It started and ended in a surreal situation.
On Saturday afternoon I was shaving my legs in my van watching Emma back her dayglow orange van into a barrier in the Clachaig Hotel car park, Glencoe.
It sounded worse than it looked. “Och it’s fine”, she said “Let’s get something to eat”. I made a joke about my legs being smoother than hers and how odd I find having to shave my legs for time trialling. Roll on winter!
In the Clachaig we got chatting to Alan and Stephen from the Couriers. They too were racing the inaugural Tour of Glencoe time trial the next day and we were all buzzing with excitement whilst my pocket was buzzing with messages from Stevie Blom and the GTR boys just to add to the waves of excitement…
From Chris to the GTR WhatsApp group “Well done Stevie, it’s a belter”. He and Andy from GTR had recce’ed the course on Saturday afternoon.
From Stevie to me “This will be my big effort of the year going on…people here are dynamite…I’ll be up at 06:15 tomorrow to do a risk assessment”.
After an indifferent sleep in the van I awoke early due to the morning light and decided to get the kettle on. Another message from Stevie at 05:46.
“Well the tent seems intact after last night’s epic wind and rain. Saw every hour pass through the night. See you troops at the rallying point”.
No sign of Emma stirring in her van. So I decided to stretch the legs and do a little work to pass the time. As 7am approached Emma appeared in the gloom of the car park and so I got the kettle on again and then we boosted over to HQ at Ballachulish Hall in our respective vans to start the bike preparations.
Riders from all over the country were beginning to arrive. Some had come from Jersey! Familiar faces started to appear too and the car park down by the Loch was awash with turbos and bike chat. I turned my attentions to the ever-enthusiastic, committed and energetic Emma. She was off early (09:07) and I had some bike checking, gear selection and number pinning to do, along with race tactics. And then she was away to start, excited and race ready. I decided to wrestle with my skinsuit and get the lo-down with the GTR boys before nipping up onto the A82 drag to snap the first ever female to start the Tour of Glencoe.
And exactly 50 minutes later after the first female, I was away too. Was this to be an enjoyable date with pain?
I didn’t have a particular agenda or focus for this race. Just enjoy it. Surprisingly good early season results had settled the usual concerns that come with winter training (am I faster, fitter, stronger? Answer, yes, phew). But the course felt very different from the Sunday in March when we did some promotional work for the event. The hills were shorter (ha ha, of course, doh!) and by the time I got to Kinlochleven, I’d miscounted the big climbs. Not to worry, headwind is coming. I love the wind! Time to bury thyself!
The second part is undulating, scenic and windy as it’s exposed in places as the trees give way to mountainous vistas over the sea loch. Having met Ed Hood in person (usually it’s on the phone or via messenger) for the first time in the car park a couple of hours earlier, I recognised him and could see him snapping away and driving ahead. This gave me an extra boost and I found turning the 60 tooth front chainring quite easy, particularly as I’d opted to experiment with a higher cadence in this race. Always experimenting, always learning. Even in races.
The finish came quicker than I was expected and unlike the winner of Vets category Pete Nicholl, I had managed to keep my breakfast down and was wanting more having recovered quickly from the last killer climb which caught everyone out, even course record setter and overall winner, John Archibald.
Back to hall and my eyes lit up. Dope control had arrived. Yes! No. I checked the numbers and mine hadn’t been selected. Ah well hopefully next time? I’m fascinated by the process and unless Malbec has been black listed as a banned substance (maybe I need to check?), I’m dying to be tested. This year (yeah, another experiment) I’ve decided to eat and drink everything as close to source. So, no multivitamins, no gels, not even taking my hayfever medication and despite having been diagnosed with asthma for nearly 40 years, not even sprays (I stopped taking these about five year’s ago, though I do a great Mutley impression). No supplements. Nada. Like our GTR skinsuits, keeping it simple, keeping it pure.
In the hall, there was a different buzz from normal. I really like CTT events, there’s more of a convivial feel. Less glitz, less formal, but more integral. Graeme Obree nailed it in between speeches from Willie Cosh, Mark Atkinson and Caroline MacIntyre. Graeme talked how amateur sport doesn't happen without volunteers who are equally as passionate as the racers. And for the racers all you have to do is pin a number on and have a go. Emma did and even she was the only female not to pick up a prize (the first five got vouchers along with the lantern rouge), she was buzzing with the satisfaction of becoming a proper bike racer. I was in her good books…but for how long?
But as we waited in my van in Tyndrum (after fish and chips and then spending my white envelope on coffee and cakes), Graeme spotting and figuring out ways to get back into Emma’s bad books, it slowly began to dawn on me that we had contributed to something special.
And then as I loaded Graeme’s 20 tonne bike into Emma’s van in a deluge as he wished me all the best for the season, I realised she had picked up the biggest prize of them all…to drive the double World Champion and hour record holder home!
No it wasn’t a dream, a one-off. It was the start of something special. It’s already organically started to grow arms and legs. People are still buzzing two days on.
Thanks to you Stevie Blom!