I’m a bit of a veteran of this event now (8th time) and it’s usually lashing with rain, gale force winds or more often both. So it was a nice change to have blue sky, dry roads and a breeze (that got stronger as the day went on, but nowhere near previous howlers).
There were 4 Wheelers (Joe, Jim F, Jamie, Graeme) and guest Thistle (Jim OCD) gathered at the start. First Jim OCD disappeared then Joe as we looked for them and we realised they had snuck off for a head start! Jim F then decided he was heading off sharp too as “you two will catch me quick enough”, leaving Jamie and me to do the Mexican stand off watching who was still waiting to go… 🙂
You have to time it so as not to be at the start of the Bealach climb before 11am when the road closes to cars and opens to cycles. Previous Garmin files told me it takes about 1:45 to get there so said to Jamie we’d leave at 9:15, which we did.
Crossing over Ozzy’s Cattle Grid you hit the first climb almost immediately and we settled into a wee group. About 3/4 of the way up there was roadworks and the lights changed to red just as we got there and we then had to stand for a full 2 minutes until we got going again! It did give the chance for a group to form and 7-8 of us then worked out to Achnasheen and turned down to Lochcarron. Making good pace, all working well we made good time without feeling like I was in the red. The next nasty climb out of Lochacarron was kept sensible and we swept down through Kishorn towards the start of the Bealach. It was just as we started the climb that Jamie and me finally caught Jim F, bang on 11am!
The Bealach climb wasn’t too bad this year, although Jim OCD didn’t look like he was having much fun when I passed him as the ramps kicked up ;-). At the steep section near the end, before the switchbacks, the wind picked up just as the gradient did too. Nothing like a full on headwind blast as you grind up 18-20% ramps! I didn’t push too hard as the section after the descent to Shieldaig is the killer bit, and reached the top with legs feeling okay. The descent is very technical, and with crosswinds for the first section was the usual brake-fest for me. The view as you turn the corner about halfway down and the Applecross bay opens up below you with views over to Skye and the Cuillins was breathtaking.
At Applecross, I sped up to catch a couple of the original group who had passed me on the descent and the 3 of us worked as we started the undulating / rolling / leg breaking section to Shieldaig. As we pushed along I could see a larger group ahead and decided to bridge over and as I approached could see it was Joe driving them! It then took me an age to bridge the last bit to them, wasn’t until someone relieved Joe at the front that their pace dropped enough for me to sprint to them. This group then worked well, but was a war of attrition as legs popped with each of the multitude of short sharp hills. This left 5 of us to drop down to Shieldaig.
Shieldaig is where my fabulous DS (Lindsay) and support crew congregate to cheer everyone on and pass me a bottle / jacket / whatever. I was very mindful I didn’t want to lose the group I was with and with a fantastic 6th sense Lindsay must have known that too and so did a fantastic bottle hand off to me as I sped by without stopping – all felt very pro 🙂
There is then the last couple of hills that we all struggled over before the descent to Torridon and the 10 miles to go sign. Maybe just the legs, but didn’t feel there was a tailwind here that I was hoping for, seemed a struggle at times, but we managed to keep the pace up. With about 8 miles to go one of the group was starting to drop off and his very strong mate was dropping back to bring him back up and then taking a good pull on the front – very strong rider. So it was a wee bit of a shame when they sat up for the last few miles, leaving 3 of us to drive on to the finish. Think we all pretty much emptied the tank in the last few miles.
Then it was time for the usual excellent post event food as all the others started to arrive with varying tales of good, bad and ugly….. It was Jamie’s first time and we weren’t sure if it was better or worse to know how bad the Applecross – Shieldaig section is!?
The times for the Dundee folks, out of about 300 starters are:
|4||Graeme Carruthers||Dundee Wheelers CC||M48||04:58:03|
|25||Jamie Costello||Dundee Wheelers CC||M33||05:28:30|
|68||Joe Mcfadyen||Dundee Wheelers CC||M55||05:49:11|
|94||James Foulis||Dundee Wheelers||M51||06:00:30|
|101||Jim Walker||Dundee Thistle CC||M43||06:05:26|
Very well done to everyone, it’s a tough but beautiful route and everyone should do it at least once (preferably in the dry).