A whole lot of bike riding

I was so excited on Friday afternoon. Firstly, I'd just won a day's holiday from work in a raffle (mid-week ride, yippee) and secondly, the weather forecast was giving a big thumbs up to a long ride for Saturday. FINALLY!!!

So, three triathlon girls set off on a road trip up to Pitlochry to do the Etape Caledonia route. We perhaps spent a bit longer getting ready than we should have so it wasn't til almost 11am that we set off for a stunning ride round Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch. It's been a while since I've had a proper long ride so I was loving every second (even if a bit nervous that Jo and Charlotte's week in Lanza would make it tough to keep up with them).

Coming back round to Kinloch Rannoch for the second time we popped into a local cafe for a quick bite to eat. Marvelling at the beautiful menu and chatting to some other cyclists, I suddenly realised that daylight doesn't last forever and maybe being half way round the ride at half two wasn't enirely ideal.

Quickly wolfed down my scone and set off up the big climb over the Schiehallion road. Very quickly, there was snow on either side but luckily the road was clear. As I was reaching the summit, I could see a man up ahead, pushing his bike.

'Need a hand?' (noting the puncture)
'No, no, I'm absolutely fine'
'Are you sure?' (umm, quite far away from anywhere, surrounded by snow, not wearing many layers)
'Yep, I'm just going to walk for a few miles, I think there might be phone reception down near one of the farms and I'll phone my wife'.

I'm not sure about the odds of three female road cyclists rescuing a man who doesn't know how to fix a puncture but I imagine it's quite rare. Apparently he never gets punctures so doesn't carry any spares (on an 80mile ride through a very quiet area and over a mountain).
Eventually he let us fix it for him, donating an inner tube, he suggested we ride together to Aberfoyle then promptly raced up the hill and left us. Charming!!

Getting increasingly worried about approaching darkness, we continued on, made a minor navigational error (obviously 81miles just wasn't enough) and eventually got back to Pitlochry with back lights on (none of us had thought to carry a front one).

Defintely the biggest ride of the year. Great way to start.

Not so sure that 87miles on Saturday was the best preparation for Sunday's race, but you have to make the most of the good weather when you've got it.

Sunday was my first road race. An Australian Pursuit Race and one of the very few all-female races in Scotland. I've actually never ridden with so many girls before and it was such a great experience for that alone. I tried to disguise myself as a roadie so took the visor off my helmet but I suspect nobody was fooled. I was in the second group to go off. I think the organisers had a tough job sorting out the handicaps as there were loads of newcomers. Presumably they decided that I'd done a bit of racing before and was probably not too hazardous to be in a chaingang and therefore didn't need to be in the total novice group.

Unfortunately group two had some amazingly strong girls in it who shot up the first hill faster than the speed of light. The entire peloton fell to pieces with most girls trying to hide in at the back. I tried to fill a gap and take two turns at the front in quick succession. As I felt my heart, lungs and legs explode I decided this was overly heroic. Too late. I got spat out the pack and sucked back into oblivion, to watch them disappear. Lots of the others got dropped soon after but that was no comfort to me as I blasted on by myself. Why did I think this was a good idea? My legs are tired (remember why?).

The third and then the fourth groups whizzed past and each time I hung on for as long as I could and just tried to survive until they dropped me. Every so often I'd pass someone from the first group and offer my wheel, hoping they'd jump on and we could work together. Each time it was refused with a look that said 'please leave me to die in peace'. Road racing is brutal.
Finally I hooked up with another two girls from West Lothian club and the three of us worked together. They were impressively strong on the hills and after each hill let me sit in behind them to recover for a bit before taking another turn at the front.

I'd thought the race was 25miles but they'd changed it to 30 at the last minute. Those last 5miles were an eternity. Could have done with some sports drink. Or anything to see me through. But eventually I got to the finish, just behind the West Lothian girls (it was on a hill). Need to work on my hills, need to work on my tactics but I'll be back for more. It's tough but good! And 40 women racing has got to be a record for Scotland - this might be the start of something?


kate said…
what an awesome weekend! well done. the road race sounds like torture, but in a good way. i've still not plucked up the courage to ride skinny tyres with anyone else, let alone race with with 40 others. brilliant stuff.
The German said…
Weel done lass !

In the guys defence ...no actually he does not deserve one. Male pride vs getting a girl to fix your puncture ...he ended up with the better of the stories to tell-sadly, probably nobody will beleive him.

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