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!)

Etape Caledonia 2018 – New Route (Andrew)

A few weeks ago it was reported that the UK Government was going to scrap 1p and 2p coins because no one used them anymore and they just clogged up space in your purse or wallet.

Within a day, after front page stories attacked the idea, the Government u-turned as it announced it had no plans to scrap them at all, proving once and for all that everyone both loves and hates change.

Runners love change because change represents variety. I usually try and run different routes each time I go out so that while I might follow streets or paths I’ve run before I try and not have too much of a fixed route in my mind. That way I can change direction, pick a side road I’ve not in in a while or, my new favourite hobby, run along a back alley and find the secret routes through Glasgow hidden behind houses, offices and shops.

Running’s all about the route, not the destination.

Cyclists on the other hand hate change. When you’re on a bike, while it’s nice to explore new routes, it’s also reassuring (and safe!) to ride the roads you know well. The ones where traffic is light, where you’re not likely to meet an unexpected pothole, and you can concentrate more on the destination than the route. You have somewhere to get to, and you want to get there in the fastest possible time.

That’s why I’m disappointed to read that this year Etape Caledonia will have a new route. Not much of a change, an extra three miles to incorporate a short climb before Loch Rannoch, but a change nonetheless.

After several years of trying to get faster and aiming to beat four hours, an extra three miles means that history is lost. I can’t compare this year with previous years as we’re now riding a new route.

And while the new route will be good – any ride in Perthshire is good – it’s also bad as it means the history is lost.

So, just like the penny, change is both bad and good!

Etape Caledonia – Part 2 (Andrew)

The Etape Caledonia is an 81 mile closed road sportive around Tayside. It’s one of Scotland largest bike races with over 3,000 riders taking part each year. It’s not a race. The organisers make that very clear – it’s a sportive, which is French for “We Get Cheap Insurance If We Don’t Call This A Race”.

Of course, it is a race. It’s the annual test of Todd v Todd as Iain tries (and fails) to claim the triple crowns of Todd Of The Loch (the fastest Todd around Loch Tummel), Todd of The Mountain (the fastest Todd up the highest climb at Schiehallion) and, the big one, the Yellow Todd, the fastest Todd overall and first over the finish line.

Every year, I win all three. I’m not boasting. It’s a fact. Six Todd of The Loch facts. Six Todd of the Mountain facts. Six Yellow Todd facts. Eighteen definitely 100% not boasting rock solid title winning facts.

(Well, maybe I’m boasting a wee bit – but wouldn’t you with such an impressive palmarès – which is French for “Get It Right Up Ya, Losers, Look What I’ve Won!”).

This was our seventh time at the Etape and Iain was trying mind games before the race.

“I’ve got a secret weapon.” He said.

“What is it?” I asked.

“If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?”

“If you’re secret doesn’t involve pedalling faster then it’s not going to help!”

But he had me worried. He was cycling far more than me. I’ve had to rely more on Turbo sessions than cycling outdoors. So, I thought there was a good chance he would win this year. I didn’t tell him that though instead I said:

“I don’t have a secret weapon. In fact I’m going to tell you exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to sit behind you until the very last mile then I’m going to overtake you.”

And every time he mentioned his secret weapon I’d tell him exactly the same thing except…

… I wasn’t going to do that at all. Instead I was planning to make a break as soon as the course flattened out at Loch Tummell.

In French, they call this Le Mind Game. I think. Did I mention I failed my French standard grade?

And I had a back up. I knew another rider who was starting in the same wave as us. Someone I knew was fast and who, last time they raced the Etape, completed it in just over four hours. I made sure we met him at the start and I then stuck to his wheel for the start of the race.

I had a domestique, which is French for “I Ain’t Going To Lose This So I Got Some Secret Help To Get Round”.

And the plan worked to perfection. We stuck together for the first 15 miles along gentle rolling road towards Kinloch Rannoch, before ‘dropping’ Iain just before the first feed stop.

Dropping is English for “See Ya Later, Loser!”.

After that I wanted to see how fast I could go. I had it my head that I might, with a fair wind, be able to beat four hours. In the end, my legs gave up before I did. There are two main climbs during the Etape. The first is at Schiehallion, a steady climb with some steep corners that comes as a shock to the system after 20 miles of flat roads; the second is three miles from the end, a very steep climb of less than 100 metres. My legs threw in the towel on the second climb and, after that, I knew my faint hope of getting in below four hours was over. I coasted the last few miles and rolled into Pitlochry for a time of four hours six minutes.

