Hebridean Cycle Challenge: Charity Cycle and Charity Walk

In Aid Of Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs Association


Saturday 18th June, 2011

2011 Race Results - 2011 Race Reports
 

Road Bike Section Report - Mountain Bike Section Report

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Road Bike Section Report
Donald Thomson

I had been looking forward to this event for some time and the anticipation only increased in the days before the race because of the keen north-easterly wind and dry conditions forecast. As the 33 mile road-bike section was to start at the Creed Enterprise Park and finish at Miavaig, it would be a tailwind all the way with some exceptions such as the Clisham road climb.

Saturday arrived and from 8.30 a.m. onwards, the Karting circuit car park steadily filled up with all manner of vehicles containing an assortment of bikes and competitors for registration. The logistics of ensuring mountain-bikes, team-mates and kit-bags for the off-road section were in the correct vans went smoothly under Fallon's calm guidance. The stretching and warm-up routine from those doing the sponsored charity route to Scaladale put the competitive cyclists to shame. After a short briefing from Neal Ingram, Fallon set us on our way.

All the cyclists treated the short section of road between the Karting car park and the main road with respect, using it to get comfortable and avoiding colliding with each other. However, once we turned left onto the A859, the adrenaline kicked in big-time and Ruaraidh Michie was the first greyhound out of the trap. The first few undulating miles stretched the field out with the lead alternating between four of us: Ruaraidh; John Neil Mitchell; Roddy Murray and I.

By the time we reached Leurbost, four had become three with Ruaraidh (perhaps paying for his initial youthful exuberance) dropping back gradually. By now, the lead was alternating between John Neil and I. With the pace relentless and increasing, if anything, three eventually became two with Roddy dropping away from the head of the race.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

At this stage, I began thinking about the rest of the event. I knew it was highly unlikely that I could beat John Neil on the road stage. Nevertheless, I figured that if I put enough pressure on him on the road, he might slow on his mountain-bike stage and even things up a bit for my team-mate (Anesti Davenhill) who was going to run the same off-road stage. These thoughts were temporarily put to the back of my mind when I saw the "Loose chippings" and "20mph" signs. The threat of punctures is ever present but this increased the probability. Your race is effectively over if you puncture but the thought is even more unbearable if you have a team-mate waiting for you.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Fortunately, the puncture threat didn't materialise but another hazard of road cycling did. On the never-ending straight after Airidhbhruaich, an oncoming car threw up a stone chip which scored a direct hit on my cycling shades. I recall telling Roddy about the incident afterwards and saying to him "Despite what people think, cycling shades aren't just for 'pose' value". In his deadpan manner, he replied "Pose value is important!"

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Anyway, back to the race. By this time we were approaching the point where the Bowglass track joins the main road and John Neil commented "That's where I'll be coming out later". I can't recall if I said it but I certainly thought "Rather you than me". As we passed Scaladale, it was a nice feeling to be cheered on by those already assembled there. I glanced at the bike computer and saw that we were through there on or about the hour mark.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

I suspected that the Clisham road climb, if not the hills later on, would be significant and so it proved. John Neil and I were level at the foot of the climb but the powerful punishing tempo he set soon had me under pressure. I could only stay in touch by doing stints getting up out of the saddle and gear changing but, by halfway up, I lost his wheel and a significant margin opened up for the first time. When he crested the high point, I used a sign-post as a reference and calculated that he had gained about 30 seconds on me.

At that point I thought I wouldn't see John Neil again till Scaladale. After a hard climb, it takes a while for the heart, lungs and muscles to recover to enable you to settle into your usual cycling rhythm. Therefore, we had gone some distance beyond the Maaruig junction before I realised that the 30 second margin wasn't increasing but was, in fact, decreasing. Again, I didn't think I could catch him but, if he glanced behind him, I thought it might make him a little less comfortable. As it happened, the gap gradually came down over the next couple of miles until I was level with him again. Suddenly, I didn't feel so bad about getting dropped when he explained "I think I went too hot on Clisham and I started getting twinges of cramp".

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

All too soon, with John Neil in the lead, we plummeted past Ardhasaig quarry, reaching a maximum speed of 50 mph, before white knuckles squeezing the brake levers allowed us to make the junction at Bennadrove. The remaining miles were taken up with negotiating technical roller-coaster sections of road with at least two significant climbs where I was taken aback by the number of enthusiastic and friendly marshals. The thought crossed my mind that there might be more marshals than competitors. This is highly commendable on the part of these volunteers and the organisers but also somewhat disappointing in terms of the number of competitors.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Cresting the last hill, we could see the transition area below us and on the descent, I had little option but to bow to John Neil's superior descending skills and consequently lost a few seconds to him. However, that didn't matter as I handed the rubber wrist band safely to Anesti and saw him head up the track ahead of John Neil....

Donald Thomson

Mountain Bike Section Report

Gavin Earons


Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

As we stood in the transition area at Miavaig, all eyes were on the distant corner at the top of the hill - eagerly awaiting the first road bikers to arrive - but who would be first to appear? We didn't have long to wait as the first two hurtled round the corner and on down the hill just yards apart - John Neil Mitchell just ahead of Donald Thomson, and it was still that way as they entered transition after averaging 21mph for the 33 miles - very impressive riding considering the major climbs on the route. As John Neil changed bikes, Donald tagged Anesti Davenhill who set off on his 11.5 mile trail run to the finish. A few minutes later, Roddy Murray came in and tagged Catherine Mary who also headed off on the run. So far the bikers were coming in pretty much to form, my fingers were crossed that my partner would be next. No need to worry! Ruairidh Michie had stuck to the plan brilliantly - he set out hoping to stay up with the leaders but sensibly settled down to ride at his own pace and came in just a few minutes behind Roddy (very mature riding for a 17 year old!).

