THE FIFE FINALE

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by Wallace Shackleton (Fife & Kinross DA)

This was a grudge match, no doubt about it, having been unable to partake in this event two years running I was determined that I was going to complete this Audax if it killed me.Having I pulled a back muscle two weeks before I already was a full time member of Team Ibuprofen.

It looked like a good number of riders had turned out for the run. My strategy, as usual, fight like hell to get to the back of the bunch and then stay there, having a nice relaxing run in the process… well I was nearly right this time. I did get to the back but I did not have such a relaxing run. Being off the bike for two weeks did me no favours, I only struggled for the last 75 km!

The “roadies” were off like rockets; I suppose that the Audax must have made an unusual change to their Sunday chain gangs. The others and I were quite content to go the distance at a more sedate pace. I am not a fan of busy roads, avoiding them when ever possible and the A985 Kincardine Road is no exception. My displeasure was heightened by the worst examples of driving amongst a large pack of cyclists that I can recall for a long time. The award for the best plonker went to a Volvo. Why is it always Volvos? The sight of so many cyclists really freaked this guy out, either that or he got a new horn for his Christmas and he really wanted to tell everybody about it. A close runner up went to the aged driver of a wee red car approaching the roundabout outside Cairneyhill; he had a real problem with me indicating and moving to the right. Thankfully there were no problems on the roundabout.

One of the Fife DA showed initiative (and experience) by cycling on the pavement completely missing the roundabout. He shall remain nameless and I will do the same if there is a next year for me.

The climbs started on the way up to Oakley, lots of them, I had never cycled along these road before, however the climb on the far side of Saline I knew from old, so no surprises there. I could see some riders up on the Knockhill road; I had a good way to go `till I got up there, I really envied them. Up on the Knockhill road and more climbing, I had forgotten how much climbing there was on that road. At one point we were treated to a display of how a tractor does a quick three-point turn while picking up a big bale. Passing the entrance to the racing circuit and the final hill and it was all down hill to the “meadies,” well that’s the theory, it’s nearly all down hill.

The control point gave me the chance to open the first of my stock of energy bars, it was here that I had to re-learn something that I had forgotten from my hill walking days… trail food and cold conditions do not go well together. Biting was impossible without breaking teeth, I resorted to a slow grind, letting the heat in my mouth thaw out the bar. Later on, I became wise and broke the bars into three gob-sized pieces before opening the wrapper. The descent from the Butterchurn into Kelty was exhilarating; down Station Road to the Lindsay Memorial and onto home ground the B996. Shortly after turning onto to road to Lochore I met up with another rider, “Did you see the accident?” he asked. “What accident?” Two cars got very intimate near the North Road garage and I thankfully missed it.

With legs of lead the climb past Westfield was no laughing matter, neither was the climb from Auchmuir Bridge to Leslie, lots of fast, close cars overtaking on the bends, I was glad to reach the second control point at Leslie Bikes. I was half way round.

Card stamped, I stood outside the Leslie Bikes basking in the sunshine, letting the sun warm my chilled body, and perhaps things were beginning to look up. Back on the bike and freewheeling down to the roundabout quickly chilled me down again, ah well it was nice when it lasted. Unusually for me this was a very anti social ride, I seemed to be doing a lot of solo riding, probably due to my self imposed strategy more than anything else, so it was nice to fall into company with a rider from Edinburgh for the run into Leven, the miles went quicker in good company.

The last control point at Scott’s Bike Shop, the offer of a cup of tea was greatly welcomed. Warmed up and fortified by another energy bar we set off on the return leg to Dalgety Bay, and into the usual head wind. My legs were getting weaker, so it was with a heavy heart that I dropped back and left my companion to go ahead on his own. I stopped at East Weymss to put on my jacket, allowing a brief rest before setting off again. My riding actually improved, the wind chill must have been affecting my performance.

Though I find the road to Kirkcaldy a drudge, enlivened when passing through Dysart; I could not resist the temptation to ship spot, I recognised two ships moored out in the Firth that frequent the Shell jetty at Braefoot Bay and one possibly bound for the Exxon jetty. A busman’s holiday if ever I saw one. We were advised to use the cycle route along the Kirkcaldy esplanade instead of the road, which was being dug up. The surface made for good riding; a dusting of sand, seaweed and dog-eggs. Why does cycle paths always degenerate into linear dog latrines? I stopped at the end of the esplanade to don my reflective jacket and to unleash my secret weapon - an MP3 player! I won one in an Internet competition, so I decided to give it a try out on the Audax. The advantage of a lightweight music player was balanced by a limited music capacity (about 25 minutes.) Knowing what was ahead I knew my spirits would definitely be need a lift: four miles of slow gradual climbing on a B class road that is still, to many an A class road. Another bout of riding on a road that normally I avoid, a road populated by drivers more intent on getting to their destination than what is in their paths - me!

I stopped near Orrock Quarry to put on my taillights, discovering that my main constant light was not working; at least I had the flasher to fall back upon, might help drivers give me some more road space. Past the quarry and over the top, now it really was downhill all the way to the finish, negotiating the Cullaloe bends, I started to pile on what speed I could muster, the cycle computer said 4 hours 40 minutes, despite of everything, I could still finish in under five hours. I pulled into the car park at 4 hours and 57 minutes, a whole three minutes faster than my last 100 km Audax - oh wow! (It is a pity that I can not convey more sarcasm in this short paragraph.) A cup of tea, a beef burger and chips later and I felt like a new man, though not one who would like to do the run again.

My sincere thanks go to Dougie Latto and the numerous helpers that forgo their places in the Audax to staff the checkpoints and not forgetting the staff of the Marconi Club.

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