Given the choice I’d rather have cold and wet than warm and windy – just can’t cope with wind! So even though the weather was bright and warm, the brutal wind made it another very tough day.
Thanks to Jamie (and Rob the driver), the Team Wheelers Bus got us to Hawick in nice time for the easy register and get ready for the mass start. There were 7 of us, Ciaran, Jamie, Davie (not Jim OCD) Ross, Jim B, new Rob, another new member Kenny 😉 and myself.
And so at 9am prompt 400+riders did the mass start behind the lead car with the good residents of Hawick having no chance of Sunday long lie as the highly entertaining (for us anyway) loud hailer was put to full use. After 2.5 miles the lead car peels off, but in a break with tradition all hell didn’t break loose and we kept a steady pace, led by Hawick CC for the next couple of miles. Even had Jamie asking me what was going on as it was all a bit easy…not for long though. As we got to the approach of the first climb, Bonchester Brae, all hell did indeed break loose as the first selection was made and about 25 of us sped off from the rest. Fast descent and then we hit the second climb of Note o the Gate and I was not alone in toiling! Got over the first big lump and as we hit the second part of the climb I just couldn’t keep the wheel in front and about 20 sped off,dropped already. This now left 6-7 of us on to Newcastleton and the sharp dig followed be a very long drag over Holm Hill.
The descent into Langholm is notorious for crashes and unfortunately this year didn’t escape. A few from the lead bunch were being loaded into the broomwagon, all seemed okay, just bumps and broken bikes. Shouldn’t laugh, but it was literally a broomwagon as the van belonged to the local chimney sweep 🙂 Later learned this is where new Rob came a cropper, breaking his top tube and a nice few scrapes on his face – nothing too serious, but a new Bianchi frame is now required!
So the descent to Langholm was a bit more reserved than usual, and we started the long slog on undulating roads. About the half way mark as we hit yet another hill and yet more headwind I physically and mentally gave up, I just wasn’t enjoying it and had had enough suffering! So I sat up and was dropped for a second time and let them speed off over the horizon.
I now just settled myself to spinning round at my own pace, thinking a group will catch me and I can tag on – it never happened, I cycled the second half solo, enjoying the scenery.
Passing the second feed station after 65 miles, with 40 to go I was still making good time, but that soon changed. There are 4 nasty climbs to go and they were all brutal, with the wind at one point almost bring me to a standstill. I looked down and saw 5.5mph on my Garmin! The lovely folks at the top of The Swire were a life saver with water and jelly beans and then a cracking descent ruined a bit by a ferocious crosswind. It was around here I lost one of my contact lenses, it blew out my right eye, which was a tad disorientating. It made for an interesting run home as I tried to dodge potholes, horrible gravel patches and bits of trees strewn across the road, all while partially sighted and with even worse spatial awareness than usual.
The Leap Lins climb is now a gravel track with the road repairs being a pile of gravel which is pretty thick in places. The descent wasn’t much better and even though there were lots of red flags and warning signs at the bottom, it was still a surprise to hit a 3 inch deep section of gravel. Fortunately not everyone was lucky and there was a guy by the side of it bloody knees and broken bike!. The Hawick Team had been out on Saturday sweeping the worst bits and putting out lots of flags and signs, but the overnight thunderstorms had washed all the crap back on to the road!
One last long drag over the last hill and then with 9 miles to go it is mainly a descent back to Hawick. Having done this event a few times now this is where you blast back home with all you’ve got left. Not this year as the headwind was full on and I was struggling to get above 15mph pedalling hard downhill at some points. With 2 miles to go you still feel you are in the middle of nowhere, and then a left turn takes you along a wood and you finally hit Hawick town center. A dash through the town and on to the home straight for the best site of the day – the finish caravan and the commentary welcoming you all back by name.
My time was unsurprisingly down on last year at a shade under 6 hours, but I was told I was 20th, so happy enough with that.
Other than new Rob, the rest of the Team, all made it back safely with similar tales of struggles and swearing at the wind. Not sure of everyone’s times, but will post them when they are available.
Once again a great event, very well organised and run, very friendly folks and good facilities with showers and hot food at the end.
And as I was partially sighted I was even more happy that we had the Team Bus home and I didn’t need to drive as Driver Rob got us home in good time while we all “recovered”, okay slept. One final note as I was dropped off at the Tay Bridge car park I cycled the 1.5 miles home, in civvies, INTO A HEADWIND, aaaaaarrrrrgghhhhh.
Garmin stats for the day: