This being a tale of two men, a 20 year old quest for some holy relics, and a rubbish excuse to skip work…no introduction is going to do it justice. Let’s get on with it – ed.
As much as I’d like to I cannot take the credit for the concept of riding from Ayr to Lockerbie via Wanlockhead, mainly off road and on cross bikes. That honour falls to Marcus Shields, he who hails from Sorn but habitually resides in that there London.
Lost for Years
Marcus started out on this journey when he was a fresh faced lad of 14 but ended up, due to a navigational error, in Sanquhar. The story could have ended there (as might have Marcus) but no our Marcus went out and bought maps, feverishly planned the correct route and trained for almost 20 years before inviting me along to sample the long forgotten delights of up country Ayrshire
Armed with little more than an inner tube between us we left the end of Ayr Pier, with Arran aglow behind us in the early morning light, on Monday past at 07:30 (it would have been earlier but I am suffering from Date Of Birth Syndrome and needed a lie in).
Crossing the wee wooden bridge by the flats we promptly took our first wrong turn and ended up having to u-turn before tackling the not piss poor but perfect pedalling pave of Cathcart Street and Ayr’s Auld Brig.
Local Heroes Indeed
Up river we headed following the River Ayr path to Auchincruive and the, perhaps unique, monument to another two, albeit lesser known, local heroes by the names of Wallace and Burns. I was familiar with Wallace and Grommit so I had to Google this pair – for clarity’s sake I understand one is an Australian actor chappie and the other is awffy guid wi wurds aboot mice and men.
Choosing the wrong (North side) of the river we quickly found ourselves carrying the bikes through the mire (shite) of a farmer’s field whilst hoping that scaring sheep didn’t count as a crime in these parts – I’m sure they’ll have experienced worse in this airt …… Moss isn’t the only thing they blow around here, allegedly.
Large Boabby Sighted
Past Stair and Failford we rumbled (my knees) and on to yon big estate outside Mauchline. Under the World’s longest single span masonry arch at the Haugh …… onto firm trails now and the yard’s fair sped by. The sighting of a huge “Boabby” at Catrine led to earnest discussions whether this was in homage to Louison Bobet or our own Boabby MacLean.
A little behind schedule we elected to take the road to Muirkirk leaving the delights of the River Ayr Walk to the ….. err, walkers. Now I’ve always hated that hill out of Sorn (despite which I once won the “most aggressive rider prize” in a race that climbed it – but only because I decked the organiser for including the hill …… irony) and Marcus, now looking like a snail due to the exceptionally full Camelbak he had collected from his maw’s hoose, was cheerily half wheeling me and engaging me in conversation that required long replies (remember this bit).
Through Muirkirk, for the first time without being stoned, and up past Kaimes and onto the Foundry Road – the world’s first tarmac road courtesy of John Loudon MacAdam (we passed his cairn).
4×4’s have ripped the fragile moorland environment to buggery and this protected hen harrier breeding ground, one of the most important in Europe, is, in parts, just an unrideable quagmire (giggidy, giggidy, goo).
Between the muddy bits there was some spectacular riding and crossers make these kinds of journeys possible as the speeds are generally much faster than on a mtb. The lack of suspension and effective brakes makes the descents exciting and the whole thing a hoot.
If I learned anything from this trip I learned not to pish on an electric fence. Take it from me those Ghostbuster lads were right – you should never, ever cross the streams, ever. Suffice to say I did and I was rewarded by the full pulsing blast, and not entirely unpleasant it was either, doon ma own boabby. Still that said it did warm my clammy chamois nicely and good progress was soon resumed.
Dropping down, we crossed the B740 Sanquhar to M74 road and headed into some forest roads, direction Wanlockhead. We were both starting to feel the effects of many miles of bog walking and were getting peckish.
The wind spun and the fine tailwind became a headwing up long exposed drags past felled hill sides. Hunger was announcing it’s arrival but all was good until we came across a section (now on the Southern Upland Way) of wind felled trees blocking the forset road.
Tackling this section put us in a maze like horizontal forest and made for exceptionally difficult going. By slowing down we were starting to chill but eventually making the other side after much manhandling ….. of bikes. A section that would have taken 1 minute to ride took over 20 to pick our way through ….. and then Marcus punctured (I had my only flat of the day earlier).
