It’s 7:30am, my alarm clock is going off, the rains battering my bedroom window and the wind is nearly blowing the house down, that can only mean one thing………. the Strathaven Round 50 has arrived!
Stevie Haining arrived at mine at 9:10am, the exact time we’d agreed to leave, and still had to get kitted up. In true male fashion he blamed his wife for his lateness! Paula had burnt his microwave porridge! Pretty lame excuse if you ask me, but you didn’t ask me so I’ll continue with my story. This could get interesting so don’t stop reading now! Please note I said it “COULD get interesting, I never promised anything!
We had arranged to meet Gilly and Chris at the end of Millwell road as we used the commute to Strathaven as a warm up for the 50 miles ahead of us. Stevie and I set off on our way to meet up with Chris and Gilly and as we turned off the slip road from High Common road onto Strathaven Road we caught a glimpse of the East Kilbride Road Club. Within 30 secs we had reeled them in and passed by them with ease, hardly breaking a sweat! 500 yards down the road I looked round and we had blown them out the water, they were no where to be seen! OK, the fact they were stationary, in the layby waiting for the rest to join them is insignificant to MY version of the story! So for the purpose of this blog and Stevie’s and my credibility as cyclists, please ignore the fact that they were stationary!
Feeling pretty good with ourselves after blowing EKRC out the water, Stevie and I plodded on to the meeting point. After a min or two Bill and Ben arrived sporting luminous rain jackets. All I’m going to say is that Chris obviously doesn’t have a problem with his sexuality!
The peloton now numbering 4 carried on into Strathaven and into Kirkland Park Primary School where we would be starting and finishing the event. We headed round the back of the school, been a long time since I’ve nipped round the back of a school, and met up with Willie and Stevie Potter. The peloton was now at full strength for the day numbering 6. Davie Mullin had entered but pulled out due to a family wedding the night before.
We got our numbers attached to our bikes, chatted with Stuart Munro and polished off some of the free Tunnocks Caramel wafers before heading to the start line. The start was awash with bodies and soon we were off, heading out the school with most of us wishing we’d brought our mountain bikes due to the massive potholes strewn across the road! During the final Time Trial at the TDF many of the riders, including the stage and overall winner Chris Froome, started on normal roads bikes then switched to Time Trial specific bikes as they left the hilly bits behind. It may have been a bit excessive of us to ride 20 yards on our mountain bikes then switch to our road bikes. Marginal gains as Sir Dave Brailsford would say!
The start was a bit of a farce, we headed out the school and took a left straight onto a climb we’ve done many a time, only this time there must have been at least 100 bodies and it felt like we were cycling backwards it was that slow! Narrow roads and 100’s of riders just don’t go!
The wind was blowing full force and the rain started driving into us, this was going to be a long 50 miles!
Stevie Haining and I got caught in the bunch and couldn’t get past as Willie, Chris, Gilly and Stevie Potter pushed their way through the bunch. With Chris’s Manly gilet rapidly disappearing into the distance it was time to use some forceful tactics to get through the mass bunch. Making my way through I dropped Stevie Haining and in my quest to catch Chris and his gilet I soon caught up with Stevie Potter who I worked with for a while before dropping him too. The chase was now on, it was one of those moments again where I was riding solo!
As I plodded on the mass bunch started to break up nicely giving me a clear run to chase down the rest of the Warriors. After 5 miles of chasing I caught up with Gilly who’d be my riding partner, mmm maybe I should have phrased that better, for the day.
Gilly and I decided on half mile shots on the front to share the workload. The problem with it being just the two of us meant I’d need to come out my comfort zone and dabble in new territory, taking a turn on the front! As we continued along sharing the load we chatted to fellow cyclists as we passed and before we knew it 20 miles had passed and we had arrived at the first feed station at Sandford. As we approached we spotted Davie Mullin who got some snaps for the Warriors album.
