The Warriors Head West For The Scottish Bike Show Sportif
After all the preparation the big day had finally arrived. It was an early start, with Chris, Alan and I heading off at 6am. We all met up in the Loch Lomond Shores Red car park, well when I say we all met up I mean those conforming to GMT as opposed to Bennett time. It was to be Ruby’s first major outing and Alan was also riding a nice carbon Focus bike which he had as a demonstrator in lieu of his ordered Izalco not arriving in time for the event.
We got ourselves organised and set off towards the start line at Balloch Castle. With a couple of minutes to spare Andy and Si arrived, a forgotten set of bike rack keys adding an unwanted 20 minutes to their journey. The last of the 100 mile riders set off and we lined up for the off. The hardtailers, Ricky, Davy and Ally set off first and we followed them a couple of minutes later. The weather was a little chilly but we soon heated up as we found a couple of fairly quick wheels to follow. We cracked on towards Aberfoyle and into the first of two long steady climbs. We passed the hardtailers, with a shout of “get on the wheel” but we were motoring along around the 20mph mark. We then decided to drop off the back of the two guys who had been pulling us along as our own group began to fragment, thinking it best to try and allow everyone to regroup. Alan McKee then shit himself when it appeared that a light had fallen off his demonstrator ( which he had put a £1000 deposit down on ) and smashed, to cries of “that’s an expensive rear light”. We reformed and made our way towards Aberfoyle and to the first food stop of the day. Alan and I were towards the front as we crested one of the initial climbs. We slowed to check on the progress of the others. Alan looked over his left shoulder whilst simultaneously and subliminally steering his bike offroad to the right. He tried to get back on the road but, as is all too often his wont, he proceeded to adopt a horizontal position, cry out “Whoa whoa whoa, FUCK”, before crashing to the tarmac. Honestly, the man ends up on his arse more often than Didier Drogba! The Dutch don’t like those damn hills. Miraculously the bike escaped relatively unscathed, with minor damage to the saddle and handlebar tape, which is more than can be said for Alan’s leggings (which cost £100 by the way) and the skin on his knee. After dusting himself down, a quick check of the bike and his knee and we headed off again. The climbs had proved to be quite difficult and definitely raised the heart rate but we enjoyed the subsequent descents off the back of them.
We then made our way along the cyclepath and up to the feed station which was quite well stocked with gels, water, oat bars and some nice wee Stinger chewy sweets. Willie the hoover Roslin filled his boots and his pockets and his saddlebag and virtually anywhere.. no stop it there, but he did manage to get his hands on a lot of food before bombing a few photos. Ricky, Davy and Ally then rolled in with Andy.
We were momentarily reunited as a group before a few of us headed off for the famous Duke’s Pass, which falls into the category of “Iconic Climbs of Scottish Cycling” and is known to strike fear into the heart of any hill fearing cyclist. The climb is about 3 miles long and is as much about mental strength as physical, with its couple of false summits playing with your head. We spun up and I was in pole position until Les passed me around two thirds of the way up and kept going. I tried to drop Chris a couple of times only to see him re-appear moments later. He is a stubborn bugger at times and he kept coming back until I managed to finally shake him. We crested and I shouted to Chris to stop and wait for some of the lads, only to be greeted by a tirade of “I’ve just managed to drop this annoying bastard who has pissed me off all the way up and now we’ve let him go”. Sorry Chris. 🙂
We waited for a couple of minutes and a fellow cyclist took a few pictures of us, regrouped again to an extent and then set about the descent of the pass. A rapid guy passed me followed by Chris, who had recced the route during the week and we fairly skelped off the hill. At one point there was a tight, almost 180 degree left hand bend which I approached too quickly resulting in me finding myself on the wrong side of the road with a 4 X 4 coming towards me. Thankfully Ruby’s brakes saved the day.
