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Cyclosport Writer Sean Lacey's Deloitte RAB BLOG

by Henry Peacock

DAY 1

john o'groats

After a long but easy day travelling up on Friday, with an introduction to life on the base camps (and the frankly outstanding catering) and a short evening ride to stretch the legs it was finally time to start this thing for real. With a mandatory wake up at 5:30,I thought I would jump the system and get up at 5,have some extra time and be in the dining marquee early doors. Sadly, as it had been light since 3am(!) everyone else had done the same. It be never got too crowded though as I guess everyone has a different routine. Breakfast offered just about anything you could want, but I opted for the safe option of porridge with honey and fruit. I'll maybe try a cooked breakfast tomorrow.

Fed and ready, with my impossibly heavy bag on the truck it was off to the start area. Let out in groups, I happened to find myself with the chaperoned 11-13mph group. Figuring a gentle start wouldn't be a bad thing I stuck with them. It didn't take long before I hit the front, got chatting to the chaperone, Tony, and got an unofficial job helping police the group. Good fun if I'm honest. Running along the rugged north coast the roads were pretty flat but there was plenty to look at and 20 miles in I left the group to press on a bit. The coastal road continued to the first feed 35 miles in before we finally turned inland and into the most  spectacular scenery through the valley following the river Naver through to its Loch. Another feed here,  before the last 30 miles to the next base camp at Bonar Bridge, 105 miles down. The weather was kind, cool and cloudy to start turning to sun and clear skies for the second half.

A relaxing few hours before dinner, with time to shower in the Posh Wash units seen at the London Revolution and another hearty and excellent dinner. Tomorrow takes us past Loch Ness and the base camp at Fort William, at the base of Ben Nevis. 114 miles and more climbing means I'll be taking an easier pace!

DAY 2

lochs

Another day, another crazy 5am wake up. With absolute commitment I had been getting up at 5am every day to lessen the shock and it seems to have paid off as I was out and at breakfast just after the 'official' 5:30 call. Despite saying that I would indulge in a cooked breakfast, porridge and a croissant won out.

Leaving just after 7,with the 14-16mph group this time  the first 6 miles were flat before the first climb of the day known as Struie. Long but steady it rose up above the Loch with great views out. Unfortunately it broke the group to bits and reaching the top in the first few I pushed on. Riding alone mostly through rolling terrain the first feed came in at 35 miles.

Suitably fed, and out on my own again there was a group of 8 or so up the road, pushing on I joined up with them and stayed until the end, they were a great bunch and worked well together.

Passing through Inverness and the Rockness festival we followed Loch Ness on the eastern side, which was a pretty magnificent sight. The end of the Loch marked the biggest ascent of the day and now the sun was out made for a hot, long climb. The views made it somewhat bearable though, truly awesome. What followed was a decent to remember, fast (really fast) and flowing, every cyclists dream. Back then to alternating flat / rolling roads before Ben Nevis came into view and our base for the night at the bottom of the mountain.

Once sorted, showered and fortunately tonight, massaged I met up with my new friends for dinner and plans for reforming the group tomorrow. Today was one of those epic days on the bike, and it promises to be even better (and tougher!) tomorrow.

Day 3

As if 5am isn't early enough, the local police wanted us out of the Ben Nevis area early so a 6:30am start was proposed. That went down well. Figuring I'm almost ready by then anyway I didn't change my honed routine.

day 3

After two cracking days the bubble would have to burst and it did today, but not on a grand scale. Rolling out with my new group of friends there was some panic braking at the back and bang, one of them rear ended and came off. All OK though and back on. Flat miles along another Loch until Jess pulled up with knee problems. We waited while she strapped it but another couple of miles up and we had to stop again to call a medic, who told her to stop.

Onwards to the first big test, Glen Coe. Here my legs decided that they weren't playing today and I struggled for the first couple of miles until they woke up, my quads were painful though. Photo stops on the way and meeting up at the top, into the descent and the second bang of the day; Chris had a blowout which took the tyre with it. 30 minutes on the roadside getting cold whole we waited for a NEG bike with spare and Chris to repair meant my already sore quads stiffened up. The following miles were tough, lots of climbing and dodgy legs. At the second feed I was feeling pretty sorry for myself but a proper coffee and a sandwich helped restore my mood.

Things picked up and we worked well as a unit but when my quads eased my left calf really played up, typical. The last big, 3 mile climb came at 100 miles and again I was straight off the back. But, a steady spin got me up in one piece. The guys were waiting at the top but I was comfortable so crested onto the fantastic and fast descent for a last adrenaline rush to the base camp just outside Glasgow. Knackered and feeling sore I wasn't too sociable and relaxed in my tent for a while before dinner (superb again) and a quick visit to Jim the physio.
A shorter day tomorrow (104 miles) to Carlisle and less climbing will be a welcome break!

To finish though, I saw Jess in the evening and after the doctors had strapped her up she went on to complete the stage. Chapeau!





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