Etape Caledonia 2018 (Andrew)

Recovery

It’s not often you see someone carrying a spare tyre when they’re out riding. A tube, yes. A tyre, not so much.

What are the chances you’ll need a spare tyre in the middle of a race? Or worse, in the middle of a race that you ‘d be planning to race for six months? Or worse, 10 miles into that race, you need a tyre and you don’t even get the sense you’d even started it.

What are the chances? Pretty high actually, if you’re me. I had a tyre explode 10 miles into the Etape Du Tour – a race which follows a stage of the Tour De France.

A rip in the tyre wall meant a wait at the side of the road for a motorbike support.  And then another wait as the support checked if they had any spare wheels they could give me before I was finally told “the only wheels you’ll see are the four on the bus that’s coming to pick you up!”.

I remembered this horrible memory on Sunday as I waited at the side of the road, this time just after the five mile point, for motorbike support. I was taking part in the Etape Caledonia and had selected the wrong gear before climbing a short sharp hill. I tried to change gear. My chain slipped. It became caught in the crank and it became so twisted and knotted even Alexander The great would have said “I may have conquered the world – but, fek’s sake, even that knot’s beyond me!”

But, as I waited for the inevitable conversation with the mechanic that would lead to the sweep up truck, he said:

“Wait, is that a quick release link?”

Before he pressed the chain, split it in half, threaded it through and released the knot in 30 seconds. He then threaded the chain back, linked it together and said: “You’re good to go!”

And I had a second flashback. I remembered in January I’d tried to change the chain, failed miserably at removing the pins, destroying the chain tool in the process, before I’d replaced the chain again with quick release links.

Thank you, January Andrew! You’re a star! (Even if you didn’t know what you were doing and was just following the first YouTube mechanic video you could find).

So, despite starting again near the back of field, as every one had passed as the bike was fixed, at least I was starting again this time

As for the race, a new three mile loop adds an interesting challenge to the first half and some cracking views of Schiehallion. A rebrand gives some cracking looking jerseys. And, despite a heatwave on Saturday and forecast of a dry day with more to come, there was still a couple of spots of rain as we passed Loch Tummell. The Caledonian Etape – never knowingly dry no matter what the forecast!

The highlight of the race however came as I reached the 70 mile point. I saw a man with a spare tyre tied onto the panniers on the back of his bike, I didn’t think “Ha! He won’t need that!”. Instead,  I thought: “Well played, sir, well played indeed!”

(Oh, and Iain claims he won – but the official time shows a dead heat, so I’m still the undisputed heavy weight champion of the Etape Caledonia!)

Caledonian Etape 2018 (Iain)

Andrew and I were nearing the end of the Caledonian Etape (the annual 84 mile cycle sportive in Perthshire) when I began to increase my speed. Just a little. Just enough to see if he’d keep up. I went a little bit faster and was starting to build  a gap when I heard him shout.

“IT’S NOT A RACE!”

I knew then that I’d won.

The Etape started in 2009. We’ve done it since 2010 and  Andrew has beaten me every time. Most of the time he wins because he’s better at biking than me but occasionally he uses underhand tactics…

  • One year he arrived at the start having bought a road bike knowing that I had a hybrid. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t keep up with him.
  • Another time we agreed at the start that if we got separated during the race we’d meet at the next food stop on the course. The race started. He immediately biked off. I didn’t worry about it because I knew I’d get him at the next food stop. I arrived at the food stop. He was nowhere to be seen. I waited 10 minutes. He didn’t turn up. I realized I’d been tricked. He went on to win the race easily because he didn’t stop once!
  • Last year, he brought a “ringer” from his work. The “ringer” was a man who could cycle sub 4 hours for 80 miles. Andrew biked behind the “ringer” to get a pull round the course.

This year he had no underhand tactics….that I’m aware of. Although, I didn’t sleep well the night before the race. Maybe he upped the temperature in the hotel room to disturb me.

