by Wallace Shackleton (Fife & Kinross DA)

Its on, its off, its on. So went the week on the run up to the Deeside Audax. A last minute decision to participate - it’s on, then came the petrol crisis - it’s off, and then I found some petrol - its on and I’M GOING! I could have cycled up to Aberdeen and back, after all it is only 120 km a good warm up for the Audax, but unfortunately I would have had to break a few land speed records to be back home by Sunday afternoon - family commitments.

I got off to a bad start, a recurring fuel feed problem struck as I was leaving Kinross, the car ran badly all the way until Stonehaven, nothing like a bit of stress to start with! Called into Stonehaven, an old haunt of mine and stocked up with some butteries (the French can keep their Croissants, I’ll have a north-east buttery any day!), an exotic piece of Millionaires Shortbread, and a pint of milk from a traditional home bakery down by the harbour. Things started to look up on the way out of “Stoney” when the car started to behave its self and run normally.

Maryculter: Walking into the hall at the start I was reminded of the dark side to Audax riding, a participant on the earlier 200 km run crashed not far from the start: He was sitting in the hall, his knee a grazed, bloody mess and here is me fresh as a daisy looking forward to my 100 km run. Memories of my two bad crashes in `97 comes to mind… three years later and I have not crossed the threshold of an A&E department since suits me fine. I felt for him, and they always seem to happen on such a nice days…

The fuel crisis meant that not a lot of the usual Audax fraternity could not participate, though this did not seen to deter a number of weil kent faces from the Fife & Kinross DA from attending, it was almost like being on a club run. All in all there were probably around twenty or so participants, not a large field, nut hardly surprising under the circumstances.

The start was a bit of a hilly one, I would have preferred a more level start, getting warmed up and gently coaxed my poor asthmatic lungs into action before things got tough. Not complaining, I stuck to the back of the pack, took my time and tackled the slope in my own way… well that is what I always say. Reality is different, ended up with the leaders, with the alarm on my heart rate monitor turned off, so much for good intentions. This was Dougie Latto’s first Audax on an upright bike for a long time, rather than his usual recumbent, and boy did he make up for it. At the start, he took off like a “scalded cat” and was not seen again until the finish, a good hour ahead of my finishing time. Paranoia struck, we were so engrossed in conversation that we did not notice that the pack had disappeared behind us. For a moment, I thought that I must have taken a wrong turning but no I was on the right road… must have be doing better than I had imagined. Turned out that a tyre on Dougie Allens’ bike had exploded and the whole pack had stopped to help. Steve and Denise loaned Dougie their spare folder, apparently this same folder has completed many Audax runs but never on one of their bikes! All this got me thinking about carrying a spare folder just in case, oh the hell of being a ex Boy Scout, always prepared and carrying more junk than I should be.

Not long after passing through Strachan was the first real climb of the day, not much really but if you excuse the expression a great leveller. A convenient lay by at the top provided a good rest stop, which allowed the rest of the pack to catch up, making up for lost time with a vengeance. Funny thing I had driven along that road on numerous occasions and noticed the standing stone by the roadside, while never having the time to notice the other two stones on the other side of the road such is the relaxed pace of cycle touring. Duly rested we started to drift away, one by one we shot off down the hill heading for Dinnet.

The whole pack joined up a while later, I was in a three man break which went away near Aboyne only to be pulled back into the peloton on the outskirts of Dinnet. I can just hear Eurosports’ “Duffers” getting excited on our behalf, only to be pulled back at the last moment… well one can dream after all, and… it is NOT a race Wallace! Over the bridge and into Dinnet. I suffered the attentions of the puncture fairy, right outside the control point, the worst could not have happened at a better place! No neutral service car rushing to my aid, I had to change the tube myself, where are Mavic when you need them!

The control point was a tearoom, which is one of the nice things about Audaxers; they know where all the good ones are. Cards stamped, fed and rested we were off, this time along the A93 road towards Aberdeen, I started to feel unwell shortly after, nothing too serious, just a headache that had the promise of ruining my day. Been keeping too high a pace on the run into Dinnet, had to break pace and slow down for a while. Easier said than done when you are in the company of friends who are also getting dragged along with the bunch. I eventually dropped off the back and took things easy on the run up to the next control point at Lumhannan. At this tea room cum village shop I took the opportunity to stock up on some pain killers, just as well as I would have been in serious trouble shortly after.

I forgot all about the climb out of the village, Glenmillan turned out to be one memorable long drawn out climb. I found better form shortly afterwards, eventually making my way up to the head of the pack. I was enjoying a fast descent so much that I managed to loose the rest of the pack. Turned out that they had decided to enjoy the hospitality of Millars, they were in the midst of some kind of family fun day. I was happy to give that a miss. Now I was able to go at my own pace for the rest of the run. Something within me seemed to click; I started to actually enjoy myself, out there on my own in rural Aberdeenshire and being blessed with some sunshine. Somehow… is this heaven? No it’s Aberdeen and there are the helicopters to prove it!

I remembered the last stretch from Peterculter to Maryculter; I had been along this road three months earlier while going up to visit some relatives, comes as a shock to be riding through this busy village. On the very last part I noticed the time on my cycle computer, four hours and 57 minutes, I wonder if I could finish in under fiver hours. Nothing for it but heed doon and bum up and go for it, down the hill, over the Dee, turn right and right again, tear through the hotel car park to the finish point, the time? Four hours 59 minutes and 40 seconds - YES! Card stamped, my official time was six hours and 15 minutes, just what I managed to do with an hour and a quarter I do not know, but what ever it was worth it! There is something magical about Audax riding; I already started to look forward to the next one in two month’s time.