Registration on Saturday meant get my number and timing chip and some swag. But also to go collect my new ELN Jersey. However the list for jerseys to be collected had me down for 2! I had ordered one then emailed to change the size which was all acknowledged and I have the order up date but it seems the collection list wasn’t connected. I was honest and only collected the one from the updated order. Then check into my hotel and grab some dinner and a couple of pints 🙂
4.45am is not a great time for waking up even to go cycling. Neither is 5 am to receive a call from Simon, As I pick up the phone it’s what has happened thought that is in my mind. Turns out Graham realised late that he had left his cycling hoes 160 miles away and Simon was wondering if I had a spare pair. Nope so Graham was to do the event in his trainers
We meet at Eden Court and a very cheery and enthusiastic marshal points us towards the start. The start line has moved around the corner since last I did this but it was still the familiar shuffling along until it was out 1 minute warning and then we were off.
This was Lucys first event so plenty of checking she was still with us. It was a misty start but dry but that made us still be cautious crossing white lines.
Memory fails me but it seemed like only 10 or 15 miles in before we came on a casualty being attended to on the road.
On towards Invermorriston and we wait for Simon and Lucy to get back to us. This section rolls with some climbs that begin to string everyone out. Plenty of Bike Porn to be checked and it was about here that we saw one rider who appeared to be wearing jeans! They certainly weren’t normal cycling trousers. We passed a ride on an e-bike which must have topped out on its assist help but we were able to be faster at this stage.
Just before Fort Augustus the rider in front of Graham and I drifts off the edge of the road and clips the soft verge and is thrown to the ground. We pull over to help and he is out cold. Graham check on the rider and I start to warn the approaching masses. I knew there was a reason for wearing my Yellow arm warmers! 2 riders stop to help they are paramedics. Mobile not working to call 999 but Simon Rolls up and calls relaying the update from the Paramedics One holding the riders head still. By now he had some around and was able to answer questions. 15 – 20 min and a Motor bike Marshall arrives with news that the Ambulance is behind him It’s the fast response car and it’s paramedic gets an update and takes over. We meet one of the initial Paramedics at the end and she says that the rider got taken in the ambulance and reckons he shoulder was broken too. While we were helping Lucy cycled past so no it was time to catch Lucy!
Over the canal at Fort Augustus and onto THE CLIMB. Graham goes at his own pace and Simon Rides with Me. On my previous two occasions doing this event I had to walk parts of the climb. Not today! I wont say I sailed up it and at times i could feel my face getting hotter so much so I must have started to look like Violet Beauregarde. Past Loch Tarf and the Macmillan team and then it’s the sharp start of the final stage. Simon takes off only to admit later that what he thought was the summit was a false one and he had sprinted too early. Still no Lucy, but she had phoned earlier to say she had passed the summit. I did feel happy reaching the summit today as this was 3rd time lucky. The previous two ascents had required periods of walking, so well happy. The three of us regrouped at the summit, then it was time to engage launch mode for hyper drive and take off down hill. It was BRAW! Pedaling hard and fast to Foyers where we regroup and still no sign of Lucy. Each white Gilet we see we wonder is that her!
A couple of wee climbs on this section with one final climb after Dores to contend with. Each rise knocked some of my pace but Simon paced me back up tp Graham. It was on this section that I spied the cycle jersey I aspire to have. Across the back it had “Pedaling Pensioner”!
For a man cycling in trainer on top of SPD pedals Graham was powering on. He could have been unstoppable with his proper shoes and cleated in but we tried to stick together as much as possible.
Coming out of Dores another white Gilet is spotted. This time it is Lucy! She had managed up the Big Climb and kept going. With 7 miles to go it was now head down to the finish. Simon cycled with Lucy wile Graham and I opened a small gap on them. Pushing on through Scaniport ( must look up the origin of its name) and then it’s the Tesco Roundabout. This is police managed to allow shoppers in and out and then we are on to single lane closure. There is an extra obstacle in our way. Due to road works they have put a BMX ramp style over some road furniture.
Still pushing on like a man on a mission it’s down past the castle and over the river. Ever Cautious of the turn on to the cobble at the finish straight and then sprint.
Off into the Highland Gathering Park to get our goodie bags and by the time we have those we already have a text with our chip times. Simon and Lucy arrive a couple of minutes later. We stand around and chat for a bit with some competitive banter from Simon of next year being every man and women for themselves to see what time they could race too. For her first even Lucy enjoyed the event and route. Then its time for Simon to check if he got a parking ticket. He had been jammy and got a space in the council car park right outside the Event hub.
Early on in the event we passed a girl on an e-mtb. The sped restrictions meant we sailed passed her. After her crash stop she caught up with us on the big climb and sailed past us with many cyclists calling out for a tow. Then after the hill due to the speed limiter we again caught and passed her on the down hill.
Back to the hotel for a quick shower and down the road. As I neared the turn off for Carrbridge I see a cyclist on the A9, no not Simon, but as I go past I see that they have their number on their bike from the Etape. So not being content with the 65 miles they have cycled into and then home after the event!
Having the even in August I feel benefited me as it gave me longer to rack up miles in my legs compared to trying to find opportunities in the winter to get out or to suffer for shorter rides in the garage.
Oh yes interest is registered for next year.
ps. My legs are not enjoying the stairs this morning!