Although a little after the event, feeling pressurised by the Warriors DS and resident IT guru, Mr Stu saddlebag Russell, I felt I had to get some typing done.
So, post original Roubaix, Chris and I strapped our steeds onto Chris’ roof rack and set off for deepest darkest Ayrshire at a rather ungodly and early hour on the morning of Sunday 4th August. We arrived at Auchincruive in plenty of time, got ourselves registered and had a quick blether with Stu, Stevie and Ian before completing the usual rigmarole of attaching race numbers to jerseys, bikes and timing chips to helmets ( not actually as painful as it sounds). The weather was looking favourable although feeling a little bit early morning chilly. As always the usual debate with self was had regarding what to wear, don’t want to be too hot or too cold and should I put the waterproof jacket in my jersey pocket? Enough of my inner turmoil.
The man himself, Graeme Obree, was lined up at the start alongside the Warriors who were looking resplendent to a man in their team kit. My thoughts were that the event attendance seemed a little smaller than last year but we were soon on our way having been set off in the third group of possibly 50 or so. As always seems to be the case with these events the initial pace was quite fast in comparison to our usual outings. We set off down a fairly steep hill and after about 500 yards I had to swerve to avoid a rogue saddlebag which shot across the road in front of me. I shouted at it “Go away nasty saddlebag, you nearly had me off my bike there” and then saw big Stu, the owner of the aforementioned naughty item sheepishly pulling his bike to the side of the road.
This then posed a question “What do we do? Do we wait for Stu and lose the wheels or will he catch us up?” We all opted for the latter and kept ourselves tucked in the group which continued to batter along the road before thinning out pretty quickly as rider after rider either popped or were passed.
Having previous, having fallen off a few weeks earlier, almost resulting in Stu falling off, the saddlebag was apparently recovered, suitably chastised for its behaviour and reattached. Obviously blissfully unaware of the severity of its situation the saddlebag, which surprisingly isn’t made of carbon, proceeded to push its luck too far by falling off again. The big chap retrieved it again, emptied its contents into the pockets of his jersey and launched that Mofo (I think that must be the make) saddlebag into the nearest field. Definitely a “fly on the wall moment” which I wish I could have witnessed.
After a couple of miles I found myself cycling alongside the legend that is Graeme Obree. Putting my usual shy demeanour aside I had a wee blether with him before telling him that I was going to beat him round his own sportive and that by my reckoning he would be good for the first hour (my logic being that he held the World Hour record) and then he would blow up. He laughed. We fairly rattled along for that first hour, averaging 18mph and I remarked to Chris that this was all well and good but ultimately we would get to the base of the climbs all the quicker. We knew that there was a section containing 3 climbs, which started at the 18 mile mark and lasted until 33 miles, with one of them being 5 miles long. Around the 16 to 17 mile mark there was a noticeable and trepidacious slowing of the pace as gels and energy bars were consumed and participants caught their collective breath prior to facing the ever looming hills.
Just in time for the first big climb of the day the sun came out. We weren’t long in heating up and Ian Hockey and I were sitting just in front of Chris Hunter and Stevie Potter. Ian and I were shooting the shit halfway up the climb when big Chris asked us “You two are taking the piss. Would you please shut the f*** up, some of us are blowing out of our arses here.” The Salou summer training camp must have been taking its toll.
It was quite a climb and not long after this Ian and I had distanced ourselves a little from Chris and Stevie. The event was well organised and well marshalled. Some of the descents, off the aforementioned hills, were fantastic but there were a couple of very sobering sights of the marshals earning their corn, slowing participants down as we passed a couple of riders lying prone at the side of the road. Initial fears were of a broken neck and a broken collarbone but I was assured when I enquired a few days after the event that the injuries were not as serious as initially thought.
Ian and I pressed on, with me grabbing a tow from any passing rapid wheels and getting a wee “free” mile here and there in addition to benefitting from Ian’s wheel. In return I was Ian Hockey’s Garmin for the day as he had been unable to find his own unit on the morning of the event due having just recently moved house. On that note I’m looking forward to the housewarming / end of season BBQ Chez Hockey next month, the day after our 5 Ferries adventure.
I think I got the better of the deal in that I gained more from occasionally sharing the load with Ian’s wheel than he did from my relaying of distances.
All seemed to be going well until around the 62 mile mark when I got a nasty advance warning of cramp at the back of my right thigh. I immediately rattled a gel down my neck and had a few drinks, but a couple of miles later, on one of the wee short sharp hills towards the finish the rear of my left high came out in sympathy with its brother. On the next wee dig both thighs locked up simultaneously and I did well to keep the bike upright. I gingerly kept pushing the pedals and was happy to see the Garmin reading 68 miles. The finish line was nowhere in sight though, but a few hundred metres further on I was delighted to hear over the loudspeaker “the finish line is just in here on your left”. This was music to my ears.
Ian and I collected our medals, I got my picture taken with the legend and then with Graeme Obree and we went back to cheer the lads on as they pedalled their very relieved coupons over the line.
For the few of you reading who may have been concerned if Stu managed to catch up with the lads again, my information, from a source who will obviously remain nameless, was that he did catch up with Chris and Stevie at the feed zone at Straiton which was about 40 miles into the event. My source tells me that he then sat in the wheels for the majority of the remainder of the event and contrary to his own blog took ONE turn on the front, before putting a wee spurt on just before the finish line. As far as the cramping competition went, Stu suffered from 30 miles in and Chris and Stevie from around the 50 mile mark.
Incidentally, upon checking the results a day or so after the event, it appears that I did beat Graeme Obree, I was 98th, he was 112th, so he maybe did blow up after the first hour. To be fair though I don’t think he was trying his hardest, I wish I could say that I wasn’t on the rivet.
We got ourselves shifted and celebrated completing the course with a wee malt from my hipflask.
This was a great and very challenging event and the second time we have taken part in it, having completed the 48 mile course last year. I would imagine we’ll be back to tackle the 68 miler again next year, some of us without saddlebags and all of us with salt tablets.
Stu forgot to add the results so here they are:-
Results Position Time
Ian Hockey 96th 4 hrs 13m 57
Douglas Gilligan 98th 4hrs 13m 58
Stuart Russell 143rd 4hrs 36m 52
Chris Hunter 145th 4hrs 37m 06
Stevie Potter 147th 4hrs 39m 48.