After last year’s near perfect weather it was never going to be 2 in a row!
Forecast was wet & windy so was surprised to get up on a lovely sunny calm morning. All that changed in the drive to Kinlochewe as it got grey and then wet and then even wetter! Didn’t even dampen down the midges which were out in force helping themselves to lovely bare legs for their breakfast!
Signed on and met Karen who had ridden the 9 miles form the hotel to the sign on and was already cold and soaked before the start! Steve wasn’t well and had to be a DNS, but was on hand to bring some dry stuff for Karen. No sign of other Wheelers and numbers seemed down from previous years. Perhaps a combination of it’s been running a few years now, more and more events every week and the weather, have made this less popular then it used. But it is still a great event and one of the best routes, I’d recommend it.
Karen had already set off when I left at 9:15 and hit the first climb after 1/2 a mile. It was miserable, wet and headwind and I was solo. Over the top, did manage to get in a wee group of 5-6 trying to work our way to Achnasheen and the right turn into the block headwind and driving rain! This section was pretty brutal, trying to get any kind of working group was hard although did have a tandem working with us for a while which was great to draft! Reached the level crossing, whose tracks claim victims every year and this year it was almost me. I have no idea how I stayed upright as my bike flapped about like a fish out of water until after what felt like an age, but was probably less than a second, the wheel gripped again and I had control again. Phew that was close.
Pushed through Lochcarron and up and over the testing hill and down to Kishorn where out of the blue there was a voice I recognised – Yorkshire Rob was doing the event! Got to Tornapress and the weather was starting to clear, so I disposed of rain jacket and set off up the mountain! Done this a fair few times now, so l know what’s coming and the wind was fierce at times, so it was steady over the first section, grind up the horrible middle section and push on through the hairpins to the top and it’s all over for another year.
The descent is very technical at the start and in the strong crosswind, wet greasy roads and poor visbility it was on the brakes from the start. Screeching round the real horrible corners, where the ambulance usually sits, it wasn’t there and it crossed my mind that I hoped it wasn’t needed somewhere. Then my bike had a fit and tried to throw me off, pitching left and right and sliding towards the wall and a rather long drop! Again, no idea how, but it gripped again and I got control back, and slowed to a stop. Must have given the lady behind me a real fright. I then descended so so slooooooowly just making sure I got down in one piece.
The run from Applecross to Shieldaig is well know as the toughest section and was a tale of 2 halves. The first was fast (ish), tailwind assisted, but the second half was brutal as wind and hills took their toll. At least the weather was now bright and sunny. I was pretty much solo all the way from Applecross to the finish (40 miles), with only a 5 mile or so section with anyone else working with me. Seems we all had the same story – just no groups on the road to help each other! My near misses were playing on my mind so even though the roads were now drying out I was still very very cautious on all the descents.
After Shieldaig and then the last couple of horrible hills to Torridon, it’s a draggy 10 miles to the finish, but just couldn’t seem to get any decent speed and felt like a headwind at times. The last 3 miles are downhill and time to empty the tank and blast to the finish as best I could.
The post event is always good, hot food and more cakes than you could eat and trust me I tried 🙂 Soon Rob and Karen arrived with similar tales of solo slogging and glad it was over.
The fastest time was 4:50 this year, and the Wheelers were:
Well done to Karen for finishing 2nd female on the day. Even though not my fastest time, given the weather, very very near “misses” and the fact the majority was under my own steam with no groups to help, I am more than happy 🙂
The stats from my Garmin: