THE ex FIFE TOURER a 107 Km AUDAX

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by Wallace Shackleton (Fife & Kinross DA)

- nowhere near Fife! Thirty-nine riders set out and thirty-nine finished.

I am told that Audax riding is all about endurance - be it a 52-km Brevet Populaire or a full-blown 1200-km Brevet de Randonneurs Mondiaux. I can now fully appreciate what Audax riding is all about and I only rode a 100-km course!

Let us say that if my bike and I were the USS Enterprise then I would have dropped out of warp speed by the 40-km mark, impulse power would have given up by the 60km mark and was left with battery power for the remaining 40 km. To blazes with all that “to boldly go stuff”!

The ex Fife Tourer is a new route, born out of improvements on the Fife Tourer. The new route starts in Kinross, and goes northwards to Milnathort, Glenfarg, and Kintillo, then south-westwards to Dunning, Auchterarder, Braco and Dunblane. From Dunblane to Bridge of Allan, then past the Wallace Monument, back eastwards along the “hillfoots” through Menstrie, Alva, Tillicoultry, Dollar, Muckhart, Carnbo and finally back to Kinross. Basically a big loop around the lumpier parts of the Ochils - all nowhere near Fife!

Kinross acquires something special on a Sunday - hordes of moronic motorists who throng to the Sunday market. After negotiating the traffic… and causing a good tailback, our fair sized bunch made its way out to a quieter Milnathort. From here we went up the hilly Great North Road to Glenfarg. The sign post for the Wicks o’ Baiglie Road on the outskirts of Glenfarg marks the start of the worst hill climbs of the route - two hills and a long descent found our group in Kintillo, the first and only information control of this course. Having noted the required information we set off for Dunning. The village is steeped in history; nowhere else in Scotland have I found a cross marking the site, where in the sixteen hundreds, a witch by the name of Maggie Wall was burnt at the stake. I did not intend on stopping in Auchterarder, but by now I was in need of a rest. We found a very hospitable tearoom, rarely has a bowl of soup and a round of sandwiches tasted so good - all reasonably priced. However all things must end, my riding companion and I stayed a touch too long.

We re-started in time to catch a light rain shower, which ended by the time we reached the Gleneagles Hotel and its famous golf course (mutter, mutter… waste of good building land… mutter, mutter.) The run into Braco was uneventful except to mention that fatigue was setting in once again. By the time we reached Dunblane, I was all for stopping but thankfully my companion talked me into continuing to the Control Point at Bridge of Allan. The descent done as much to lift my spirits as did the banana milk shake at the café. The run into Bridge of Allan was marred when my companion had the ignominy to crash outside the café.

I was separated from my companion after we re-started. I thought that he was donning his jacket and would soon catch up, however it was not until we met up again at Dollar that I found out what happened. The crash had done some damage to his handlebars, which he had to fix before restarting. For me the worst part of the ride was ahead - the A91 Stirling to St. Andrews road. I hate this road: A “fast,” narrow, busy road and worse - full of Sunday drivers. Personally I avoid this road as much as I can, preferring to use the Devon Way from Tillicoultry to Dollar, a reasonably surfaced off road cycle path or the road through Coalsnaughton. However in keeping with the marked Audax route I kept to the A91.

One good thing about this part was the wind, which was now at our backs, lifted my flagging spirits. I still had the long slow climb ahead to the Yetts o’ Muckhart. Running low on water I stopped in Dollar, had to make do with a bottle of Sunny-D, strange to admit that I bought it for exactly the same reasons that I don’t buy it for my children - loaded with sugar with a dash fruit juice all very medicinal!

The climb up from Dollar was not as bad as I thought it would be, by the time I reached the top at the Yetts, a small group of cyclists had formed up and then raced away on the last stretch, that is all except me. I dropped back and plodded on at my own pace. My ego was given a boost when the group stopped to check the directions; this enabled me to catch up a mile or so later, just in time for the final climb over the M90 motorway and into Kinross. Never have I been so glad to cycle down the Muirs - the home stretch. One last effort and we were back at the starting point. This time I was not the second rider to finish, I was the umpty-second, I didn’t care - I finished! Sitting in the Millbridge Hall, drinking my tea and scoffing sandwiches, feeling tired (and slightly ill) thinking about what had transpired - I would like to think that I learn by my mistakes. I did learn what endurance riding was about, I scraped the bottom of my personnel barrel and endured. Writing this I am reminded of my family motto - “Endurance hath conquer”. Never realised how appropriate that was until now… Bring on the 200 - no there are some things that I will never learn not to do! PS - I was reminded of a mistake that I made in my account of the Speyside Dawdle, I did not come in second, I was the second rider to finish. After all Audax riding is not about racing it is about endurance

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