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Highwayman Challenge

This was the fifth Audax event I have completed this year and it must rank among the best of rides, despite the mist and the midges.  Once again it was a long drive, this time to Girvan.  However, I’m becoming an advocate of going further afield to take in new roads and scenery.  The roads are generally an improvement on those in East Dunbartonshire, although the council are trying hard to improve this situation

An early start on a fresh morning promised  good weather for the ride.  It wasn’t long before this optimism was dispelled, as we crossed Fenwick Moor the mist closed in, setting the tone for the rest of the day.  Once again I was accompanied by my son-in-law, so I was in for a hard ride.  This wasn’t the way that the day was to pan out.

Vintage Bikes

We arrived 8.00am, to find that the HQ in Girvan Academy didn’t open until 8.30.  This was our own fault as we had over estimated how long it would take to drive down and find the strip.  This proved to be an advantage as it gave us a chance to look over some of the bikes entered into the Vintage Bike Competition.  The biggest surprise of the day was to see Guiness Record Holder Sam Wakeling of Ayr turn up on his unicycle.  At the time I commented,  “I wouldn’t see much of him on the ride”.   How right I was, it was unbelievable the speed this guy could maintain on his one wheeled machine, well done Sam.

The event got under way at 9.00am sharp, but because of the size of the entry we were released in groups of about 30 riders.  We set off at what I thought was a reasonable pace, but here starts my tale of woe.  After about two miles I was feeling a regular bump from the front wheel, the tyre was coming away from the rim.  So I stopped released air from the tube and reseated the tyre, this time making sure the inner tube was not under the bead.  Using my usual reliable SKS pump to inflate the tyre I blew the head off the barrel!  Oh deep joy and other suitable expletives!  After reassembling the pump I managed to get about 30psi into the tube, not ideal when you are only a couple of miles into a 100km Audax!  I counted on the first control having a track pump to get a decent level of pressure in the wheel.  However I need not have worried as my son-law-law had waited at the 10 mile mark, just where the  B741 branches right towards Straiton, and with a Proflate I  managed to put things right.  Pity the one I was carrying had no gas in it!  The moral of this story: when you fit new tyres, ride before an event and make sure you carry a spare cylinder for your Proflate.

The Challenge: Tairlaw Summit

After a further 15 miles of riding we hit the first control a Straiton where we were warned we were in for a long climb over Tairlaw Summit.  At first the road meandered gently upwards, but after 17 miles the climbing started in earnest and the mist came down, visibility reduced to about 15 metres.  It was quite disconcerting to have riders pass you and disappear in a few metres in addition to cars looming suddenly out of the mist in front of you.  At this stage I had latched on to a couple that were taking it easy on the climb and didn’t seem too concerned that I was wheelhanging all the way to the summit.  Thanks to them I made the summit, 6 miles later, reasonably fresh.  (I think I should sign this blog off as “The Wheelhanger”).  Once over the summit it was an easy hurl down to Glen Trool Village, but in the first few miles the visibility severely limited the speed of the descent.

Carnivorous Midges

The next control was at Bargrenan where my  son-in-law had been waiting for about 15 minutes. How he managed it there I do not know, the midges were positively carnivorous and his legs looked as if he was suffering a severe attack of the measles.  I’m not particularly bothered by midges but they were getting every where.  The guy who manned the control deserves a medal (thanks for the heroics it was much appreciated).

The route turned left onto the A714 through Barrhill to Holmhead where a left onto the B734 was up a 1 in 5 hairpin bend.  At this stage I had lost the couple who had so far towed me up the climb  and to this point, once again thanks to them both.

The Screws

Just in front, on the 1 in 5, there was a rider zig zagging up the slope which prevented me from passing, not that I much wanted to!  I stayed with the group of three he belonged to for a while, admiring the scenery, then broke away to run into the next control at Barr.  Once again my son-in-law had waited for me to accompany me up the last climb, locally know as the “Screws”.  I built this up in my mind, from what other folks had said, into an “Alpine climb” but it was nowhere near as severe as I had anticipated.  Mind you my riding partner rode away from me emphasizing the 26 year difference in age.  Once at the top it was a rapid descent through Penkill and on to the section of the B734, used on the way out, then back to the HQ for some welcome food and coffee.

