Sunday- The day after the day before
As I rouse, the legs are achy, the sunburned skin is as crisp as an overcooked Christmas Turkey and the liver…well, the liver should be pickled in a jar on a mad scientist’s laboratory shelf.
It’s the morning after the day before. Where Derek, Mark, Sherpy and myself took part in the Aviemore 100. A day of mixed emotions and success.
The following story is best enjoyed with a glass of the good stuff with this playlist curated to enhance the story. ( play and read away)
My morning slumber is interrupted. Firstly, the shower goes on and then I feel mini tremor like vibrations through the floorboard. One of The BCR is up….early. The Tremors. Could it be a passing train on the Inverness line a stone’s throw away? Sunday morning, none due. Then a few ‘ naa na na nas’ echo from the bathroom. I put two and two together and can only deduce.
Me ‘Sherpy you dancing in the shower?”
Sherpy “ aye man…mind this song fae The Vault where it’s always the 90’s? My lama’s in the morning he’s got a tambourine, my lamas got no power, he’s got a tambourine….freed from desire” He goes on…& on!
I would like to say he is giving us all a fine rendition of one of the dance classics from our youth “Gala’s Free’d from desire’, but naw he was the drummer in the band. It’s a techno-squawkle. Yet a techno-squawkle that’s a timely reminder to how our day at the Aviemore 100 ended, In The Vault throwing some serious shapes to the 90’s dance classics we were weaned on ( The shapes were probably squares to match our pedalling in the Glenmore forest right enough). All this in harmony with aiding and abetting the worldwide shortage of C02 in parallel to persistently refusing the various attempts from our batshit crazy cohorts, neighbours and neebors – Craig and Leanne to participate in the illicit over-consumption of the 90’s alcopop Hooch(sorry neebs hated it then, nowt changed with age). A smile and a chortle escape my hangover as I recount the shenanigans. Then Mark gets in on the act.
Mark ”Sherpy will you just shuuuuut –the –fuuuuuck up”
But first, let me take you back to the start.
Friday(Day before Aviemore 100)- Escaping the Rat Race
Time: 15:58 shutting down computer. [pause] a FORCE SHUTDOWN request box appears on the screen. The fekking thing only seems to do that when your wanting tae get a flyer! A FORCED SHUTDOWN is initiated by a guillotine-like chop of the right index finger on the computer mouse. The laptop is disconnected and bagged. My Jacket is wheecht’d from the back of my chair and glancing salutations are paid to my remaining colleagues. I excitedly scurry out of the office. IN/OUT board status set to OUT and I’m offski.
With a fascination and propensity towards the Teutonic when it comes to planning and timelines, here’s how this should play out, providing there are no Spaniards in the works, that is!
- 10 minutes to get home. Get sorted and get a little quality time with the family before debarkation.
- 45 minutes before Mark chaps the front door
- 1 hour 5 minutes before we pick up Derek and his bottles of wine
- 3 hours 20 Minutes before we land in Mikes Bikes to register.
- 4 hours before we are ensconced in Red wine and pasta.
- 7 hours before I wish I had less red wine and pasta
Well, that’s the plan, let’s see how this plays out?
CLUNK CLICK -seat belt on. Van started, Bluetooth detected and tunes kick in. Foot down. The clock starts (=T). Home I go, escaping the labours of Industry, if only for a weekend.
I arrive home and no time is wasted packing bags. They have been stacked, packed and making a slow migration from the bedroom to front door under the suspicious eye of the missus since the start of last week! “Yes, awright “I have been looking forward to the Aviemore 100. In fact, I haven’t had this level of sporting excitement and anticipation since last year’s Tour of The Highlands.
(T+42 minutes -*3mins ahead of schedule)
A-rat-a-tat-tat echoes from the door. Mark is at the door and is shouldering a weekend bag and steadying his bike with one hand. ” awright” he announces. His smile stretches from ear to ear, conveying the look of a mischievous teenager who has just snuck out his bedroom windae with a 1/2 bottle of vodka nicked from his Dad’s drinks cabinet. We speak in conspiratorial hushed tones and load the van with bikes and contraband (before his missus Valerie clocks on that he’s disappeared) We drive away. Immediately I feel like I have forgotten something. Fuck…I loop back round to the house and say goodbye to Eve and the kids.#parentingthefuckoutofit
Derek is waiting in his driveway, equally expectant with his bike and a big weekend bag. To speed up the embarkation process I jump out and go for an unsuccessful one armed swipe of his bag. The bag remains on the driveway with my arm.
