Thursday, 12 May 2011

Fred and Bealach sportive reports

Bealach Beag
Jim Macdonald rode the Bealach Beag last Sunday, here is his report:

It seems I was the only WLC member to take part this year in the Bealach Beag, a circuit of the wonderful yet brutal Applecross peninsula from Shieldaig via the one and only Bealach na Ba. 6500 feet of ascent, the Bealach accounting for 2100 of that. The setting is great and the locals really get involved.

This is my 3rd year doing this sportive and thus I knew what to expect. Every year the weather has been different, and this time it was a south easterly wind which meant a headwind at the start and finish (unusual) and not a breath of wind in the Bealach itself. With the sun also shining, climbing up the Bealach became a sweaty effort! At least the road was closed this year so no car dodging required on the way up.

Much is said about the scale of the Bealach ascent, but for me it all comes down to the Kingscavil like straight upper corrie ramp which leads to the start of the hairpins. The 5 miles of climbing that come before that point only serve to get you there. If you get that ramp right, you make it to the top. If you get it wrong, anyone no matter how fit, may be forced to get off and walk. You turn right, and the road rises to 20% and stays like that for half a mile. Bad at any time but especially since you've climbed for so long to get there.

There seemed to be significantly more walkers on that ramp this year. The heat must have contributed to that. I had a game plan to take it really easy on the long Crow Road- esque climb up the lower valley so that I had something left for the upper ramp, and I stuck to it. I've had to put a foot down on it before and was determined that it would not happen again. It worked as I made it to the top in 51 min, 7 and a half minutes faster than I have ever managed the Bealach before.

The descent to Applecross was predictably mental, hitting speeds up to 45mph until I had a high speed wobble on a corner and eased it back after that. At least the surface was pretty good, which may not say much for our local roads.

The rest of the route is the roller coaster around the northern side of the peninsula, where the hills get worse towards the northern side, some of these also involving gradients of nearly 20%. The first few miles were sheltered, and the speed crept up. However, turning onto the northern side the wind took hold and it was a real grueller. There was hardly a wheel to catch as folk were spread out so it became a lone battle against the wind and terrain for most. Again, there were loads of casualties in this area, some folk just standing or sitting at the side of the road, not even pushing. The worst thing about the event is that they tell you the circuit is 43 miles so you're looking at the mileage on your computer to see when the end is coming. Its actually 45, and those 2 extra miles also involve hills!

My time was 3:24:00, a full 16 min faster than last year. Looking back, I can see parts where I could have easily saved time so there is still unfinished business to attract me back again.

Photo by Northsport

Fred Whitton
Simon Kenny rode the notoriously difficult lake district sportive last Sunday, here Simon takes up the story:

Sadiq Mir and I paired up for this. We had some very changeable weather with the first couple of hours in warmth and sunshine with sweat literally dripping off me, followed by around an hour or so of rain and a drop in temperature which saw me shivering with fingers numb to the extent that I couldn’t feel the brake/gear levers. The next bout of sunshine eventually thawed my hands/gloves out again, but this took an agonisingly long time.

As you would expect from the Fred Whitton, the climbs really were something else with in my opinion, the Honister and Hardknott passes taking honours for brutality. Any pictures I’d seen of Hardknott during cycling events always included lots of people getting off and walking. That's exactly what it was like on the day - it really was total carnage. However, I was very pleased to conquer Hardknott and other climbs without getting off the bike.

Sadiq likened us to the 'Little and Large' show in terms of our differing abilities on the bike and that's a fair comment. We are pretty different but on the day, it worked well.

I think in general Sadiq felt a bit fresher than me, especially during the middle 3 - 4 hours, and certainly handled the descents a lot more confidently than me. I really am a bit of a sh*t-bag when it comes to swooping down those winding hills (think I'll need new brake pads – my weedy arms were actually sore with pulling on the brakes!). However, I think I was best to stay in the confines of my ability/comfort as we did see a few battered riders (and bikes) from some over-zealous descenders, their day cut unexpectedly short.

Sadiq and I stuck together all the way round and both posted 8:18. Not a record-breaking time, but what a great day on the bike.

Hard, but really enjoyable and would definitely go back for more of the same.

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