Many thanks to Christopher Johnston and Ayr Roads CC for an almost perfect 100km Audax.  It would have been perfect but for the mist and midges.  Thanks must also go to the couple who towed me around a good portion of the course.

The riders of the event were given the opportunity of donating to the MS Society, to date Ayr Roads CC have raised over £1000. Great stuff!

Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera with me but good photo’s of the event can be found On Ayr Roars CC website.  However, I will be back next year!

The Wheelhanger

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Once again I returned to the Forfar/Kirriemuir area for an Audax event. I completed this route last year in a brisk Westerly gale, this year the wind was coming from the East and was equally as lively.  I had the bonus of being accompanied by my son-in-law, so I was hoping to be towed around the course.

This year the 300km Snow Roads event was being covered by BBC Scotland’s The Adventure Show.  If I thought that I was to get my 15 seconds of fame on TV, I was out of luck, they had left at 6.00am.

Starters on the 100km

We started bang on the stroke of 9.00am, and it was a brisk pace all the way to Forfar, even though there was a brisk wind blowing from the East.  I was pleased with my progress thus far, as I was keeping pace with the bulk of the riders from the local cycling club.  However this ended on the first brief climb of the day, out of Forfar on The Vennel and Lour Road.  After reaching the top the leading group had evaporated into the distance, and I was left riding with a couple of other participants.

This next section set the tone for the rest of the event, wide open countryside in reasonable sunshine.  A further 14 minutes riding, through some stunning scenery, took me to the first Information Control at Whigstreet.  After the control the route turned into the brisk easterly wind.  Despite this I was able to maintain a steady 18 to 20 mph to the next control at Carmyllie.  Oil seed rape was much in evidence in this area,  lending a vivid yellow carpet to many of the fields.

At Carmmyllie the Corn Kist Cafe accommodated the first manned control, a great place for a stop and well stocked with all a cyclist needs to refuel.  The Border Collie and Jack Russell outside the cafe must have been totally knackered after all the cyclists left, they conned almost every rider into throwing a stick for them, which they duly retrieved.  However, after a refreshing tea and cake and a few throws of the stick we were on our way through Guthrie and onto Brechin.  Once again the gorse and oil seed rape added a spectacular yellow tinge to the countryside.  It was on the section to Guthrie that a deer jumped into the road just in front of us, paused to take a good look and then bounded up the banking to clear a five foot fence at the top.  I wish I could do that!

Sample of the spectacular Gorse and Oil Seed Rape

The next manned control was at Stracathro Hospital restaurant, where a full gambit of food was on offer.  Twenty minutes break saw us refueled and ready to go on the final stage. With the wind at our back now we were making good time until we hit the final climbs of the day between Croachty, Pearsie and Corrach.  Here I lost touch with my fellow rider who obligingly waited at the top of the climb.  After passing between Castle Hill and Meams Hill it was a simple hurl downhill back to the start.

Stuffed at the top of the final climb

Once again we were treated to steak brides, almost worth the drive up from Kirkintilloch themselves, and copious volumes of tea.

Thanks must go to Alex and Alison Paterson and Angus Bike Chain for a most enjoyable event.

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Broughton and Back: Audax uk 100km

This was the third year in a row that I have ridden this event, and it still hasn’t lost its appeal!

Once again it was an early start from Kirkintilloch, with ominously grey skies and a gale blowing from the south-west.  On the drive across to the Edinburgh Ring Road, the skies improved a little with the sun making an effort to cheer the threatening sky.  Once on the A7, the weather improved significantly, meaning we arrived at the start in bright sunshine.  Unfortunately, the strong wind was still blowing from the south-west so I was anticipating a hard ride from Galashiels to Broughton.