In hindsight the stop before the pass was a little too long and I think it hindered slightly in that my muscles cooled down a bit and I probably ate too much immediately prior to climbing but hey, everyday’s a schoolday. We stopped again at the Loch Katrine foodstop which provided another opportunity for Willie “I love free shit” Roslin to boot the arse out of it or stock up again. 🙂
We were still cracking along at a fair pace round the Loch and tried to get a through and off organised amongst the six of us. It failed rather quickly and, again in hindsight, it may have been better to be in the wind for 1K or so before dropping to the back. It was funny to find out how many guys get pissed off when someone sits on their wheel. There was one guy in particular who tried to drop me a few times and then pedalled really erratically, obviously trying to portray the “I’m not a good wheel to follow mate”. I pulled out to pass him before he self combusted, but he was heavier than me and we’d just hit a wee descent so he accelerated away and I couldn’t pass him until we hit a hill and I blasted past him. Nowt queer as folk.
The descent from Stronachlacher back towards Aberfoyle was good fun as anticipated and we soon found ourselves back at the Aberfoyle foodstop again. We had covered around 47 miles by this point so we had around 18 to go back to Balloch. We met up again with Willie, who was beginning to realise that carrying 5 additional stones in free gels might not be such a good idea and big Stu. Si, Chris, Alan, Les and I headed off. Having cycled this section with Davy previously, without having almost 50 miles in my legs already, I knew that it was going to be tough. Soon after leaving Aberfoyle we hit the short but sharp rise from Cobleland to Gartmore which was really only a pre-cursor for what was to come. Moments after that wee thigh burner we crested through the trees to see a long straight gradual but relentless climb stretched out in front of us. It must have been a terrible sight for Davy, a reminder of a horrible Groundhog day type nightmare and I must admit I wasn’t overly impressed myself. Was I turning into a Dutchman? Speaking of them, it was around that time that our very own Flying Dutchman, he of the short memory, totally forgetting all the times that his buddies had waited for him earlier in the event ( not a race Alan, an event) basically fucked off and left everyone. Ah well, everyday is a schoolday. 🙂
The miles and the hill were starting to take their toll on everyone by this point. I was climbing with Si, who seemed to be struggling. I offered him some encouragement as I pulled up alongside him and crept past him,“That’s us past the worst of it Si” and his response was to do a McKee on me, yip he basically put the pedal down, combined with a few grunts and he too fucked off into the distance. We were passing people who had dismounted by this point and it was getting painful. Both calves felt as if they were on the edge of cramping as did my right hamstring.
I finally crested and met Les who must have caught a chill as he was pissing for Scotland with several frequent stops. It was a joy to take a break from pedalling and we flew off the hill at an eyewatering pace. We still had a few miles to go to reach the park and I must admit I was feeling pretty buckled. Les and I took turns sheltering each other at a fairly sedate pace as his thigh was feeling the pace until we found a couple of decent wheels who dragged us along for a couple of miles. It was a little worrying to encounter the great Scottish Sunday drivers at a time when you may be a little wobbly on your bike. There were some really special candidates on show and it was scary to watch the guy who had narrowly missed you narrowly miss the next few guys up the road.
It was a pleasure to enter the Balloch Castle park again and coast down to the finish line. Les and I crossed the line together and we were greeted by Alan and Si who had been in a couple of minutes before us. After receiving an impossible to open carton of milk we collected our goodie bags. What a misnomer. Alan was gutted, having been convinced by Chris that we were all getting a Garmin! Chris quickly came in after us, followed by Willie, Stu, Stevie, Ally, Andy, Ricky and Davy who did his best Vinnie Jones impression “It’s been emotional”. It was good to see the boys crossing the line to be greeted by their nearest and dearest with Stu and Ally’s family, Lucy and Sophie, Fiona and Pammy all in attendance to offer their support to the lads.
Well done to everyone on a fantastic achievement, especially to the hardtailers Ally, Davy and Ricky and to Andy who managed to curtail his own enthusiasm and allow himself to be held to the hardtailers pace or at least until Davy flew past him with his “car bonnet” shout.
Chris’ Uncle assembled all the lads and took a couple of cracking pictures before we all headed home. A quick bath and it was up to the Monty for a few beers, which went down particularly well, more than a few stories / post mortems and then round to Spice for a curry.
What a cracking and memorable day. As an event I would certainly do it again. Anyone for next year? As it takes place in April it certainly gives you a focus to get the miles in over the winter and as I said earlier I may well approach it slightly differently next time. So I’ll leave you all with a question…What’s next?