“Fuck me..whits in the bag? I should have put a weight limit on this”
“Just my gear” Bits-n-bobs he announces, followed by a healthy pause….. “and some bottles of wine,” he remarks with a mischievous glint
“you are forgiven, my friend… Jump in…but you see to your own bag!”
We rapidly secure the bikes like a military unit that’s been out of action for months and wants to get in the thick of it before the mission is aborted. Playlist lined up (BCR Launch night playlist. Diesel in the tank….time to hit the road jack, but just before we do so. Every journey of 130 miles starts with a forecourt Costa Coffee( Black Americano no sugar) and then we are offski.
An hour intae the journey and we receive a call from Sherpy. I answer on the van loudspeaker
“I’m Alejandro Valverde”! he announces like he’s Ricky Martin coming out from under the wardrobe.
” Soy Daz, mucho gusto!” I reply
“Naw, I’ve just registered at Mikes Bikes and I’ve been assigned Rider No 1! So I’m Valverde” (in reference to the Spaniard’s world tour ranking) the excitement bubbling out of him. NOTE this is no correlation to his expected finishing position! In fact, I’ve never heard him this excited since the last ‘four Mars bars for a pound’ promotion at the local petrol station. Having some o that…
“aye Chapeau” I retort with a fraction of the enthusiasm
“…you got the dinner on yet?” Mark chides.
Our Monsieur Sherpy arrived in Aviemore earlier this afternoon ahead of us. The purpose two-fold.
1) To be the patron of the Pasta party he has promised. Go to the local markets and pick up the finest ingredients and wines! etc etc etc!
2) To acquaint himself in the wondrous ways of the mountain bike as he has flung his leg over more supermodel hardtail than he has mountain bike hardtail! ( For the record and to retain marital harmony, I’m pretty sure he’s not had any shady dalliances with supermodels unless that is? He had an unhealthy fascination with Barbie and Ken through puberty?)
Back to the journey. Chat, choons and nervous energy have the journey dissipating in front of us. In a blink that has lasted only 2hours 15 minutes, we find ourselves passing La Taverna- the gateway to Aviemore. We pass the Skiing doo and take a right, down into the Myrtlefield car park where Mikes Bikes can be found.
(T + 3hrs 15)
We quickly dive into the shop to register. We are assigned Rider numbers 2, 3 and 137!! That latter number of 137 assigned to Mark will provide a little logistical start problem for us the next day. More of that to come.
With numbers, cable ties and didgeridoo (timing dabbers) sorted it’s back into the van we go. The bellies are empty and in need of pre-race fuelling. The imminent pasta party promised by Sherpy is much anticipated.
Arriving in the driveway we are met with the sweet smells of garlic, onions and herbs emanating from the slightly ajar and steamed up kitchen window. We barge in and Sherpy (Il Pirata) as promised is installed in the kitchen doing his best Keith Floyd impression i.e. One splash of red for the dish, two glugs for the chef. We enter the living room where the dining table is scattered with an assortment of Charcuterie and olives. A bottle of red seductively breathing with the backdrop of 3 glasses inviting us in. The wine? Italian of course to fit the mood. Valpolicella. Ahhh la dolce vita.
” when you’re in love with beautiful women…..” comes warbling from the ‘happy chef’ in the kitchen. One of the many earworms that will inflict us like tinnitus over the forthcoming 48hours.
The bags can wait as we wire intae the Charcuterie. A comfortable space is allowed between the anti-pasta and main course(I don’t know how deliberate this!). Either way, we use it to good effect to encourage the uptake of Polyphenols and antioxidants into the bloodstream. Upping our He-red-wine-a-crit levels. A slight twist on the US postal blood transfusions. Then comes the lashings of Linguini carb loading feast. Making a healthy inroad to the 10g carbs per KG body weight per day Carbohydrate pre-race uptake! 1st and then 2nd servings are dispatched with consummate ease. Not my first pasta rodeo you see.
