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Inverness sportive

Peter MainPeter Main Posts: 60
Inverness Sportive - 17th August 2008
I entered on a whim, attracted to a local(ish) ride as filler between longer events. The pre-race info was excellent but I’d have liked to have seen a start sheet on the website; it’s always good to know the size and nature of the opposition.

The Rugby Club at Bught Park in Inverness proved to be a good event HQ with more than adequate facilities and, unusually, I found I had time on my hands waiting for the 8am start. We all lined up; about 100 roadies and another 100 ‘Lochness360‘mountain bikers. One of the organisers gave the usual lengthy speech which most people either couldn’t hear or didn’t listen to. A little later I wished I had paid more attention. The start wasn’t until we reached the outskirts of Inverness, so we had a procession of 200 cyclists behind a lead car through the centre of town with marshals waving us through red traffic lights. We all felt very important, a la Tour de France, and drew some puzzled looks from onlookers. It almost felt like the event (oops, I nearly said race) had already started and I wondered why there was a certain amount of jockeying to get up behind the lead car. I soon found out as the car pulled over and all of a sudden we were off, with a group of 20 cyclists tearing up the road, away from the bulk of us in a flash. At that point the MTB riders we were still with us, but after a mile or so proceedings were enlivened when, with a great squealing of brakes (and not much warning) they made a sudden, dramatic right turn down a grotty track to leave us roadies on our own. By then the lead road group had long gone.

There were excellent feeding points along the course which was scenic, well marshalled, well signed, and interesting. Large, but not very cohesive, groups formed on the first section to Dores, but the first big hill soon put paid to many of them and I ended up riding the next few miles on my own. If you’ve not yet been there, I can highly recommend the south side of Loch Ness; it is beautiful, scenic, and quiet cycling country. I was eventually picked up by a group of about six, working well together. I hooked onto them and for about 15 miles we worked really hard together doing through and off. I stopped at the first feed station (the rest carried on) and topped the hill before Fort Augustus in good style. Not far over the top we met the first road riders on the return journey. It didn’t seem like I was too far behind them, and I amused myself by counting just how many ahead of me (about 30). The 1500’ descent was fast and tricky; I wouldn’t like to do it in the wet. We were each presented with a charity wrist band at Fort Augustus; proof that we’d made it to the turning point and evidence of the £5 going to charity from each entry fee; what a superb idea. This is something other organisers could pick up on, especially those who charge grossly over inflated entry fees. (You know who you are!)

Shortly after leaving Fort Augustus, I was very impressed to see the first MTBers (who’d ridden further and rougher than us) rejoin us, having covered much of that part of their route off-road. The huge drop down into Fort Augustus then had to be tackled, by us roadies, in reverse; my new, much lighter, bike went well, but the gearing of 34x28 was still a bit too high for such a steep hill. I muscled up it anyway, passing one or two even more overgeared riders and a couple on touring recumbents (not in the event) who were really struggling. The descent to Whitebridge was awesome; straight(ish) and very fast. Thank you General Wade (the man who had the road built, about 250 years ago). At that stage, I seemed to have lost all the groups and came upon only ones and twos for company, but this was no problem as the road took interesting turns through scenic, wild woodland to Loch Ness-side and along the shore to Dores again. To ensure that I would finish in less than four hours, I put in a big effort over the last few miles. Job done, we cruised back to the event HQ for tea, cakes, sandwiches and to collect our ‘goodie bags’ (nice beer, Cairngorm Brewery).

This was a first-rate, well organised event. My only criticisms are that I would have liked to have seen an entry list before the day and it would also have been good to see, in the results, where I finished in my age group (60+) as I have no chance of being competitive against the young guns. The start was awesome and mixing up road and MTB was brilliant; after all we’re all simply cyclists. Having seen the muddy exhausted state some of the MTB folk were in as they finished, I’m filled with admiration for them and very glad that I stick to road events nowadays.
Is a sportive a race? With the rolling massed start, it felt more like a race than a challenge. The shorter distance meant I was able to give it 100% all the way to the end. Whatever you want to call it I had a great day out.
You missed it? No matter, I’ll probably see you there next year.

Distance 62.5 miles

My Position 39th 3.52.03 Speed 16.1mph

Fastest Tony Hay 2.54.00 Speed 21.6mph

72 Finishers

Climbing 3970’ (GPS measured)

Weather Warm, mostly dry, light SE wind

Peter Main 8)
Cairngorm Cycling Club

the idea is to die young as late as possible
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