Due to a busy few weeks coming up the only chance I had of getting the radar station done before Mallorca (18 days and counting) was to head out on Easter Saturday. This is a little earlier in the season than we usually attempt it but hey what’s a few weeks between friends. The weather ended up conspiring against us and we moved it to the Friday, so Chris, Hugh and I travelled down in Chris’ car to the old A74 Redline truck stop where we met Kevin Lee who had cycled down from East Kilbride. I quickly discovered that the schoolboy error for this trip was to be failing to charge my Di2 battery so I would be stuck in the wee chain ring all day. Luckily I also hadn’t transferred my cadence sensor to my new bike either as it would probably have blown up, with my wee legs going like bees wings for most of the day.
Anyway off we set through Crawfordjohn and down through Sanquhar to the base of the Mennock Pass before stopping for the annual traditional photo.
The southerly wind helped us up the 7 mile climb for the most part but occasionally it was heavily against us. At least I wasn’t going to miss the big ring for this part of the day’s proceedings and I was quite happy with the climb which Kev and I completed together, taking a minute off my PB.
Chris suggested a staggered start for the climb of the radar station, to minimise the time people would have to wait at the top and which worked quite well. The forecast had predicted the southerly wind to strengthen around the 11am mark and they got it bang on, it was 11am and it was blowing a hoolie. We set off at minute intervals, with the order determined by the climb of the pass, so it was Chris first, then Hugh, then myself and finally Kev. The handicapping proved correct as each man subsequently passed those in front of him. The wind was horrendous and was primarily a direct headwind, making an always brutal climb ridiculously difficult. Hugh had to stop a few times and Chris said that he checked his Garmin and was climbing at 2mph at one point. Thankfully everyone crested with Kev successfully defending his KOM jersey from last year with another impressive climb. We then posed for the second obligatory photo of the day, all smiles having made it to the top.
It was really quite cold at the top and seriously windy so we didn’t hang around too long to admire the views. The deep section wheels proved a real test on the descent with the strong winds and we all dropped off the hill rather tentatively. Once safely down my Di2 had some more fun by dropping into the granny for our descent down the Mennock Pass and into a strong southerly headwind. I dropped off the wheels straight away but eventually managed to get the chain into about 36/15 which helped on the way down but proved a real challenge on the climb back up to the car. It’s a draggy rise from Sanquhar back up to the truck stop but again at least we had the wind at our backs.
A mile from the truck stop Kev got a puncture which took 3 attempts to fix, with the wall of his tyre ballooning over the rim, before puncturing again just as we got to the car, so his plan of both cycling down and back home was scuppered. Hugh and I continued on for another 10 miles to pick up a 100k Strava Challenge badge for a March Grand Fondo and Chris and Kev then came and picked us up at Lesmahagow. Considering the wind and the lack of gearing I was quite happy with the 15.2mph average.
This was an acid test for my new bike and I was a little concerned about the gearing as its grannied at 36/28, but I seemed to be able to cope with it at a push. A good day was had by all but it was a real tough day and a test of character for everyone. The radar station climb really is psychologically tough and it’s always a relief to crest it.
After a couple of days recovery I then headed out with Martin on Easter Monday. Having been at a 40th surprise party the night before didn’t help, but the rules helped and it was just a case of HTFU, get out of bed and get on with it. It was a pleasure to have a full selection of gears available again, having charged the Di2 batteries. We headed down to Erskine and then made our way back via the combination of some lovely wee roads and the cycle path network. This got me another 60 miles in my legs, again with a fair bit of climbing involved, which is all helpful in preparation for our annual Mallorcan adventure. This outing we managed a 16.7mph average for 60 miles, so a most enjoyable Easter weekend was had and it did chase the hangover away.