Crystal Balls 2013

2013-Official-Tour-de-France-RouteHopefully Le Tour 2013 will be more gripping than the borefest Team Sky served up last year. Froome looks the strongest of the favourites but he may be undone by old allegiances and on the road ‘understandings.’ 

Let’s start with the favourites who will line up at the start line in Corsica –

Chris Froome

Ryder Hesjedal

Joaquim Rodriguez

Cadel Evans

Jurgen Van den Broeck

Tejay van Garderen

Alberto Contador

Outside chancers – Robert Gesink – Alejandro Valverde – Richie Porte – Bauke Mollema – Andy Schleck – Haimar Zubeldia – Igor Anton

I’d say Evans will struggle this year as perhaps his glory days are behind him. Van den Broeck will need to steer clear of injury and spills and the talented Hesjedal is recovering from a serious crash in the Giro. The very promising Van Garderen will most likely have to sacrifice his chances for team leader, Evans. Schleck has not shown much form this year.

So…Contador versus Froome is the battle we all believe will define the tour. Froome can certainly match Contador on any stage, including the many mountains in this 2013 edition of Le Tour. But…does Froome have allies on the road beyond his Sky team mates?

Rodriguez - maybe not winner but gamechanger

Rodriguez – maybe not winner but gamechanger

I think it’s possible that being the favourite will make him have to do twice as much work covering attacks etc. And as far as attacks go we should mention the dark horse for this year’s tour – Joaquim Rodriguez. Although he’s No. 1 cyclist he’s not always been around for Le Tour. He presents a problem for Froome not just because of his ability but his potential to rekindle his allegiance with Contador and also Cofidis main man Navarro. Froome has a lot on his plate just with these two alone!

get on yer bike Sagan

get on yer bike Sagan

New talent Moser

Moser

The GC aside there’s lots of other possibilities for excitement in the 2013 race. Of course there’s the amazing Sagan who will enthral us, I hope, with his finish line antics. I’d love to see him and Johnny Hoogerland in a break away together. It would also be great to see  new talents like Ted King and the much talked about Moreno Moser show their hands.

ted king

Ted King

As for the sprints, will Matt Goss and Griepel get the better of Cavendish? It’s unlikely.

Best Bikes – I’ll need to have a good look over the opening stages. At the moment it’s the Garmin team’s cervelos

And the worst tops – Sojasun

really?

really?

 

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Bicicletas Bonitas!

Cycling with Club Ciclista Aluche turned out to be one of my most memorable days on a bike.IMG_1233

I contacted the Aluche club last year with a view to riding with them in the spring but as the time drew nearer it was looking pretty doubtful. I was only staying in Madrid for 5 nights and it was going to be difficult to get my bike from the airport onto the busy metro and then find a space in the hotel to set it up for cycling. Also I had had a bad winter with a virus and chest infection – I didn’t feel particularly fit.

I decided nonetheless on a Plan B – hire a road bike in Madrid for the day. The bike hire shop Rutas Pangea was excellent. They set the bike up with SPDs and a small toolbag etc. It was an old Macario frame with some tiagra. It might’ve been from the 1990s but it was a nice, firm ride.

So with a map to the meeting point and my Dumfriess CC top on I set off through the ‘calles’ of Madrid for a 100k cycle. Luckily it was the Semana Santa and the roads were very quiet. As I cycled towards Aluche I was hoping I’d followed the directions properly. I had – I heard them before I saw the club riders. The noise of their laughter and chatter filled the area. What followed was really humbling. There were over 20 riders assembled and each one of them came over, shook my hand, introduced themselves and welcomed me. It was a wonderful gesture. As we made our way out of the city, their joking and banter made me feel like I’d been cycling with their club for years.

The one with the red hoods and MMR from Asturias...extremely cool!

The one with the red hoods –  an MMR from the Asturias Region…full dura ace or ‘durache’ as they say in Spain – an extremely cool bike!

