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Mille Alba Helpers Ride
Topic: Mille Alba Helpers Ride (Read 454 times)
Mille Alba Helpers Ride
June 12, 2012, 10:52:48 AM »
The first ever Mille Alba ride takes place on the weekend of 22nd June. Its an Audax event, meaning steady endurance is more important than speed. Mille means it 1000kms long, Alba means it in Scotland and its designed to be done in 3 and a bit legs/days. I had the chance to do the Helpers Ride last weekend and though it ended in failure, I still got a medal which I think I deserved for giving it a go!
The forecast was, shall we say, poor, and only 7 of the 20 turned up at the start. So rolling out of the Scout centre in Inverkeithing I thought I should show willing into the stiff wet wind. My turn lasted about 50 yards until the main road: thereafter I hung on to the group most of the way, over the Tay Bridge (which had been closed to double-deckers) and up to a café stop in Forfar at 100kms. I started my cycling career rather belatedly in 2000 when going up Cairn na Mount with a charity group I found myself at the front at the top and thought, “Your not bad at this”. Twelve years on, I could still get up without putting a foot down (and was even second up, not that Audaxs are a race, you understand!), but in the miserable time of 23 minutes. Then it was down to Banchory at km165 and finally out of the wind. I love Deeside and the leg to Braemar was no disappointment, apart from the fact I got there at about 6 in the evening . The climb up Glenshee/Cairnwell, after an in-advised curry, was just manageable without leaving the dinner behind en-route. The wind assisted descent on uneven surfaces was less enjoyable: I got a terrific shimmy at 72kph; luckily pressing my knees into the crossbar saved the day. Blairgowrie to Perth was just magic: low setting sun illuminating the Carse of Gowrie. Going up Glenfarg after Perth, it was proper dark and I was glad to have company and one of Lee’s wonderful lights. We got back to base at about 20 past midnight after 356kms. Fellow ERC man and organiser of the event Graham Whyllie was there with welcome bowl of soup for the 5 of us remaining.
Day 2 was familiar territory, though I’d never thought of doing it all together. At Musselburgh I saw an ERC rider going the other way to the start of the Saturday club run but my solo journey was up Redstone Rigg and over to Berwick on Tweed. Sluggish is the word that best describes my performance that morning, though my triple did get me up ok. Road resurfacing meant care was needed on descent, but after my shimmy yesterday, that suited me fine. In Berwick I found the first baked potato café, and was joined by 3 unknown Edinburgh cycling belles who wanted me to explain what I was doing. “Are you qualifying for something?” “No, this is it” “Why are you doing it then?” “Well if I finish, I’ll be able to say I did it” was the best answer I could come up with. Heading up to Coldstream, Gala, Innerleithen & the Gordon Arms I was pleased to be reunited with some of the group (they take longer over lunch) and hear stories from Phil about his racing days. Knowing he had been Scottish Hill climb champion I was proud to drop him on the ascent of Talla; knowing he’d won that title in 1971 made me ashamed!
Broughton to Biggar is familiar territory, but I’ve never seen it like this (OK, I’ve never done it at 8.30pm after 600kms). The wind howled, the rain lashed and the road flooded with puddles of unknown depth of slurry off the fields. Initially, I was pleased to see a group of cyclists stopped in front of me, a puncture…can there ever be a worse place and time for that to happen? After a brief greeting, I wasn’t going to stop, so I was first again getting to Biggar (not that I’m competitive or anything!) I made it to the chipper as it was closing and got a bag of cold chips, it reminded me of that curry I got last night. Phil was struggling by this stage so I soloed over to Carnwarth and down the Lang Whang with a tailwind. Its still a bleak place, even when you can’t see much of it, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that I’d make it back to base and be ok for the final 320km tomorrow.
My thoughts wandered over the meaning of success and failure, and the cup of tea and shower I’d get back at base, when Disaster! In retrospect, I think I’d been a bit unsettled by some fast cars coming up behind, and one drunk shouting out the window. So I thought I’d take the cycle-path from Kirkliston to Queensferry, only to misjudge the depth of the wet kerb at the entrance to the Dundas estate and crash. I can’t remember much of what happened next; I’m told I did have a brief Tom Simpson “Put me back on my bike” moment before an ambulance man assessed me “Where are you going?” “Just beyond Inverkeithing” “Where exactly?” Could I remember the name “Fordell Firrs?” Could I hang, so it was off to Casualty in St John’s. I wouldn’t really recommend it after midnight on Saturday in the middle of Gala Day season. I overheard a doctor assessing someone else with a head injury “what is the date?” I must listen to the answer, I thought, cause to me its still just day 2, but I knew that would have to be my last day of cycling for a while. Eventually I persuaded them to let me out; I think they were glad to see the back of me, given the smell coming off my socks.
So no triumphant redefinition of myself as a success, but I had tried my best and sometimes its no disgrace to realise that sometimes it not quite good enough. Later I learned that only 3 of the 7 finished, they are 3 tough hombres, I can tell you that! I must say a special thanks to ERC members Graham for organising the event (and getting my bike back from Dundas), Colin for the superb training/preparation tips (if I could have followed more of them, I’d have had a better chance) and Lee for the light (you really do get cars to dip their lights when you have it on full). And to the cycling belles in Berwick, I’d say “Well if I finish, I’ll be able to say I did it; if I don’t finish, I’ll be able to say I tried”
Re: Mille Alba Helpers Ride
Reply #1 on:
June 12, 2012, 12:41:00 PM »
Makes my legs sore just reading about it Ken.
Damned good dig anyway. Hope the bumps and bruises (no worse I hope) are soon on the mend.
Impossible is only an opinion.
Mille Alba Helpers Ride
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