Only 6 weeks to the “Etape Loch Ness”

It is only 6 weeks until my first challenge event for Macmillan Cancer Support, the Etape Loch Ness.

This 66-mile / 106-km cycle challenge will start and finish by the riverside in Inverness. The route leaves Inverness and follows the A82 west to Fort Augustus, passing through the villages of Drumnadrochit and Invermoriston, arriving in Fort Augustus before crossing the historic Caledonian Canal and starting its return journey to Inverness via south Loch Ness.

You might think that a simple route around the Loch would be nice and flat and it is flattish, for the most part. And here is the but ..

There is a climb from Fort Augustus to the Glendoe summit, which very kindly has been broken into three stages by our guide. The climb is 4.6 miles long with an ascent of 1325 ft.

Down in Hertfordshire, there are no hills of that length or height, so I can only train on rolling roads, or undulations as I have learnt to call them. Some undulations are bigger than others of course ..

The first section of “the climb” is a 1.7-mile long rising to 669ft. There isn’t much let up throughout this stage and I am told I will be down in the lowest gear. “Try staying seated and pedal at a reasonable cadence as practiced in training” is the advice, but this doesn’t mention gasping for air, swaying from side to side and trying desperately to keep the bike upright.

What follows is a short rest with a descent dropping 100ft over half a mile, before the next 1.1 mile stretch which climbs 420 feet. The first half of this stretch is the steepest, and once I have passed the rocky outcrop, it eases off at Loch Tarff for a nice flat recovery.

Then the final stage, a 1.2 mile stretch with a lot of false summits. “Beware of the first one leaving the loch: it’s short, but still nasty” they say. These are not really words that I want to hear!

Etape Loch Ness Route Profile

I’m confident that my pace on the flatter parts of this ride will more than make up for the crawling speed that I will have on this climb, when stuck in my “Grannie” gear. Let’s hope I make it over the top and manage the run back in to Inverness to complete leg 1 of my 5 to Ride for Macmillan.