I then waited for Iain.

And waited.

And waited. 🙂

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(How my house might have looked that night)

OMG! OMG! OMG!

Read the next entry from Iain. Look at the pictures. Nice bike. Nice set-up. It looks like a nice place to train but… wait a minute.. what’s wrong with that picture…

Just like meeting Donald Trump the only thought in my head right now is…

DON’T TOUCH THE RUG!!!!!!

Where’s the wipe clean mat? What’s been soaking into that rug? Euggghhh! Gross! Unclean! Burn it! Get rid of it before it soaks into the floor and causes sweat damp (the word kind of damp, just like normal damp but leaves yellow patches) throughout the entire house!

Oh, wait a minute.

It’s okay.

Panic over.

Iain doesn’t sweat when he trains. He doesn’t go faster than 5mph. At least he doesn’t when he’s out on the road, so I can’t imagine he’s any better on the turbo…

Caledonian Etape 2017 – bring it on! Challenge me, indeed!

Twinning the Etape Caledonia (Andrew)

Last year at the Caledonian Etape Iain tried a break away at mile 70. We were heading to Aberfeldy, on a long flat stretch, he had his brand new aero bike, he turned round, took one look at me and started pumping his legs as fast as he could. He was off.

For the next three miles he didn’t look round. He kept his head down and his speed up. I sat on his wheel, waiting.

At Taymouth he finally looked round, I knew in his mind he was thinking “my job’s done, I’ve dropped him” but that’s when I picked up speed, went straight passed him and didn’t look back.

That was my fifth victory in a row.

This year, I thought it would be closer. I was wrong. I picked up speed at mile 20 as I thought we’d entered a sprint section. In previous years this section was just a mile long. This time it was 10 miles. I thought Iain was with me and we’d have a race towards the finish but, as the miles passed and I realised that I’d miscalculated I also realised Iain had not kept up. I was on my own.

I was feeling good. Despite a cold during the week I was breathing okay and not coughing too much. I kept going, setting small goals for myself. Keep up with this group. Join this chain. Pass these people on Schiehalion. Use the drops on the way to Taymouth.

I know the course so well. We would go on summer holiday to Aberfeldy and I’ve cycled parts of the route many times. It makes such a difference to know the course. You know when to push, when to relax and how long it takes between places.

With every mile I still felt fresh so I just kept going. I had some gels in my pocket so didn’t need to stop so I wondered how fast I could go. I’d hoped to finish in under 4hrs 30 mins. In the end I finished in 4 hours 11 minutes, 18 minutes faster than my previous personal best.

The twinner* again.

*twin + winner = twinner (trademark pending)

Caledonian Etape (Iain)

B+B Owner – what time do you want breakfast? 5am?

Me – Its ok. I don’t like a cooked breakfast. If you leave out cereal and milk then I’ll have that.

B+B Owner Are you sure? How about tea and coffee?

Me – No thanks! You don’t need to get up. Cereal will be great.

B+B Owner – As long as its not an issue….

Me – Thanks! Ill be happy with the cereal. Enjoy your lie in!

When I got home I rated the B+B on tripadvisor. “1 star – No cooked breakfast!!”

If that review was true (the story is but the review isn’t) then you’d think the B+B was terrible. The review is a snapshot but its not the full story.

Similarly a picture at a race is a snapshot that doesn’t give the full story.

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We both look fit and happy. It doesn’t show that we both had a heavy cold.

We’ve been doing this race since 2011. My first attempt at it was on a hybrid bike and it took nearly 7 hours to cover 81 miles. Since then we’ve been back every year. Our times have got better but there has been one constant – Andrew always beats me.

This year I thought I’d win. I didn’t. He dropped me at mile 20. I tried to catch up but when I pushed hard my chest would seize up and I’d have to cough.

I accepted it wasn’t going to be my day. The rest of the race was spent at a steady non coughing pace. I finished with a personal best so I can’t complain….too much.

The next day I felt rough so I worked at home. I felt much better for doing so.

When I got back to the office on Tuesday nobody believed I felt rough. My boss said: “But you and your brother look fine in the picture!”