green Wellie in Tyndrum in no time.  Even though I was still full of breakfast, can’t pass up the chance of more cake!

The middle legs is the hardest as John Oz often says 😉 as we set off to Crainlarich and the Lix Toll turn off for Kippen. Still keeping good time and the weather was very pleasant too. Out through Kippen is a fairly long climb where we had some fun and regrouped at the top. Ian Stewart, who had torn his achilles a couple of days ago and really shouldn’t be cycling at all, was, after 200+ miles starting to feel it! We helped nurse him along on the mainly downhill stretch to Kenmore where we cut through the estate. Jim F once again punctured and he tried to out-sprint physics by speeding towards the cafe stop at Aberfedly before all the air had left his tyres – he’s good, but the air just won and he had to pull over! Cafe stop at the Wishing Well in Aberfeldy was great, we even got to sit out in the sun. Sensibly Ian S called time and hitched a lift in the support cars.

Aberfeldy Lunch Stop

So with 90 miles in the legs we set off from Aberfeldy for the final stage back home. There were some very tired legs, but we kept it together as best we could on to Dunkeld and then retracing our way from Saturday back to Coupar Angus. Decision was made to go back via Newtyle, past Camperdown and on to the Kingsway.  Sweeping down the Kingsway in formation, with the Tay and the Ferry below us brought a smile to my face and the realisation of what we had all achieved. Into the Ferry, led home by the 3 ladies, and along the front to the start / finish.

It was great to arrive back to the Brought Ferry pier with a cheering crowd to welcome us home. We had an official “made it back” photo in front of the castle, including a fabulous framed print of us all taken before we left on Saturday (thanks Reg, I hope we can find somewhere to hang it and do it proud).

My Garmin for the return leg was 128.5 miles in 7.5 hrs, thankfully at a steadier pace all day with no mad chasing required!

Thanks to Gary and Dave P’s wives for their help, support, cakes, water and I’m sure the photos will be great too. Thanks to everyone who helped support the event, donated to the charity and came along to cheer us on. As for Team Wheelers, what can you say, a magnificent effort by everyone – it was emotional….

We have smashed our fundraising target and once some offline donations are added we will hopefully be closer to the £2,000 mark for our chosen charity – well done everyone.

Same time next year, but where to next?

Cairngorm Classic

For the third week in a row Jim and me would be cycling around Tomintoul…..

Jamie had organised a Team Wheelers bus so 6 of us headed off for Aviemore together- Jamie, me, Jim Foulis, Ian Stewart, Ciaran and Fraser Millar (playing the part of Fergus who had to call off). It was pretty dreich heading up, but never fear the BBC weather app said all would be fine when we got there. It wasn’t. By the time we climbed to the Cairngorm Railway where the start / finish is you couldn’t see more than 50 feet in the low cloud and rain. Given that the event starts with an 8 mile fast descent, this could prove “interesting”.

As we signed on and  got ready we bumped in to Karen and Fiona who were doing the 50 mile route, and also a few Thistle friends there too (Charlie, Alan D, Steve K, Ali, Joy).

The BBC must have heard that the Wheelers were there resplendent in new kit as they had despatched TV cameras to capture us so I’m sure Jim will turn up on a TV near you soon.

We all got to the start, except Ian, who had already set off thinking we’d set off and left him (as if). And that was the last I saw Jamie and Ciaran for a while as we lost them on the descent, leaving Jim, Fraser and me to crack on. Wet roads slow us down, pah! The pace was fast as we sped along to Nethy Bridge, where we briefly met Ian Stewart, and on to the first climb where the 50 – 100 routes split. Fraser (with only 2 weeks training) waved us on and so the pattern for the next 50 miles was set, with Jim and me working in a wee group of 3-4 driving the pace.  Thankfully the weather picked up and stayed pretty much dry for us the rest of the way, warm and little wind so perhaps the Beeb got it right?