A text comes in fae big Graeme and Ian, also up for the event tae hook up for a pint. A hum is hawed! Choking to, but it’s nearly ten bells and you never just go out for one, right! Well, at least we don’t. We still have the van and bags tae unload, plus I need to accessorise my newly custom painted Specialized Tarmac (coincidentally purchased fae Mikes Bikes many moons before) wi hipster tan wall tires delivered yesterday. So with that and in fear of the ‘in for a penny in for pound mentality kicking in’ we apologetically decline for the time being.
I swap out my new tyres. Bikes are numbered and reloaded into the van. We while the next hour with another couple of bottles of wine. Still red. Still Italian. Sleeping arrangements are instructed and we head off, rather sensibly for once.
I think I have overdone the red wine and pasta!!
LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER
WHAT IS THE AVIEMORE 100
This is the inaugural Aviemore 100. The brainwave of the good folks at Mikes Bikes (Sally Devlin/Mike/Jenny) to put a little twist and disruption into the ubiquity of the standard cycling race and sportive calendar. Chapeau to them.
A 70K/30K split between road and mountain biking on and around the roads of Aviemoe and then onto the trails of Glenmore forest. Participation is either individually or in teams of two with a road/MTB split. We have all opted to double down on the individual entry. The split format has got me a little bit excited though. Since my road bike obsession took over the MTB has been displaced and resigned to leisurely pootles with the family. It’ll be good to back on some proper trails once again.
The morning and breakfast passes with minimal fuss and more importantly, without any sightings of the whirling demented Basil Fawlty figure I cut when hosting the boys up here during last years Tour of the Highlands.
Learned my lesson. The memo pre-stay this time to make things logistically simpler( pour moi) was as follows.
- Bring your own breakfast for Saturday
- Bring a towel ( as our washing machine is currently knackered)
However, getting ready to depart we encounter two large 700mm diameter problems. We retrieve bikes from the back of the van and Derek’s back tyre is flat and my front tyre is near flat! WTF!!! No time for speculating or root cause analysis here. Need tae get on with reparations, tout sweet! I blast some air into my tire to realise the valve is leaking and only needing a wee right tighty nip to hold the pressure. We then set about Derek’s wheel. Both repairs have been executed in under 10 minutes. Hardly Ferrari pit crew …but no fucking bad!
We set off rolling over the steaming wet ground. Evidence of last nights rain is slowly evaporating in a silver puff as we roll across the steamed tarmac.
The decision to ride back and forth from Aviemore to the event was dual purpose.
1) Logistically easier
2) Allows a detour via some watering holes post-event.
(up there for thinking down there for pedalling he says with a metaphorical tap of the head and point to the feet)
We reach the sun glazed Hayfield near Glenmore and scout out our hired Mountain steeds for the day. Saracen mantras. They are waiting with our names on them, hired from Mikes the organisers themselves. I give it a quick 360o walk around and it looks a good spec to be re-cutting my MTB teeth on. Shit mountain bikes have evolved. Handlebars are huge as are the wheels. 29ers. Anyway, fuck it nae time for test rides. A couple of weaves and skids around the Hayfield and that as fast and as durty a calibration as time will allow.
Graeme and Ian, the eager beavers roll up and are excitedly raring to go. We load our transition stations with bags and empty any provisions required for the road section, namely fuel to keep the fires burning.
There’s a megaphone shout out, alerting us of imminent race start The first wave of twenty riders are called forward. In which Sherpy, Derek and myself are placed ( Team Movistar with Alejandro Valverde) Mark, Ian and Graeme a further 7-10 waves in arrears. That will be anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour back, blowing our social intention of a planned group ride on the road followed by every man to themselves on the trail. We mull the options and set forth on a plan.
Mark opts to brass it and surreptitiously attaches his race number along with his frame as opposed to the across the handlebars. With a well-placed thigh, he can conceal the last number. Say hello to rider 13, not 137! Genius.
We slow play our walk to the start line and take up a position towards the rear of the gathering riders. Our assigned pole position place will draw too much attention to the 21st rider!! The pre-race induction gets underway then we roll forward and dib our dabbers and off we go. Mark nonchalantly rolls though. No foul no harm.
We roll off casually except an excited Derek who has gone off quicker than a pint of milk on a hot day at Ayr beach. Within the first kilometre, he is literally out of sight, to the point, I’m confused and thinking maybe he is still behind. A quick recce proves otherwise. Time to wind it up. It’s a favourable start. Flat then progressively downhill towards Coylumbridge. We reel him slowly and patiently like big game fishers.
