I'm going to make a confession here. I sort of forced Julie into road cycling by signing her up to last years Velothon. She was recovering from a broken ankle and I thought it would be motivation for here to get training when she lost the pot. I also had the evil thought that I'd be a lot faster and better than here, thus looking awesome and sexy and stroking my ego. To be fair she went out and got herself a decent roadbike which although having stupid "sissy" brakes and a triple chainset is lovely, although in no way as good looking as mine. A wet Welsh spring did nothing to help her training but soon the date of the ride was upon us and we set off to Inverness.
It's a long way from South Wales to Inverness but the thought of Irn Bru and single malt get me going. The event hub in Inverness was small but pleasant without too many stalls trying to part you from your hard earned cash and Inverness itself is a lovely city. We camped just outside the town and apart from the Morons in the next tent having too much to drink had a good nights sleep. certainly enjoyed the view whilst giving Julie's bike a final once over, clean and lube.
Staring out at 6am is always hard but in Scotland in April? I was half glad I was only on press duties and not riding. As Julie set off I wondered over to get a coffee and a haggis based breakfast. I wondered around for a bit had another coffee getting more and more bored and as the first few riders started to come in I came to my senses. I should be riding. This was Loch Ness, one of the best roads I'd ever driven on and it was closed!! What's wrong with raising a bit of cash for charity, as long as what I raised didn't cover my entry fees and I paid for that myself it would be fine. As much as I love a press tabard, I look far better in lycra.
Riders came in in a steady stream and we saw all types. Full on club roadies, wannabe pros, Lance fanboys, mountain bikers looking rather silly on a proper bike, clearly unfit first timers who you could see loved every moment, old boys on steel framed audax bikes that have had more love spent on them than most children and Batman and Robin on a Tandem. All the riders were met with a great atmosphere whipped up by the tannoy announcer who somehow kept up with naming most of the riders crossing the line.
One thing that many of us as riders sometimes overlook is the importance of the volunteers who marshall these events. Whilst we race around pretending to be Cav or Sagan these guys, many of whom have no knowledge or interest in cycling keep us safe, fed and well looked after. So Thank You to all those that volunteer. Without you guys none of these events would happen.
So what about the route itself. Well I wasn't allowed out on the route itself so I can only rely on what I've been told. Oh come on who am I kidding???? This is a route around Loch Ness it's going to fantastic. I've been told that there was quite the crowd lining the route especially outside the hotels, many of which were cut off by closed road for hours.
The top of the King of the Mountain Climb, 4.8 miles, 380 metres of ascent and reaching gradients of 12%, was annouced by a bagpipe player and remarkably this didn't annoy anyone. If anything speaks for the quality of the route then this does.
So yeah I'm jealous. I'm not designed to be a bystander in this type of event and as I watched Julie fly around the final corners in to the finish a lot earlier than I expected her I had a frightening thought. She's getting better at this, she may get faster than me. I'd best get training......
Picture courtesy of Tricker PR
If you fancy riding Etape Loch Ness in 2017, I certainly do, then you can register your interest at the following link.
Thanks to Eoin Smith of Tricker PR for all the help during the event.