Wanlockhead was reached thanks to a gel split between us. The highest village in Scotland is, however, closed on a Monday so the road was followed over the hill to Leadhills where the highest shop in Scotland was open and very welcoming – just don’t plan a visit on a Wednesday because it too is closed and the rumour is that Wanlockhead takes a sympathy half day as well.
An indecent amount of food was consumed (I swear they do the best microwaved Scotch pies anywhere and that’s not just the knock talking). The plan had been to continue on the SUW cross country to Moffat and then join some other offroad Way or some such down to Lockerbie.
Given the time of day and Marcus’s requirement to catch the 19:11 from Lockerbie to Euston we decided to complete the ride on the road. Downhill it was too ……..
The darkness fell, lights were lit and show me a bit of downhill road and I’ll soon hit TT mode. Now remember that bit about being haulf wheeled earlier ….? Well the great thing about riding round the world is that I’ve got a fair reserve of stamina left over from it. I’m pretty shite for the first 9 or 10 hours but when I get through that I kinda get warmed up and catch my second wind.
My lips are sealed and what happened on the road stays on the road …. all I’m saying is the man in the pub in Lockerbie was curious about why Marcus’s face was dirty and mine was clean.
Well, despite our best efforts Marcus missed the train by about 10 minutes and had to stay the night in one of the finest establishments the town had to offer. My long suffering partner Chez drove up in the van from the Lakes to collect me – babes, as soon as the burns have healed from that electric fence incident I’ll make it up to you, promise.
Guinness concluded the day – 80 miles half off road and half on road in about 12 hours. A grand day out …. as that Wallace and Grommit pair would have said.
As a footnote I should add that my one big regret in 30 years of cycling is not buying a cyclo cross bike before I did. Over the last 3 years it’s opened up a whole new world of daft trips (this one and across the High Atlas in Morocco) and has revolutionised my training (hill reps up forest roads = no cars :J). If you do one, sorry two things as a result of these ramblings – 1) buy or try a cross bike and 2) don’t pea on a live electric fence. Trust me on both …. would I lie …?
Happy trails and keep it rubber side down.
21st March 2012
Pics all by Marcus Shields (as he has a camera phone)
Just who is this unknown punk who has landed on the scene out of nowhere and caused our press officers to go into overdrive? While they are stuck searching for new superlatives to better those employed for last week’s ‘podiums’, we tracked down our dishevelled hero after a night of celebrations. Ladies and Gentlemen, we proudly introduce your 2012 Lake APR champion…. Gaz Maher
Gary, tell us about your ride at the Lake, how did it happen?
Our group was caught pretty quick so after that i tried to stay near the front and ignore all my previous slipstream training. Popped 2 ballons going up the climbs but both times caught the lead group and hung in to sprint for the line.
When did you know you were going to win?
50 yards after the finishline, as I was lying on the ground, Paul Rennie came over and congratulated me on finishing first…thought i might be in with a chance after that.
Who were you most afraid of?
Has to be my chauffeur Alex…he told me everyone else was rubbish, so i had better win or i could forget about all those free holidays to France.
How useless were your teammates?
I had teammates there? lol If it wasn’t for bad luck the boys wouldn’t have any luck, and from what i seen in Tenerife (which at times was way TOO much!) Mark would’ve scooshed that race.
A new recruit to ARCC, tell us your cycling background?
Pretty new to road bikes, joined Dales CRT (RIP) 2 years ago and done a bit of racing last year. As of today (Monday) I have retired.
Aspirations for 2012?
To trade in my easy, happy life and embrace hardships and depression…time to get married, settle down and have kids.
If I was not a cyclist, I would be a…
…raging car driver who beeps at those inconsiderate carrots on bikes.
The Tenerife trip – any gossip you want to share?
Nope, my lips are sealed…what happened in
XXXTenerife stays in Tenerife.
No really, all that “what happens in Tenerife stays in Tenerife” stuff doesn’t apply when you enter a new timezone… – nothing you want to share?
