National Clarion Easter Meet 2011 Summary

Here are all the routes and elevation profiles for the trip to the Easter Meet at Stirling.  In total I rode 336 miles in 21hrs and 27mins, 13,074ft of ascent and 13,312 kcals used.

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Arriving at Stirling

You can see photos on the flickr feed to the right or at this site, and there’s a video of us riding with West Lothian at this site.

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Warrington to Kendal

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Kendal to Moffat

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Moffat to Stirling

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Gateway to the Highlands Sportive

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Day 5 – Gateway to the Highlands Sportive

This was a road cycling sportive for the Easter Meet (and open event) organised by West Lothian Clarion. I cycled from the guest house in Stirling to the start at Cambusbarron. Signing on was really easy and well organised, as was the start, in groups of about a dozen riders at 5 minute intervals. We were in group 3 and I found myself at the front as the starter counted down. I went off pretty quickly and very soon there was only myself and a rider from West Highland Wheelers from our group. We started picking up the tailenders of the earlier groups and as we started heading upwards at a place called Duke’s Pass I left the WHW guy and started passing guys on the climb. I have to say this climb is perhaps the prettiest I have done, with pine forests and mountains as the backdrop, and a relatively good road surface. One guy on the climb had what looked like a wooden bike, although I was told later that was just a paint job, so who knows. The descent from Duke’s Pass was spectacular, and here was the one and only time I was passed.

At the bottom we hit the foodstop, and WHW guy left before me, and I left before the guy that had passed me on the descent. I caught WHW guy at a place called Pike’s Road, which was a long, straight, exposed, drag upwards with a poor surface and really was hellish.

The guy that had passed me on the descent finally caught me and after 40-odd miles of riding alone I had someone to ride with. An ex-Fenland Clarionista now living in Scotland, Paul had started in the group behind me so had made 5 minutes on me. The rest of the ride was a rolling series of ups and downs and some really quite poor road surfaces, but in stunning countryside.

We finished 12th and 13th riders and enjoyed the audax-like spread laid on afterwards. I don’t know what my official time was, and my overall time included the bimble to and from the guest house. Although billed as 100km we actually recorded 70miles, and Paul had recorded an average speed of 18.8mph, and as I took 5 minutes longer than him that puts my average speed at a creditable 18.3mph.

The most scenic Sportive I’ve ever done so chapeau to West Lothian for the route and organisation. Simply excellent.

Day 4 – No Cycling Today

No road cycling for me today! Last night we went for a celebratory Italian meal at a restaurant in Stirling, and putting the drug-addled idiot talking about stabbing his friend to one side, it was a very pleasant evening out. We also listened to a very interesting talk and tasted 3 malt whiskys from the Tullibardine distillery. To some it tasted like medicine but I enjoyed it, although I couldn’t taste any of then flavours the chap was describing. But then again I can’t with wine either, so says more about me I guess!

This morning I had a leisurely breakfast and then walked up to Stirling Castle. There I listened to a guided tour and wandered around the battlements and buildings in the now pouring rain. Even overcast and wet, the views are pretty good. If you haven’t been it’s well worth a visit, and nicely illustrates what a warlike bunch we British have been over the years!

Spent the rest of the afternoon lazing about, and of course the sun came out so I guess the castle views would have been spectacular, but you can’t be lucky with the weather all the time.

Buffet, raffle and Ceilidh Dance this evening and a sportive in the morning to look forward to.

Day 3 – Moffat to Stirling

My mind gets a bit addled after a ride. In yesterday’s blog I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel we were staying at even though I was in it at the time (the Balmoral – very highly recommended) and today I can’t remember the name of the hill out of Moffat, despite being told it by several West Lothian riders and clarifying it with Giles. Possibly a sign of my age, but I know it had the word Beef in it. So the day started with a 10 mile climb out of Moffat up the Beef heart/roast/joint/cake(?) which had a slight headwind. Giles decided he wanted to ride up it at a stupid pace which meant I had to as well. But as per usual as we neared the summit Dave appeared from nowhere and “motored” past us – I swear to God he wasn’t pedalling!

The hill of course gave way to a long descent into the valley and then a storming 10 mile stretch down the valley which Giles and I hammered along until we reached a place called Broughton. We called into the village post office and the lady serving us was from Warrington! Heading out of Broughton towards Biggar we were due to meet West Lothian. I had climbed a hill a little ahead of Giles and as I descended I was the first to meet the West Lothian advance party. It was a brilliant turnout but as we headed to the Apple Pie barn in Biggar there were even more West Lothian riders waiting for us. It meant a lot to be welcomed in this manner. The Apple Pie barn had some great cakes at stupidly cheap prices, but amusingly no vegetarian pies for Giles. I guess Scotland’s vegetarian had called in earlier 😉

The West Lothian guys and girls took us on a very pretty route towards our target of Falkirk. It was quite a sight to see 20-odd riders in the various Clarion colours and everyone seemed to get on famously. We stopped for group photos before many of the riders departed for home, but we were led all the way through Blackburn and California (yes really), passed Susan Boyle in Bathgate and made it to the Falkirk Wheel which is a very impressive piece of engineering. And clearly paid for by the profit made on drinks and cakes in the coffee shop.