The only other real lumps are before Tomintoul and then a fast descent before taking the back road to Glenlivit. After Glenlivit there is a left turn that had lost a signpost and some confusion. I heard that some went the wrong way here so they could get some extra miles in, eh Ciaran and Jamie 🙂 We picked up a few more wheels here, but with only a couple of them willing to do any work, they were soon dispatched, leaving Jim, me and 2 others working well together.

The road then rolls along without any real lumps and you quickly hit Grantown-on-Spey where we did a quick splash and dash filling up the bottles before carrying on. It’s a fair old drag coming out of Grantown until you hit a left and on to the moors, round Lochindorb and back on the “main” road. It was as we slogged over the lumpy bits here that Jim waved bye, leaving 3 of us to speed down to Carrbridge before the last flattish section to Boat of Garten and back to Coylumbridge.

So after 90+ miles you are back at Coylumbridge and only the ascent to back where you started to go! My two companions and me still working well up the initial drags past Loch Morlich and on to the steeper section, where we did go at our own pace to the finish. It was a real slog with nothing in the legs and cramps starting to set in for me so the last hairpin and finally the car park finish was a welcome sight.

There was some food and drinks for all participants in the cafe where I waited for Team Wheelers to get back and catch up on the day’s tales before relaxing in the Team Bus on the way home.

Numbers were definitely down on previous years which is a shame as I really like the event. It’s a good fast route with some lumpy bits and a real challenge at the end, spectacular scenery and most of the way it’s traffic free on good roads.

The times for the Wheelers were:

Name Club Gender/Age Time
Graeme Carruthers Dundee Wheelers M47 04:55:21
Jim Foulis Dundee Wheelers M50 05:06:25
Ciaran Hannon Dundee Wheelers M42 05:29:54
Fergus Dargie Fraser Millar Dundee Wheelers M5x 05:35:51
Jamie Costello Dundee Wheelers M32 05:44:15
Ian Stewart Dundee Wheelers M63 06:14:25

The only Thistle doing the long route, Charlie was 6:41 (and his friend Neil doing his first event). Fastest on the day was 4:48.

The times for Fiona and Karen on the 50 mile were:

Name Club Gender/Age Time
Fiona Davidson Dundee Wheelers F46 03:00:30
Karen Knight Dundee Wheelers F52 03:24:05

Note that Karen did an extra 9 miles due to hubby Steve’s navigation errors so would have been well under 3 hours –  bet the car journey home was a bit tense 🙂

Our Thistle friends on the 50 miles were:

Name Club Gender/Age Time
Alan Davidson Dundee Thistle M53 02:59:29
Joy Chisholm Dundee Thistle F33 03:13:20
Alasdair Chisholm Dundee Thistle M57 03:13:25
Stephen Knight Dundee Thistle M52 03:24:02

Snow Roads

Do you ever have that thought “it seemed like a good idea at the time”, it went through my head a few times on Saturday as I tried to think why am I doing this to myself…..

My first Audax, so a new experience and for those that don’t know…..With an Audax there is a printed route sheet and you pick up a card at the start. Along the way there are various control points that you need to stop at and get your card stamped and signed to “prove” you were there. There are no signs to guide you, no broomwagon, you are self sufficient.

So at 6am, we set off from the Northmuir Hall in Kirriemuir, 4 Wheelers (me, Iain Anderson, Davie Ross and Jim Foulis resplendent in new kit) and a whole load of Thistles (9 of them?) among the 78 starters. The group stayed together at a nice social pace for the first stretch out to Edzell (it’s a marathon, not a sprint today) and on to the first serious climb up Cairn O’ Mount. A steep start, levels off then a steep finish, where Kenny Frater was standing to capture us in all our race face, grunting glory! This is where we split up and Jim and me were in a group of 9 as we headed along to the first check point at Strachan, after 36.5 miles. Card signed we set off with Angus doing a great job of guiding us the right way. This is the trickiest section to navigate, heading through lots of places I had never been! After Oyne Fork, towards Insch is the first feed stop after 66 miles at Gadies restaurant, who were expecting us and setup for a mass of hungry cyclists.

