Bealach na Ba Race – 2014 (Iain)

I had learnt my lesson from my DNF in 2012. This time I trained for the race, I wore the correct cycling kit and I had bought a new bike – a hybrid! It was a mix of a road and mountain bike. Surely that would be perfect for climbing hills on roads?

At registration I had to fill in a release form stating I absolved the organisers of any blame in the event of an accident. I assume this was due to Malcolm’s accident as I was not asked for this in 2012.

I lined up at the start. I felt confident. I tuned to Andrew and told him that “I thought it was going to be a great day.” I spoke too soon. It started raining.

This time the climb was much better. I made it half way up before I had to get off and push my bike. There was no camera crew at the top this year. There was no one at the top. The conditions were miserable – wet and windy. Nobody wanted to hang about in that type of weather.

I was pleased when I biked past Applecross. The climb was done. The rest of the course would be easy!

It wasn’t. The miles after Applecross are an endlessly undulating series of small hills. There is more climbing in this section than during the Bealach climb.

By the time I hit the umpteenth small hill I had to get off and push my bike. My legs had run out of puff.

Andrew was on a road bike. He felt fine. Maybe when Lance Armstrong was wrong when he wrote “Its not about the bike.” I felt it was definitely about the bike.

Shieldaig

I made it to the second last village on the route – Shieldaig. It’s a small coastal town. The organisers had setup a feed stop here. They were packing it away into a van. They looked surprised to see us. A man approached us and said “I didn’t realise anyone was still biking”

I assume that means we are last. Very last. He opens the van and says “Help yourself to anything you want”

I take a packet of crisps, a can of coke and unusually I spot some cheese slices. I’d never seen cheese at a food stop before. I ask the man if I can have some of the slices. He says yes.

I try a bit. It is delicious. The best bit of cheese I have ever had. It was probably the cheapest cheese imaginable but after cycling 75 miles my taste buds must have craved the milk and salt goodness. I’ve never had cheese as good as that again!

To this day I still salivate at the tastiness of that cheese.

Powered up on the three C’s – cheese, coke and crisps we head off to tackle the last section of the course.

It was horrific. For the the last 12 miles we had to ride into a strong headwind. I had to stand up on my pedals to move my bike forwards. It was like biking through heavy mud.

At last we spot the finish. It’s getting dark. We’ve been riding for nearly nine hours.

I’m spent but elated. We are going to finish. We have done it together.

With 100m to go Andrew sprints off. He doesn’t believe in doing it together. He believes in winning. He is the only one at the finish line. We are so late. Everyone else has gone home.

We drive home. He spends the five hour journey telling me how he is the winner of the Bealach na Todd.