Saturday 10th November 2018

The WhatsApp group had been unusually silent on Friday evening, so despite the glorious sunshine I wasn't sure whether there would be many out this morning. Standing alone at the roundabout at 9:28am, things were not looking promising, and it certainly appeared that rumours circulating during the week that the Hammer planned a brief visit to the UK had been without foundation.
Just as I was resigning myself to a solo ride, they appeared from all directions - Iain and Lianne from Dingwall and a well-drilled peleton from Maryburgh comprising Debbie, Doctor John and President Ken. After a couple of sub-optimal Saturday ride experiences of late, President Ken was determined to complete at least the first mile today, and look to build it up from there. In F1 style, Mark's mechanics had pulled an all-nighter to ensure Ken was back on the road, and he had collected his bike from them only minutes earlier.
With a couple of our number wanting to be back in Dingwall for the football later, Cromarty was a popular choice. It's fair to say, however, that my proposal of a reverse route, taking in the Leanaig and Mount Eagle, was less popular, and I could feel the heat in the looks being given by Lianne and Ken as outer layers began to be removed in preparation for the early hills.
We set off and, once atop the Leanaig, had the benefit of a tailwind as we flew through Culbokie. This was Debbie's first ascent of the north face of Mount Eagle, and her early enthusiasm evaporated a little further with every false summit. We flew down the other side and out through Killen. On the road towards the Smithy, Iain and John decided that speed was the best way to put to rest any lingering demons from their crash there last year. We split into two groups for the climb up to Lernie, but with the continued tailwind it didn't seem too bad today. At the top, a pause to regroup and have the obligatory selfie - under direction from Lianne I stood some way from the group to take it, with the result that a seemingly enormous image of my head all but obscured the stunning view out to the rigs and the firth beyond.
After refuelling in Cromarty, the wind seemed to have increased, and there was a noticeable bite to it as we left the cafe. On the coast road back we passed a solo cyclist laden down with panniers, and we towed him a couple of miles into the wind, until nasty pothole parted him from one of his panniers and he stopped to re-pack.
Once we hit the Cullicudden straight the wind was fierce. Iain and the Doctor took the front, but couldn't agree between them which side the wind was coming from, which led to some unusual mid-peleton position changing which would not have been to Captain Jim's liking. John and I were reminiscing about a Saturday club run from a couple of years back, on the same route in similar conditions, when he and I, together with the Old Master, were the only 3 out. We could have certainly done with the Old Master today to shelter behind, albeit that we wouldn't have been able to keep up.
The rest of the group turned off at Findon, and I had the joy of the last 5 miles into the (now howling) Westerly wind.
Great group and great banter today, 45 miles on the clock but the wind made it feel like at least 60.

Comments are closed.