Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 2: Kyle of Sutherland to Fort William

We awoke this morning to "The Ride of the Valkyries" and a valley full of fog and cold. The mountains we saw yesterday across the river were gone in the mist, and there was a bit of grumbling about grey skies on the way to breakfast. However, we were assured at the start that blue skies were waiting down the road, on the day's first climb.

Every evening, we are given a briefing about the next day's course by Andy Cook, the course director. On the first night, he described some of the hills on day 1 as "grippy". The first climb today, at 6 miles from the start, was described as "double grippy". I'm still working on my calibration curve for Andy's grippy scale, but 2x grippy seems to be a 2 mile climb that maxes out at a 10% grade. Grippy, indeed. But doable, as that length allows for settling in to a ryhthm and spinning your way  up.

The first pit stop came at mile 35, after a lovely rolling ride through the hills. I've been lucky enough to find people to ride with from the beginning, which makes it so much more enjoyable. I met A at a RAB-sponsored training ride in April, and we've ridden together several times since. She met L on the bus on the way up from the airport and, wonder of wonders, we're all of similar speed. It's working very well.

From stop #1, we headed towards Drumnadrochit and Loch Ness. My compatriots declined my suggestion to stop off at the Glen Ord Distillery shortly before Sara Storey, current Paralympic World Champion, sped past resplendent in her rainbow jersey. She was out of sight in minutes.

The next climb was a longer one. Deceptively long - every time we came to a crest I was convinced we were at the top. Sadly, this went on for about 5 miles before a screaming descent down to Loch Ness. The route then ran alongside the Loch, a road I remembered as being relatively flat. I was very wrong, and the constant up/down was really hard. The situation wasn't helped by L and I latching on to a slightly faster gentleman who pulled us for quite a ways. By the time we reached pit stop 2 at mile 71, I was very ready to sit down and have some food.

The last 28 miles consisted of 22 miles of rollers, and 6 miles of mostly downhill. Base camp tonight is in a field with an extraordinary view of Ben Nevis, for once not hidden in the clouds. There's even snow on top. We've had a good dinner, added two more riders to our little pack for tomorrow (the speedy guy from the loch, R, and his wife C), and are waiting anxiously for Andy's grippy rating for tomorrow's stage. I'm afraid rain is definitely in the forecast, just to make sure we don't get any silly ideas about Scottish weather, but we will have to wait to hear about route details. And you'll get to hear about them tomorrow!


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