The event got under way with 15 riders making the start, a significant decrease on last years field, although the 200 km event had a slightly healthier 30 entries.  My prediction of a hard ride into the wind was spot on and I was struggling to keep pace with the main bunch. My excuse, I was still recovering from “man flu” which seems to have stalked me throughout the winter.

However, the ride over Gala Hill to the B7o60 was as grand as in previous years, with a little respite from the wind as we cut through the grounds of Faimilee House.  Onto the A707 the ribbon of trees along the river Tweed kept the worst of the wind at bay until we turned right at Caddonfoot Road to continue on the main road. The route remained on the A707 until it reached the slip road to Peel where it crossed the river to join the National Cycle Route 1.  This is a super section of the course, sticking to the back road on the south side of the Tweed, and skirting the edge of the Elidank and Traquair Forest all the way Innerleithen.  I can see why this is such a magnet for Mountain Bikers.

On reaching Innerleithan the course picked up the B709 past Traquair and onto the B7062 to Peebles.  Here, I must admit, the GPS failed me and I rode up a cul du sac near the High School; an idiot will always blame the technology!  After being put on the right track by a local, (he cheerfully informed us we would have to shift some to catch the group that was about a minute in front of us), we resumed on the right course.  This next section proved to be an absolute killer as it skirted the base of Cadmuir Hill.  (Incidentally, the John Buchan Way goes over Cadmuir on its way from Peebles to Broughton.  I’ve walked this a couple of times and it’s a wonderful day out on the hills, although it requires two cars if you’re not going to use the bus from Broughton to get to the start in Peebles).  The wind really got to work on me along this portion of the course, and it was here that the group I could see in front of me just simply rode away.  Fortunately an Information Control had gone missing so I was able to rejoin two others who were searching for it.

Back in the fold I was able to reach the A72 with company, a left at the sign posted “Lyne Station” took the course onto the B712 towards Stobo.  Here a squad of about 30 walkers were signing in at a check point where the John Buchan way crosses the road.  I was beginning to wish I could abandon the ride and join them in a pleasant walk, rather than suffer the purgatory of riding into the wind.  A further 2km on, a right turn took us over the hill to Dreva.  At this point the folk I was with just rode away as I struggled up the slope.  It was even more depressing to have other riders pass in the opposite direction, on their return journey.  However, a rapid descent into Broughton allowed me to catch up just as other riders were entering the cafe control.

After consuming copious volumes of tea, a bacon roll and a cake, it was time for the return leg.  We emerged from the control into rain, so instead of going back over the hill I opted to follow the A701 to Rachan Mill, and then picked up the B712 to Lyne Station.  The wind was now at my back, the rain shower had passed, and I was able to make good time back to the A72 which I followed into Peebles.  In the town I picked up the B7062 to retrace the route back to Gala.  With the wind at my back it was a pleasure to ride the course I had struggled along earlier in the day.  Back at the start control, food and a welcome coffee awaited.  Once again a cracking day on the bike.

Thanks Gala CC.

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This was the second of a series of three events organised by Angus CTC. The third should be taking place as I write this Blog, but snow and a gale have discouraged me from making the journey to Kirriemuir, let alone leaving the house on a bike.

Kingoldrum

Kingoldrum Vilage Hall

Kingoldrum Village Hall

The start for this event was the Village Hall located after the horseshoe bend in B951, just after entering the village. The drive up from Kirkintilloch was in brilliant sunshine on clear roads, allowing me to make good time arriving at about 8.40am. The hall was “something else” and must be a real asset to the community. First class as a start for an Audax event! For those interested the start was close to the Loch of Kinnordie Nature Reserve.

We got underway at 9.06am, turning right out of the Hall onto the B951, heading north-west. I soon realised that the air temperature did not reflect the bright sunshine and I was beginning to wish I was wearing cycling longs. However, the gentle uphill soon warmed up my legs as we approached the three-mile mark and the first turn to the left (signposted Peel Farm). Just after the turn there was a wonderful view down to the right and the Loch of  Lintrathen.