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

I set off up the land rover track in pursuit of John Neil who had just over 10 minutes of a start on me. I soon realised why the roadies had been so quick! The favourable wind that had pushed them south was certainly not helping me as I headed north up the shallow climb to Voshmid Hut. As I rounded a corner I saw Anesti walking back towards transition, unfortunately he'd pulled a muscle in the first mile and was out of the race. Next up was Catherine Mary, she was running well but no match for a mountain bike! I was going pretty much at 100% because I had no idea how far I was ahead of our nearest rival Eddie Smith (roadie partner Neil Macdonald) and because I had no idea how fast he was on a mountain bike, I assumed the worst - ie that he was faster than me! The fear of him catching me was driving me on into the headwind.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

It was tough going as I passed below the impressive peak of Sron Scourt but I kept pushing hard. After 4 miles, the end of the land rover track signalled the end of the "easy" part and I turned onto the single track leading to the river crossing. I was already pretty tired but got a real boost when the marshals told me I was now only 6 minutes behind John Neil.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

I grabbed a good drink as I forded the river and set off up the long 2 mile climb. 300m of climbing over that distance on road would be fairly easy but the soft grass, moss and peat meant almost all of the climb was made in the lowest gear possible! Keeping traction was a real problem and the steepest sections were right on my limit - so much so that I ran a couple of short sections to save energy!

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Half way up, there is a short descent into a spectacular corrie before the steepest part of the climb begins. It was here that I saw John Neil for the first time - he certainly wasn't 6 minutes ahead now. This gave me real boost and I dug deep as I tried to chase him down. I rounded the next corner to find him kneeling down beside his bike - I thought he must have a mechanical problem. He jumped back on as I came alongside and he told me he was suffering from cramp. I shouted some encouragement and told him he'd pass me again on the way down. Despite a pounding heart and burning thighs I drove on up the hill and was pretty much on my last legs when I finally reached the bealach.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Now there was a chance to recover as gravity became my friend! I headed off down the steep, technical descent as fast as I dared - too fast as it turned out because only 200m later I hit the first obstacle - literally! The copious amounts of marker tape which marked the hazard only managed to confuse me and I ended up in it after doing a beautiful swallow dive over the handlebars. With nothing injured but my pride, I quickly got back on and sped down the slope - or so I thought! John Neil flew passed me as if I was standing still! Now that's how it should be done - he makes it look so easy! I chased him down as best I could but he easily left me behind.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

John Neil crossed the river first but instantly was struck with cramp again. I passed him and made up my mind that this time he wasn't going to catch me again. I gave it everything I had as I headed up the zigzag path to the final bealach, again choosing to get off and push up the steepest rocky sections to save some energy for the final descent.

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

The trail down to Bowglass  was super fast (despite the headwind) and I was right on the limit with both wheels slithering about on the dry loose surface as I pedalled furiously down the trail. Slightly scary but definitely very exhilarating!

Once I reached the tarmac, I didn't let up for a second as I raced flat out to the finish, I was absolutely determined that no- one was going to catch me in the last mile. Adrenalin does amazing things and I felt fantastic as I crossed the line, 10 minutes earlier I was on my last legs and now I felt like I could go round again! Then I looked at my watch and was even more elated - about 1hr 24m for the leg which was at least 20 minutes off my previous fastest time! There's life in the old legs yet!

I found my partner Ruairidh Michie and we briefly congratulated each other on our win. Why briefly? Well, despite being a winner in his first ever bike race, he wasn't going to wait around for the prize giving - he was going to cycle back up to Stornoway instead! Being 40 years older and wiser than him I stayed to enjoy the BBQ and a couple of bottles of beer!

To all you bikers out there, this is a superb event and deserves a place in your schedule next year. Congratulations to Fallon and all his support team who helped make this event such a success.

Gavin Earons

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

Hebridean Cycle Challenge 2011

2011 HEBRIDEAN CYCLE CHALLENGE PRESS RELEASE

The first ever Hebridean Cycle Challenge took place in perfect weather conditions on Saturday 18th June with amazing performances from the Challenge competitors and Charity cyclists alike.

Starting at the Creed Business Park, outside Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, the Charity Cyclist raced 21.3 miles to the Scaladale Outdoor Centre, Isle of Harris. The Challenge competitors continued on for a further 12.3 miles into Miavaig, on the Hushinish Road, before turning onto the off road track into the North Harris hills and continuing either by running or mountain biking the 11 mile demanding off road track back round to the finishing line at the Scaladale Centre. The Challenge competitors were able to complete the course as a team of two, changing with their team mate at the start of the off road track or to complete the whole road and off road route as a solo entry.

Great feedback was received from all entrants with fantastic comments like "It was a brilliant race, it really was a challenge"; "it was so well marshalled. It was good seeing as many marshals; it meant that you know you were on the right route" and "Superbly organised race through spectacular scenery, a true challenge which pushed me to the limit and beyond! When do entries open for next year's race?"

The organisers of the challenge, Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs Association, would like to give a big thank you to all that took part and helped make the day such a success, to those who were involved in organising the event and a special thank you to the Lewis and Harris Coastguard and Hebrides Search and Rescue for marshalling the both the cross country and road sections of the event.The winners of the Challenge race are shown below but a full list of all the entrants and their times, as well as photographs of the event can be found on the Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs Association website www.lhyca.co.uk

 

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