With the dust well and truly settled after the Etape Caledonia it’s time to write my review of the weekend, and what a weekend it was!
Months of blood, sweat and tears in all weather conditions had gone into the training for this event, well for those of us that decided to train for it!
Before we knew it Friday was upon us and it was time to head to Pitlochry in preparation for the 81 mile Sportive that lay ahead of us on the Sunday. The weather forecast was for light rain and mild strength winds, increasing to heavy rain as the day progressed……. nothing new for Scotland then eh!
Six of the 12 strong team headed up to Pitlochry on the Friday to get settled into the two rented houses that Davie had managed to sort out for us. Looks like the reason Davie didn’t train for the event was due to the fact he was too busy sorting out the accommodation for us. Gilly and Chris heading up early afternoon making a pit stop at Morrisons in Perth to grab supplies for the two houses. Davie and Stevie set off late afternoon while Stevie Potter and myself headed up around 6:45pm due to work commitments. The rest would be joining us the following day.
As Stevie and I arrived in Pitlochry we tried to phone Gilly, Davie and Chris to find out where they were, well that’s not true, we knew where they were, they were in the Indian, we just needed to find out where the Indian was and the houses. Now the time was fast approaching 9pm which meant that there was very little or no mobile signal…… 4G…… forget that, couldn’t even get 3G or 2G, having to settle for H+ whatever that is! Looks like the Internet closes at 6pm in Pitlochry! A full weekend with little Facebook and Twitter access! How would one cope!
Eventually we managed to get through to Chris and Davie met us on the main street, giving us directions to what would be our base camp for the next 3 days. Stevie and I headed to the houses while the rest finished their Indian, washing it down with a few beers! We duly found the house we’d be staying at and unpacked the car and walked down to the hotel/pub where we were due to meet the rest after their Indian, only to find that they’d stopped selling food! Back up to the house we went to pick up the car and head to Pitlochry main street in the search for food. As we headed down the hill we passed a group of cheery looking hoodlums…… Gilly, Davie, Chris and Stevie Haining, all of which were a little inebriated! We arranged to meet them in the pub and headed to the Indian restaurant ourselves to fill our expanding waistlines.
Stevie and I washed our Indian down with a beer, dumped the car and met the rest in the pub, managing two pints and a whisky before closing time. It was now time to head back to our houses with Chris and Gilly in one and Stevie, Stevie Haining, Davie and myself in the other. With the clock past midnight and an 81 mile Sportive little over 24hrs away we did what all true athletes do…… we spanked a couple Jagerbombs, washed down with a beer or two!
Time to get onto the house and sleeping arrangements. We had two houses booked, with both having 1 x twin room and 2 x double room. The rooms paring were as follows:
- Chris and Gilly sharing twin room
- Ian and Tamara sharing the double room
- Willie and John sharing a double room
- Davie and Stevie Haining sharing a double room
- Si and Shaun sharing the double room
- Stevie Potter and myself sharing the other double room
I decided to take my inflatable bed to allow Stevie Potter to have the double bed to himself. So there we are on the first night, 2 houses, 8 beds and 6 of us. The question I’d like to know is, why, if there was enough beds for everyone to have their own on the first night, did Davie and Stevie Haining decide to still share a double bed! My guess was that a major Spooning Session was about to take place.
Moving swiftly on!
Stevie, now with a good drink in him decided that he was going to participate in a bit mischief! So off he set into the darkness of the night and reappeared 10 mins later with the front wheel from Gilly’s bike! He’d sneaked round the back of the other house down the road and pinched the front wheel. Not content with Gilly’s front wheel he went back to acquire Chris’s!
With that we heading to our separate beds, with the exception of Stveie Haining and Davie who headed off for a Spooning session!
As the sunset appeared we were rudely awakened at the door by Chris and Gilly who both looked like something terrible had happened! They enlightened us that their front wheels had been stolen during the night and that they were about to phone the police but thought they’d better check with us first…….. where surprise surprise they found the offending articles! Stevie would now need to watch his back as Gilly was now on the war path!
Saturday was a fairly lazy day as we lay about the house till about midday then headed down to Pitlochry to collect our registration packs, have a wander about and savour the atmosphere. We were then joined by Willie, John and Shaun who’d now arrived followed by Si.
With bellies rumbling it was now time to head back to base camp to prepare the evening meal and carb up! To be more precise, Davie, Gilly and a couple others prepared the meal while I tended to a long line of bikes needing tweaked……. please note I said tweaked and NOT twerked! We all feasted on chili, garlic bread, nachos and pasta which went down a treat before watching some TV before preparing our kit and heading off to bed.
Our starting time was 6.36am so my alarm was set for 5am, not that I needed it as I awoke at 4:50am and decided to get up and beat the rush for the bathroom. Slowly but surely everyone started to appear through for breakfast, with the other house arriving at ours shortly afterwards to collect their bikes from the garage.
It was a little chilly but dry, the forecast was for rain later so I popped on my waterproof gilet. With everyone ready we headed down to the start line, 1 mile from where we were staying. It was downhill all the way so it was all good! Arriving at the main street we were greeted with around 5,200 cyclists! Just as we arrived the countdown started for the first wave of riders, ready to set off. We were in the fourth wave so didn’t have long to wait. We tried to make our way to the starting area when our wave was called but found it impossible to make our way through the crowds, resulting in us setting off a couple of waves later than scheduled!
Ian was carrying out his domestique duties for Tamara and had a later start time than the rest of us so took refuge in a cafe. Davie decided to join them and set off at the later time.
