Due to a road closure we had to find an alternative to our planned route for this weekend. After discussion with big Chris, the well known sadist and masochist, I put the suggestion to the lads that we head for the golf ball in the sky that is the radar station. With the innocence of ignorance, having not cycled it before, Stu, Si and Willie all agreed to join us although Willie had to pull out later due to time constraints.
I was looking forward to seeing Si’s new steed / mistress and was not disappointed when he introduced the young Flo to us. She’s a pretty, racy looking little filly but I was a wee bit surprised to see that he had gone for a black version with a few too many teeth for my liking. 53-39.
We got ourselves ready and set off, Chris and I in trepidation, and Stu and Si blissfully unaware of the pain to come. Half a mile after leaving I realised I’d left my Camelbak and went back for it. Schoolboy error no.1. With 50 miles and potential altitude sickness in store why go the extra mile.
I caught up with my freewheeling friends and we headed off slightly downhill towards Sanquhar. The weather was dry, if a little chilly but it was nice when the sun occasionally broke through to provide us with a little heat. The road surface was mostly in good nick and it was encouraging to think that the headwind we were experiencing would assist us not only on the return leg home but also on our way up the Mennock Pass. I should really know better than that by now!
We made good pace to the bottom of the pass and stopped for some photos, pre-climb energy and a quick slash before setting off up the Khyber with the wind in our….faces. WTF. Ye cannae change the laws ae fiziks. Aye right.
We pedalled through the valley floor and the climb started to ramp up before us. I got into a rhythm and Stu shot off the front. He opened a gap of about 100 yards which he maintained for a bit. Onwards and upwards we went and the gap began to narrow with every glance over the big man’s shoulder. We finally crested with Stu having 20 yards on Si. Half a mile later we again paused in preparation at the barrier for the private road up to the station. We were only delaying the inevitable so we clipped in and started our ascent. Having done the climb twice before I knew that the golf ball is a bit of an optical illusion in that on several occasions it looks to be closer than it is, which can be as disappointing and deflating as a false summit.
This time it was Si who was in full Flo and he powered away skywards, out of the saddle quite a bit keeping those teeth spinning. Stu went off after him but he was tiring noticeably towards the top. With his heart rate at 181 and me 4 yards behind him drumming out at 185, the big chap unclipped and stopped for a few seconds. Frightened to stop, incase I couldn’t get started again, I crawled on, slowly inching towards the summit. It felt great to crest, knowing that the pain was over for now and that we had the joy of the descent to look forward to.
We paused for a few pictures and to get our breath and then it was time to scare the shit out of ourselves on the way down. We skelped off the hill, whooping on the way down, with Chris, Si and I full of big smiles and buzzing at the bottom. The excitement was short lived though when we realised that we had been down for over a minute and there was no sign of big Stu. We joked that he may have spied a particularly attractive sheep on the way down but that was just to mask our concern that all might not be well. The thought of climbing the bloody hill again was a horrible one but there was nothing else for it. We climbed up for a couple of minutes and then saw the big man coming over the hill. He explained that he had thrown his chain as we set off and then he stopped on the way down, not recognising the road,thought he may have missed a turn and had climbed back up a bit to check!! Missed a turn, it’s a feckin single track road!!! That altitude sickness can really play tricks on some people. We were relieved to see that all was ok though, gave him a bit of a ribbing about the sheep theory and got to enjoy the last wee sweeping section of the descent again.
We decided to retrace our steps back to Crawfordjohn so we had the Mennock pass to descend now. It was awesome. We flew down it in no time, with no traffic coming towards us so we got to use the full road and again it was all smiles when we passed the gold panners in the river at the valley floor.
We stopped for a well earned coffee and cake in Sanquhar before making our way back to the cars, with the wind, yes you guessed it… in our faces again.
Well done lads in completing a tough and challenging pedal. I’m sure we will reap the benefits of it in the next couple of weeks.
Schoolboy error no.2 was that I didn’t have my Garmin on autopause so I missed the descent of the Mennock Pass. See Stu’s blog for the Garmin file. 3800 feet of climbing and 51 miles at about 14.1mph average I think.
Headed into the Scottish Bike show in the velodrome today with Stu, Stevie and Si. Ian Hockey and Tamara were there as well and it looks like we should have quite a big team for next weekend trip to Arran or wherever. I enjoyed the show, got to meet Gary & Scott who produce the Veloclub Don Logan cycling podcast and also spoke to Richard Moore, the author of the excellent books Slaying The Badger and In Search Of Robert Millar, picking up a few freebies on the way ( you missed yourself Willie, there were loads of freebie power bar pieces). All in all a bloody good weekend. Thanks lads.