Friday, November 9, 2012

Ride Across Britain - Day 7

So, onto Fort William. My memory is a little vague on the exact state of the weather at the start, but I think the wind blew itself out overnight and the rain was not relentless. Still wet enough for the the full rain gear, however. I was ready to leave at 6:30 after the early breakfast with a lot of nervous riders.

Evidently the rationale for the very long day was that the organizers wanted to avoid the Glasgow traffic at the end of day 6. Not clear that was the right decision as day 6 was very fast and most people would have been able to put on a few more miles. And it turned out that we by-passed Glasgow so the traffic was really quite light, certainly nothing like the exit from Haydock. The worn chipseal was still in evidence however.

Eventually we left the urban area behind and headed out into the fine Scottish countryside. To our right was the range of hills that we should have climbed over but we were going around them.

The main weather front had definitely passed through overnight and we were in the showery period. The sun was making a showing and I couldn't find the right clothing level. I remember stopping in Callander to put on my rain gear because I could see a big shower ahead only for it to move off in a different direction. Then we started climbing and I was getting uncomfortably hot, so off with some clothes again. The climb was over the north side of the Trossachs and it was quite spectacular.

On the climb

Looking back

Old railway bridge across the valley

At the top, we were in the mist again and it looked like a long descent, so back on with the clothes! After turning back south east into Crianlarich, we began the climb up to the Bridge of Orchy and Rannoch Moor. The weather was definitely improving and I was really happy with the lack of wind because I had expected Rannoch moor to be truly windswept. However, this turned out to be entirely due to the windbreak provided by the hill on west side leading to Glencoe. As we crested the summit at 1300', the change in weather was quite dramatic. The wind was blowing hard and it looked very grey and wet down the valley. So back on with the clothes again. I was glad I did because the descent made the headwind we had coming off Shap seem like nothing. I was pedaling downhill and managing all of 9mph. The problem was that the descent was very, very long. I started to get quite cold even with the windproof jacket. Towards the end of the first part of the descent I jumped on a 3-man train for a while; they were making 15mph. Unfortunately, I simply could not hang on even with the draft. The train leader was one strong cyclist.

As we passed Glencoe village, the road started climbing again at a couple of percent grade. Since the wind was still blowing, this did not help. Fortunately it didn't last long and the road crested and entered a narrower valley which had more shelter from the wind. I stopped to eat some chocolate and take in the scenery at a big turnout. As I was just getting ready to go I spotted the Bigfoot train coming down the hill. I scrambled to turn around and get back on the road and started to chase them down. It was incredibly difficult to catch up and I was pretty much out of gas when I finally caught the draft. That helped enormously of course and I was able to settle in. It turned out that another group had merged in with Bigfoot so it was a very long train.

Even though the wind had diminished as we descended the valley, I was incredibly happy to have the protection of the group. It was still a long way to sea level at Loch Linne but we were moving along at a fine clip. Shortly before the right turn up the Loch to Fort William, there was a final mini rest stop with one ration of cake per person! Funny, I can't remember anything about the other rest stops on this day.

The group was in good spirits as we sped along the side of the Loch towards Fort William. It was flat and the wind had died so we made good time. I even took a turn at the front for a while!

Riding along Loch Linne

Once again the camp was on the other side of the town. It was a tired but happy group that rode in to the cheers at the finish. Pretty long ride, 10:30 actual riding time, just under 12 hours total ride time. The camp was close to Ben Nevis but it wasn't visible due to the cloud cover.

After showering, it was my day for the massage, which felt good. Then food and sleep. Weather forecast good for day 8, thankfully!

Elevation and Distance

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