Gadie’s – First Feed Stop

The various groups all started to converge, and as Jim and me left we actually waited for Iain A and Davie R and said goodbye to Angus and the other wee group we had been with.

A left after we set off (which Jim and me missed, quickly realised, turned back and found so adding an extra mile to our day) and then on to Auchleven, Leslie, Clatt, over some fantastic moorlands and on to Dufftown for the next stop, with 97 miles now in the legs.

Dufftown’s down there somewhere…

We found a cafe (you can stop anywhere as long as you get a time stamped receipt) and grabbed a quick coffee and cake. Worth a mention that until now the weather had been fantastic, warm, sunny, tailwind and some fantastic scenery, the miles flew by – this changed.

The next leg is 51 miles to Braemar and as Dufftown is as far north as we were to go, we turned south towards Tomintoul and into the wind. It was here we said goodbye to Iain A as he asked to be left alone with his thoughts, leaving the 3 of us to slog on as best we could. It was tough going, but got even tougher at Tomintoul when we turned towards the Lecht. It was very hard into the wind and with 122 miles now covered what you don’t need is a massive steep hill, what we got was 3 massive steep hills! Going up the ramps towards the Lecht ski station was brutal battling gradients and the wind, so of course there’s a photographer there to capture it! This the last we saw of Davie R for a wee while as Jim and me dragged ourselves up over the top then down to Cock Bridge. This is the point (125 miles) where I was now in unknown territory as I set a new PB for distance in a day and still 63 miles to go! There are 2 more climbs which by now felt way harder than they should before you drop down for the last few miles to Braemar, at least the scenery was still stunning.

Beautiful

After one of the hardest shifts on a bike I’ve ever done we finally made it to the last control point at Braemar Village Hall. We had now covered 148 miles and were broken men. Kenny Frater was helping man this control point and food was provided. The support staff were all fantastic and couldn’t do enough to keep you fed and watered, all very very welcome. Jim and me were not the greatest of company by this point and even eating was a chore, doing anything was proving difficult as our bodies were not happy with us!

Braemar, last chance for food.

As we set of for the last leg we were told the rain, that was forecast, was bang on time and had started to fall and was heading our way…..One last climb up Cairnwell past the Glenshee Ski Station with ominous black clouds and then the drizzle started. We stopped at the top to put on our rain jackets and were almost blown over by the strong wind. Only 30 miles to go! Most of this last section was downhill, except the bits that weren’t, and even the smallest rise felt like a steep mountain. The rain was now lashing and we were soaked, tired, I was feeling nauseous and Jim was feeling light headed as our bodies were urging us to stop. Never has 30 miles felt like it passed so slowly as we entered Kirriemuir. Thanks to Jim we easily found the Hall, not sure I would have, and almost fell off our bikes, absolutely spent.

The stats for the day. Jim and me covered 188.7 miles in 11.5 hours moving time, 13.5 elapsed time, with just under 14,000 feet of climbing. We had set off on a beautiful warm sunny morning at 6am and arrived back in almost the dark, lashing rain, howling winds at 7:30pm!

The helpers at the Hall were also great, making sure we were okay, providing food and drinks as we sat around trying to return to normality and get warm and dry again. About 35 minutes later Davie R made it back and we had a quick catch up. My body was shutting down and so I headed home while I still could, but there were a lot of folks still out there on the road, including Iain and 8 of the Thistles!

It was a very well run event, with great help form the volunteers who do the control points and feed stops. The route was stunning but you do need the weather. It is a really tough challenge, even for us that are used to doing 100+miles as you push yourself in to unknown territory, definitely worth doing.

Some good photos of the day here – http://s703.photobucket.com/user/martinbe/library/The%20Snow%20Roads%202014?sort=9&page=1

My Garmin details:

3 Pistes 2014

This was the inaugural 3 Pistes, a wee bit different from the normal sportive and more like an Etape du Tour, as it is not a loop but an A (Pitlochry) to B (Aviemore) route and very hilly!