The weather forecast was for sunshine. It hadn’t rained in the week before the race. Unsurprisingly, it was wet at the start! We were off at 0632 which meant we got away before the majority of riders. The first five miles were uneventful until we came to a corner. I could see the road kicked up after the corner so I changed to a lower gear before I got there.

As I took the turn I heard the unmistakable sound of a gear clanking away and coming loose as some poor rider tried to get into a lower gear. I thought to myself “What idiot wouldn’t notice the hill! You’d have to be a right twat to not change gears in advance. Who’d be that stupid?”

“IAIN!!!” I heard Andrew shout. I looked round. The idiot was Andrew.

Impressively he’d managed to wrap his chain round his bike crank in such a way it was impossible to pull off. Thankfully a moto-bike mechanic turned up. He looked at it and said “Wow! I’ve never seen one wrapped that tight.” Thankfully after ten minutes of pulling and chain splitting we were able to sort it.

I could at any point have cycled off to ensure I’d win the race. I stayed. Not because I’m nice but so I could spend the rest of the ride reminding Andrew that I could have ridden off and therefore he should declare me champion by default!

We finished together but Andrew knows in his heart I won. Next year I expect him to use every underhand trick he knows to get his Etape crown back!

Some points on the race

  • The course has altered slightly this year as the organizers have added in a hill. Its not a tough climb but it breaks up the first half of the course nicely as I got nice views on the descent.
  • Their was no sports nutrition bars or gels this year. Each stop only had a banana or a flapjack.
  • The registration pack came with a complimentary bike cap. The first time the race has ever given away something for free!
  • The race used to be sponsored by Marie Curie cancer. They didn’t appear on any marketing this year. I’m not sure if that means its not more of a private for profit event.
  • It rained on the course for a couple of minutes which means we still have never had an all dry Etape.

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A short history of my bikes – part 5 (Iain)

There’s one quote I live my life by:

“If at first you don’t succeed… make sure no-one else finds out!” 

Unfortunately I told lots of people about (failing to) ride a stage of the Tour de France. https://norseman2016.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/a-short-history-of-my-bikes-part-4-iain/ 

That didn’t put me off attempting it again the next year. This time, I didn’t tell anyone!

Andrew wanted to ride his own bike but I decided to hire one so like a pauper at a whorehouse I paid for one ride only. This was bike 6. This was the first and only time I rode it.

The stage was a loop starting and ending in the Beautiful french town of Annecy. It had never been used as a Tour de France stage before so there was no information other than this map.

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On the way to the start – Andrew got a puncture! Was this a sign of drama come ? Unfortunately – yes! It wouldn’t be the last time that day I’d be stuck by the side of a road repairing Andrew’s bike.

The initial section was flat and easy as it winds it way along Lake Annecy. The weather was nice and sunny so we made good progress. The first climb was a steady incline but we felt good as we reached the summit of Col de Leschaux.

After this point the road widened so we rode side by side. Occasionally Andrew would drop behind me. I didn’t worry about it as he would appear again a few minutes later but just before the next climb Andrew dropped back and then didn’t reappear!

I stopped and waited. Hundreds of riders passed me but there was no sign of Andrew.

Eventually he turned up. His gears were broken. The chain was consistently slipping off. I tried to fix it but the problem persisted. Someone else stopped to help but they couldn’t fix it either.

Andrew decided to wait for a motorbike mechanic. I decided to head on.

The rest of the race was hard. The two climbs were long and there was barely any shade from the hot sun. On one climb I was going as fast as I could but I still got passed by a Frenchman wearing sandals on a bike with a basket full of his shopping! Lance Armstrong was right when he said – its not about the bike!

I completed the stage and received my medal. It felt good but it would have been better to finish with Andrew.

Andrew was waiting for me when I got back to the Hotel. His race had been ended by the mechanical problem. The mechanic had been unable to resolve it.

If every cloud has a silver lining then Andrews would be geting back in enough time to see Andy Murray play the Wimbledon final. The one he won!

Unfortunately his cloud had no silver lining. It was thunderbolts and lightning.  The hotel wasn’t showing the tennis so he had to sit bored out of his mind waiting for me instead!

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