Ahh, nearly caught me out there..it’s the same time zone! All i will say is, have you seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Well, it was nothing like that.
How will you be investing your winnings?
Anti snoring devices for next year’s Tenerife trip…a bath is no place for an athlete to sleep.
Rab Kelly is “an inconsiderate carrot on a bike?” You heard it here first…
Read the British Cycling report of the action here
Gary Maher today followed in our own wee Paul Torrance’s shoes to win the Lake APR today. His first win, in his first ever competitive outing for the mighty Ayr Roads CC. Well done Gary.
Our field reporter, Lexi McAllister tells us:
On Sunday 18 March at Balfron Ayr Roads CC/Harry Fairbairn BMW won the famous Lake of Menteith Race for the second year in a row when Gary Maher sprinted home at the head of a six-strong escape group. Earlier in the day 80 riders had set off from Balfron in groups but by the time the race reached Aberfoyle after 25 miles it had all come together except for the first group of ‘elder statesmen’ who were gamely hanging on to what was left of their 2-minute start. Back at Balfron after 40 miles, Gary and 5 others attacked on the steep climb out of the town and established a lead of one minute over the bunch. With 9 miles left to race, they caught then dropped the best of the first group on the long uphill drag into Killearn. That just left a mad 40 mph downhill dash for the finishing line where Gary timed his sprint to perfection.
So there you have it. We’ll catch up with our man of the moment very soon for a full blow by blow account of what happened where when why how etc.
Meanwhile, here is what second place rider Craig Adams had to say via Twitter:
2nd Place for me today
#LakeAPR rode well from the scratch got away on the steep section after Balfron. Worked well with couple of guys to stay away caught first group. Tried a Gilbert style attack on the Killearn climb but got rode back! Half a wheel in it for the sprint :/ Not too shabby with a hard race in the legs from yesterday [Craig was in a looooooong seven lap break in the Dick Longdraggon Nat B race in Aberdeenshire on Sat]
And who won Craig?
Gary maher? From Ayr roads think he was in the 2nd group maybe.
He’s a good bean – you should follow him @Karboncraig
Those results then:
1 Gary Maher Ayr Roads Cycling Club 4th 01:48:04
2 Craig Adams GJS Racing Team 2nd st
3 Dominic Hines Velo Club Edinburgh 3rd st
4 Finlay Young Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 2nd st
5 Craig Dale TheBicycleWorks.com 3rd 3
6 Gavin Shuttleworth Velocity 44 Stirling 3rd st
7 Lewis Hodgart Glasgow Couriers 3rd 23
8 AIDAN QUINN Glasgow Ivy CC 4th 41
9 Georges Avraam Edinburgh RC 4th st
10 Alan Dent Nevis Cycles Racing Team 4th st
11 Graham Moore Velocity 44 Stirling 3rd 43
12 Greg Brownwww.Dooleys-Cycles.co. uk 2nd st
13 Peter Murdoch Team Cycle Lane 1st 45
14 Andrew Wilson Falkirk Bicycle Club 3rd st
15 Malcolm Patterson Glasgow Nightingale CC 3rd st
16 STEVEN DUNN Falkirk Bicycle Club 3rd st
17 Gary Cross Falkirk Bicycle Club 3rd 47
18 Calum Foster Team Leslie Bike Shop – Right M 3rd st
19 Andrew Whitehall Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 2nd st
20 Paul Renniewww.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk 2nd st
24 Alexander McAllister Ayr Roads Cycling Club 4th st
Aye, what did happen to Paul Torrance and your captain Skilling? We’ll save that for the forums shall we
Good work all!
You mean you didn’t know that a top ten was a podium? c’mon, where have you been?
Yes its true! Ayrshire’s best and bestest road clubs were in action this weekend, and so were we! Not content with sending a strong team to demolish the opposition at a single event, we sent three groups into the hidden wastelands of central Scotland to return us some riches.
Lets start in Drumclog. Our pals at the Loudoun have put on a super duper weekend of activity based around Drumclog, Dungavel and Strathaven. Neil Campbell, Robert Kelly and Paul McGhee donned the blue and white skinsuits to tackle the opening day’s 12.5 mile hilly TT. This being team Frank Spencer, what could go wrong?