Route and Profile

The pre event communication was all excellent, good web site, email updates etc etc. Very impressive for their first event and even more so when they have to include the logistics of bussing participants to the start from Aviemore or from the finish back to Pitlochry, with bikes.  I had “Team GC” dropping me off and picking me up so can’t comment how the buses worked out, looked like it was well organised and the rest of the day certainly was.

Registration was at the Pitlochry High School, all very efficient and helped by the glorious warm sunny morning so we could all mill about outside. With the forecast for rain later there was a lot of humming and haaing over clothing choices! I decided to carry my waterproof in my pocket, which almost guarantees it will not rain (it didn’t) 🙂

The 4 Wheelers (Jim F, Jamie C, Andy B and me) met up and set off together and immediately we were climbing out of Pitlochry and up to the Moulin Moors. We kept the pace steady on the way up and down the Moors, but Jamie told us to go on as he wanted to do his own thing. The 3 of us then made very good progress to the first big climb up to Glenshee. Starts off more as a drag, but has a nice kick for the last mile or so. We were taking it steady, a long day and much more climbing ahead. The descent is fast, not technical and top speeds of 50mph doable (even for me) and we regrouped for the mainly downhill blast to Braemar. From Braemar the road is a slight downhill for the next 10 miles and even with the Moors and Glenshee climbs we averaged 20mph for the first 48 miles. That all changed very quickly though! The rest of the route (54 miles) is very, very lumpy.

Getting to the Lecht climb involved 2 other long climbs and it was here that Jim dropped off the pace, leaving Andy B and me to crack on. On the plus side there was a wee tailwind. As we hit Cock Bridge you turn to be faced with a tarmac wall and lots of “you must be f***ing joking” comments as the road kicks up for a 20%+ ramp. Oh thank goodness for a compact, Andy with a 39×25 almost came to a halt but chapeau for grinding all the way up. After the first ramp it just becomes very hard as you try and recover a bit, before the next brutal ramps. One of the hardest climbs I have ever done outside of the Lake District. We stopped at the top for a quick water top up, food station looked well stocked with a good variety of sweet and savoury and free gels too. The descent is equally steep, but again not technical so you can really fly down and on to Tomintoul.

The rest of the route is the reverse of the way out for the Cairngorm 100 so I knew what was in store! After Tomintoul there is a short steep climb followed by a long drag up. Then there is a small steep descent followed by another steep, long climb and the legs were definitely feeling it as the pace slowed!

The only relatively flat part of the course is next, with the 10 miles towards Coylumbridge. However, the tailwind was now a headwind, just when the legs are dead and any help is needed. On cue, a group of 5 came past and I jumped on (Andy didn’t) and we were all doing through and off all the way to Coylumbridge. We were on the limit and the guy behind me touched my wheel, I wobbled, he fell, but with amazing luck for him, his landing was a very soft ditch. We stopped to makes sure he was okay, he got up, brushed off the grass and got back on, not a scratch!

As we hit Coylumbridge there is a left turn and the 5 mile drag to the foot of the Cairngorm climb. I had nothing left by this stage and wished my group well and sat up. There was a KoM for the last climb as it was timed, but after 99 miles I don’t think many would be in the mood for it! The climb starts tough for the first half, then eases a bit for the last ramps before you get to the car park and a welcome finish – where there was an announcer cheering everyone in (and blaring music too).

After the finish line, there was water (ice cold which was fab) and pasta for all participants. The weather was still great, so it was buzzing with everyone milling around, waiting for everyone else to finish. Not far behind me was Andy and then 15 minutes later Jim. Jamie was a wee bit further behind, but special mention as this was his first Century Ride, what a way to break your duck with such a tough route.

Overall I thought it was a very well run event and would recommend it. A tough, stunning route, helped by the fabulous weather we had.

Times below (fastest was 5:09:35):

Name Surname Sex Category Time KoM
Graeme Carruthers Male Over 40 5:43:22 0:22:20
Andrew Blythe Male Over 40 5:49:39 0:25:18
Jim Foulis Male Over 50 6:05:04 0:27:43
Jamie Costello Male Senior 7:16:15 0:32:16