Etape Caledonia 2016

Now that the dust has settled on yet another addition of the Etape Caledonia, it’s time to bore you with my write up.

Last weekend saw the main event, the highlight of the Whitelee Warriors Sportive calendar, our annual long weekend away to Pitlochry for the Etape Caledonia.

For those who read last years account you’ll know about our Jagerbomb escapade on the Friday night……. for those who haven’t read it, shame on you! Being a year older and a year wiser, I use that term loosely, surely there wouldn’t be a repeat?! Eh No!

Friday saw 11 of the Warriors decend on Pitlochry at various times throughout the day, meeting up at 8:30pm at the Indian for a curry and a beer. I have to say I thouroughly enjoyed the curry this year and as always the beer. Once that was out the way it was time to head to the two new house we had rented this year, one was a house and the other was a flat. It was here the festivities began and 2 litres of Jager was consumed amongst numerous other items of alcohol.

So much for learning our lesson!

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It was all smiles and pretty faces on the Friday night but far from that on the Saturday! For me Saturday was a real struggle, I headed down to the registration area and collected my race pack for what was the 10th Edition of this hugely popular event. I didn’t do much else on the Saturday except check my bike over and head back to bed! The slightly more sensible members of the group, the ones that weren’t greedy with the Jager, headed out for a light pedal on the Saturday before returning to carb up for the following day’s event.

Registering on the Saturday. Robbie not Feeling the Best! Lol
Registering on the Saturday. Robbie not Feeling the Best! Lol

I set my alarm for 5am on the Sunday morning as since I hadn’t eaten or drank the day before I wanted to get some food into me and re-hydrate to ensure I made it round the course. Not the best prep! Toast with peanutbutter and a banna or two was the order of the day, or morning to be precise.

The rest emerged from their beds, got breakfast, kitted up and off we set to the start line. Our official start time was 6.40am but wasn’t expecting to start at that time as previous years it had been a shambles and mass free for all on the main street. This year though it was a completely different story. This year it was well planned, there were several holding pens away from the start / main street for the different waves and a filter lane so you could get to your wave easily. It had only taken them 10 years to sort it out but it was worth it!

All Set and REady to Tackle the Etape Caledonia.
All Set and Ready to Tackle the Etape Caledonia.

I’m not going to bore you with every single mile of the 81 mile route, I’ll just summarise it for those who haven’t already fallen asleep. Well done for making it this far down the blog post!

Stevie Potter, Ally Menzies, Robbie Renfrew and myself started together, the others were in wave A while we were in wave B. Before long we were off, with the 4 of us staying together for the first few miles before Ally and Robbie shot off. I had a game plan and I was sticking to it. I was going to keep my cadence between 80-90 rpm to ensure my legs still had something left for the end. Stevie also slipped away from me as I fought to find my rhythm, but soon I was back with him and we worked together to hunt down Ally and Robbie.

Stevie and I worked together well the whole day and caught up with Ally at the 3rd feedstation before the Scheillion and took him under our wing. Off we set to the main climb of the day. Before long we were at the foot of the Scheillion and decided to tackle it at our own pace and regroup at the top. Off I shot and felt good on the climb, passing a good few riders in the process. Cresting first I waited for Stevie followed by Ally.

Ally was now struggling at this point, having never tackled this distance before, he was now in unknown territory. The temperature had dropped at the top of the Schiellon and the rain started, though not lasting for long it did make the roads a little slippy.

We got Ally to tuck in behind us and Stevie and I worked together taking shots on the front to bring him home. We must’ve been a good wheel as a couple of times for a number of miles I had a rider sit on my wheel while offering no turn on the front. Eventually enough was a enough so we picked up the pace and dropped him.

We were now approaching the last 3 to 4 miles and the short, sharp, steep hill at the pub was upon us. At this point we had a bunch of riders with us so I decided to shoot off to ensure I wasn’t getting boxed in or held back by other riders being slower or stopping on the climb. I approached the corner, dropped the gears and attacked the hill with the locals cheering and encouraging every pedal stroke.

It was all good, we were now on the home straight, lumpy straight with a few more digs, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. Before long we turned left onto the main street and lined up side by side to cross the finish together.

It wasn’t a PB for me but I beat last years time and was very happy with my performance, especially on the climbs where I felt strong. Keeping my cadence between 80-90 rpm made a huge difference and my legs felt far fresher on the final 30 odd miles, unlike the previous years when I was running on empty.

With the cycling part out the way it was time to drop the bikes into the flat and head across the road for a beer. That one beer turned into 4 as the sun made an appearance. Next up was a chippy for tea, a shower, then down to the pub to join the rest of the Warriors for several refreshments in the form of lager and Jagerbombs.

Well Earned Pints at the Old Smiddy!
Well Earned Pints at the Old Smiddy!

Great weekend was had by all and sadly all good things must come to an end, but before we left on the Sunday morning, Stevie and I had one more mission to complete!

Final Mission Before Leaving Pitlochry!
Final Mission Before Leaving Pitlochry!