Having completed two 100 mile century rides over the last two years and feeling, well, slightly out of place on my 1980’s steel frame bicycle with (only) 10 gears and shifters positioned on the down tube, I know, can you imagine. . . ? I came across L’Eroica Britannia which will be taking place in June 2014 in the Peak District in England. This is the very first time this exciting event has been in the UK, and I fully intend to take part. In fact, I just recieved an email informing me I am one of the first 500 to register and so will be able to qualify for the early bird rate of £55. Its very exciting, and I think it will suit my bicycle, and myself a whole lot more.
The somewhat more testing 110-mile sportive, sharing the same start and finish points as the challenge ride, winds its way through the Southern Uplands and, with a distinct touch of this year’s tour de France, will see participants climb the equivalent of the mighty Alpe D’huez twice.
Its descriptions like the paragraph above mixed with the tail-end of a nasty little cold that had floored me that made me slightly apprehensive about the 110 mile sportive ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh last weekend. It was my second ‘century ride’ and I had hoped it was of similar difficulty (if not easier) than the last one. This was not the case, it was difficult. Lots of steep climbing and long roads that at points felt completely flat but in fact were causing me to pedal frantically in my lightest gear, feeling that I was going nowhere.
I learned some very valuable lessons on this ride. Firstly, it is extremely important to ride as a group whenever and wherever you can. I normally enjoy the solitude of cycling and clearing my head in the silence of my own rhythm and the whirring of the pedalling, in a ride like this, you learn to rely on others when the going gets tough. At points I had to rely on the person in front to give me legs the rest that they longed for, particularly on the category 3 climbs after the 60 mile lunch stop.
Secondly, cyclists are nice folk. I received countless compliments for my leather Brooks Champion Flyer saddle, and also my Reynolds 531 Raleigh Royal touring bicycle. Both these items stood out among the brightly coloured Canondales, Pinarellos, Giants, Treks and Carreras. It felt nice to have something a little different (although weighing twice the weight).
Since last years’ excellent outing through the best food and drink establishments in the city, I was extremely excited about this year. It came as a surprise that the organisers had announced the locations of the host restaurants and pubs beforehand as it almost added something to the mystique of the event that we in fact never knew last year.
Once we got started and met up at the Blythswood Hotel to have some coffee and cakes before setting off downhill towards the Merchant City to have Hendricks gin, and Stornoway black pudding at Cafe Gandolfi. We passed on then over to West Brewery for some fabulous beer in the sunshine. After this light refreshment we made our merry way to the Riverside museum for what seemed like a pointless exercise as no one seemed to know why we were there?
Pushing on (no against the clock it would seem) we entered the westend to visit the Crabshakk (for Oysters) and The Finnieston (for a beautiful Ardbeg / pineapple cocktail). And, then we headed over to Brewdog for more craft beer and then further west to Siempre Cafe for oatcakes with mackerel. By this point, personally I had already made my mind up that the previous year was better, more organised and a little bit more fun. We seemed to be rushing around a little to much and the group was more split than the previous year. Although we did have more stops and some more interesting ones; The Tall Ship, and then The Hillhead Bookclub, when we arrived at both these establishments there were no more drinks served, they had run out. . . poor planning, or just not enough poured?
Last stop was the Big Slope where we had a great bite to eat with generous portions and set off to the Blythswood for the finale and raffle. All in all a great day, but as mentioned earlier, I feel most of the day was planned around a somewhat pointless spot at the STV building and then to make the Hillhead Bookclub for a gentleman ‘rapper’ who actually wasn’t very good. However its more important that we look at the fun we had, the money raised for the charity and lastly the awareness of Harris Tweed. Tally Ho!
A wet start to our cycling tour of Arran, as the day moved on and the miles clocked up we were blessed with some glorious sunshine and decent weather before we left Lochranza for the climb back up to the ferry terminal. A fine day out on an island regarded as ‘Scotland in miniature’, at moments it felt as though Arran was built by cyclists for cyclists with the steep and winding drops and rewarding climbs along the edge of the where the water hugs the beach. I’ll be back.