Speyside Dawdle

by Wallace Shackleton (Fife & Kinross DA)

The riders departed and hour earlier for the 200 km run, I certainly did not envy them their day. Where we had it flat, the 200-km run traverses the Monadhlaiths, which are hilly and very exposed. The 100-km Speyside Dawdle was designed around as flat a course as can possibly be arranged in this part of the Highlands.

Starting from the diner in Newtonmore, close to the shinty pitch, (scene of many a battle with neighbouring Kingussie), the route ran northwards through Aviemore to Carrbridge, then out eastwards to Grantown on Spey then southwards on the other side of the Spey down to Kingussie and back to Newtonmore.

Riding solo and unsure of what to do, I decided to go at my own pace, keep out of the bunch and aim just to complete the course. Little did I know that all three rules would, one by one fall by the wayside.

I met Doug Latto and some other of the Fife DA at the start, it was nice to see some friendly faces so far from home. Little did I know that was the last I would see of them. The start was a non-event, the organiser gave one last word of caution about the road north of Aviemore, then shouted "GO!" and that was it. No body moved. "Go!" again, the photographer pleaded with us to go and so a half dozen or so slowly moved out of the car park and onto the course.

That manoeuvre brought me into second position, behind, as it turned out to be the organiser. A look over my shoulder revealed that by the time we cleared Newtonmore, the riders were strung out and I was well and truly at the front. The run through Kingussie to Aviemore strung out the pack even further. By the time we reached Aviemore the pack was well and truly strung out. For me the Aviemore meant a close encounter with a motorist who was more concerned turning right than the bunch of oncoming cyclists. The organiser’s words of caution were justified; the small number of cyclists that we were caused more frustration than a caravan with square wheels.

The motorists in this area can not cope with being behind one cyclist let alone a dozen - oh the trouble we caused! I had to drop back when my route sheet fell out of my pocket while reaching for my inhaler. First lesson learned - get one of those things to mount the route card onto the bars. (I have been trying to get around to fitting a lanyard to my inhaler since last year.) Carrbridge was next and an information control point. Question answered, we were off again, this time eastward towards Grantown on Spey.

The Puncture Fairy struck one of our numbers just outside Carrbridge, now I know how the Wildebeest must feel. "Aaargh Lions! They've got Joe. He was a mate of mine, what a disaster... as I was saying this is nice grass… nice grass...” We rode on leaving our friend to mend his puncture alone. The road between Dulnain Bridge and Grantown was recently resurfaced, that and a tailwind ensured that I managed to break another rule, by the time out little breakaway rolled into Grantown we were doing 38 km/h and ten minutes ahead of schedule. Grantown was the mid point control, situated in Fiona's Bakery. We had no other choice but to sit down have a cup of tea and load up on our carbs before getting our card stamped. The small tea-room was by this time slowly filling with sweaty cyclists. Fiona's is well recommended if you are in the area. Our last main shot of excitement came when we left Grantown. Two of our number managed to get in front of a tractor, while another and myself were stuck behind, draughting along behind it and another car. By the time we made it over the Spey, the car driver had had enough and decided to overtake, just as the two cyclists in front were making their right turn and the tractor also signalled right, just as the car was drawing alongside. Of course the cyclists should not have been turning right and the tractor had no right to be turning when another vehicle was overtaking at a junction!!!!. How fragile the male motorist ego is! To top everything off the car behind us decided that he had enough and overtook us, the tractor and the two cyclists at the junction, by going the wrong way around a traffic island. Ah well it gave is something to talk about for a while.

The route south started to get tedious; an undulating road, a slight headwind and fatigue were taking their toll. Another Information Control at Nethy Bridge and an encounter with a pair of tourers, one, a heavily loaded Edinburgh Bike mountain bike was a credit to "Eddie bikes’" durability and build quality. Later on this road becomes part of the Sustrans Glasgow to Inverness route. By the time we reached Coylumbridge, things were really starting to grind me down. I was in need of a rest and as nowhere took my fancy, I just kept on going in the company of Stan and his brand new, beautifully finished Longstaff. I knew that I had enough by the time we reached the top of an insignificant climb. I just dropped out and took that rest.

Ten minutes and a Maxim Bar later I was ready for some more. Stan was out of sight, indeed that was the last I saw of him until the finish control, so I was spared the agony of trying to keep up with him again. I plodded on at my own pace once more. The final information control at Insh gave me another chance for a rest. My spirits were lifted when a couple arrived. Stan and I left them somewhere before Coylumbridge, so it was nice to meet up with them once again, especially since one of the riders was also suffering, so the pace would be nice and easy.

One final climb and we were up to Ruthven Barracks, an interesting relic from the 1715 Jacobite uprising, built by the government to quell the Highlands, the barracks was burnt by the Jocobites during the 1745 rebellion and has lain ruined ever since. Down to cross the Spey for the final time and cycle past the Kingussie shinty club. Down to the last few kilometres and the final run into the finish control at Newtonmore, I'd done it my first 100km Audax and I was the second rider to finish. What a day! There we have it; nothing like the story one would get from the National 400, but this run finally broke my run of misfortune of my previous 100-km Audax events. Now I am considering another 100-km Audax before going for something larger next year… perhaps.