A very smart Pinarello!

A very smart Pinarello!

On one of the long drags into the Spanish countryside, I had the chance to check out the Aluche bike set-up. I was expecting to see a peleton of Orbeas but there was a wide variety of brands – Giant, Felt, Pinarellos. The MMR was a little bit special and could well knock the Van Nicholas off of my wish list. All the guys used standard doubles with shimano (although at our cafe stop there was the time-honoured debate about shimano versus campagnolo). Most rode 11-25 sprockets but judging by the mountains surrounding Madrid I’m guessing those sprockets will get changed depending on the route.

On the road the ride divided naturally into two groups A and B. Given my poor winter and the old Mercario, I opted for Group B. When the hammer went down it went down hard. The road landscape outside Madrid was long and draggy at times with a brutally nagging headwind. Pretty soon the Spanish/English barrier was replaced with the universal language of cycling – through and off. The towns and villages came and went –Pozuelo, Boadilla del Monte and then a cafe stop in El Alamo. Here we met up again with Group A after their extra loop – a great way to avoid two separate rides!

wine, coffee, tortilla and jamon

wine, coffee, tortilla and jamon

The cafe stop was incredible. Once again the warmth of the club was striking. Every rider came over and asked how I was getting on. I wasn’t allowed to pay for anything. After we’d eaten I was presented with a small coffee liqueur which we all downed then cheered. Amazing!

This wee nip certainly helps fire up the legs!

This wee nip certainly helps fire up the legs!

We assembled outside for some photos and were told firmly by a policeman to keep it down as a Semana Santa procession was taking place!

Think my old tin machine is ruining this pic

Think my old tin machine is ruining this pic

Heading back to the city we picked up some tail wind and the kilometres ebbed away on the widening roads. 100k of pure cycling enjoyment was coming to an end. As the centre of Madrid shimmered opaquely beneath the mountains, I wondered what was different about this club.

I think their bond of friendship was tangible. The way they spoke with one another and rode together showed their closeness as a group. They seemed at times more like brothers than a cycling club. The rider I’d contacted last winter, Domingo, was not present as he had had a really bad fall in the mountains with the club and had been airlifted to hospital (I remembered what that was like). He emailled me from hospital saying ‘the boys will look after you…trust me…I owe them my life.’ Something about this statement seemed very real and true about CC Aluche. I could see that clearly as I could see it in my own accident 2 years ago.

At the metro they all stopped to say goodbye and shake hands. They called me friend and ‘hombre’. After a bleak winter in Scotland, this ride was a pure tonic, a celebration of everything brilliant about cycling. I’ll be wearing my Aluche top as soon as it arrives!

Later in the week I persuaded Mrs McG and Miss McG to visit the famous Otero bike shop in Madrid (muchas gracias guapas)! Photos below.

IMG_1254

one of the old Otero frames

not much from the outside but a tardis really

not much from the outside but a tardis really

Otero Team Time Trial Bike

Otero Team Time Trial Bike

would love this frame

would love this frame

Into The Valley

In the shortest days of the winter our fifth long winter run took us to Scotland‘s highest village, Wanlockhead via 3868 feet of climbing. I won’t even pretend the scenery was magnificent but on the other hand, after a week of immersion in Quality Street this ride was a welcome relief from decadent over-indulgence.DSC00608I was doubtful for this run all week. On Boxing Day I joined the club for some post turkey miles and pulled a spoke through the rim of my back wheel. No readers I don’t think there was a connection…they were very old rims!

I got myself some decent open pros as a replacement and fitted them just as the stormy weather was gathering on Friday, stoking up the crumpled leaves about my garage door. I set the alarm for 8 a.m. and listened to the wind and rain outside. At the last minute it was the bike or more Quality Street. I went to meet the guys for 9.

Elvanfoot in a hostile headwind...

