Paddling around on the second wettest day of the year, hardy cyclists made their way around the climbs of the Scottish Borders in memory of Ken Laidlaw.
Rain and wind from start to finish battered 213 cyclists in the third edition of the Scottish Borders sportive, in honour of Ken Laidlaw, one of three Scots to finish a Tour de France. Described by most as the worst day of weather in the area for a long time, roads flooded, burns over flowed and gravel washed onto the route.
With two distances on offer – a short 60km and the Mac-Daddy 160km with over 3,000m of climbing – riders were challenged with eight notable ascents on the profile. Climbing out of Hawick into a headwind spread the en-mass start out nicely, whilst everyone was drawn onwards and upwards by the eerie sounds of the lone bag piper on the top in the pouring rain.
As the ride went on, roads flooded and became hazardous from the run off. The rain eased slightly as many were riding up over the moors at Holm Hill. The respite was short lived, however, and the rain lashed down once more as participants filtered past the Tibetan Monastery, which looked was strangely surreal on the Scottish hillside.
Two of the hills to be conquered were given nicknames by the riders due to their ability to drain every ounce of your energy. ‘Hamburger Hill’s’ long drag resulted in locals finding the road covered in the bodies of dropped riders, while the last climb up the Leap Linns to ‘Blaw Wearie’ was found to be the toughest. With over 90 miles in the legs and a two-mile climb into a howling head wind, it wrecked everyone.
To ease the pain of the relentless weather, riders were treated to fantastic homemade grub at two lavishly stocked feed stations and a drinks stop at the summit of the toughest climb of the route. Returning to the rugby club rooms, there were fresh towels available and heaters to dry cyclists and their sodden kit.
To round the day off, a hot meal was on offer whilst collecting a hard earned medal, photo, T-Shirt and goody bag. One rider, after completing the century, said he had to re-calibrate his hard-o-meter, as this day was epic. Let’s hope next year the missing ingredient of the sun will be present.
The Organiser – Craig Turnbull
Hamish and I have been organising this event for the past two years. Our route is a combination of various Hawick Cycle Club Sunday rides. We are very lucky in the borders to have quiet roads, challenging hills and great views, which makes almost perfect conditions for a sportive.
Sportive Sound Bites
This was an amazing ride. Only my second sportive, but boy, do others have something to live up to now! Had we been able to see many of the views, they would have been spectacular. The climbs were tough enough to be a challenge, and the roads distinctly traffic-free. The sense on completion was one of great satisfaction as well as relief; the thought of being dry again was a great spur over the final few miles, too.
A wet, wet day for riders, and who could forget the marshals and helpers? They did such a marvelous job in such horrible conditions, especially the two guys at the top of the climb handing out drinks. They were just standing there in the pouring rain and wind whilst we were enjoying ourselves.
Karen and Paul
The wet weather certainly added to the adventure and, as any cyclist would say, was “character building”. I think the climbs have got steeper since last year. The flooded, submerged cattle grid was also a bit of a challenge. An epic of mighty proportions! Well-stocked feed stations, charming marshals, and a jovial spirit to the day.
My Cyclo-Sportive – Derek McGuire
Despite the weather forecast showing strong winds and LOTS of rain over the Borders area, my friend John and I still decided to travel to the event.
On the road at 6.30am, the sky looked okay, but the closer we got to the Borders the more ominous it became. The view from Carter Bar left us in no doubt as to what to expect.
“There’s a nice warm cafe in Jedburgh,” says John, but neither of us was man enough to wimp out, so on we travelled.
At the start line it started to rain, so I quickly donned my rain jacket. John decided to tough it out and wait until it became real rain – what a legend! Rain it did, it rained in biblical proportions.
All day it rained, sometimes straight down rain other times horizontal rain, but always rain. We all agreed that we’d never ridden in such conditions before. But it wasn’t until the last feed station that John decided it was wet enough to warrant a rain jacket! It was at this feed stop that we witnessed two men working flat out with mops and buckets, trying to contain all the water that was running from half-drowned riders’ clothing all over the floor.
Surprisingly, throughout the entire ride, I never heard anyone moaning or griping on about the weather; everyone seemed to enjoy themselves despite the cold and wet. In a perverse sort of way, I think that the weather helped to make this event a true epic.
Back at event HQ, we decided to forgo the queue for a hot shower, and got cleaned up and changed in the back of the van as the hot food available was more important than a shower. After a plate full of stovies and a cup of coffee, all was right with the world again.
Back in the van to go home, and guess what, the sky cleared and the sun came out – ain’t life great?