A fine blustery day with a strong westerly, brought the gathered eleven to agree with Irish John on route choice. John had intel which lead him to believe that the Tomich Hotel close to Cannich was open for a coffee stop. Following a brief discussion all agreed that "head wind out tail wind back" via Beauly and the Eskdale river road was the way to go with the thought of fighting our way back from Cromarty less attractive.
Irish John lead off the bunch of Mary, Julie, Malky, Toby, Innes, Pilot John, Donna, Rabbit, Alastair and Elvis with the eleven splitting to two groups with a reasonable gap of about 100m to allow cars to pass safely when we were doubled up. Onwards up the Fenallan climb and dropping down to South Eskdale where we regrouped, all had a moment to enjoy and reflect on the beautiful Autumn light that showed Affric and the road ahead at its best. It was a steady rolling pace along from Eskdale with the group forming and developing like geese in flight ... Irish John and Alistair felt they needed an extra work out so opted to pull Mary and Julie for the next seven miles along the glen which they obviously enjoyed as they mentioned it on numerous occasions on the run home down from Cannich when ever the pace picked up. Pilot John went ahead and captured some video footage of the passing peloton for the new club Facebook page.
Mary and Julie turned off before Tomich at Cannich to get home early. Malky considerate in his planning made sure Julie had everything she needed before she left ... except the car key - she needed to open the car - to get the house key - she needed to open the house..... oops!
Continuing on the last few miles into Tomich it was quiet with us meeting only one vehicle, a Range Rover that was speeding on, being driven by some gadgie in tweeds as if he owned the place ... maybe he did ... No drama really compared to some close encounters we've had , but the group had to split quickly and find a safe edge as he trundled past ... he probably would have been more considerate of sheep we had just passed ... so whats changed, peasants have been run off estates for years ... colourful lycra just makes a bigger target. In fairness to the tweeds, it could have happened with a white van man.
Irish John's intel was sound, as we found a small coffee shop open on its last day of the season in Tomich located across the road from the Tomich hotel. Decent coffee and scones with a friendly host made it a welcome stop. With the host slightly over whelmed by our large number and the Bella Barista Rocket Espresso Appartamento Coffee Machine working overtime, Irish John stepped up to the plate and assisted by providing full table service. Low on till change, the host was fully appreciative of our custom and craic which was complemented when Pilot John negotiated payment of a collective bill nicely in her favour, rounded up to £5 a head. This coffee shop is now closed for the season, however, the Tomich Hotel across the track may be open for coffee over the winter which we will check as it opens up opportunities for winter westerly rides.
Some of the chat round the tables was on design and choice of club colours and recognition of Julian and Mark for the work they have put in over the last year in trying to source a quality manufacturer and a new design that might be suitable to club members for a racing skin suit and general kit to be ready for 2018. Pilot John was also mentioned in despatches for the small, but significant part he played in putting Julian in touch with a graphic designer, who has now been consulted and has provided sketches with two choices of design, to be agreed by the 4th November.
Heading home via Cannich, the group of now nine stayed tight and maintained a good pace rotating at 2 minutes intervals with the hand of the Wind God gently on our backs. The pace was eased to keep the group together up the Crask of Aigas as Al was beginning to hurt and feel the pace ... (he and Irish John pulled Mary and Julie for seven miles ... did I mention that?)
Over Aigas the pace freshened with the group still riding double and tight and now rotating at 1 minute intervals. Just before we reached the twisty section that ramped up before dropping down towards the Gallery at Kilmorack we slowed and singled to give the few cars behind a chance to pass - which they did not take. Now we were into the twisty descending section. With the cars having lost their opportunity to pass and Malky sniffing a fast run to the 40mph sign, seized the initiative and put the hammer down pushing hard with Toby on his wheel. Pilot John kicked and looked to have broken or lost his chain (again ... you tell him Donna!) but recovered to join the fast break consisting of Toby, Malky, Innes, Keith and Irish John whose fitness has not yet fully recovered after time off and dropped off the wheel not long after he grabbed it. From a distance I could not confirm who took the honours but was reliably informed that Elvis maintained his strong finish and was clear by two bike lengths.
It was a steady amble back through Beauly with riders peeling off to home and Malky looking to buy some flowers for Julie.
A great day out in good company.