We skirt past Boat of Garten and take a right. If you love tree-lined roads and trails, then the winding road from Loch Garten to Nethy Bridge is a good as it gets.
In fact, the back roads around Aviemore are some of my favourite roads in this fair land. Up, down you go weaving left and right through gorgeous lush and verdant forest. Dappled shafts of sunlight bursting through the trees, shuttering the road. There’s a smell of Petrichor hanging in the air. The scent of a wet night warm morning is rising up from the forest floor. If this route was a wheel, a happy hamster I’d make. This first umpteen miles are pure unadulterated Cycling bliss.
The further and longer we ride, one thing becomes obvious for this event. The omission of big pelotons and chain gangs you normally associate with most cycling events. As we pass and are passed by numerous solo riders there is a sense of forlorn disconnection.
I’ll put this down to the random allocation of race numbers and the (a cough) strict start waves which we circumvented as opposed to quickest goes first start waves you normally experience at sportives. Depending on which way you dress this, it can be a blessing and curse in equal measures
The BLESSING: This taps into the essence of the purist reasons we love cycling. Wanderlust, isolation and the camaraderie of the stranger soon to be a new friend.
The CURSE: Through discourse with many solo riders en route this has created a certain disconnected and isolated feel. Many have travelled far and wide under the auspices of a stunning ride through the highlands with friends, club mates, husbands, wives and lovers.
Where the first half of the road section has been more akin to a Sunday cafe ride, the second half fires up my innate competitive spirit.
As we approach the rather conspicuous and awkward water station ( FYI couple manning said station are reticent to inform of what was available when questioned) I had hung back from the lads to inquire when my ears are pricked like a gazelle in the savannah.
That unmistakable sound is travelling in the wind. The resonant thrum, pant and rumble of an approaching peloton. There’s a warm haze in the horizon and slowly I first see helmets, then faces, the body’s and then the bikes. At first glance, it looks 12 strong, give or take a few and they are approaching at pace.
Without any conscious thought, a switch is flipped. I turn my back to the rapidly approaching chain gang and begin a flat out sprint. Derek and Mark are 200m ahead. I shout ahead to prepare them and signal my intent. Which is to jump on this train if I can like a true cycling vagabond. They are slow o the uptake but catch the drift, I’m still accelerating as I pass them and as I do so the chain gang and envelope, digest and spit us out. But I’m almost there. I flip another gear, head down and suk every last bit of air into my lungs that I can take and push hard. Like fucking childbirth hard!!! I’m on. Latched on to the last rider. I take a beat to survey the proceedings and assess what the group dynamic is and also to tidy up my breathing.
Eight riders. Only club livery on display is Cairngorm Cycling Club. The rest a disparate set of loners working over and ins. I’m hanging uncomfortably off the back admiring the synchronicity. How long have they been riding together I wonder? From the start, I think to myself! I need to get in on the action but I’m like a kid rocking back and forth before committing and jumping into a double skipping rope sequence. The more I survey the more I’m feeling the rhythm. I pick my moment, a bike length gap presents between riders, I surge forward claiming my space and inclusion in the proceedings.
My cadence is faster than normal 90-100rpm. I’m riding 52 x 17 gear. A happy place. My sweet spot gear. This offers range and dynamic through minimal change. Enough to contend with any quick surges downhill and punches uphill. I’m on the outside line pushing forward, quickly I’m the last remaining rider on the outside line and push forward past the last remaining rider on the inside line. As my wheel passes his “clear” he shouts and I drop in what feels like inches in front of him. The conveyor belt of riders breaching and dropping in continues at pace. Magic, I love this.
We continue rotating mile after mile as the road rises and falls through the Rothiemurchis estate. The accumulative effect of this concertina is starting to take up lactic residency in my legs. Each pull at the front painful. Each move from the fall back line to the forward line, torture.
