Category Archives: Tour of Britain

Paparazzi

Just a few weeks back I was out on the Haddington Cycle Club ride. One of the magazines, Cycling Weekly, came out to join us, to do an article on the club. We gathered in the square, next to the fountain with the statue of Samson on a pillar. I had to borrow a club vest as I didn’t have any club kit. We had all been asked to put on a show & turn up. Over 30 of us gathered.

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The Gathering – Haddington

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Andy gets his first shots

Powerbar, who sponsor the shoot, had a lass handing out bars and gels. I took the former, but passed on the second. We were given instructions, such as “ignore the camera for a ‘realistic’ shot” etc. and split into two groups.

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Leaving Haddington

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Passing Berwick Law

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Trevor joins the gang

It was a bit chilly and cloudy at the start but gradually improved through the day. I took my camera with me and at one point pushed ahead a little to take a shot of the gang approaching. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen the cameraman, Andy, up ahead and was ushered back into the fold for a photo up.

As we headed up the coast towards the hills the sun made an appearance. Trevor, the journalist, rode with each of us gathering info for the article. He was impressed by the route and the countryside and said he’d be back in East Lothian some time to ride for himself.

We reached the cafe up in the hills, the Lanterne Rouge, resplendent in its Bianchi blue. The staff were brilliant managing to serve us all reasonably promptly, despite the numbers. As expected, there was loads of chat and Andy was busy circling round, camera at the ready. We all had to pose for a mug shot, complete with our names on paper napkins for later identification.IMG_4083IMG_4084IMG_4085

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Andy at work in ‘The Lanterne Rouge’

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Leaving ‘The Lanterne Rouge’ and Gifford

Finally we left the cafe and sauntered, sort of, back to Haddington for a farewell to the team of two. We now await the publication, which is due in early June.

I then rode on to enjoy a ride of 70+ miles in all, great fun! When the article was published, there I was – a white bearded fossil talking about his plans for a world record attempt, when (and if) he reaches his centenary – time will tell!!

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Near the end of the ride, rough-roading it

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Ducks in Tyne Bay, sifting mud

This was going to be it, but I never got round to publishing. Then a couple of weeks later – out went the call again.

This time Scottish cycling wanted some publicity shots for the Tour of Britain, coming through Haddington then up to a King of the Mountain climb nearby at Redstone Rigg. This time it was more static, with us posing & riding around by the river. Quite a giggle, but when the photos came out I was nicely hidden behind everyone! So much for my 15 minutes of fame!

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Posing for club photo

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The race is on

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Swollen head?

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Official Scottish Cycling car

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Official Tour of Britain car

I’ve signed up to be a marshal for the Redstone Rigg section of the Tour of Britain this year. Up there on Sunday. Team Skye caught me in a shot there last time so maybe we’ll have to fight the photographers off this year, who knows?

Tour of Britain 2015 – King of the Mountains Stage 4 – a personal view

The Leaders come up Redstone Rigg, Tour of Britain 2015

The Leaders come up Redstone Rigg, Tour of Britain 2015

The Tour of Britain came through our patch this month, so loads of us wound our way up to meet on the hill. It was baltic (i.e. cold), waiting on the windy hillside, but good fun anyway. As  the race appeared in the distance I tried to unfreeze my wooden fingers, without success.

As usual the race was through in a minute or less. I’ve finally managed to sort out the video.

So for your enjoyment: Tour of Britain 2015, Stage 4, King o’ the Mountains section

I recorded the music(?) on a midi guitar so no pianos, harps, synthesisers or other instruments were harmed in the making.

Gore, Guts and Glory

It’s been an interesting(?) couple of weeks for me. Started off just over 2 weeks ago.

I had been looking forward to doing the 80 mile ‘Tour of Tweeddale’ Sportive in the Scottish Borders, one I’ve managed every year since it started 4 years ago.

But, on the Sunday before, I was out with the local Haddington Club. Going up hill I suddenly thought, back off, I’m getting too close. Next moment I touched tyres with Terry in front, wobbled to the left, straightened up thinking I’d got away with it. Terry slowed down and I came back into his wheel from the other side – tarmac crunching time. He said later he had slowed down to look how the back of the group was doing, ah well.

I got up a bit shook up, assessed the damage to me and the bike, got back on and completed the run.

