Long Distance cycling is a little different to walking, but in a way it is slightly easier to take part in with a rider being able to cover a much greater distance over a considerably shorter space of time.
Audax UK run various events throughout the year, ranging from a short sprint at 50KM to absolute monsters at anything up to and over 1000KM. Our event today was an easy toddle round at a mere 101km (around 63 Miles), one of a series of events run by the Cycling Touring Club (CTC) over the weekend, all starting in Forfar
Scone the Flat Way
A 0900hrs start in Forfar meant a very early start in Glasgow, and it was in a light drizzle and pretty unpleasant conditions that we loaded the bikes onto the back of the car and set off (0645) on the 80 odd miles. The drive up there is actually quite a pleasant route, crossing the Kincardine bridge before heading across to the M90/A90 all the way up to Forfar. As we drove, the conditions were beginning to clear, a quite spectacular temperature inversion clearing the hill tops while leaving ground level shrouded in mist.
Reaching our destination, we were just in time to see a large group of cyclists leaving Forfar Leisure centre setting off but we needn’t have worried. This was the 150km event starting out half an hour before we were due to leave.
After unloading the bikes we registered, received the cards, and waited with the rather small group of around ten riders (including a tandem) for the off.
Stage 1 – Start to Balbeggie 0 – 39km
The first stage was around 39km (24 miles) covering around 1/3 of the total route. Following the A94 out of Forfar we pretty much cycled as a group, only the tandem and a couple of others trail blazing ahead of us. After around 10km (6 miles) we were off the main road and pootling along quite merrily. Being a part of a bunch, no matter how small, is a real benefit, as you get swept along with them for very little extra effort. It seems to be more of a psychological thing that cycling is easier with a group.
The route that we took, while not having any major climbs, was threatening to give us some very nice views. Unfortunately, the cloud, although beginning lift was still obscuring virtually everything and also dropping a fine mist making things a little damp. Also there was a little tail wind which helped us on our way and got is into the first checkpoint only 15 minutes after it had opened. The petrol station in Blabeggie has a cafe and shop round the back, and the shop is like a Tardis. One soup and a sandwich later we left the cafe with the card stamped, unfortunately after everyone else, so we were to complete the route alone.
Stage 2 – Balbeggie to Stormontfield 39 – 53km
The sun had started to come out as we left the cafe and we were back on the A94 all the way into Scone. As we passed the first information control point, almost at the half way point, the route turned and started to head back (in a round about way) to Forfar. After gathering the information (exciting stuff – taking the number of a lamppost (the number had been recently painted over too)) we crossed the A93 (which we would return to later) and onto some pretty interesting back roads. The sun had now come out with a vengeance, and water was now not only evaporating from the road, but was creating a fine mist from the recently ploughed fields on either side. As we reached Stormontfield, (a tiny place consisting of just a few houses and a rather splendid church) this was the second information control point.
Stage 3 Stormontfield to Meigle 53 – 77km
This was certainly the finest section of this ride. Extensive views North and South, and the sun had truly come out. It could be hinted that summer was almost on the way – in Scotland in April – the thought of it! Quite a long section on the fairly busy A93 was followed by another very pleasant section of back road linking up to Couper Angus, a very attractive village, although we only really skirted it. Ardler was the next information control point reached (probably to stop folk from cycling the direct route along the A94) before reaching the next control in the Kinloch Arms Hotel, where the rest of the group had been sitting comfortably for around 15 minutes. A pint of their finest Thrappledowser later, and a nice long stop (we still had plenty of time to get to the finish) we set off on the last leg.
Stage 4 Meigle to Finish 77 – 101km
This was the shortest section of the ride, coming in at only around the 15mile mark. As we were making straight for Forfar we were now cycling into a headwind, albeit not a particularly strong one, but enough just to reduce the average speed. We reached the finish at around 1520, well inside the cut off time, and sat down for a well earned Macaroni Cheese and Chips. Yum. The finish being at the leisure centre meant a shower was on offer, and considering that we had a two hour journey back to Glasgow, this was extremely welcome.
Our thanks go to the organisers of this event. While not a particularly strenuous route, it certainly delivered in terms of views, weather and the road surfaces were pretty nearly perfect. This is a weekend event, so I think that next year, work and weather permitting, it is one that I will spend the weekend at. Great Stuff.