|Lorna and me at Loudoun Hill- about a third of the way to Edinburgh.|
But fitness was a pretty minor concern compared to worries about the 'good old' Scottish weather. Outdoorsy people know that this is usually the crux of any day out in this country. Strong winds and/ or heavy rain would make the game a bogey. 'No refunds will be issued if the event is cancelled'- the website said. I was skint, so it was with some trepidation that I clicked the 'Pay Now' button. Nigh on £60 duly left my bank account. All I could do was watch the long distance forecasts and hope. Not my usual Scottish sport plan...
|Summary of Sportive route|
We were at the start line in Glasgow Green just as the sun rose at 6.30 am. I felt like a zombie as we chatted to some of Lorna's buddies from the roadbike scene. Lorna and I teamed up with her keen cyclist pal Stuart. Our trio were united by the simple desire to complete the Sportive- a fast time not a priority for any of us. The MC did some crowd warm up routines and at around 6.45 we were off, heading through South Glasgow on the first leg of the journey out to Loudoun Academy (Ayrshire). I enjoyed the sociable feel to riding in such a large group and everyone seemed very excited by the occasion too.
After a refuelling stop at Loudoun we were very keen to get warmed up again. With the wind coming from the East the dry air seemed very chilly and Autumnal. Leaving Galston there was no doubt we were going to be warm, however, as this next 25 mile section of the Sportive really made us work. Three Category 3 climbs came in quick succession, followed by a cheeky chaser of a Cat 4- all before reaching the landmark of Loudoun Hill. The single track B road we were following was busy with fellow Sportive riders, including one tanned European looking chap who dropped us at Loudoun- riding a Brompton folding city bike. He must have been a Tour de France pro on his day off...
|Profile of the route- it's hilly!|
|Lorna & Stuart refuelling at the Crawfordjohn stop|
We passed underneath the M74 and soon afterwards I got a front wheel puncture. It was annoying as I'd only just fitted 'puncture resistant' Gatorskin tyres the day before. I changed the tube as quickly as I could and we were underway again. By this point the wind had started to come round to the South West and we really benefited from it as we traversed Eastwards over the Southern Uplands. This is quite a spectacular section, made all the more enjoyable by the sun keeking out from behind the clouds. The deserted roads seemed more amenable and it felt like we were winning the fight.
Just before we reached the final feeding station we hit a short, but comically steep section by Carmichael (South Lanarkshire). I'd read from other people's blogs that there was a very steep hill late on in the Sportive, but I wasn't quite expecting the steepness of this little monster. It would make a great sledging hill in the Winter- but maybe a bit on the steep side?! The universal reaction from our fellow Sportive riders, now c.75 miles into the route, was disbelief- ranging from laughter to attacks of Tourettes at the sight of this mean surprise. Cycling races denominate hill climbs based on the French system ranging from Category 5 (the easiest) to Cat 1 (extremely hard), and then the ultimate difficulty- Hors Categorie (HC). In my opinion this hill was one stage harder than the French Hors Categorie. It was Hoors Category on the Scottish scale. While many around us walked, me and Lorna decided to try to cycle it. Dropping into our granny gears, we employed a weaving zig zag approach that eventually saw us summit succesfully. High five time!
|Lorna chuffed to have summited the brutal Carmichael Hill|
Lorna and me were forced to take on some more food as we approached the city boundary. Though we didn't really voice it, we both thought we could detect the dreaded 'wall' approaching. Thankfully the addition of a few extra calories seemed to do the trick and we were soon on the final, exhilarating zip down through Balerno and through to the finish at Murrayfield. We crossed the finish line in the stadium- delighted and exhausted. What a day out!