Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Tour O the Borders 2016

Last year I rode my 1st Sportive the Tesco Tour O the Borders which I reported on here: 2015

Since then I have tried to keep the cycling going and this same event was my 4th of 2016 (after Etape  Loch Ness in April, Etape Caledonia in May and my unsuccessful  attempt at the Trossachs Ton in June ).  All of these rides have been thoroughly enjoyable and have provided some great riding in some very scenic parts of Scotland, nevertheless, the Tour O The Borders is, IMHO, one of the very best for the scenery on offer (it does help that I am not really familiar with the area.

This year’s route was the same as last year with just modifications to the locations of the feed stations; the old Gordon Arms Hotel double feed station was replaced with 2 smaller ones – 1 about 5km up Berry Bush Hill and the other a couple of km up Paddy Slacks hill. More importantly the Talla descent - scene of a serious crash last year that left most riders freezing at the top of Talla whilst the air ambulance evacuated the casualty - was a neutralised timing zone, not that that would worry me as this descent is perfectly safe at the speeds I am comfortable travelling.

This year the views surpassed those of last year as the low cloud was replaced with sunshine and excellent visibility.  The weather, however, was not benign as this was the day that Cairngorm experienced its strongest ever August wind (gusting 115 mph).  Whilst we were not at that altitude, the Tour is quite high and the wind was strong throughout the ride – the 1st 27 miles were almost totally into wind as was the climb up Berry Bush and the 1st half of the KOM hill.  Sometimes I was even in my Granny Gear on the flat and making slow progress into the wind, I found the run up to Paddy Slacks, in particular, tough.  On the positive side the hill climbing was easier than last year – the results of improved fitness and more training (though my training since June has been limited by bike repairs and illness as well as bad weather).  By the end the wind had taken its toll and although my time was slightly faster than last year, I was knackered. 

For a good article and some great pictures of this year’s Tour take a look here:

So what did I learn this year?
1 – Don’t fight the wind it will win, accept you will get a slower time and enjoy the scenery!
2 – I found out what a derailleur hanger is – struggling before the ride to get my gears to index I spoke to one of the attendant Shimano mechanics who took one look at the mech and spotted that my derailleur hanger was bent, kindly he bent it back for me but advised me to replace it ASAP (I have 2 on order).
3 – Test your refreshments before the ride – my drink mix made my stomach knot up, I threw it out at the Berry Bush feed station and replaced it with the Tesco Isotonic water they were handing out there.

4 – This really is a fantastic Sportive and is very well organised.  If I can I shall be back next year.