Last weekend saw Beth and I in Scotland for the Etap Caledonia. This is an 80 mile cycle sportive on fully closed roads. The only sportive on closed roads in the UK. I saw this event last year and really wanted to give it a go. I entered early to avoid disappointment. Beth managed to book a B&B in Aberfeldy from Friday through to Sunday night for us and Alex and Nita (Beth’s Mum and Dad). I had taken Friday and Monday off work. We drove up to Manchester on Thursday night after work and set off for the B&B on Friday arriving in the afternoon, stopping in the Lakes on the way up for lunch. I registered on Saturday in Pitlochry and the town was buzzing with cyclist just under 3000 riders had entered the event. The local cycle shop was doing a great trade in waterproofs. I registered and picked up my race number and timing chip with Beth and then met Alex and Nita for a coffee.
Up early on Sunday morning for a 7.02 start time. Beth dropped me off about a mile from the start with about 20 mins to spare. I entered Ptilochry on my bike only to find about 2000 riders between me and the start line. No way was I going to get to the front in time, they were 15 abreast. I managed to get to the front just in time for the third wave to leave 7.04 just two minutes down on my allotted start time. It didn’t mater as my race didn’t start until I rolled over the timing mat.
I found the first 10 mile of the ride tough as it was over rolling roads with some short sharp climbs. None of the hills were long but they just kept coming, things settled down when we reach Lock Tummel and a pelaton formed with about 30 riders. This group then flew along Lock Tummel and Rannoch, about 40 miles in, the only real climb came, this is the climb up to the top of Schiellion about a 1000m of climbing (see photo below).
I had just passed the first feed station when I punctured in my rear tyre, I was gutted, I wanted to get round the 80 mile course in under 4 hours, and stopping to fix the puncture would make it almost impossible. It was then that I noticed that I was not the only one to puncture, when I took my rear wheel off I found three carpet tacks in it. It soon became obvious that someone had sabotaged the course and spread hundreds of tacks all over the road. I changed the inner tube and continued up the climb to the top of Schiellion it was a really sad sight riding up the climb with hundreds of people all fixing punctures. I got to the top of the climb and was just about to start the decent when a marshal shouted at me to stop, the race had been suspended.
This is what a lot of bike riders look like, at the top of a mountain in Scotland, waiting to find out if the race would restart.
After a hour and a half it was decided that the race would restart, with a controlled descent behind a police car and some motorbikes. I looked at my Garmin on the way down and noticed that I was clocking just over 40km/hour. At the bottom of the descent I flashed by Betty, Nita and Alex at the junction of the Aberfldy road. It was an all out blast to the finish in Pitlochry great fun I really enjoyed the ride and will be back again next year. Pity about the wait and the punctures though. It turns out that a locale councillor has been charged for spreading the tacks, apparently he was protesting about the roads being closed for about four hours one day a year. It won’t stop me from coming back next year though. This ride was the closest I have come to being in a proper bike race and it’s great fun.