Elvanfoot in a hostile headwind…

Low cloud hung over the hills and the valleys all day except for the last 20 miles. As much as I love the scenery in the South-west of Scotland, these conditions were grim. We were blown up the Dalveen and once over the top we rode at 25 mph average. However we knew what was coming…turning onto Elvanfoot, heading for the Leadhills, we went from 25 to about 9 mph.

In the absence of splendid scenery (the hills around Durisdeer excepted) there was plenty of interest in the 12 man peleton. There were two guys riding the route in the big chain-wheel and highest gears as part of their training regime. Andrew our route-master told me he broke his front-mech and found a replacement in the drawer of his kitchen (that’s quite something)!

When I said to Ian, a young Doctor at the Hospital, that I had a medical question he replied ‘Oh is it your prostrate?’ The guys thought this was hilarious.

waiting for the grub!

waiting for the grub!

Highlight of the run was our cafe stop at the local pub just before descending the Mennock pass. Mein Hostess single-handledly fed and watered 12 hungry cyclists, most of whom were huddled round a small fire with steam rising off their wet clothes.

fireside chat

fireside chat

waiting for the burgers

waiting for the burgers

Since the food would be a while I wandered round and took some snaps. I found myself in what looked like a play area and nearly jumped out of my longs. On a shelf was a human head…that’s what it seemed like in the gloom of the mid-afternoon.

yep...strange but true

yep…strange but true

the boys pass the time until the food arrives by...watching a programme about food..

the boys pass the time until the food arrives by…watching a programme about food..

We left the pub in a downpour and descended Mennock with its huge valleys of mist and nothingness. The truth is I’d rather climb this brute any day than descend it –  the Tour of Britain ventured up here a few years back and we went as a club to watch them grind up. Everyone suffers on that climb, the great leveller.

The wind chill and surface water on the Mennock were potent hazards but not the greatest danger – that was left to the Taliban ambushing sheep who’d launch themselves sporadically at your bike. I was glad when it flattened out and we wove our way through the Drumlanrig estate. By the time we were on the Clone Hill, the murky clouds were gone and the winter sun was nestling in the hills.

With so much climbing there were tired legs at the end but I think the general view was that everyone felt glad they’d done it. I certainly was and it was good to make contact again with the bike and the weather and the wild…when I got home the Quality Street were finished.

Mossy perks up on Dunscore Hill for a photo!

Mossy perks up on Dunscore Hill for a photo!

Feed Station

It’s nearly Christmas and probably the furthest we’ll get from our bikes in terms of commitment. My winter bike is shiny and clean in the garage – a sure sign of a bad weather winter. Never mind it’s given me the opportunity to write a blog post about one of my other favourite pastimes – Cooking. And instead of the 12 days of Christmas I’ve included my 12 observations on road biking

1. When climbing it’s everything to the left.

Since I’ve been young I’ve always enjoyed making food. When leaving school I wanted to work in a kitchen. I found out you had to start work very early and buy your own equipment. For some reason I found this off – putting even though it makes perfect sense now. Of course this was in the days before the TV chef making food sexy and cursing everyone to hell like a rock star. Nowadays I spend most of a Sunday in the kitchen after cleaning the bike of course!IMG_1023

2. If you’re going to compete with fellow club members, remember they have the right to beat you.

I have a few things that I can always do well in the kitchen; cake, soup and stews. However I think with the past couple of years of ‘austerity’ I now find myself making something instead of buying it. This is why when I’m out in restaurant, I’ll rarely choose macaroni or lasagne from the menu as you’ll always compare with your home version.

cinnamon loaf - the aroma fills the house

cinnamon loaf – the aroma fills the house

3. Never wait to be ‘invited’ to the front.

I have to confess I enjoy the little challenges of competing with supermarkets. When cycling I like flapjacks which I usually buy from Tescos. But then I thought…why not make your own and then you can decide the contents and size etc?