Gilly still hurting from Chris’s antics at the Etape Caledonia opted to give Chris a taste of his own medicine and by passed the feed station. We plodded on thinking that Chris and Willie were ahead of us, only later to discover that Willie had stopped at the feed station and Chris had decided that 50 miles was not enough and opted for a detour, taking a wrong turn!
As we left the feed station Gilly decided that it was too warm for his gilet and started showing off by sitting up, no handed, and proceeded to remove his gilet. Now this nearly ended in tears and I mean real man tears, none of your women break up with boyfriend tears! As Gilly was taking his Gilet off one of the arms managed to get caught in his front fork nearly introducing him to the tarmac and polluting the fine country air with the smell of shit!
Having witnessed Gilly’s antics and finding the need to remove my gilet, I took the sensible, or shite bag approach, and pulled into the side and removed it. Soon we were back on our merry way sharing the load and before long 30 miles had passed and the 2nd feed station in Glassford was upon us. We opted to stop at this one and try some of the lovely home baking on offer. Official Team photographer for the day, Davie Mullin was waiting for us to arrive and took some more pics, and informed us that we were the first of the Warriors to arrive. Now Davie had paid his £20 entry money but had opted not to take part, yet that never stopped him tucking into the home baking!
All joking aside it was good to see Davie at various points of the route offering encouragement to us as we passed. A little of me thinks he used us as an excuse to get out and play with his new toy, his BMW!
Stevie Potter duly arrived shortly followed by Willie, so it was time for Gilly and I to make a hastie exit. We now had plenty of climbing ahead of us with some nasty wee digs along the way. Climb after climb we completed and arrived at the bottom of Ardochrig, only to discover that we were being re-routed through Auldhouse! Bloody Parades Commission! We cycled past the entrance to Langlands golf course and into Auldhouse, swinging a left just past the Auldhouse Arms. We now arrived at the foot of the main Ardochrig Climb, into a headwind funnily enough!
As we climbed the Rig I was having trouble getting into the granny ring and had to stop to twist the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur, allowing Gilly to disappear into the sunset.
Cresting Ardochrig and flying down the back it took me to just after the crossroads to catch up with Gilly again! We were now on the old Wed night route and followed the road up towards the Strathaven Airfield before swinging a right and dropping down through the housing scheme, taking a left at the junction at the bottom then another left back into Kirkland Park Primary School where it all began 3hrs and 9mins earlier.
We headed in to sample yet more cakes and had a chat with Stuart Munro. Before long Willie arrived, shortly followed by Chris, Stevie Potter then Stevie Haining. While we were chatting with Stuart Munro he said to me, “I don’t mean to be cheeky, but what size of helmet is that? It’s just I need to get a new one.” I replied that it was a medium and that he was more than welcome to try it on but warned him that it was sweaty. He said it wasn’t a problem that it was sweaty and proceeded to place it on his head only to squeeze the padding and floods of my sweat poured down his face! We were all in hysterics!
With the chit chat out the way it was time to head home and we used the 7 miles back as a nice relaxing warm down. On arrival back at my house, I turned and looked at Stevie and the looked on his face meant I didn’t have to ask if he enjoyed it! He was burst!
All in all it was a great wee event well organised with the cake selection second to none! “Carlsberg don’t do feed stations…. but if they did they’d be nowhere near as good as the ones the Strathaven Ladies put on today!”.
My only gripe of the day was that on 2 or 3 occasions at junctions the volunteers were just standing about chatting with each other and not pointing out which way we were to go! Now I know they were volunteers and had given up their free time to stand in the rain and the high winds, but if you’re going to volunteer then do the job asked of you. You can still chat and point at the same time.
Pleased with today’s performance of 50 miles in 3hrs 9mins with and average speed of 15.7mph, especially with the high winds. With the warm up and warm down to and from Strathaven the distance totaled 65 miles!
We agreed that this was one event that should feature in next years calendar!
Next up is the Big One! The Pedal for Scotland, Glasgow to Edinburgh 110 mile route!
As I write this blog I’m tucking into a couple bottles of Crabbies Strawberry & Lime and a couple Malts. Well deserved I reckon!