If you know me you will know that I work well under pressure, so having to decide what to take, pack it, after finding the bag I wanted to pack it in, fit new tyres to the bike, go and pay for the tyres and pick up spare inner tubes from The Bike Shop, all before 12 o'clock. I didn't do too bad and finally left at one to go and pick up Ken.
To say we were like a couple of excited school kids is an understatement. Ken rode the London to Paris last year, so he is used to consecutive day riding but I have never taken part in a two day event before, although I did go out for two consecutive rides a couple of weeks ago. The thing we were looking forward to was riding new roads, and facing new challenging climbs. (neither of us are natural climbers!)
The drive up to Balloch was uneventful, except for hitting the rush hour round Glasgow, which to be honest only held us up for half an hour. The weather was the only thing to literally dampen our spirits. It did not bode well for the weekend as it got wetter the further into Scotland we drove.
The base for the weekend was the Palombos of Balloch B&B. The staff were great, very welcoming and obviously used to cyclists and their weird habits! They even started early for us on Saturday so we could have Breakfast before the check in time for the ride.
As the rooms are above a chipy, I decided that my carb loading had to include Chips, and settled on Battered Haggis and Chips. I have to say, it was a great meal, but not the best pre ride fuel!!
Check in was just round the corner from the B&B. As expected it was raining, but that didn't seem to be affecting the sense of excitement buzzing around the car park as people checked in their luggage for the overnight stop, picked up their ride numbers and did some last minute bike checks.
Asthma UK gave a quick welcome message to the 65 riders and then handed over to the event organisers Wild Fox Events who gave us a safety briefing and an outline of the type of terrain we would be up against. Sarah Perry from Tour De Force, who organise rides that follow the Tour de France route was riding with us and gave us some good tips and advice for achieving our target.
At 8.30 we set off from Balloch and headed towards the shores of Loch Lomond. We rode around the west side of the Loch to Duck Bay where we turned left to head west towards Garelochhead. We met our first climb of the ride, a 7 mile gradual incline that was made a little nastier with a head wind and rain! But to my surprise, I found a good gear and span up, no way the fastest, but much more comfortable than usual. Things were looking good for the dreaded "rest and be thankful"!
We were treated to a fast descent and then another Loch side ride to the first water stop at Arrochar. We were greeted by some local musical talent, which was fantastic, and as water stops go this was up among the best I have seen in many sportives. There was Tea and Coffee, and most importantly, CAKE! As well as water and energy drinks. The organisers had put a lot of thought into the stops, and what people really want to keep them going.
After refuelling we set off round the Loch to the start of the Climb up to "Rest and be thankful"
To be fair, The Horseshoe Pass at 4 miles with an average incline of 4.8% and an elevation gain of 1022ft is tougher than the "Rest" which was 5 miles at an average of 3% and an elevation gain of 814ft (all figures are approx and based on Strava data) but I was still glad to be at the top, and welcomed by David from Wild Fox to what he called a "Gucci" stop! Once again the organisers had got it right and rewarded riders with a little treat at the top of the climb, including a great cheese board and range of chocolate goodness.
The weather had also cleared up, well it wasn't raining any more, so I was able to shed the Sportful Hot Pack and loose the arm warmers. I did however manage to undo all the good work my new Mavic overshoes had done to keep the rain out of my shoes. As I stood at the feed stop, a managed to find a particularly spongy bit of grass that seemed to be holding enough water to completely fill both my shoes via the venting on the bottom of the sole! If there is one thing that makes cycling uncomfortable, it is wet shoes.
|The road we took is the one on the far left (as you look at the picture)|
|The start of the fun bit!|
If you get the chance, I would recommend a visit to Inveraray and why not call in to Brambles and see for yourself?
After lunch we carried on along the coast road,taking in another climb or two before finally heading North through Lochgilphead and on to our over night stop. I don't think I have ever been as happy as I was to see the white peaks of the tents, and the promise of some warm, dry socks.
Once checked in I headed to our tent, locked the bikes up, had a shower and put some dry socks on! Surprising what a difference it made. The weather turned nasty again not long after we arrived and it didn't stop all night. The big tent became a hive of activity as riders arrived and sat listening to the band, but one thing was missing. The one thing, apart from dry socks, you want when you get in from a long ride is some food to replace what you have used up. This was one area the organisation was a little off the mark. For all the right reasons the meal was planned for 7pm, once all the riders had arrived. what this didn't take into account was the faster hungrier riders who had to wait 4 hours for something to eat! Maybe just a plate of beans on toast on arrival would have helped, but there were a few hungry, tired riders by 7 and it was quite funny as the lids were lifted from the serving dishes to watch the sprinters find some energy from somewhere to get to the front of the line! The food was great, and there was certainly enough to fill us up, and prepare us for the next days riding. There was even a Bar, which I avoided, but was well used by the rest of the group. I decided to get an early night, and make sure I had plenty of sleep before Day 2 presented it's challenges.
Day 1 Route: http://app.strava.com/rides/20694182
Day 2 to follow.