Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ride Across Britain - Day 6

Today we would cross into Scotland at the famous Gretna Green, scene of runaway marriages in the past. The destination was another racecourse in Hamilton, a small town, now effectively suburb of Glasgow.

The camp hadn't dried out much overnight, but I was happy that they had arranged for an alternate exit from the bike rack area, so I didn't start the day with wet feet. It was a flat straight start so easy to maintain a good average speed. The route mostly paralleled the main A74 road and wasn't particularly scenic.

On the road again

The weather forecast was for mostly dry conditions, but it was cool enough to be wearing the jacket and the leg and arm warmers. There were fine views to the east of Cross Fell, the highest point on the Pennine hills that run down the spine of England. I had nostalgic memories of my backpacking trip on the 270 mile Pennine Way in 1969.

We then descended a few hundred feet into Carlisle, the last large town in England on the west side, and it wasn't long before we crossed into Scotland at Gretna.

Entering Scotland

I'd been warned by a Scot at breakfast that the road surface on the old A74 in Scotland was bad and he was right! This is the problem when a new road is built parallel to an old one; there is little incentive to maintain the old one. So it was back to worn chipseal and I'm pretty sure it was worse than the bad stuff in Devon. At one point I was so annoyed with it that I stopped to take a photo and post it on Facebook!

Scottish worn chipseal

The photo doesn't really tell the full story as it needs to be 3D to see the depth of the area were the chipseal has worn away, but it was 3/4" on average. All those light colored areas are holes.

We'd been climbing very steadily since Carlisle and had hit the 1000' point twice as we crossed the Pentland Hills. It was pretty windy and mostly a crosswind or a headwind.

The view back on the Pentland Hills plateau

Eventually the descent into the Glasgow area began and I was very fortunate to be able to jump on the "Bigfoot" train. Bigfoot is the cycling club that Hugh Webb, who I had met on day 1, belongs to. Hugh is an excellent organizer and had arranged several multi-day training rides prior to the event, including a trip to France and, in the process, formed a group that pretty much rode all of RAB together. Not everyone was a Bigfoot club member, and they had picked up some extra people on the way. The original group were distinguished by tags hanging from their saddles, that Hugh had had made. By this stage the group was about 40 strong when everyone was together and it rode two abreast at a good clip. The group had some very impressive "engine" riders. Not everybody took turns at the front because the engines were so strong.

My neck and shoulder issues had faded quite a bit by this stage, so it was actually comfortable to ride in a group. Given the pace the Bigfoot group rode at, I wish I had been able to join earlier but really there was no way I could have ridden at that pace in the first few days.

So it was a very fast ride in to Hamilton. Road works required a bit of a diversion towards the end and, to avoid crossing a busy road, we had the frustrating experience of having to ride past the base camp entrance down to a roundabout, and then backtrack.

Apart from the poor road conditions this was the easiest day by far and it was nice to be in so early and have plenty of time to shower, eat and hang out. Hamilton racecourse was more like Ludlow than Haydock in size, but it was at least very compact so only a short walk from the tent to everywhere important.

The briefing, however, was sombre affair, as the forecast for the next day was pretty horrific. This was the long day, nominally 127 miles, and over Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe pass. Unfortunately a landslide had closed one of the roads which meant a detour adding another 7 miles. The only good news was that we would miss a climb in the process. Many riders were, rightly, intimidated by the prospect as this would be considerably longer than any ride they had done previously. This was the time when I was glad I had lots of experience riding such long distances.

The weather forecast was not good, lots of wind and rain early. In fact it was already blowing a gale at Hamilton and the rain started shortly after the briefing. To get as many people as possible through to the finish on their bikes, the start time was moved up to 6:30, so a very early breakfast at 5:00. Just like a 300K brevet! It was pretty hard to get to sleep as the tent was being buffeted by the strong winds, but it happened eventually.

Elevation and Distance

No comments:

Post a Comment