Ron’s Scottish Holiday 2015 – Part 3

Episode 6 – Return of the Segment

A shorter report about a shorter ride.

If you read back you’ll note I remarked on passing an interesting-looking restaurant while whizzing through Corgarff after descending from The Lecht during Sunday’s Etape Royale. By “interesting” I mean “big log cabin style” interesting, and with a big car park outside. As I also commented, the thing about the Etape Royale route was that it tackled The Lecht Road from the “easy” (Tomintoul) side. If, however, you opt to tackle it from the Corgarff side you’ll find that particular ride features as Number 64 on the Strava OFFICIAL 100Climbs list. Which must mean it’s a wee bit harder. On Monday my legs were feeling OK; I’d just entered another hilly 100 miler for the coming weekend (more on this in a final, gripping installment) so was still in the area for a few more days; I was – what – an hour or so drive from the climb; and the weather was still absolutely fantastic. What more excuse could be needed?

So on Tuesday morning, two days after my big ride, and after I’d fitted a pair of shiny new silver-coloured metal bottle cages to my bike, I set out on the 50 mile drive to Corgarff. (Ah, yes. I forgot to mention… I managed to snap one of my nice go-faster red plastic bottle cages less than 10 miles from the end of Sunday’s event.)

My original plan had been to find the restaurant first and have lunch there, (ask if I could) leave the car outside, get the bike out of the boot, then do the climb (with my back-up plan being to move to a public car park just up the road if the proprietors weren’t happy with this). But as it wasn’t quite lunch time when I arrived, and taking into account the weight savings possible for the ride from not eating beforehand, I decided I’d park up in the public car park and go back to the restaurant for lunch afterwards.

Knowing it was not a good idea to hit the climb with “cold” legs I first headed east for a mile or so back to the junction at Colnabaichin before turning around, so that I’d have about 4 miles of gentle spinning to loosen off the legs and get my heart rate up. Not that my legs were ever going to be “cold” – my car’s exterior temperature gauge was telling me the air temperature was 22°C!

So it was over the River Don, over the Cock Bridge (I’ve already warned you… Stop. Sniggering!), then the Strava 100Climbs segment begins – just before you cross the River Don again. And almost certainly at the sign indicating the 20% gradients up ahead… The segment itself is listed as 2.6 miles at an average of 6%. But when you consider that that actually includes a couple of short downhill sections, what you’re really doing is a mile and a half consistently in the 10-15% range, getting a short break, then seeing it ramp up again until you’ve another half mile at 10-15% before it finally eases off, allowing you to practically sprint over the false summit before the final gentle dip and rise to the ski station, and the end of the segment.

The first, longer steep section saw me encouraged in my efforts by the high pitched roaring of a diesel-engined camper van as it red-lined its way past me on its way to the summit. Followed shortly afterwards by 2 HGVs, one of which was articulated – quite brave I thought given some of the almost hairpin bends ahead. Despite the warmth when I set out, I’d chosen to wear a base layer in anticipation of it being colder near the top. The sweat dripping off my brow and down the inside of my sunglasses during my out of the saddle effort up the final steeper section suggested that I had perhaps been unduly pessimistic in this respect…

Riding past the ski station buildings to ensure I completed the segment I turned round and pulled in to the car park to start the process of taking some “holiday snaps” with which to adorn my Strava Activity Feed for this ride. Whilst doing this I noticed the 2 HGVs mentioned above parked side by side, doors open in the sunshine while the drivers chatted. So I wandered across to them and in a friendly manner told them I hoped I hadn’t held them up too badly as they drove up. Being Scottish, they were equally friendly and complimented me on my speed up the climb as they passed me… Me? Fast? “Shurely shome mishtake Mish Moneypenny…?” Actually, if you’re driving an HGV up that road, even a slow bike probably still appears relatively to be going quite quickly. Chatting away about where we’d come from and where we were going, family, etc. the driver I was chatting to offered me a fancy chocolate cake he still had left from his lunch. I’d already had a few jelly babies and a cereal bar at the top, and was planning to have lunch imminently, so I wasn’t really hungry. But it was chocolate. And it would have been rude not to. So I thanked him for his kind offer and accepted it… Yum!

Anyway, I couldn’t stay there chatting all day, so finally it was time to descend back to the car (stopping briefly for a couple more photos – yup, you’ve guessed, including one of “Cock Bridge”) and thereafter to the restaurant for something to eat. With the bike packed away, a short drive down the road to Corgarff saw me pull in to the car park of the unlikely-named Goodbrand & Ross. “Tearoom – Quality Clothing – Gifts – Open All Year Round” according to their roadside sign. Approaching the cake display I saw a sign requesting that diners choose a table to sit at, from where their food orders would be taken. So I sat down in a large, deep, ancient-but-comfy-looking, leather armchair – the sort of thing that must have featured in that Central Perk cafe in Friends. Not because it looked comfy per se, but because it was situated in front of a large picture window.

Oh. My. God. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Under the cloudless azure blue sky were the contrasting purples of the heather and deep greens of the forests carpeting the sides of the peaks opposite. And the white dots of a few sheep thrown in for good measure. Even in the depths of winter blowing a Force 9 gale and with snow drifts 10 feet deep I’d imagine it would still be equally stunning (you probably wouldn’t be able to spot the sheep, though…). My lunch of a coffee and BLT sandwich, while very good, simply paled into insignificance…

Paying for my food before I left I remarked to the girl taking my cash how insanely jealous I was of the view she had out of her “office” window. So jealous, in fact, that I had to buy a double scoop ice cream cone so that I could sit outside to eat it, and admire the view even more before heading back to Aberdeen…

…to prepare for the following Sunday’s ride.

Next Up (coming soon): Episode 1 – The Fabulous Mennock (Pass)