What a difference a week makes.
Last weekend I was taking part in the Ride London 100, cycling around the busy streets (well busy with cyclists) of London and Surrey, during what is an enormous event and a real experience. It’s all a bit of a blur now though.
On Sunday I completed the Tour ó the Borders. A cycle ride around the beautiful and unspoilt Scottish border country. I would say that as I am biased of course, having been born just down the road from our event location. But this really is a fantastic part of the UK and missed by so many people travelling to / from Scotland as they pass the borders by using either east or west coast routes. Perhaps it’s best that way, to keep the area a secret. But if you never have been to the borders, it is well worth a visit.
Our route for the day, took us south east out of Peebles towards Stobo Castle then on towards our first wee climb of the day at Dreva, turning off the main road and heading straight up hill, looking down over the Tweedsmuir valley. This was just a gentle warm up for what was to come as we hit the bottom of the Talla Climb. You can see the bottom of the climb from some distance as we skirt the loch edge but it’s only when you get closer that you can really appreciate how steep it is, going up to 24% on the lower part. A guy in front of me on a recumbent bike took the sensible option and walked straight away but I chose to push on up as far as I could, making it about 2 thirds of the way before being caught in traffic. I had to stop and that was it, climb over. There was no way I could get moving again. Another cyclist simply fell over, unable to pedal any further or get his feet out of his cleats in time.
But then we had to stop just short of the summit of Talla due to two major accidents on the descent. We had seen the air ambulance fly over our heads on the way up the climb and sadly, it was for one of our riders who took a major tumble on the tricky descent. A large number of riders were held up for around an hour, unable to go up or back down the climb, just waiting in the wind and rain. But it was the same as the week before at the bottom of Leith Hill as the riders all accepted the situation as our concern was with those injured further up the road. Nobody likes to see an accident involving another cyclist, it could so easily be one of us. The good news is that all of the fallers on the descent of the Talla were very lucky, albeit with serious injuries. As a fellow cyclist, I would imagine they were more concerned about their bikes!
Once off the Talla we made it through to the Gordon Arms, with hot macaroni pies waiting for us. Whoever came up with the idea for these is a genius! Great food for cold, wet and hungry cyclists.
After the feed stop came the next climb of the day up Berrybush, a long steady slog but after the climb comes the descent. Nice and straight, down into the next valley before our approach to Witchyknowe, rising up at a steady 7-8% for about 4kms, you can see the road winding upwards around the edge of the hillside ahead of you so just have to keep a steady cadence to the top, a great climb!
There was no time to ease off though, as straight after another feed stop (with more macaroni pies) we hit the bottom of Paddy Slacks, he last big climb of the day, which apparently was a corruption of “Pas des Lacs” (Pass to the Lakes). This pass was often used by Mary, Queen of Scots too, but not on a bicycle. Not as steep, but one to push on up and then a fast descent back to the Tweed Valley and onward to Peebles and the finish line.
This is a super sportive event, so well run and using great cycling roads in a beautiful part of the country. It is tough and the roads are tricky so well done to all who came and conquered the Tour ó. Huge thanks must go to those who organise the event, marshalled it and then cleaned up afterwards, although the good news is that there was just one rubbish bag filled from along the route afterwards. A great testament to all who took part in keeping the countryside litter free.
Just one more sportive for me to complete my 5 to ride for Macmillan. Thanks for all the support along the way!