Loch of Linrathen

After stopping to take a  photograph it was into the BIG RING and a downhill chase to regain the group of riders in front. The chase was interrupted by a further photo opportunity of the Loch, glass flat and a sparkling clear blue.

Sparkling Blue Water

Along this section was The Peel Farm Trail and the Reekie Linn Waterfall, which I was told were worth a look. Must return and spend some time pottering around this area taking in these attractions.

Continuing on the B954, a mile after Bridge of Craig Isla the route swung right onto an unclassified road (signposted Bamff). This took us through beautiful open countryside and into a wooded area illuminated by bright sunlight shining through the trees. After a short downhill section the first Information Control was reached. This section crossed the Cateran Trail which is a sixty-four mile circular route starting and finishing in Blairgowrie (taking in Kirkmichael, Spittal of Glenshee, Kirkton of Glen Isla and Alyth). Again something I am keen to walk with my son, who will no doubt enter it into the Long Distance Paths section of this Blog Site.

Touch Down Cafe

After the information control a left turn onto another unclassified road, signposted Alyth, once again saw us in sun dappled woodland. One mile further on the course turned sharp left, signposted Tullyfergus / St Fink and continued through open countryside to join the A926, on the outskirts of Blairgowrie. After wending our way through Blairgowerie, onto the A93, we followed the signs for Perth. A further nine miles on the course turned right to Stormonfield, on a quiet country lane. The next Information control was at Stormontfield church, as with the previous event.

Stormontfield Church

After collecting the requisite information the route followed the reverse of the Cream Scone course through Old Scone , Scone Wood and Scone itself to arrive at Perth Aerodrome and the Touch Down Cafe. The Cafe I can highly recommend, if you are cycling in this area; good food and friendly staff.

The Touchdown Cafe

Kinloch Arms Hotel : the final control

Left out of the Airport took us to Balbeggie where the route turned right onto the B953. After three miles an Information Contol was located at the junction with the Collace Road, where we turned left up a short climb past Dunsinane Hill and Collace quarry. Just after Collace itself a right turn took the course towards Newtyle, crossing the A923, after a further four miles. Another four miles took us straight across a crossroad just after Kinpurnie Castle and onto Newbigging. At the junction here we turned left and continued straight on before turning right at the next crossroads, towards Meigle. Passing Belmont Castle and Macbeth’s Stone we entered Meigle and the Hotel. Here we stopped to get our cards signed and partake of tea and biscuits. I was sorely tempted to have a pint at this stage as there were interesting Real Ales on offer.

The Final Leg

After resisting the demon drink, it was a quick right left to the A94 and after a short gentle climb, right (signposted Alyth B954). After a mile the route turned right towards Hallyards and Ruthven. Along this section power lines ran parallel with the road: on top of one of the pylons an osprey’s nest was in clear view. I don’t think many egg thieves  are likely to chance their arm with this one. Who said raptors were thick? At Ruthven the road turned right after which it turned left, at the next crossroads, towards Linrathen. Through Mains of Airlie we continued to Cairnleith, where a left took us up a nippy wee climb past Balfour Castle.

Balfour Castle

This immediately lead to me losing touch with the group and they were finally rid of their “wheelhanger”(the climb was steeper than it looks, HONEST!). Half a mile further on I reached a left turn onto the B951 and back to the start, where a welcome cup of tea awaited.

Great stuff Ron and Pat of Angus CTC.

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The Audax season has started for me with a series of three events organised by Ron Harrow of Tayside CTC. The first two I have completed in relatively dry weather for Scotland.

Cream Scone

This 100km event started from Forfar Leisure Centre, on Tuesday 20th March. I was up at 5.45am to ensure sufficient time for a decent breakfast and the trip to Forfar. The run up from Kirkintilloch was clear until the Kingsway around Dundee, which was relatively free-flowing, allowing me to arrive in Forfar just before 8.30am (plenty of time to prepare  for the ride).

