Saturday, May 24, 2014

Celtman Recce Weekend Part 2 - The Bike

Overnight in Gairloch, the drizzly rain at least kept the air temperature warm and we had a much better night's sleep.  In the morning the wind had dropped so I cooked calmly amongst the midges whilst Mr Rodgers obeyed instructions to hide in the tent in the avoidance of flailing itchy arms.

Substantial amounts of faffing were involved in getting ready for the ride - finding all the bits of bike that had been squirrelled away in the car for the journey and dressing in the appropriate clothing.

We set off in partial rain though not so bad as to warrant a waterproof, enough to be a bit chilly on the descents. 

The reassuring part of starting in Gairloch is we got all the serious climbing out of the way at the start of the day.  Not so much of a problem for me but Mr Rodgers on his fixie didn't relish the thought of big climbs late in the ride.

The weather improved as we headed for Poolewe.  Much of the hillocks I remembered from years gone by.  A few corners surprised me.  At Poolewe we had coffee and cake courtesy of Maggie's tea shop, the only time I had to push my lightweight, skittery bike was on her steep gravel driveway.  At 11:30 we kept it light in recognition of the approaching 8-mile long ascent.  We passed the Dundonnel Hotel and An Teallach shrouded behind in skirts of cloud.  Andrew stopped to flip his wheel into a lower gear and I removed my baselayer in anticipation of warm Trep. 

The climb was long and there were steep sections.  I planned to drop a gear for race day.  Not in recognition of its difficulty but by way of planning to save my legs for the run later in the day.  I've shaved 3kgs of the weight of my bike this year, I'm not going to gripe about adding a few grams worth of gear teeth.

The climb opens up into the most spectacular summit with the Slioch and the Letterewe Forest to your right and Beinn Dearg and the Inverlael Forest to your left.  
Trepid Explorer in a Wide Open Space
I stretch my arms wide open as best as possible on a twitchy triathlon bike and embrace life before starting the moorland crossing to the Altguish Inn where we stop for a delicious burger and chips #feast of champions.
My gorgeous husband checks out the mountain menu (map) at the Inn
The toughest part of the day is the descent to Garve.  Whether it's the burger, or the draining descent on a really shitty road surface into a head wind, it's tough and we hit the turning and climb back over to Achnasheen with lead in our legs.  Once the climb is done though, the sun is out and we spend a very fruitful 15 miles in full sunshine down to the station where we have to raid the local rail station for more drinking water and less layers.

The bliss continued as the road surface improved all the way to Kinlochewe and the Torridon turn off until I realise this road is not on the course.  I would have turned at Achnasheen to head off for T2.  Oh well.
Google street view demonstrates my point.  It's not what you can do for the EU but what the EU does for Scotland!
(A later inspection of Google maps implies that the road surface might be similar on the race road.  We're heading back to check it out when we arrive the week before race day).

When we get to Kinlochewe again (this time on our bikes) we're back on the beginning of the course and I haul along it admiring the view of the "other sides" of the Torridon mountains.  We're pushing only 12 miles an hour and I can look forwards to proceeding at more impressive pace at the beginning of my ride next time... though still considering that my feet will be numb after the swim.

There's a couple of killer climbs going into Gairloch.  They are preceded by some killer descents too which are really good to ride, especially when there's no cars on them in the early evening.  I stop at the top of the cliffs to take pictures of the fog at sea, partially obscuring the isles of Rona and Raasay.  Later I can see both Black and Red Culin beyond on the Isle of Skye.  My ability to use my camera phone is impaired at this point by my fatigue and the sunshine.  I have a chat with a passing dog-walker whilst I wait for TSK on his fixed wheel machine.  Whilst I've been enjoying the descents he's been churning out more painful pedal revs.
Raining sunshine.  The Isle of Raasay partially obscured by cloud.
Blue skies, yellow sandy beaches, crystal clear ocean.  I love Scotland.
The ride out to the camp site is at least mostly flat but we're too lazy to ride around to the main entrance so hop over the fence with the bikes and ride through from the remote end of the site, apologising to a couple as we pass for disturbing their peace.  They're interested in what we've been doing and tell us that the Applecross sportive was today, explaining all the road bikes we've seen moving the other way along the main road.

Back at the tent there's a scrabble for shower paraphernalia and dinner cooking before crashing out in anticipation for tomorrow's run.  At least the breeze is blowing and the midges are gone.

Ride stats: 185km, 6h:50mins rolling time (with quite a bit of faffing), 1291m climbing.

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