Thursday, 5 May 2011

'Nae Bother' to proper cyclists

Tobias Bauer and Neil Fraser completed another qualifying stage for their Paris-Brest-Paris 1200km Audax, this time it was a 400km 'Nae Bother to Us' slog around the West of Scotland says Neil:

Well the good luck with the weather for the qualifiers had to end at some point and it ended on Saturday at the Portmahomack 400. Not that it rained, oh no. Clouds - hardly a single one to be seen. Just a relentless and punishing East wind.

It started well. Forty riders left Portmahomack - at 6am already in full sunshine. With a tailwind from the get go the pace of the group just kept getting higher, until we were sitting at 40kmh on the flat. Great views and good chat in the bunch, with everyone relaxed and looking forward to a good day out. Loch Shinn flew past and when we reached the turn at Laxford Bridge my average speed was 31kmh.

Riders - Graeme Wyllie, Edinburgh Road Club and Alex Pattison, Angus Bike Chain

The road North from there to Durness got a bit lumpy and the Easterly wind strengthed. A bit less conversation but we carried on. Stopped in Durness for a Cream Egg and a Coffee from a wee shop then hit the infamous A838 along the North coast to Melvich. This road is like a roller-coaster, relentlessly climbing from sea-level to over 200m then immediately dropping back again. On a good day it's tough. With a strong headwind it's a world of pain. My average speed for this section was 13kmh and I was chewing the stem just to keep that going. At times I was close to just getting off and walking. A control at Strathy with good home made fish pie raised the spirits and this was quickly followed by relief as the route finally flattened out and turned South. A pint and a packet of crisps in a small hotel at Kinbrace set us up for the evening run, a gentle tailwind pushing us West into the sunset at Altnaharra before a long steady climb up to the famous Crask Inn.

At Crask they'd laid on coffee/tea/soup/baked potatos/crumble (and of course a bar!) so we had a nice long stop and didn't start on the last leg until 0030. By this time the night was pretty cold but in a six strong grupetto we pedalled gently back to the finish, getting into Portmahomack at just before 0400. Not my fastest 400 but given the route and the wind I felt okay about it.

I've done a fair few audaxes and I found this one pretty hard work. So I've got to say Chapeau! to Tobias for getting round in a comfortable time. He came in a couple of hours after me but looked an awful lot fresher than I felt. The 400 is a big step up from shorter audaxes as it involves a lot of night riding. Tobias is clearly top audaxing material as he finished this one and is still keen to do more!

There's even a great wee video of the trip featuring our President at 4 minutes...

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