We started at 9am in dry weather with a stiff breeze blowing from the west. Taking a right out of the centre onto the A926 the course proceeded to a set of traffic lights. Here a right turn took us to the Glamis Road (A94), past Douglas Town and on to Glamis itself (home of the Angus Folk museum). Just west of the town the route took a left onto an unclassified road (signposted Newtyle). This stretch set the scene for much of the ride: quiet country lanes with good surfaces (how I wish we had more of these in the West of Scotland).

The run into Newtyle was made harder than it should have been, by the fresh westerly breeze. This was partly overcome by “wheelhanging” whoever was in front of me. At Newtyle the route crossed the B954, after which a sharp left took up a short climb past Kilpurnie Castle to Hill of Keillor. Contouring along the Newtyle and Keillor hills, in a westerly direction, with Drumsuldry Wood on the left, it was time to admire the magnificent view of the river Isla to the North.

At sixteen and a half miles we crossed the A923 turning next left (at seventeen and half miles). The route then climbed past the Crow Wood on Northballo Hill, and it was here that I dropped off the back of the bunch. I caught up again on the descent to the junction with the B953 as the group stopped at the first Information Control. Right took the course onto the B953 with a climb to Tulloch Ard past King’s Seat and Blackhill. Once again I was struggling with the climb into the wind and rapidly lost sight of the other participants. Relief was at hand as the descent began past Dunsinane Hill, upon which there is supposed to be an ancient fort (is this the Dusinane of Macbeth fame?). It was an easy hurl down to the A94 at Balbeggie where a left turn took me to Perth Airport and refreshment in the Touch Down Cafe.

After getting my card signed, a mug of tea and a plate of lentil soup it was time to push on to the next stage of the event. Right out of the Airport on the A94 took the route to Scone where we turned right towards Old Scone. Here a right and then left took us on to a unclassfied road to Stormontfield.

Church at Stormontfield

Another information control was located at the church from where we continued to the A93. This section was again a pleasure to ride with views of open fields and woodland.

The route turned right onto the A93 and proceeded for another four miles before turning right towards Woodside. A mile or so before turning right there was a stunning view of the old railway viaduct crossing the river Tay. I wish now I had stopped to take a photograph but I had just caught up with one of the group. About a mile and a half after turning right the road carried straight on, past  a cemetery located a fair distance from any habitation. The route continued onto the out skirts of Coupar Angus where it filtered through the back streets, past the Primary School (where we received a cheerful wave), finally to emerge at a crossroad over the A94Shortly after crossing the main road it was necessary to take a right turn towards Ardler and another information control. A further two miles on the final control in the Kinloch Arms Hotel at Meigle was reached.

After tea and biscuits it was onto the final section accompanied by one of the local riders. With the wind behind us we set of a fair pace up the A94 for less than half a mile, turning right we immediately forked right (sign posted Kirriemuir). Once again it was open countryside which was a joy to behold. After about six miles we crossed the A928 continuing on an unclassified road to a T junction where we took a left towards the A926. Just before the A926 we turned right on to another back road towards the A94. At this stage the wind had gained considerable strength and was blowing up a sensational dust storm from newly ploughed fields.

At the A94 we turned left to retrace our early morning route back to the Forfar Leisure Centre and a well-earned tea and CREAM SCONES.

Thanks to Pat and Ron Harrow and Angus CTC for a good day on the Bike. Well worth the effort of travelling up from Glasgow.

Richard Barnes

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Braw Lads Baw’ Breaker


http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/96500595


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.

Melrose Hostel 

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.

Early Start

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.

Great Organisation

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.

Female disappearing 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.

Getting to the top at Dewar

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.

The Eildon Hills in the distance (this may not have been taken on the ride….but don’t tell anyone)

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.

Finishing Bonus

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.

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A Potter For Tea  

While many in the club were anticipating a day out on the Etape Caledonia, I was traveling to Kirriemuir to take part in the latest Audax event. There was a choice of distances, the monster 300km Snow Roads and the more sedate 100km Potter for Tea. Since I have lately been feeling my age I opted for the less demanding of the two. This was to take in Forfar and Brechin before returning to Kirriemuir, all on the quiet lanes of Strathmore. Looking at the map prior to riding it looked fairly undemanding, but little did I know that there was a sting in the tail of this gently potter.