4. If you complain about a hill, it immediately becomes twice as long and twice as hard.

Home made yorkshire puddings - bigger and better

Home made yorkshire puddings – bigger and better

Usually on Christmas Eve my family have a buffet and this year my wife suggested we make our own. She used the word ‘we’ to mean me obviously but that’s cool…another challenge. So I’m trying a few things. Having been to Spain this year means there’ll be some influences from there, such as empanadas and huevos rotos.

5. Applaud another cyclist‘s improvement and learn from it.

Baked versus Set Cheesecake? Always baked for me.

Baked versus Set Cheesecake? Always baked for me.

6. A good winter means a good summer.

I’ve always loved American southern fried food and this year I’ve faced my fears and had a go at fried chicken (watching The Help inspired me) and cool little chicken nuggets. Getting the oil temperature right and the cooking time for chicken takes a bit of practice!

KFC I smashed you!

KFC I smashed you!

7. Winter’s buddies will be the summer’s adversaries.

crunchy chicken nuggets - beasting

crunchy chicken nuggets – beasting

8. What you borrow on the road must always be returned or replaced.

Like all cyclists I enjoy a good chat on the road about food but also I’m not alone in the enjoyment of cooking and baking. One of my road buddies, Graham, is much the same and we usually have a word or two on club runs about what we’ve been making in the kitchen usually before we discuss what we’ve been doing on the turbo. Graham’s head and shoulders above me in the cooking front. His chocolate and orange cakes and homemade bread mean I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

9. Always hold the wheel.

sour cream scones - delicious just out the oven

sour cream scones – delicious just out the oven

10. A headwind will also be a tailwind.

As I said earlier food is never far from a cyclist’s mind, especially on the long runs. Another fellow roadie, John and I have taken food discussions to a new level. Usually after a long day in the saddle on a Saturday we text one another after the run. These texts are not about cycling matters as you might imagine – comparing Garmin outputs etc. No. We picture message each other what we’re having for lunch. I think he is ahead with his salmon and scrambled eggs. I nearly choked on my pie and beans one Saturday when I got a picture message of finest salmon, posh cold meats, grapes and some wine. Thank god he was on the wind up!

11. On the road don’t get isolated from your group.

Banana cake and butter icing...still working on that icing though

Banana cake and butter icing…still working on that icing though

12. If you get a kicking for 5 – 6 miles don’t forget the other 40 – 50 miles which you cycled well.

Most roadies will have a few days off for Christmas. We can spend the rest of the year agonising about the kilos. I’ll be the same. It suddenly struck me when writing this post that cycling is one of those great sports which actually demands we eat when participating…perfect for the roadie, perfect for the foody!

Merry Christmas everyone and here’s hoping for great miles in 2013.

 

 

Preludes and Interludes

'...nothing better than a wandering cloud,I cannot miss my way...' Wordsworth

‘…nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way…’ Wordsworth

When I started cycling, I joined some club members for a ride round The Lakes. If you haven’t been, try it sometime…your legs will forgive you, eventually!

Our recent icy blast has meant less road cycling for me. In years gone by I would be checking every forecast even the sky itself, for the beginnings of a thaw and when it didn’t appear, I’d ride nonetheless, worried my fitness would suffer.

Not so nowadays. Why go out on minus zero days when your body temperature rarely rises higher than the thermometer and with every blind bend on a country road you’re wondering if a thoughtless farmer has let his field flood onto the icy road? At those moments shivering hands want to clutch at the shifters but your cycling brain says keep rolling straight. For 3 hours your nose is cold. If there’s ice and snow so be it. I’ll enjoy the break and the rest.

It happened that during our cold snap, my wife had organised a hotel deal for a weekend break down at the Lakes. Great – a chance to immerse myself in the unique landscape of the Lakes National Park, laze about in the cafes and perhaps a bike shop or two.