My mind and body working in harmony like a precision rolled ball inside a bearing is now presenting a rub. Some alarms in my head need a response. First up, a Low alarm; lactic and fatigue in the legs. Second up, a High alarm; My focus is distracted by a pang of guilt that has surfaced from my subconscious. But guilt, for why? It’s not for my receding efforts and place within this group. The penny drops as my compass spins to its magnetic north! It’s for my friends. My amigos of The BCR. The flock I was flying with 20 minutes ago. The same friends I have just forsaken for the thrill of the race. No explanation as to why? No conscious understanding as to why? The subconscious flipped the switch to which I became enslaved. Now as I tire, I’m guilting over it. What a dick move to pull, I think to myself (make sure you read that correctly).
As I contend with the mental turmoil, I respond to my first low priority alarm, my flagging reserves! like a punctured tyre, energy is weeping out my thighs and calves. I pad for the emergency caffeine gel in my jersey pocket. I snatch and bite at it, venting my guilt onto this poor gel that has done me no harm. I fumble for my bidon, swig and force it down, gasping for breath as I part the bidon from my lips. Just as I’m about to respond to the guilt by dropping off the back, *Cairngorm Cycling dude is passing on my right side. He draws level and holds my wheel that he’s been rotating in sequence behind. He appears reticent to break the sequence until he has checked what my situation is?
” Are you good” he quickly asks. Either noticing a deviation in my demeanour or a decrease in my speed. We briefly chew the fat. I don’t want to face defeat, let alone admit it. This is just the intervention I needed to rescue my ride. My mood and reserves are responding through this brief discourse. Lightness to my legs, volume to my lungs.
“am good” and surge forward again. (*Through the powers of Strava Fly-by. Chapeau to Brian Fishpool of CCC for the unconscious, yet timely disruption to my spiralling mind).
A marshall is ahead and signalling us to slow down as we now hit the left-hand turn at Coylumbridge. We begin the stepped climb back to the Hayfield. The pack a minute before working like well-oiled machine fractures and splits. The wild west of cycling time. Already two riders have jumped in the Titanic lifeboats and sailed off the front on a breakaway. I’m currently at the back of this sinking ship and but slowly finding my gear, slipping into my rhythm. I find myself easing up through the other riders. Soon I’m staring across the gap to the breakaway duo. Decision time? Pull this pack or attempt a bridge across.
The rolling roads earlier had me almost punched out, but with gel consumed and infusing into the comfort of the climb, I’m on the up just like Rocky in the soundtracked montage rounds against Appolo Creed. Instinct over thought has me out the saddle with a quick burst of acceleration and quickly I have bridged over to Rider no 2. Settle down, bob and weave, get my breath back and heart rate back down. Another 200 metres and as we crest another rise I attack off the top again. Such is my fervour I have to brake check to sit on the wheel of rider No1 before I think ‘fuck it’ and carry on the acceleration with a lone breakaway. Head down I settle into my breathing. A minute or two passes and I think I must have built a decent gap, but not so. I’m not the only one having a play at the race game. At this point, the slender dude top to toe in Rapha gear pulls up to my side “fortune favours the brave” he remarks with a good, but not good enough compliment. I draw on his face and then crack a smile out the side of my mouth as it is evident that his empty eyes are betraying his show of brinksmanship.
I’m now settled back into a splintered group from previously. But there’s no cooperation. Good. Time to attempt a last roll of the race game dice. I move through to 2nd wheel then press out front again in the hope of encouraging a bit race spirit and hopefully a sprint finish into transition but no takers! Instead, I end up leading out the drawn-out bunch through the Marshalls and photographers(cheese) before slamming the brakes and dismounting.
Gender Transitions are quicker than my road to MTB transition?
Some riders are jogging awkwardly in cleats towards their MTB’s for a quick transition. My dick move earlier has me thinking ‘fuck that’ I’ll wait for the rest of the boys, that’s if they are still talking to me? Thus my disposition does a 180 as I casually cruise my bike through the transition with Sagan-esque nonchalance, guiding her with one slow hand on the saddle. A look completely incongruous to the rider whom only a minute ago came whoring round the bend slamming the brakes hard. A transition helper/attendant with a sense of urgency ( in stark contrast to my own) is briskly attempting to shepherd me towards my mountain bike. “yir awright, I’m not in a rush” I languidly point out. Confusion washes over her before a smile spreads. I half strip and fire on a pair of MTB shorts. Lycra on a MTB is not quite ‘Bella in Sella’ IMO. Also off comes the long sleeve jersey. With wardrobe change its now time for the picnic. Peanut butter sarnie from the bag
Mark and Derek arrive and transition. We await Sherpy but still nae sign. This act of contrition and self-flagellation has meant I have grossly overstayed my welcome in transition.
