Velo Club Moulin

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Tour de Ben Nevis

A composite team headed to NW Scotland last weekend for the Tour de Ben Nevis, a 72 km race round Scotland's most depressing mountain (oh, c'mon it is...).
1 x VCM (Me)
1 x Innerleithen MTB Racing (Dougie)
4 x McDougall's Dream Team (Colin, Dave, Dave & Niall)
Well, when I say team, any semblance of team work went out of the window as soon as Frazer from No Fuss sounded the hooter and we took off in pursuit of the pipe band along Fort William's High Street.
After the pipe band peeled off, it was up, up and up again out of town to meet the West Highland Way. As far as warm ups go, it was a bit of a brute and a number of athletes looked fair peched before we hit the rough stuff.

MJS_0629 by martysavalas

Although I'd ridden the old military road through the glen a number of times before, I'd forgotten how rough it was and it took a while to start to pick up some places after an early, er comfort, break. Elbows in on the fast, wide descents brought me to the first of the special stages, a plunge down into Kinlochleven. 250m or so of vertical loss down a waterbar filled, technical(ish) trail. Got a bit carried away at one point and took a wee dive into the bushes, but made it down to the tarmac safely without flatting  a tyre. Given that this was a timed stage, I was slightly surprised to see people fixing  punctures trailside within the stage as for most of them it'd have been quicker to tumble down the hill on foot and to fix the blowouts after dibbing out of the stage. See notes to self...

After a very brief respite on tarmac, it was up, up and up again on the tarmac climb past Mamore Lodge, the next special stage of the day. Having ridden up this recently, I knew it was a bit of a stinker and with the dibbing out point a fair way ahead and a long way up, it was time to grind it out. A quick stop to refuel and two stops to de-water (note to self: in the timed section, y'idiot) before dibbing out, and then it was another well kent trail along to the crossing of the Abhainn Rath by Luibeilt.

This was where the Real Scottish Mountain Biking© started - a 45 minute+ hike-a-bike section up and over the Lairaig Leachach on a largely an unrideable trail to the north. Push, carry, push, swear, push, carry, swear, repeat...

After a while it was back on an increasingly unhappy sounding bike for a super fast forest road descent before taking a left turn into Leanachan Forest. The next few km of trails and forest road saw me sink four Mule Bar Kicks in an effort to stave off an impending bonk (another note to self: eat early) as fatigue set in. Suitably fuelled, I finally hit the Ten under the Ben course and I knew I was on the home straight. With rabbits to chase, it was on to the Blue Crane trail and following a brief readjustment after the dibbing station (note to self: FFS!) it was a crampy carry down the tricky bit and back on the bike. Caught a dude that had been 100m in front or 100m behind all day and the impetus of not wanting to be caught carried me through pretty quickly to the penultimate dibbing point.

Little more trail (and Nessie) and it was onto the cycle path back into Fort William. With places meaning points it was worth the slightly dirty feeling of some late overtaking to finally dib out with the superfriendly marshals at the Ben Nevis Distillery.

After the final checkpoint, competitors had 20 minutes to make it along the cylepaths into town past the Jason McIntyre Memorial and one last comical drop (i.e. carry down) into the back of the High Street in 5 hrs 44,mins, 16 minutes up on my target.

A quick change and a gnawing hunger led us back into town for chips and a quick pint once Dave and Colin popped up.

My finish led to 58th place on the big lap and only dropped a couple of places on the times stages to finish 60th overall, which I was pretty pleased with. Improvement next year fo sho.

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