Braw Lads Baw’ Breaker
Baw’ Breaker adequately summed up my latest “Good Day Out on the BIke”.
Having entered this Sportive way back in April I was a little doubtful that I would ride the event, still suffering from a sore left knee from a fall in early March.
However, since it was an early 8.00am start I decided to travel down on the Saturday evening, staying at the Melrose Hostel. I knew this was a mistake as soon as I walked into the dormitory. The smell of rancid feet and bodies was over powering. Typical walkers hostel! Most of the other guys in the dorm were either walking St Cuthbert’s Way or the Southern Upland Way. The night was restless with much farting and snoring going on: of course I didn’t contribute! The mattress on the bed was rock hard. I swear I would have been better camping and sleeping on my carry mat on the ground!
When 6.00am arrived I capitulated and got up to get breakfast, only to find the members’ kitchen closed. Memo to self: go into a B&B next year. With hostel prices at £18 without breakfast and £24 with it included, it’s not much more expensive to look for B&B. In fact after booking the hostel I fond suitable accommodation at £22, fairly near the start of the event. Next year this is what I will do, although one of the marshals was telling me that Galashiels was a noisy riot on the Saturday night due to Galashiels Gala Day.
I signed in at 7.30am and was raring to go. The morning was spectacularly sunny although a little chilly, perfect riding weather. I was off with the second group which was great as I had set myself a target of between three and a half and four hours and meant I would finish before 12 noon. This would prove an advantage because the temperature in the afternoon reached 23℃.
We started on Scott Crescent and uphill towards Elm Row and eventually over Gala Hill. Following the pleasant back road out of Gala a right turn took us on to the B7060 which we followed for about 4km.
The sun continued to “split the trees” but it was cool cycling in the shade of the verdant canopy, something that would change later in the day. From the B7060 a left turn took us on to the A707 and heading north for 4km I turned left on to the National Cycle Route 1. This was followed until the town of Innerleithen. This section of the route ran along the edge of the Elibank and Traquair Forest and is fairly lumpy and feels as if it climbs most of the way to our next turn. This is the area of some of Scotland’s premier Mountain Bike Routes and bikies were much in evidence, preparing for a day out in the forest.
Reaching the junction with the B709 it was a quick right across the river Tweed and into Innerleithen. Friendly marshals directed us through the town across the A72 and back onto the B709. Initially this was a gentle climb to the golf course were the road was wonderfully flat. At this stage a young women absolutely stormed by, leaving me for dust. I could summon no response to the shapely backside that rapidly disappeared into the distance.
Never the less I kept up an easy tempo, alongside the Leithen Water, steadily climbing between Woolhope Bank and Dod Hill. Picking up Glentress Water on the right and then Dewar Burn, the climb continued to Dewar where I crested the top. 11km of steady climbing,an absolute grind, what a relief!
Just after Dewar, the course took a right turn to continue on the B709 onto the feeding station at Heriot. Plenty of drink and food to enjoy here with lots of cheerful volunteers dishing out the available fare. After a few cups of juice, a piece of cake and a five minute break it was on my way, right out of the feeding station and onto Sandyknowe. Here I took a right onto an unclassified back road running south, parallel to the A7. The road was “sporting”, to say the least, with sweeping descents followed by nippy climbs. This was good open countryside popular with riders going in the opposite direction. Finally a steep descent with a sharp right took me on to Station Road in Stow.
The Baw Breaker
Marshals were present to allow a safe crossing of the A7, then it was a right past an impressive town hall and onto the second climb. On the OS map this has one black arrow and is a pig! My legs still shake at the thought of it. To make matters worst my gears started to jump. Once sorted I climbed slooowly up what is Gala C.C’s hillclimb. I continued steadily until my bike decided to take a closer look at the gorse bushes at the roadside. Restarting I made the top with one of the racers hanging on my wheel; the advantage of having a 28¨ low gear. At the top he jumped past never to be seen again. Now it was past the wind farm onto Hareshawhead Plantation and then a sharp right to Wooplaw. Here the road was a little broken up but no where near as bad as some the roads around Kirkintilloch.
Just after Wooplaw House it was right at the cross roads down to Langshaw. Marshals were stationed here as it was the splitting of the ways for the 50 and 109 mile courses. I was assured that I had made the right choice as there were another eight 5th category climbs on the 109 mile course. Having just come up two 4th category climbs I didn’t need any convincing.
What now remained was a gentle climb and then a welcome descent to Easter Langlee. A quick look towards Melrose gave a good view of the twin peaks of the Eildon Hills, a climb I completed last year whilst walking St Cuthbert’s Way.
In Easter Langlee a left took me onto the B6374 riding east towards Gattonside. After a kilometer and half a right turn took the route through a set of traffic lights and across the river Tweed, towards Melrose Hospital. A final right turn on to a dual carriageway quickly followed by taking the second exit on a roundabout on the A6091, put me on the final few kilometers. Heading northwest on the A6091 and then the A7 a further 4km the course entered Galasheils. A final slip left into Church Street and then Scot Street took me back to the finish.
Back in the HQ sandwiches and cold rice pudding with peaches went down and absolute treat. Really hit the spot! Many riders lingered for a chat about the days ride. After a quick shower in more than adequate facilities it was reluctantly back in the car for the trip back to Glasgow.
This was a cracking ride in brilliant sunshine, well worth the effort of coming down from Glasgow. Gala C.C. are establishing a reputation for organizing excellent open events and this Sportive is no exception. The course was well marked and marshaled at all the critical points. Motor cycle marshals were much in evidence and a sag wagon followed the last riders on the road. A massive amount of effort had obviously gone into the organization particularly at the feeding station. I will be back and look forward to next year!
Incidentally, Gala C.C. run a series of Audax events throughout the year. Two remain, one in October and another in November. If your interested just type in “Audax UK” into your search engine and then click on calendar.