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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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