My knee looked a mess & a scraped shoulder didn’t help, but it was all superficial. The painful damage was a staved finger which made changing gear and braking awkward. But it looked like I’d be OK for the next week’s event.

Ouch!

Ouch!

Ouch Again!

Ouch Again!

So, after a week of healing I was at the start line again. 82 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing to go. The three desperadoes had teamed up again. It was cold at the beginning, 3°, but rose up to a lovely 20° with hardly a cloud as the day slipped past. Ronnie had a puncture before we began then 15 miles out another. Once mended we set off again and another flat. This one was sorted and we headed for “The Wall of Talla”, a local test piece. Ramping over 20% it wasn’t too bad this year as a tail wind helped us over, or maybe I was fitter (or had lost weight gouging lumps out of my knee?).

Approaching the 'Wall of Talla'

Approaching the ‘Wall of Talla’

The 20% section

The 20% section

Another ramp up

Another ramp up

Then it was over and onwards, seeming to stop at every temporary road works traffic light on the way.

The soup awaits!

The soup awaits!

Yet another of the road works

Yet another of the road works

We reached the River Tweed and started up the last 10 miles into a crazy head wind. But we were stopped again, this time by the police as 150 horses were coming down the road. The Selkirk Riding was holding a charity event so we were held up for a wee while, then continued, dodging horse poo, wide horse boxes on a narrow road and tractors blocking the road when pulling out from fields. So it was a gentle procession to the finish. Despite having a reasonable moving time, our overall was an hour slower, with only one planned short stop. Still a great event with the usual sun and some familiar faces and good chat with others.

Then 3 days later the Tour of Britain came through the area, with a King of the Mountains section on one of our local ascents. So we had to be there. Up early to get a good spot, packed 2 cameras, tripod and a sportscam and lots of warm clothes too. Hard work getting up the steep bit of the climb at 17% with all the gear though.

Adder by the roadside on the way up

Adder by the roadside on the way up

Got my site, but there was a chill wind blowing down the hill. Cycling buddies started to arrive and we all gradually chilled down, me too despite a down jacket, gloves, arm warmers, leg warmers etc.

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

The hill filled up with folk and I set up my tripod with the sportscam low down on the far side of the road and then took pics of the various folk coming up the hill.

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

The crowds gather

The crowds gather

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

The crowds gather

The crowds gather

The police motorbikes and official race cars arrived, zooming at what seemed crazy speeds up the hill through the crowds. A real buzz was in the air.

Roaring up

Roaring up

Roaring up

Roaring up

Then way off down the hill an armada of cars & motorbikes with lights blazing were to be seen in the distance. The race was for the King of the Mountains was on its way. A small breakaway group hove into view, with still a bit to go to reach us.

The leaders appear

The leaders appear

Quite a bit further back was the peloton.

The peloton in the distance

The peloton in the distance

TofB00020

Then the leaders were rounding the bend below us. What a noise from the crowd. The riders were up on the pedals and going for it, with still quite a bit of the hill above us still to climb.

The leaders come through

The leaders come through

The watchers became a bit quieter, wait for the main bunch. Suddenly a roar went up from below and round the bend they came, powering up the hill.

The leaders arriveThe peloton arrives

PowerPower

The Peleton arrives

The Peleton climbing hard

TofB00003 TofB00004

Cav comes through

Cav comes through

Sir Brad in the pack

Sir Brad in the pack

After a crescendo of noise, including a barking dog, the peloton were past us and away.
I wasn’t sure if I’d got any good photos as my fingers were like wooden sausages with no feeling at all, time would tell.
All the multitude of team cars, motorbikes etc. came streaming past, followed by an Asda van, which almost got the loudest cheer of the day.
Gradually the crowd dispersed and the event was over for us. I decided to continue over the hills, the long way home. It took me at least 5 miles of enthusiastic peddling before I had warmed up enough to cast off some layers.
Later that night I watched the round up of the event, and there I was a crouching gnomic figure watching the riders pass through.Spot the Gnome!Spot the Gnome!
So that was it, but for one last thing.
I was out with the North Berwick crew on Sunday, but just Johnny & I turned up. We decided to climb local hills as he is doing one of the biggest bike climbs in the world. It’s in Columbia, 50 miles long and over 10,000 feet of ascent. On the way round he was behind me, touched my wheel but I accelerated off and all was OK luckily. Then right near the end we came to a junction. I stopped, but Johnny’s concentration had lapsed. He braked hard, hit me on the bum and somersaulted over the handlebars beside me, landing in the road ahead but managing not to get flattened by a passing car. He picked himself up gingerly, but was basically OK apart from the odd scraps and minor bleeding. He’s a doctor though so he could heal himself I suppose?