A mile from Kendal

A mile from Kendal – ‘The world is too much with us…getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…’

We had a lovely time so well done for the plan Mrs McG. A word for our wives and partners, or as I call them – cycling widows, before I move on to the heart of this post. They put up with a lot from we cyclists, getting used to our disappearances for 3-6 hours and then sitting patiently as we say things like – ‘I was thinking it’s time I got a new frame..’

The trip down to the Lakes brought back some fond memories for me. One of my first cycling trips away was in the Lakes. Also I’ve had a few journeys down with cycling buddies wandering round the great cycle shops in the area, spending the day debating shimano versus campag..or carbon over titanium.

Keswick at sunset. here you can do two things...coffee shop or outdoor shop

Keswick at sunset. here you can do two things…coffee shop or outdoor shop

Although it’s only 60 miles approximately from South West Scotland you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Lakes are the same in terms of landscape. Actually they’re subtly different especially colour and contours. The lakes are darker with their brooding, impossible hills and passes. It was here Wordsworth wrote his greatest poetry and no wonder, the enigmas in the hills and sky are like another planet. The towns and villages seem tiny, sunken places, humbled by the neighbouring giants.

Colossus and leg breaker

Colossus and leg breaker

It must be 8 – 9 years since I rode in the Lakes. Some of the boys from Dumfries CC and myself made the journey south to take on some of the passes. I hadn’t been cycling seriously for long (in fact I was sporting a baseball hat under my cycling helmet instead of a proper cycling cap – newbie)! I think I went down there as though it were just another route. I couldn’t be more wrong. Cycling in the Lakes is a special experience. Ask the guys who’ve bravely entered the famous Fred Whitton Challenge. Some of the boys from our club have tried it and survived…just.

The Lakeland Pedlar - our rendezvous

The Lakeland Pedlar – our rendezvous

As usual for The Lakes, it was pouring rain the day of our ride. As it was so relentless we decided to cut the route to about 40 miles. The route included Honister and, as I remember, Newlands. One of the guys said to me as we approached Honister ‘Get it into the Granny, easiest cog. If you survive till the grid you’ll be alright.’

I wasn’t sure at this point if he was psyching me out. No. He was giving good advice. The foot of Honister is really brutal. I immediately found the granny next to useless and wished I’d had a great granny instead. We were weaving all over the road at about two or three mph, grinding the cranks like they were made of concrete. I got to the grid then fell over. It was a relief. I think someone was lying beside me. We got back on and then slowly wove up the remainder of the climb.

going up is brutal and coming down, terrifying!

going up is brutal and coming down, terrifying!

The reward at the top of Honister is a Slate Museum then a downhill of terrifying proportions! Downhills are my achilles heals on normal runs but this one was more like sky-diving! I remember being so terrified I unclipped half way down and used my cycling shoes as extra brakes.

Newlands was tough but not quite as brutal as I recall. Soaked to the skin we never made it to Hard Knott and Wrynose. Along with Kirkstone and Whinlatter these are the iconic names of the Lakes.

I was stopping the car every mile trying to capture it all

I was stopping the car every mile trying to capture it all

We rode back to our cars. Legs in bits but spirit unbowed, I had done something a little special and even years on the memories are vivid. Since that time I’ve been back a few times but hanging out in cycle shops is not too arduous.

In Arragon Cycles Penrith, obsessing on the Van Nicholas

In Arragon Cycles Penrith, obsessing on the Van Nicholas

Proof that a great bike like a Scott can be ruined by a hideous paint job!

Proof that a great bike like a Scott can be ruined by a hideous paint job!

The Lake District is legendary amongst cyclists and rightly so. Its passes are exacting tests of your legs and your will power – you’ll need to dig deep to survive. Oh and the great cycle shops will drain your wallet. One day I’ll go back again to cycle and reclaim those hills.

Postscript – One of the boys on our Forum just reminded me about the Lakeland Loop 2013…that could be the day to end my lengthy interlude from Wordsworth’s dark, exciting landscapes!