We walk up the hill, Rat pack back together minus of Sherpy. I dab out of the transition a tardy 27 minutes after arriving! Room for improvement me thinks!
Did dab done we now bounce onto our long-horned steads with buoyant excitement, however, we are redirected from the path to a walker’s steep path uphill into the brush which has bottlenecked with riders An intro for a couple of frustrating quirks of the MB route? Time to take a few photos.
Back on the path for a short while and we are redirected again off piste and through a marsh/boggy section. The bike grinds and sinks to a stop. Majority of riders are having to pad this out also. The enthusiasm for starting the mountain bike leg soon turns to frustration as we are forced to hop on and off the bikes. Design intent or race congestion? However, this detour opens up to a beautifully isolated section of Loch Morlich that I’ve never been to yet.
Back on the path and more importantly back on the bike, heading around Loch Morlich. Talk is cheap as we just want to get into the ride now. We rise up away from Loch Morlich before being turned right onto a deeply rutted Land Rover path. Rutts you could lose a small kid in. This is more like the terrain I was hoping for. The rutts are awkward and handling this long steaded mantra is proving tricky yet confidence is growing.
I’m deftly overtaken by a rider adorned in the livery of Mikes Bikes Race Team. She’s effortlessly navigating the rutts. I jump on her wheel and follow her lines assuaging that she’ll have some local intel. Her bike appears to hover over the edges of the rutts. This is a fine display of speed, aggression and bike handling. She is taking on lines that my untrained eye fail’s to see. I blindly follow and Derek clicks and tucks in behind. She hits a hard right and the trail drops down and rips through the overgrown brush. I follow suit and realise that sore and skint knuckles are in the post as I fist the handlebar edges through bush after bush at speed
Didn’t feel much love for the quirky early section, but enjoying this quick downhill bash through the brush. Fun is soon arrested as we are sent onto another very rooty walking path where once again bottlenecks force’s the majority of the lycra clad participants dabbling in MTB( a lot for the first time) and will class a speed bump as technical, to dismount.
We remount our bike’s wherever trail and traffic allow. We break through the woods onto the path to Badaguish, a quick right onto a fire road sends us through an expanse of deforestation
Fully exposed in the sun the fire road slow grinds up in elevation. I now get a chance to chat to my unwitting guide of the last few K. (I later find this out to be Carolyn Stead from the prize winners later) Chapeau for the rutted section Masterclass.
At the end of this sloggy grind, a dismount is required to traverse a log crossing a stream. This is followed by a let loose downhill section. I let loose a little bit too much, shooting past the startled steward redirecting us on a sharp left back up the hill. I slam the brakes, overshooting and skid out and around, speedway style foot down.
I turn to face a big upswing in the road. A 1k climb that gets steeper, tougher, rougher and hotter the further it rises. I settle in and start to pound out a rhythm. There is a solitary rider winding and grinding his way up ahead. I approach and it turns out to be my neebor and neighbour Craig ( Hooch from earlier). Pain and sweat etched on his face. We wince, heave, blow and blether where gasps for air allow.
We turn another corner hoping to see the end of the climb only to be met with a steeper, rougher and much much hotter climb. My intrinsic motivation is not to let a climb beat me. Just as it was with the Tour of the highlands. I’ve got a gear in hand and I fall down upon it. The gearing on this bike is incredible. I’m spinning furiously and going nowhere, at least that’s how it feels. I look to the right and there is a hedgehog overtaking me.
The marshall is 200m away at the top of the climb and I should have enough range in my legs and lungs to spin and grind this out. The climb is almost over. I’m Sure of it. I’M SURE OF IT!! (get the drill Sergeant out and pistol whip any doubts away) 100metres to the top. I count them down, 90, 80, 70, 50 and the last 50m are soundtracked to claps and shouts of the enthusiastic Marshall. Exasperated I reach the top
” let the fun begin, downhill from here” encourages the Marshall. I take the first 50m slowly to tidy my vitals. The narrow trail is exaggerated by the wider than I’m used to handlebars on the Saracen Mantra. A hard right and it’s intae the forest we go bringing a welcome shelter from the heat.
