Saturday I went up The Crow Road, the one going through the Campsie Hills not the one in the City that Ian Banks wrote about. Up and over the hill from Lennoxtown, this was the more difficult ascent. I’d previously climbed from the other side, via Killearn and Fintry, which I knew at the time was much less difficult. The route also took us up Tak-Ma-Doon Road, for the first time. Though there are some pretty steep bits, this was the easier direction to approach from.
Aldo’s text in the morning rather surprised me, Gadget Man hadn’t set his alarm! Last week he surprised me as he got us lost in a blizzard of hail, this time was equally as surprising as he postponed his arrival for an extra hour in bed. Both of these are my tricks.
When Aldo did arrive on Saturday morning, I wasn’t ready. I thought I had more time than I did, though I did manage to make the pasta sauce for that night’s dinner, wash the bike and clean and oil the chain. Oh yes and I managed to sneak in another half an hour’s kip, a deliberate decision of course.
I can sleep anytime, anywhere, except when I have something on the next day and I need to get up early.
But that was another trip
We set off before midday, Aldo had downloaded the route to the Garmin, I hadn’t bothered. This was a recipe for failure as the only two times that Aldo has got lost that I know about is when he was following the Garmin directions on unfamiliar territory. I never follow the Garmin and often get lost.
The journey up to Lennoxtown, though windy, was an easy ride. It was all uphill but neither of us were in a hurry to expend too much energy. We cycled through some familiar ground, places where we’d cycled together when we were new to this sport, only a few years ago.
When turning into Crow Road we discussed again our thoughts and reassured each other that this was about getting up the hill at our own pace. About preparation for Loch Ness etape and enjoying it. It was not a race!
The Race (part one)
I had managed to hold on to his back wheel or within a few yards for two and a half of the three miles on the ascent up Crow Road.
I set off first but Aldo very quickly passed me – at the start of the long straight part of the road leading up to the car park. As the gradient lessened slightly I gradually caught him and was nearly back on his wheel when we turned the bend just before reaching the car park. Consciously or not, he gave a little spurt, not because he thought I was close but because of the spectators sitting on the grass verge at the car park edge. Of course they weren’t spectators, just like this wasn’t a race, just two couples enjoying a clear view across the Clyde Valley. As I passed I caught the eye of one of the girls as she moved to a standing position, she looked into my eyes and I read her mind – Why is the cyclist in front looking so cool and relaxed when the guy behind is wearing a face of a Maniac? –
I was conscious of not pushing too much as I knew the steepest section of the hill was yet to come so I steadied my pace and watched Aldo slowly pulled away from me again. A couple of hundred yards past the car park as the hill got steeper, I found with my even tempo I was slowly catching him. Another hundred yards and again I was on his wheel, I was right there, I was up into third bottom gear, how good did I feel. I could take him now, I thought just cruise up beside him, hang there for a while then shift up a gear and humiliate him. Instead I stayed where I was but only for a little while. Suddenly the lower parts of my legs were starting to disobey me, instead of coming up beside my companion, I was again falling behind as I slowed my pace to something more sensible. If you were an onlooker on the hillside you would have observed and got the impression that I was going backward like a novice competing against a thoroughbred.
He beat me up by quite a distance it seemed but the record showed it only as a minute. I was breathing normally again and was happy at being so close. And now looking forward to the downhill reward.
The Race (I wasn’t racing)
I wasn’t ready for the immediate climb at the foot of the hill as we turned off just before Fintry. The climb out of Fintry was only 2.1 miles with an average gradient of only 3%. Aldo overtook me again but I wasn’t playing, I was going slow, I was knackered. He waited for me on the flat and we had an easy pace again alongside the Carron Valley Reservoir.
The Race (only racing if I win)
Turning into Tak-Ma-Doon Road, my lungs and my legs were feeling good again In fact they were feeling the best they had all day. We chatted for a while at the start until we met the rising ground. I took the lead but expected Aldo to be on my shoulder and pass me near the brow of one the short steep inclines. I enjoyed this climbing better, not sure why as it wasn’t too long since my legs weren’t working very well going up Crow Road. Maybe the short steep climbs (with flat parts in between) suit me better. I gave the odd glance over my shoulder but Aldo wasn’t close at any point up the hill. Maybe the roads were too narrow on this hill or maybe I was just too bloody good for him? I beat him up by a whole ten seconds or so.
Tak-Ma-Doon down was twisty with not much chance to get some speed up, so a wary descent.
The road home was fast as I pushed myself over the final part of the journey. Aldo asked for the same average over the last ten miles to match last weeks effort. It was mostly downhill, the wind was at our backs and I was feeling stronger this week, much more than last so the sixteen mile per hour average was easy to beat.
This trip was really our final preparation for the Loch Ness etape next week. At least it was my last big cycle before then and the last one with any significant climbing. The Cycle was good and we did nearly as much climbing in total as we’d expect to do next week. But I don’t think we got the test that we will have on that hill just after Fort Augustus. The distance was a bit short of the Etape distance as well, which I am less bothered about, especially since I felt so strong for the last twenty miles.