Crossing The Winter

Today at mile 93 of our Club’s 3rd long run I drowned in a dark, lactic ocean. The winter is upon us and the road to full fitness will be long and lonely.

After a tanking cafe stop at the Clachan Inn, Dalry – 17.11.12

As I have said in previous posts, the Winter is not the end of cycling. The cycling continues but these cold, wet months are about training to maintain fitness, to rest a little and to prepare for next year. Also they are about weight. You might put on a few pounds or  take the opportunity to lose a kilo or two. Non cyclists are usually surprised when you say that the winter is a good time to lose weight.

Hunger but in a good way…and of course the caffeine!

Filling our boots before the slog over to Corriedoo

The common view is that weight can be lost in the summer when you’re more actively outdoors. But if you’re a cyclist trying to lose weight in the summer, you’re probably behind the rest of the riders in the club. The winter gives you control and a plan and a regime as does early spring. The summer is too busy a time for that kind of focus.

However the focus comes at a price since even with the social side of long club runs, your winter regime is essentially a lonely pursuit. The challenges are only for you and are only set by you. You can’t lie to yourself. Everything must be true and accurate.

our winter bikes – a means to an end…but what end?

On today’s long run which took us along the Solway coast, followed by the spectacular Loch Ken then over to St John’s of Dalry, I spoke to a few guys about their winter. Everyone does it differently but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it solo. My personal preference is to cross train. This means running, turbo, club run and core. Like all my club mates I have a plan for the winter. I don’t share my targets with them. Why would I? Why would they? But isn’t it amazing how we pursue those targets religiously? There isn’t a cyclist who lies about their winter regime. Well…why lie to yourself?

Many years ago my old cycling mucker Ian handed me a tattered thick booklet. It was called ‘The Blue Book‘ by Peter Read. Here’s what a fellow cycling blogger said about it-

‘When I started turbo training I bought Peter Read’s “The Blue Book”. Peter is well known in cycling circles as a guru of turbo training and his books have been used for many years to good effect. I have only read The Blue Book and can vouch for the effectiveness of the sessions. As well as helping you plan your sessions there are specific sessions to help overcome your weanesses, be it top end speed, power, endurance, etc etc.’

He goes on to add some pretty good advice about the book, saying…

‘…keep the steady rides for the road and use the turbo for interval training, easy recovery sessions or for when the weather is really bad. For interval training, the turbo becomes a different beast, an instrument of torture known in some cycling circles as “The Rack”, but it is fabulously effective as such and if you have the means of measuring power output then you can accurately repeat sessions and measure progress. Boring? Never, especially when the figures tell you you are improving…’

Ian always impressed on me the positive aspects of turboing which has meant I still enjoy it. Lots of guys don’t (yet they still do as much as me). When you’re on your turbo it’s sad but true, even though it is a chariot of pain, it is without doubt, the bike of truth. Those intervals are measured to the exact second as are the pyramids. Cutting corners or poor efforts on the turbo do you no good.

sharing a joke with my cycling buddy Ian Harkness, the man who introduced me to the systematic torture of the body a.k.a the turbo!

Yet the turbo also means loneliness. Perhaps this is why a lot of guys buy themselves ipods or imagic turbos; there’s some company in music or a little animated cyclist smashing you on a simulation of the Galibier! I stopped using my ipod recently. My only company is the whirr of the back wheel and the digital clock crushing me relentlessly. The garage is a lonely place, killing yourself between the lawnmower and some old tiles. But it is also a place of self-determination and ambitions.

As I said at the top of this post, lactic got me today but as the boys pulled away, something made me keep on turning those pedals even though getting back on the group was futile. I’m not sure what it was: trying to reach towards something or was it keeping something at bay, the body’s pain? Irrespective of what it was, there’s no crisis, no plan changing. The lonely crossing of the winter will continue and who knows, next time I may well pull clear of the lactic kill zone!