I throw the bike left and right, all the time picking up speed. The strobe light effect of the brilliant light shuttering through the trees has created a trippy green like fuzz in my vision. I almost feel like I’m in a dream soundtracked by the cracking dried out pine needles on the forest floor. My pedal catches a hidden tree stump and snaps me from the trip, by jerking my bike up and sidewards. I ride it out but I’m now sensitised to these cut-down stumps waiting like snipers. I adopt some rather playful and snappy Michael Flatly footwork to keep peddle high through each turn.
A hooter blast echoes through the forest from somewhere ahead on the trail. It’s Calum from Mikes Bikes warning/pointing me towards a log drop as the trail twists, drops and winds towards him. Been a while since I’ve done shit like this and I’m caught in two minds how to tackle it? All guns blazing or peekaboo? I get caught between stations and bounce the bike over it. The cassette scraping the log as I traverse it. Endeavour trumping style and grace on this one. The last section of this run is a hefty drop off back onto the path. A rider ahead has stepped off and stepped to the side on my approach. I scrub a bit speed and go for it. ” man my MTB skills are rusty as fuck as my front suspension takes the drop and a steadying foot on the deck is required to prevent me ditching it sideways.
Back on the main path and it’s a quick burl back to the start line and upwards and backwards for the 2nd loop.
Wow. We thought pre-event this would be a fast-paced burl through the fire roads of Glenmore. Shit, that was a lot tougher and more technical than we imagined. I wonder how the less MTB seasoned dudes are doing?
Then fling intae the mix, the head fuckyness of a second loop.
I repeat the loop for a second and final time. Staying on the bike a little more, taking Carolyn’s lines through the rutts, ease off on the downhill, grind the climb and attack the log drop, yet still with a lack of grace….. but as Rapha guy said earlier ‘fortune favours the brave’. I fly down towards the finish line and come to a hard-pressed stop. I’m gasping for breath and a cool salacious drink. A Finishers medal is draped around my neck (half oblivious at the time) and a drink and food token are placed in my paw.
I fetch my burger and coke. I chow down and wonder how the others are fairing? Will they finish? More technical than expected, then that overall endurance head fuck of doing a 2nd testing loop! Especially with the hot killer climb towards the end.
I then I spot Sherpy and Mark basking in the sun across the field at our spots in the transition area. Ahhh my fears( and probably theirs) realised.
I head over munching the burger
“too fuckin warm, to fucking technical for me” bullets Sherp.
” I was just fucked” exhales Mark
They are disappointed and annoyed.
I look for words of consolation
” Ahh fuck its beer and wine soon”
Derek comes in a wee while after. Knackered and spotting all of us his head drops. He’s a fit competitive gadge, and I can tell, he thinks he has come last out of our group. It takes a few moments and there is an upswing In his demeanour as he realises that Sherp and Mark, jacked it.
We hang for a while to see if Graeme and Ian finish, but nae sign. Turns out Ian had a technical and had to affect some bike repairs before the 2nd loop. Graeme also had a technical…a triple twist with salco over the handlebars. But the end they made. Chapeau. We work our way back to Aviemore for refreshments via woodshed and The Cairn. Quick showers and change of clothes before we finish the night off with a belter of a meal at the Old Bridge Inn. We relive the day as we get chatting to runners-up in the ladies team competition sat next to us. We then head to The Cairn for a ‘one for the road’!! As per usual that’s where it all goes Pete Tong. We bump into Neebors and Neighbours Craig and Leanne. Before we know it we are in ‘The Vault’.
” Are we not too old for The vault?” someone throws out.
“Fuck naw” Announces Sherpy “its always the fucking 90’s in the Vault” He’s no far wrong
” My Lamas in the morning he’s got a tambourine”
What a day.
Doff of the cycling cap to Sally, Jenny, Mike, Calum and all the folks involved in organising and volunteering their services. With a few tweaks, this could definitely be up there as one of the best on the Scottish cycling calendar. It’ll be on my calendar for next year… hopefully I can trim a few seconds of my 27-minute transition!! Also a big chapeau to Messrs Brian Fishpool for being that rider who had the right word just at the right time without ever knowing it and Carolyn Stead for the gnarly trail masterclass.
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