06:00 seemed to come round far too early and there was some muffled swearing as we struggle upright. Amazing how long it can take to pack a couple of carradices. Thankfully all the kit had dried so it wasn’t too unpleasant putting shorts and jerseys back on again. For a nice warm up we had a brisk 1 mile TT up the A1 to Scotch Corner for breakfast. Amused by being asked by the manager of Costa Coffee “Are those your bikes?”, unfortunately we were a bit too groggy to reply wiht “no, we just wear the lycra for comfort”. Apparently it’s a hygiene offence to bring a bike in, which is solved by leaning it on the other side of a barrier (and tbh, I reckon we were probably more of a hygiene risk than our bikes).
A brief spring along the A66 helped to settle breakfast, though also led to a breakup of the team as we had different ideas on which turning to take. So a solo mornig ride along the lanes to Barnard castle enjoying another glorious morning. Few small lumps, but with a general upward trend. Swooping down a big hill towards a bridge when I suddenly realised it was actually a wooden planked bridge meant I got to check how good my brakes were, seem to be up to the job. Though throwing on the anchors meant the hill straight afterwards was done from scratch, the hairpin half way up was quite fun in a fantasy TdF way.
Another CoOp receipt collected from Barnard Castle and we were away on the climb up and over Alston Moor. This was going to be one of the high points of the route climbing up to 600+ metres. All you had to do was settle into a good rythym and keep on turning the cranks over and over and over. The wind was still being relentless which meant here wasn’t much respite on the flats or downhills either, and a couple of big swoops added to the total climbing a bit as well. A cheer accompanied the Edge confirming that I’d hit the high point and I could enjoy the downhill into Alston. Finally a chance to spend some quality time with my arse off the saddle to try and restore some blood flow! The market square in alston was a nice place to stock up on some carbs, and listen to an accordion player murdering classic pop tunes for a bit. Then a bit more of an uphill section to Brampton that our profile chart had suggested. Yet another coop stop here (noticing a pattern?) as this was a control.
Onwards, and on this section we crossed the England/Scotland border just outside Gretna, unfortunately the quality of picture from an iPhone isn’t brilliant for recording this momentous moment, but just to break up this huge screed you can marvel at the lack of proper cycling physique here:
Just after this we started what was the hardest section of the entire route for me. The long slog along the B7076 was interminable. Awful surface, no respite from the wind, no real scenery to distract the brain and the constant sound of the M74 was soul destroying. My joy at the right turn onto the A701 was nearly unparalleled and sped me into Moffat for another CoOp control (Maybe we should have tried for sponsorship from them?)
The next section from Moffat to Craigmillar was the last. And it certainly made up for the previous one. Starting with a proper long climb to 400m we topped out with a golden light over the hills. Then followed a good rolling road with stunning views which gradually disappeared as we pedalled into our second night. Edinburgh started appearing on the road signs so we knew we were getting closer. The last few miles around the south east side of edinburgh had some amazing downhill sections, enlivened by being done in the dark. And then hurtling down residential roads with street light chicaning through traffic calming measure bought a smile. Final control was that late night favourite of a cash point on a deserted high street.
So all in, an absolutely excellent ride. While I disliked some bits, they were more than outweighed by the majority of the route. Contact points seemed to have held up well, though I still have very slight numbness in my hands and a sore spot on my back, the most annoying bits have been a bit of sunburn and the midge bits. I was very happy with my fitness, my climbing ability seemed to improve over the ride, though I think a lot of that was just getting better at finding a pace that didn’t redline me. here’s the HR%/height graph for the last section and I’m happy to have stayed in Zone 2 most of the time:
Unfortunately that’s one of only 2 bits of GPS track that I’ve got of the ride. So a good job I decided to collect receipts at control points then. Except, we might have controlled at the wrong spot on the last leg. So I’m just waiting for the organiser to get back to me so I know what’s happening. Wether it’s a valid AUK ride or not it was a great one so nothing to get too upset over, I knew the ‘rules’ before I set off so I can only blame my sleep deprived brain. Just means I might still have to do another 600km ride this year for an SR series. A slightly more pressing issue is trying to fit a 200km into the next 5 days so I can keep my RRTY going!