We were now in the start zone, the countdown had begun, 3, 2, 1…… we were off! Shaun jumped straight on the front and thundered off with the rest of us in toll. Half a mile away from the start line we’d managed to group up again, Shaun leading, with myself behind. Chris shouted up to me to tell Shaun to sit in where we were at the moment as the pace was fine for starting off. I relayed this message to Shaun and he acknowledged me before shooting off in pursuit of the next peloton!
We hadn’t even gone 5 miles and I was dropped by the rest, I was struggling, my chest was tight and I was struggling with my breathing. Not even 5 miles gone and I thought it was over, 76 miles to go and I was blowing out my arse! What was going on! I dropped the pace and reached into my jersey pocket to retrieve my inhaler and took a couple of puffs then continued on my way at a more relaxed pace until my chest settled down. A look down at my Garmin showed that I was behind from this point last year.
It wasn’t just my chest that was causing me problems, I was having issues with a pain in my left hamstring, a pain that I’d experienced during my previous few rides. Initially I’d put the pain down to my new shoes and pedals but after it continued during my training rides I changed from the blue cleats which came with my new pedals to the yellow cleats I was used to, which offered a little more float. As it turned out my saddle was too high! I’d raised my saddle at the same time as fitting my new pedals and had just put the pain down to the shoes / pedal combination.
I managed to catch up with Shuan who set off firing on all cylinders, dropping him shortly afterwards. With the 20 mile mark approaching, the first feed station came into sight. I hadn’t planned on stopping at this feed station but did so to lower my saddle, topping my water bottle up in the process. With my saddle lowered I set off out the feed station back onto the course with the lone piper screeching away in the background. Instantly I noticed a difference in my riding position, I was much more comfortable, had more leverage for the climbs.
The chase was now on, I had set a target to beat, I wanted to beat last years time and to do so had to maintain or batter an average speed of 18mph or more! My Garmin showed what I knew, I was well down from this point last year! I managed to power on averaging speeds of 23mph+ in my quest to beat last years time. As I powered on I was aware of a rider in a blue jersey on my wheel. As much as I tried I just couldn’t drop him which resulted in me towing him for around 20 odd miles! The guy didn’t even take a turn on the front! Bloody wheelsuckers! Eventually I managed to drop the guy on a climb and though that was the last I’d see of him.
Powering on I caught up with Stevie Potter and the two of us worked together for the rest of the route. We climbed the Schiehallion and enjoyed a cracking fast skelp off the back as a reward. Just at the top of the Schiehallion I was again aware of a figure on my back wheel, yip you got it, the dude in the blue jersey was on my wheel again! This time he pulled along side me, thanked me for the hard work and apologised for not helping out. He said he felt guilty, and so he bloody should! Lol
With 20 miles to go my legs really started to hurt and I had to dig deep to keep pushing on at a decent pace. Working together with Stevie we powered on and again became aware of someone wedged at the back of us drafting. This time the guy spoke and thanked us straight away. The boy was from Belfast but now lived in Glasgow. It was his first time doing the Etape Caledonia and at 65 miles, the furthest he’d ever ridden. He was now in unknown territory and starting to feel it so we helped him along.
With around 7 miles to go we approached the sharp left hand turn onto the short but sharp climb next to the pub. We had a clear passage a head which was good and meant we wouldn’t get held up by riders caught out in the wrong gear on the climb. I dropped down to a low gear and attacked the climb, my legs were hurting but the locals cheering us on at the side of the road and my determination ensured that I crested the hill without stopping!
This was it, we were now on the home straight, the last 6 miles back into Pitlochry to the spectator lined roads. The final 6 miles were tough going, wee digs all along the way kept the legs hurting! The end was now in sight, Stevie and I had vowed to cross the line together as we’d worked hard together throughout the day. As we turned into the home straight the road was lined with spectators cheering us on which was a nice wee boost. We approached the line and it was all over! A quick look at my Garmin showed that my time was 3 mins slower than last year! I was happy with that as I lost a lot of time during the first 20 miles and did well to claw back as much time as I did. My average speed was 17.7mph compared to 18mph last year, close but no cigar.
Again the TA were on duty at the feed stations and at the finishing line, helping to remove the timing chips from the riders bikes. Now it doesn’t sound like much but when you’ve just completed 81 miles and your legs are hurting, simple little things like someone removing your timing chip from your wheel, eliminating the need for you to bend down is a big deal!
Stevie and I had a quick look round but Gilly, Si, Stevie, Willie and Chris had left so we waited for Shaun and John to finish before heading back up the hill to the houses with our well earned medals hanging from our necks.
We decided to head back to the house which meant climbing the mile long hill we rolled down in the morning! To be fair it was actually fine, just dropped into a low gear and spun it. John on the other hand was adamant he wasn’t cycling it and pushed his bike up!
After a quick shower and change it was time to hit the recovery drinks……. Jagerbombs and Beer! We certainly made up for the calories we used during the ride. With everyone back at our house we ordered a Chinese and got tore into more beer before heading for the pub, meeting up with Alan aka @OnTheHoods.
Yet another great weekend, great ride and great company with laughs a plenty! Happy with my performance despite the first 20 miles killing any chance of a PB, but hey ho you learn from your mistakes!
The real winner out all of this is the Beatson Cancer Charity. So far, as I type, we have £1,171.00 in our Just Giving page with around another £500+ still to come in and be added to that total!
A huge thank you to all who have already sponsored us. If you haven’t had the chance to sponsor us yet and would like to then you can do so on our Just Giving Page or in person to any member of the team. We’ll be doing a few more sponsored events throughout the year with all money raised going to the wonderful Beatson Cancer Charity.
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