Jelly Bean

My fourth centurion ride of the year was without doubt the hardest but the panoramic scenery and camaraderie helped me out of the lactic kill-zone.

Our club route master, Andrew, posted the second of our long winter rides around Gatehouse of Fleet and Kirkcudbright. Although in the completely opposite direction to our first winter outing to Samye Ling (our destinations today were westerly)  it bore the crucial similarities of challenging hills and immense scenery.

As usual a few of us decided to ride some early miles before the main run in our (mad) pursuit of 100 miles. I was off my Tommasini cruiser and on my tank of a winter bike for only the second time. I don’t know about other roadies but I feel it takes a while to adjust the legs and energy to heavy steel. In addition, after much debate I’d opted to ride specialized armadillos this winter which were not my first choice tyre but that’s a long story. The feeling of these wired clinchers is akin to rolls of liquorice churning about in treacle.

Half way round our early spin we hit a nagging headwind which we felt would impact on the longer run. This combined with the tyres and a week in Spain gorging on Churos, meant ill omens for me.

We arrived at the rendezvous and once again I was impressed by the huge turnout (30 riders approx). Although dry it was the first very cold day of the winter but there was nonetheless a great buzz about the run.

By Crocketford which wasn’t far into the main route, I knew I was not going to have a great day. The zombie army of lactic was creeping into my legs when little extra efforts were required. I hoped the feeling would pass.

The star of the winter run in the South west is the scenery and the little gem on this run for me is that moment when you climb up from Laurieston and Glengap Forest onto the moor towards Gatehouse and on the last rise the Irish Sea appears in the haze resting amongst the endless rolling hills.

some of the group on the moor road into Gatehouse – hills and sea behind them

We had the first of several punctures on that road. If you’re going to have a puncture, I can’t think of a better place to have one, out in that unspoiled world.

Our usual cafe stop in Gatehouse was different this year with waitress service – very posh and also a bit pricier. However the soup and sandwiches went down without touching the sides and as usual all the roadies were hitting the caffeine like desperate addicts.

a little break before Mutehill and the tormenting headwind. Alex (right) and myself helped each other on the last 15 miles…

After Gatehouse we started with…another puncture. Some runs are just like that. Another day and another 100 miler there would be no stops. We made our way over to Kirkcudbright and what was the hardest part of the course: the climbs over to Dalbeattie. Lunch had only delayed my doom but before it arrived other riders and myself were struck by the great scenery around Mutehill. The tide was in and the bay looked calm and translucent. Then the climbing started. I survived most of it and was even able to offer encouragement to others who were toiling.

We had a few of these – one of those days. We always feel good when Les (left) is out for a run – that man can change a tyre with lightning speed!

But cycling has its ways of shifting fortunes and as I encouraged others in the sapping headwind towards Palnackie, I knew the zombie army of Lactic acid had breached my defences. The knock was knocking and cyclists know that means oblivion. I threw jelly beans at my mouth as though shying for coconuts but the contest was being lost and by the Haugh of Urr I told the group to leave me to fall on my sword. Some of them laughed and said they wanted to hang around and watch the eyes bulge out of my head – I think those guys liked cycling pornography. But in the end they did the decent thing and left me and my ragged dignity.

But then something happened which says a lot about this brutal sport. I hooked up with  fellow sufferer and between us we tackled the Military Rd back to Dumfries with its three little ball-crunching climbs evenly spaced to allow you to reflect on what they can do to you! We shouted out encouragement to one another and gradually we started to feel better. Had I really managed to vanquish the zombie hordes of lactic? Probably not but in cycling as with many sports, sometimes mind really can overcome matter.

Near the end another cyclist, Brian, from the run joined me for the last five miles and the big 100. The miles slid away as we chatted about wildlife, the amazing Red Kite we spotted just before Laurieston and the extraordinary legions of migrating birds who fly thousands of miles to the South-west and who are a big part of winter in this region. I bet they don’t get the knock!