Well not much. Neil did rather well and finished 9th. Here are some select results:
1 Neil Walker walkers cc S 31.33
2 John Paterson classic racing S 32.09
3 Andrew Ralston perth united cc V 32.30
4 Chris Stewart classic racing S 32.42
5 Stuart Macgregor dooleys rt V 32.43
6 Derek Mcmillan st christophers cc V 32.48
7 Wilson Kane east kilbride rc V 32.52
8 Paul Friel glasgow couriers V 32.53
9 Neil Campbell Ayr Roads CC / Harry Fairbairn BMW S 34.09
10 Robert Wilson glasgow couriers V 34.14
30 Paul Mcghee Ayr Roads CC / Harry Fairbairn BMW S 37.55
32 Robert Kelly Ayr Roads CC / Harry Fairbairn BMW V 38.02
What does it mean? Well Neil did very well, taking hard-ass roadman Gordon Murdoch’s scalp. But Paul and Robert? Good effort, but next time hows about a strategic puncture or two boys, please! So it was a 1-2 to A&DCA based clubs – good show Neil and John!
Ok, enough. Over in the east we had a team taking on the Musselburgh 3up TT. Kenny Armstrong, Mark Skilling and Alex McAllister. What happened next?
So right now, no results have been posted. But the top 5 was announced via twitter. Again, we can’t find it now, but needless to say we were not on it. Hows about some reactions:
why is Kenny on the front in both pictures, Skilling on his wheel and McAllister snivelling at the back ?? The answer is blindingly obvious when you think about it….because that’s how we rode the whole feckn 24.3 miles. Never again
Gordon Stead (of our arch rivals, the dastardly yellow FWCC):
First lap I punctured , Jim and Stephen rode on , got a spare wheel and took a lap out , saw Jim and Stephen coming towards me , but only Jim got to the top of the hill Stephens chain had snapped . Jim and I finished the last lap .
If nothing else we do have a nice pic of the ARCC machine making Kelso wonder why they turned up. Good work chaps.
So to Sunday…
There was a cafe run, and there was cake. But there is always cake, so lets skip to somewhere else where there might or might not have been cake; the Drumclog APR. We have three ARCC riders in the race. Alex McAllister; Keith Hood, and Robert Kelly (all in group 3 of 5). I know what you are thinking: “Really Bernard, is this sensible?”
What happened next:
Not too unhappy with 5th. Even Kenny could have read this race….keep the group working together until the third and final time up the brae to Dungavel then give it stick. VC Glasgow South came with a plan and 3 of them gave it very big stick….all I had to do was follow them like nasty brown stuff on a shovel….job done.
Clearly Lexy was able to raise his game thanks to Gary ‘Higgi’ Higgins’ encouragement:
Lexi lexi lexi, keep that wee grey chin up its no disgrace wheel sookin the southern softies after aw there jeest back from a holiday age doesnt come itself OLD PAL
1 Ronnie Burns (VC Glasgow South)
2 Andrew Louis (Pro Am RC)
3 Robert Young (Glasgow Green CC)
4 Steve MacLuskie (VC Glasgow South)
5 Alex McAllister (Ayr Roads)
6 James Melville (Glasgow United CC)
7 Graeme Small (East Kilbride RC)
8 Martin Wilson (VC Glasgow South)
9 Steven Turbitt (Glasgow United CC)
10 Stephen Begg (VC Glasgow South)
Robert was 13th, and Keith Hood 40th
And some choice words from Neil Walker:
Good APR today, our group just not enough committed guys on the last lap to close the gap, got away in last lap in a group of 4 and nearly made it though!
And who are these guys frightened of commitment? Well, we don’t know for sure. But perhaps Barry fae the kooriers can help us to draw our own conclusions:
It’s not right though when the Edinburgh guy is telling a 60 kilo guy that he is going through too strong into a head wind!!!! Not matter what we did we were never catching group 3
Read the full story at the British Cycling site
And we don’t want to leave Higgi without a photo of the man of the moment, Lexi McAllister.
We’ve been Ayr Roads CC, and you’ve been facebook stalked! Until next time…