Saturday, 28 May 2011

Etape Caledonia 15 May 2011

Sunday 15 May 2011
Etape Caledonian 81miles/130km

After much fretting about weather, start times and what to wear, we left Comrie a bit later than anticipated and hit a traffic jam coming off of the A9 and crawled to the car park. We had made arrangements to start together in group S at 7.21 but by the time we got to the High Street in Pitlochry group W were being ushered out somewhere around 7.30. It seems like a few other had been caught out in the jam and the start proved messy with some folk trying to get in their start pen while others tried to pass to get started. Craig and Lindsay made it away first with Peter bringing up the rear after being caught behind a knot of riders. (mental note: arrive earlier) Not as expected but we had made a contingency plan depending on how well we were going or in case we got split up.
Lindsay, well short of miles, thought it best to ease into the ride and confirmed as much when Peter caught him. We could see Craig’s distinctive Brooklyn jersey and Peter set of in pursuit of Craig and a sub 4.30 time. Fleeting glances of red and white could be seen through the trees tantalisingly out of reach. Craig got himself into a working group quickly with Peter scrambling through the trees and windy roads behind. After about 20km Peter caught a rider in a red and white checked jersey. Wrong design and with Craig gone it seemed like a good time to look for a group.

The course rolls up and down and groups began to form though it would have to be said not very well organised. We all found that a few made the effort to come through while others didn’t at all which to us seemed to reflect a lack of experience of riding in a group. None the less the company provided some cover from the blustery south westerly out towards Tummel Bridge and Loch Rannoch and at the turn with a tailwind we had an extra burst of speed towards the feed station then on to the climb.

Schiehallion ramps up at the beginning and the mountains classification was moved forward to take account. The road evened out fairly quickly with some fast parts on the mountain. A quick stop at the feed station and onto the descent and a reminder to take care as an ambulance took crashed riders off the top with, thankfully, no serious injuries.
Off the mountain and a right turn into the wind with groups more fragmented towards Fortingall as folk seem to be getting tired. Lindsay got a second wind at this point and picked up his effort. The turn beyond Fortingall took us back towards Weem through undulating forested road that is pretty classic rolling Scottish roads. We each realised that we are comfortable and motoring and begin to think of reasonable finish. Out onto the main road and the groups were fragmented with only one or two riders working at the front, the remainder tagging on. This is not fair and with no work being shared the groups disintegrate. A left turn at Logierait took us onto cycle route 7 and a scramble up some stepped ascents to Pitlochry. Another crowd had gathered at this corner and were as enthusiastic as all the people we had met en route. They were treated to some big efforts as we pushed up the gradient. Lindsay had warned us about this and we were glad to have saved a wee bit and some low gears to take us over. The last mile marker appeared to the skirl of some pipes though I would swear it is more than a mile before one last left turn and up the high street to the finish and a quick chat with Graeme Obree and a chance to reflect on a great day out.


Good stuff; stunning scenery, great course, organisation and support from local people out lining the route
Not so good; group riding on the road not very organised and lack of shared workload frustrating. Some riders used all of the road instead of staying to the left and moving out to overtake.

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