Anyway out of my circle of cycling pals four of us have come to grief in the last 3 weeks, so go carefully out there, we’ll try to do the same!

6 climbs and a few more

 When I wrote about 6 steep climbs round about here,  Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that some photos would have enhanced the blog. At the same time I was trying out an app called footpath, which is great for working out routes for cycling. I decided that I would link them together in a cycle/ photo bonanza. So I managed it, though some of the photos are a bit dodgy as they were taken on the move with the camera slung around my neck.  The weather was ideal, warm enough for shorts & short sleeve top, cool enough to not become dehydrated easily. What a ride, some of my favourite climbs here, and when the gradient was less than 10% it was a real bonus. First of all the boring bits for some, the route & profile:

   Over 110 feet climbed for every mile

  Quite a few ups and downs?

   

 Hill no. 1: Kippielaw
The first hill, not even a mile away, this is short but with a real lurch into the sky at the end. The hill in the distance is Traprain Law with the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top, complete with hut circles and a magnificent view over the Firth of Forth, north up to the Highland and south to the lowland hills.

   
 Hill no. 2: Up into the Beil Estate

After a fabulous colonnade of yew trees you cycle past rhododendrons till another wee steep ramp leads up to the top. Just after this a deer stopped in the road and gazed at my approach for a while before it sauntered off into the woods 

 Then on and up another a couple of ascents before reaching Pitcox, another good climb (though not one of the chosen) past the water bottling plant. Pitcox is a tiny place, but a couple of 100 years ago it had a religious house where monks from the refectory in Melrose who had misbehaved were sent. 

 The climb up from Pitcox past Findlay’s Water

Then it was past the Witch’s Stone at Spott, which often has coins left on it. I tried to take a photo but had nudged the dial of the camera on to the wrong setting. Just before this a fox had sauntered across the road in front of me, my day for wildlife? 

 Hill no.3: Starvation Brae – a local test piece 

 Then came the climb out of Spott – Starvation Brae, not sure why it is called this though. This one is hard – gradually steepens, then has 3 steep bits to the top. A real heavy breathing one by the top.

Onwards and downwards and upwards and downwards . . . . . . . . 

   
Hill no. 4: The Brunt – east side

Then it was across the ford, luckily dry but the road is a mess, then up The Brunt, another climb leaving you puffing at the top. 

 One of my favourite sections, a gorgeous half mile through a wooded dell, dappled in the sunshine. Then came the big one, over a mile long with an average gradient of 9%+ and several steep ramps double that.

   
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the first ramp  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, looking up to the second steep ramp, climbing at 5-8% here
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, a sight I saw a few times  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, getting near the summit
 Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the cattle grid at the top usually a good descent now!Hurrah, a lovely swoop back down the other side to look forward to, but:

Roadworks slowed progress, looks like they are putting in a new track for the wind turbines.
   
Some climb? 

Then it was down for a while, this time slowed by gates. After the valley in the distance it would be another undulating climb back over the distant hills.  Up beside Whitadder reservoir dam

I was now on the section of the road that the Tour of Britain will come down in September. should be fun!  

Whitadder Reservoir, not too many cheering crowds this day.

 
  Another great section with lots of undulations over the moors, I would do this section a couple of times this trip. Many sheep, birds including oyster catchers some way from the sea and cows.
  Approaching Redstone Rigg  Hill no. 6: Redstone Rigg, another local test piece
So the last of the 6 hills loomed up. This is one spoken of in awe locally, though Elmscleugh is far harder, but being further away from Edinburgh is cycled less. I’ve already booked my place here for the Tour of Britain, fantastic views of the riders coming up from miles away, unfortunately it will probably be mobbed with other cycling fans.

Bog cotton and a butt for grouse shooting at the top of ‘The Rigg’   

The wonderful descent with Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I went down here at 46 mph, but on a good day have manage 55 so what will the Tour riders be doing? They will have to watch out on the cattle grid in the middle of the descent .
  Iron Age Green Castle Fort, with its 3 ring defence
So back down & up & down & up till home, passing a dead badger on the way. Well pleased and satisfied. And for those who still think Central Scotland is flat?

