What a difference a year makes. Last year we had gales, rain and sleet and even though it’s being held a month earlier, the weather was ideal (for March). Only challenge was deciding what to wear so as to not overheat! There were 4 in Team Wheelers (Robin, Karen, Ciaran, myself) joined by a guest Thistle Steve K for the first timed event of the year for us. The event HQ is the Mclaren Sports Centre in Callander, so parking , changing facilities etc all available. Registration was painless and easy and you get a High 5 Race Pack as a goodie bag too.
The plan was to stick together until the last climb and so we set off as one social bunch. You don’t get much time to warm up as you hit the first hill of the day after a mile (according to Strava is known as Cockhill). It’s a steady climb into what feels like the middle of nowhere before a fast descent to a left turn. Ciaran and myself waited at the bottom as we split up on the hill and regroup at the top / bottom. Just as we thought “they should be here by now” and we set off back to find them, Robin, Karen and Steve came flying down the hill to us. An early mechanical for Karen, but all sorted. We then head off towards Thornhill and another wee rise and descent almost back to the first junction before heading off on some rolling roads towards Doune.
After Doune a left turn and through some flattish sections towards Kippen and on to the busy main road for a blast along to Cambusbarron. Legs all warmed up, it was time to hit the hilly bits….Some tough little climbs takes you out to the Loch Coulter and beautiful views before a descent to Carron Bridge. It was here that Robin had a puncture, which given the state of the roads was not a surprise. What was a surprise was this was the only one we had in the group all day! Just as the midge bites were getting a pain, we set off on the lovely road past Carron Valley Reservoir and then a blast down towards Fintry.
Coming out of Fintry is a drag of a climb to what’s known as The Top of the World, where we regrouped for the descent to Arnprior. On the rolling road along towards Lake of Menteith a couple of hills saw Ciaran and myself a wee bit ahead of the others and with Ciaran’s leg warmers becoming ankle warmers we decided to push on and wait at the feed stop before Aberfoyle while he sorted himself out. Turns out unlike 2 years ago, there was no feed stop before Aberfoyle!
So now all we had left was the climb up Duke’s Pass (couple of miles about 5% average), which starts off steep through some hairpins before becoming more of a drag for the second half. Great descent, not too technical and then a right turn back towards Callander with great views over Loch Achray and then Loch Venachar. We both remembered this as a quick blast back to the HQ, but we had forgotten there were a couple of nasty little rises that test the legs after 75+ miles. Unlike last year we didn’t miss the turn off to the sports centre and so we did avoid having to go through Callander centre!
Cairan and myself then got showered and up to the sports centre cafe for some sugar rush and soon Robin, Karen and Steve joined us for a debrief. All agreed it was a good day, a cracking route, but the elephant in the room once again – the state of the roads was shocking. Steve raced there as a 15 year old in the Tour of Trossachs and we reckon that’s the last time the roads were surfaced! Shame, as it is a great early season event.
Cairan and myself had a moving time of about 4:45 for the 81 miles, so with stops and puncture added a wee bit on. The official times are:
Ciaran (who shows as DNS??) and myself were 5:07:53
Steve K was 5:26:44
Karen was 5:26:47
Robin was 5:27:03
The route from my Garmin: