Not a Piece of Cake

Hutcheson's Hospital
Hutchesons Hospital

There is something very pleasant, I thought, about a short ride through the city, as I cycled back from the train station, along Argyle Street then the Trongate towards home. A chance to stretch out my legs as they were still hurting from the day’s activity. This and the train home were a break from the rush of the last couple of hours. Even my shower was rushed, the toasted scone that Karen kindly made me was eaten as I got organised, as was the espresso that Aldo prepared. I quickly thought back to the same journey in the morning, which was equally relaxing. But although the skies were clear, I got a taste of the force of the wind today. I like Glasgow at this time of day, before it gets busy with people. The morning route had taken me along Ingram Street, past some iconic buildings including, the old church that is now the Ramshorn Theatre, the recently refurbished Hutchesons Hospital, the Glasgow savings Bank building that is now owned by Jigsaw and the building where GOMA is housed.

The main event of the day was to climb near Darvel, a steep climb that would take us to the TV Mast above the town. We pondered at the turn off to the climb and decided to go for it despite us both being exhausted from riding in today’s weather conditions. We quickly realised however (and not for the first time today), this was not the correct turn-off, so jumped back on to the A71 till we came to the next turn-off. This was the point where we took note of the time and did some easy calculations, which determined that we haven’t now got time for this. With this new knowledge Aldo decided to take the lead and guide us back to Kilmarnock – PDQ. ‘I’ll take the wind for a while’ he said, and he did. He took the wind right out of my lungs as I tried to hang onto his back wheel for the next ten miles.

Aldo had Garmin trouble from the moment we left his house. But he downloaded the route again via his phone app and on we went our way. I was familiar with the route out over Grassyards, through Fenwick and onto the A77. There was a girls race on the A77 between two roundabouts on this road, so we kept on the cycle path to avoid getting in their way. The racers were clearly working hard as they passed, going the opposite direction, battling against  the wind. This should have been a clue as to what lay ahead for us on our return as at some point we would be heading south west. The wind today was to stay constant, and most definitely a south westerly. With the wind at our backs, I set new Strava PRs on the ride down to Eaglesham, and I hardly pedaled!

After Eaglesham, we were on unfamiliar ground, though we’d both traveled some of the roads in this area previously. Our mid-point stop was at Strathaven, so when I saw a post signalling Strathaven 10 miles turn left, our navigator said straight on. What followed was an interesting little ride about six local farms, five miles of poor surfaces, a short climb, a long climb, a fast descent on a poor surface, a steep ascent with a hail storm firing head on into my face and legs like pellets from a thousand air guns, and two dead ends. On one of our retreats after a dead end, we headed along where we had been before. I saw a signpost saying Strathaven, 10 miles that way. ‘How did we miss that?’ I said. We had one more short stint of wet weather and then it steadily improved, when we reached Strathaven it was dry and sunny. I never appreciated the elevation on this stretch of road, but at least the wind at our backs again and a good descent followed immediately.

The Strathaven Tea Rooms was recommended to Aldo by friends as a bike stop. This was a good recommendation. We both had coffee, Aldo had scone, I was undecided between scone and cake, I chose the scone too. The scone was good, it came with jam and cream, I had more cream than could fit on my scone. I think I was discreet about this but other cafe visitors might say different. The lady at the table next to us was served cake, it looked nice, I wish now that I had had cake and not scone! This happens often, I order scone when I should have ordered cake. I know this as whenever I order scone, I always want cake if someone else gets it. If I order cake and someone else within my gaze gets scone, do I want scone…. Nope!

We left Strathaven and headed South West! Yep South West! We strayed a little off this direction over the next nine miles, sometimes we were heading South South West and sometimes we were heading West South West . Ah you guessed, the South Westerly was as rampant as it was when I headed down the Eaglesham Moor.There was a little bit of climbing but the wind factor over these miles made it feel like a mountain.

By the time we got to Darvel, after not deciding to climb the hill to the mast, my legs were aching. Aldo, without realising, gave me a punishing workout over the final ten miles home. He set a good pace but well off his hundred percent, every time he looked around, I was there or there about. The truth is I wasn’t much away my hundred percent, which was torture to keep up for so long. I’d get onto his back wheel but if I stopped pedaling for a second, I’d fall back and have to work like a maniac to get back up there. If I hit a shallow in the road, or if I looked up to see the ‘miles to Kilmarnock’ road sign, each time it required an extra effort to get back on his wheel. About a mile from Kilmarnock, Aldo judged the roundabout perfectly where I slowed by missing a pedal stroke or two, again I needed to play that catch up game. Coming off the roundabout, I saw the climb, short though it was, it made my heart sink. I knew I’d only catch him now when he slowed. He did pretty soon after sensing I wasn’t there.

I’ve done a lot of miles on the bike in the last five months and increased the intensity in the last two. I think my strength and fitness is close to where Aldo was when we first visited for the EE stage 1. I was impressed by my pacemakers tempo on the final segment today, a little indication of how much catching up I still need to do. Maybe at Stage 2 of the EE, I’ll be nearer his pace?

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