Tour of Britain 2015 – Checking Out the Route

A wee bit of joy came the way of the Scottish contingent of this Sceptred Isle just recently. This year’s Tour of Britian (henceforth, for the length of this blog, to be know as the TofB) is not only coming to Scotland but will be a local whizz past as well. I’ve already booked my spot on the Rigg, but more of this later. So we’ve maybe got Mark, Bradley and who knows who else likely to be popping past in September?

So why all this fuss – well, the route for the TofB has just been announced and Stage 4 goes from Edinburgh over our local hills, the Lammermuirs, down to Blythe in Englandshire. So I decided to check out how the route looked after the winter. It’s still not vastly warm yet, in our terms, so I was well happed up. An easy first bit up to the cafe at Gifford. Arrived – shut!! Ah well, if I will arrive on their day off serves me right I suppose.

Outside the cafe at Gifford - Yester Kirk

Outside the cafe at Gifford – Yester Kirk the TofB will belt round this corner, hopefully the bus will be out of the way

So no coffee or sustenance just off up the hill.

The glory of tractors? Hills to climb up top right

The glory of tractors? Hills still to climb up top right

Lovely day with a gentle wind behind, I came up the first wee steeper ascent with its 17% rise. As I puffed over the crest I thought of how the pro teams would just treat it as a wee bump. Then a steady climb up past Snawdon and over the first cattle grid.

Down to the cattle grid, the steep climb up Redstone Rigg ahead top right

Down to the cattle grid, the steep climb up Redstone Rigg ahead top right

I once rattled over this grid coming the other way down the hill fast and my bike bag under the saddle shot past me off into the undergrowth. The thump of the cattle grid had broken the clip holding it on. So, I wonder how the pros will cope with this at speed.

Then up Redstone Rigg, another 17%+ climb, getting gradually steeper as it nears the top. The roads are a mess here so I guess there’s work to be done. And my chosen spot is the bend at the steepest bit, good views of them coming up the hill and then speeding past.

Slow for me, but for the pros?

Slow for me, but for the pros?

Top of the Rigg, a bit of work needed?

Top of the Rigg, a bit of work needed?

Another cattle grid at the top and then a left turn

The cattle grid at the top

The cattle grid at the top

This is followed by an amazing, glorious descent, long and fast. My max down here is 50 mph+, so I dread to think of how the teams will do. There’s also a cattle grid on the way down so that could be dodgy as well. At the bottom I turn back for home, more hills, past the white castle iron age hill fort, the monastery and back.

Looking back up the hill - the fast descent

Looking back up the hill – the fast descent

White Castle Iron Age Hill Fort

White Castle Iron Age Hill Fort

Nunraw Monastry

Nunraw Monastery

A couple of days later Terry gives me a buzz. We’d done my birthday run together, so how about another ride? So off to the land of the wind turbines, with an 18% climb up to them. First though a stone on our back roads. I shot down the hill not realising, half way up the other side looked back and no Terry. Had he skidded off the road? Had he riden into a fence? I made my way back up the steep hill and there he was busy mending a pinch puncture, perfectly OK of course. A group of cyclists came past, stopped for a wee chat and then they carried on.

Almost done

Almost done

Flat tyre restored, we carried on up Elmscleuch, the steepest climb around here, I reckon. At the top a turbine sprouted from my head, so energised we carried on over the tops and eventually down to the valley to rejoin a lower part of the TofB route.

Elmscleugh, second steep bit to come, only 7% here

Elmscleugh, second steep bit to come, only 7% here

Self generating energy?

Self generating energy? Just call me Turbine Heid

This time the road was good, with just occasional gravel, and we swept down the glen and over the lovely bridge that crosses the River Whiteadder.

Elegant Bridge over the River Whiteadder

Elegant Bridge over the River Whiteadder

We soon left the TofB route and started our climb back over the moors, engulfed at one point by smoke from a muir burn (burning off the heather to allow new shoots to grow for feeding the grouse, which then get shot!).

House at Longformachus

House at Longformachus

Passing the muir (moor) burn

Passing the muir (moor) burn

Ghost Rider?

Ghost Rider?

Eventually back to Gifford and a welcome coffee and Danish pastry, then home 50+ miles and 5,000+ feet of climbing, not bad for a wee recce?