Tour of the Cairngorm Mountains

2013-07-06 13.01.07

The other day I went out and rode the ‘Tour of the Cairngorms’, a fantastic road cycling route that I’d been thinking about for a couple of years now. I started at Ballater and the route took over 5 passes; Gairn Shiel, Lecht ski centre, Drumtochter, Dalnavaid and Glenshee ski centre over 165 miles. It takes in some of the UK’s finest mountain and lake scenery, continuously varied from the moody Cairngorm massif (formed 40 million years ago), ancient Scots Pines in the Caledonian forests, lakes around Aviemore, barren Arctic tundra near Dalwhinne, and the broad leaf forests and craggy mountains of Perthshire.  The route also follows three of Scotland’s finest rivers, the Spey, Garry and Dee which is essential in making fine Malt Whiskey known by the Scots as the ‘water of life’. Several of the well know distilleries are situated along the route such as Enochdhu, Dalwhinnie,  Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Lochnagar to name a few. It would have been nice to stop for a dram but that would have been the end of me!

Heading West from Aviemore was hard going into strong wind for 4 hours and going over the Drumtochter pass at the 7 hour mark I felt pretty committed, a long way from home with no short cuts available. Arriving in Pitlochry at 7 pm and it was time to eat and I need some salt but also felt pretty sick. That feeling only got worse when I saw a roadsign saying 60 miles to go – whoops – I must have missed a leg on the paper map that I glanced at in the morning – I was banking on 35 to go. I’d also forgot my bank card as the idea to do the route was spontaneous that morning and it had been a bit of rush getting out of the house. Thoughts of a night out in lycra and being eaten to death by the midges spurred me on and those last 60 miles only took 3 hours. In the cool air at 9 pm I was working hard and running hot going over the Glenshee ski centre pass but the last 25 miles down the river Dee through rolling hills and forest was a treat. 11 hrs 15 mins.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 12.07.20

Emosson Dam Ride

Yesterday Michelle and myself went for a road ride to the Emosson Dam from Chamonix. The last time I did this ride was in 1995. We were in a hurry to get back and watch the Rugby World Cup quarter finals between Scotland and South Africa in Wild Wallabies. That day we got crushed, both on the road in 38C and on the field.

Yesterday was much more pleasant with temps in the low 20s, dry clean roads and stunning views over the massif. The feel is coming back for cornering a road bike at 40 mph+ and I’m enjoying both the climbs and downhills. If I don’t get skiing soon I might try the tour of Mont Blanc on the road which is a burly 330 km and 8000 m of ascent. I’ve got about ten days left in Cham before getting stuck into work an have only ridden a handfull of times this year so it may be a bit optimistic! Although I can no longer count on my fitness from a cycle racing career that ended when I switched to mountain sports 15 years ago, there’s a few tricks that you don’t forget that sometimes help you get round (no not EPO!).Chamonix to Emosson Dam road biking 1 Chamonix to Emosson Dam road biking 4 Chamonix to Emosson Dam road biking 3

Springtime – start of the road biking

We went for a tour in the Aiguille Rouge but had to bail from all options other than skiing down from the Col du Belvedere due to unstable snow. This left plenty of time to get out in the afternoon on my first bike ride in 6 months up to Col des Montets. Despite feeling very rusty it was a lot of fun to be out on the bike.2013-03-22 09.44.03 2013-03-22 15.54.42