The final stage to Stirling was led by West Lothians Tobias, who rides a beautiful green Hewitt. Dave and him were riding along chatting for ages – I guess they were comparing carradice flaps and suchlike.

Anyway we hit Stirling and made it to the Easter meet HQ. After 3 days and 260-odd miles, countless cakes, much fun and good company.

Many thanks to West Lothian for coming to meet us – a great gesture and much appreciated.

Final big thanks to Martin’s Jackie, for lugging all our stuff up from Warrington, and specifically for personally lugging mine from the YHA in Stirling to the guesthouse I’m staying in!

Garmin stats : 82 miles in 5hrs 25mins @ 15.1mph average. 4196ft ascent and 4887kcals used. Average HR 116bpm

Easter Meet Day 2 – Kendal to Moffat

My “ensuite” room at the Kendal YHA contained 2 sets of bunk beds. One set were so small that my feet hit the bottom so I ended up in the other set, bottom bunk. As I was knackered after a day’s road cycling I expected to sleep the deep sleep of the virtuous. As it was the beds had other ideas, creaking if I so much as breathed slightly deeply. So I was still quite tired at breakfast this morning, and so it seems was everyone other than Sarah, who must have got the “good” room.

My left knee has never bothered me before but it was hurting this morning. Hmmm, what’s good for a sore knee? I know – a ride up the Kirkstone Pass! Once again the weather was brilliant and even by 9-30am it was quite warm. I’d told a little white lie to the others about Kirkstone and hadn’t mentioned the 16% sections but everyone made it up. Dave went past near the peak with the faint but suspicious whirr of an electric motor if you ask me! We stopped at the top for a pictures and a chat with a guy on a lovely Mercian. Hilariously, whilst Martin was posing in the doorway of the Inn a tour coach pulled up in front of him, with the tourists all laughing, pointing and taking snaps of him!

The descent was fantastic winding its way down past Ullswater, which was like a millpond because the weather was so fantastic.

We passed through Greystoke, which the literary amongst you will recognise as the home of Tarzan’s father. Not, I might add, the home of He-Man, as Giles suggested. In a back lane we stumbled acroos a cyclists cafe which was effectively somebodies back garden, and it operated in a very homely fashion, and served very nice chocolate brownie. We also got onto a road that must have been 5 or 6 miles long and it was dead straight – probably a Roman Road, and we managed to blast down that at 20+mph, which was great fun.

What wasn’t great fun was getting through Carlisle – awful roads and too much traffic. That took us onto the equally unpleasant A7 with HGV’s hurtling past on a single lane at 60mph.

Lunch in Longtown was followed by a bit of a slog up to Gretna. Why anyone would want to get married there is beyond me.

Everyone was struggling by now with the cumulative effect and the heat, as we passed through Lockerbie and then a long drag out of Templand until we got to Moffat.

I’m very pleasantly surprised about the hotel we’re in. Own bathroom, non-squeaky bed, TV and free wifi, and cheaper than the rip-off YHA. Last leg tomorrow so want a decent nights sleep.

Garmin stats: 96.6miles in 6hrs 25mins @ 15mph average. Total ascent 4841ft, 5876 calories used, average HR 120bpm. Max speed 41.4mph

Easter Meet Day 1 – Warrington to Kendal

Today was the first day of our ride to Stirling for the National Clarion Easter Meet. I dropped my car at Martins and got a lift to the Grand Départ at Winwick, with my bike on the roof rack. Half an hour of tales of bikes falling off on the motorway later we arrived to find the other 3 North Cheshire protagonists waiting for us, along with John who would ride with us for a while.

It took a while to get out of the northern urban areas, with Dave “Cancellara” setting a fast pace, but soon we were out in the countryside, with the sun shining and nothing but the thought of riding bikes for the next few days.

John left us with a cheery wave and before we knew it we were stopped at a cafe in Garstang having lunch with only 30-odd miles left. We took another stop on the promenade at Arnside for a cup of coffee before finishing off the final 12 miles or so through some back lanes into Kendal.

The youth hostel is “basic”, with ensuite meaning I have a sink. The communal shower is, I believe, powered by an elderly asthmatic blowing cupfuls of water down a pipe. There’s no danger of this shower causing a water shortage.

The Garmin was crap today. It took 6 attempts to get it to navigate, each time it simply said “Non!” and switched itself off – I think it was a French farmer in a past life. And it came up with a new trick too. The altimeter stuck after 737ft of climbing and refused to go any higher. So a French farmer with vertigo it seems. Considering it’s price it really is flaky, and as a road cycling tool it isn’t something you can rely on. Giles and I were commenting that if TomTom or somebody else came into the Market at a reasonable price point they would clean up.

Still nothing can take the shine off today. Lovely ride, good company, the best weather possible. Looking forward to some food now and then the Kirkstone Pass tomorrow.

Garmin stats : 80.65 miles in 5hrs 12mins @ 15.5mph average. Approx 2600ft of climbing, 4716kcals, average HR 110bpm