The drive up was fairly quiet with the promise of a day of sun and showers. I was surprised that the journey took only an hour and forty minutes on relatively empty roads; the advantage of making an early start.

The start was located in the Northmuir Hall on the northern edge of Kirriemuir. The hall had been open over the Friday night to accommodate the 300km participants who were making a 6am start. On arriving I was provided with a cup of tea and a bite to eat; very welcome asI had eaten at six before leaving Kirkintilloch.

We left at 9.03am in a brisk westerly wind and threatening showers, which thankfully held off for most of the day. The route initially followed the B957 towards Brechin soon turning right (4.7km) on an unclassified road, toward Forfar. Up to this stage I cycled with a group of triathletes in the hopes that they would drag me round the course. However, just after the right turn, one of them puntured, I stopped and waited. This was a grave mistake as it seemed to take them about 15 minutes to change the tube. I guess triathletes don’t change tubes often. Under way once again we picked up the B9128, just after crossing the A90, and rolled into Forfar High Street. After a quick left we were on our first climb of the day up The Vennel and then the Lour Road towards Whigstreet via a left and right turn onto unclassified roads. This section began to set the tone for the rest of the ride being very pastoral with brilliant yellow, heavily scented oil seed rape, in full bloom. I suffer from hay-fever and at this stage I was finding breathing a little difficult, although I had chosen to ride with a guy from Manchester who was going like a bat out of hell, which may explain the problem. I liked his style, he was visiting friends of his wife’s in Dundee and had sloped off to ride this event. Much to his wife’s disgust. I ‘d never get away with it myself!

Whigstreet required us to turn left onto the B9127 ( sign posted Arbroath) and with the brisk westerly behind us we were soon tramping along at a respectable 23 to 25mph, on a beautifully surfaced flat road. Arriving at the junction with the B961 we turned left and into the first control at the Corn Kist Coffee Shop at 27km. Once my card was stamped I settled down to a couple of coffees, a piece of carmel cake and a chat with a group of four mountain bikers who riding the event. These guys had passed me while I was waiting for the puncture to be fixed and had motored it to the first control before I caught them. Good going on mountain bikes.

Suitably refreshed, it was right from the control and up hill through Redford and left onto back roads. Once again the area is very pastoral with the dark brown earth of the tattie fields now much in evidence. It was on this section that the mountain bikers disappeared off the back and I pushed on to catch a couple from Aberdeen riding a tandem. Boy can a tandem shift when the riders put their minds to it! I stuck with them until the next control and enjoyed a good chat with them throughout the next 20km. This is the aspect I most enjoy about Audax riding, you can always find someone to share the road with and socialize.

A quick right left to cross the A932 and then onto Guthrie, after which we crossed the B9113 and passed through the Montreathmont Forest to Brechin. Once again we were on quiet country roads with good surfaces; a delight to ride. The forest afforded shelter from the wind which was beginning to strengthen. The birdsong on this section was tremendous.

We entered Brechin on the A933 and filtered around the outskirts to finish on the B966 heading towards Edzell. 2km on we took a right to Ballownie and into the back end of the Stracathro Hospital and the control in the hospital restaurant and refreshment.

After a bite to eat and a pot of tea it was onto the final leg, retracing to the B966 and then right through to Little Brechin, Careston, Noranside, and Memus. Although this was relatively flat section I was riding alone into a strong westerly wind with showers gusting at about 25mph. With no one to hide behind this was becoming hard going, I should have waited on the folks I had got to the last control with. However, once again it was a fine ride with good views of the Braes of Angus and the mountains beyond. I was shortly to get a closer look at the Braes on the climbs to Cortachy and Pearsie crossroads. One final climb of Meams Hill and then a flyer into Kirriemuir and Northmuir Hall where beer and steak bridies and lots of other goodies were on offer to all finishers.

A cracking ride and all for £4! No closed roads, no support but good social event in the hall at the end.

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