THE FORTH FLATTIE

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by Wallace Shackleton (Fife & Kinross DA)

The Forth Flattie - 105 km Audax. The Flattie is a good opener to the New Year, an almost flat run from Dalgety Bay to Bo’ness, and then to Stirling, a control point at Bridge of Allan, then back to Dalgety Bay by way of Alloa, Kincardine and Culross.

The weather considering it was mid-winter could not have been better, sunny though bitterly cold, which ensured a good turn out: 105 riders were registered 95 started from Dalgety Bay.

As the pack moved off I assumed my traditional position near the back of the pack, giving the “roadies” a better chance to form a more orderly the queue for the soup at the finish. From the start all went well until the run up to the Forth Road Bridge, fog and frost covered the bridge the fog also made my asthma to become worse; the cold moist air plays havoc with my lungs. Full marks to the bridge authority for gritting the service road, not a good place to skid; the ditches on both sides are rather deep and very water logged!

Stopped by the bridge control building to don my reflective waistcoat made in three subtle shades of migraine; yellow, orange and 3M reflective and to switch on the backlights. It was strange riding in the fog, small hills looked like mountains and by this time I was alone, out of 95 riders on the road I was alone. The fog had another effect - frost. I could feel it on my moustache and see it building up on my gloves and in my water bottle. I had underestimated this run, this is one for real cyclists, not just summer day-trippers!

A short stop at a secret control point then off to Bo’ness, felt a strong pull to go down and see if there were any choo-choos around, however common sense won the day and I cycled through the town to Grangemouth. Cycling past the refineries brought out the industrial tourist in me, I had heard there was a building with the Scottish Oils insignia, a relic of the first Scottish oil boom, and a founder company of British Petroleum I think I found the building at the end of the row.

After that boredom set in, it was not too far away to start with, for something to do I decided to wide within the limits of my heart rate monitor.

Out of Grangemouth, through Skinflats and Airth in the company of Andy and his recumbent trike, learnt a lot on the way, the most important lessons were not to pace a `bent on the flat and they are hopeless to draft behind! Some day I would like to ride the Flattie on a `bent, at least I would not have to worry about numbness and saddle sores.

Said my goodbyes near Throsk, needed to slow down for a bit, well that was the plan, except that I met up with Douglas McArthur and was towed along for a bit before common sense kicked back in. Stopped briefly at Fallin to have a look at the memorial to the miners killed in the Polmaise No. 3 & 4 pits… what a way to earn a living. On to Stirling I was not looking forward to the town roundabouts, however they turned out to be uneventful - safety in numbers was a big help. A canoeist in the river around the old bridge reminded me that I was not the only one foolish enough to be out in the cold today. Past the prison and on to Bridge of Allan and the Allan Water Café control point, until the moment I stood in the queue to get my card stamped I was set on continuing on without stopping, but I am glad to say that the sight of so much good food got the better of me. A baked spud, a slice of caramel shortcake and a cappuccino set me on the right road. Now onward to Alloa, I wanted this stage over with as quick as possible, this case of red road phobia was entirely justified… aaarrgh Sunday drivers, they’re out to get me!

I managed to make up some time, catching up and shamelessly drafting behind Loraine and Charlie Brown. Later on I started to flag. Clackmannan, one little hill and we were descending down to Kincardine. Round the town and we were out on the road to Culross. My head was starting to pound, too long in the saddle at high heart rates; oh dear I’m going pay for today’s fun! A quick stop in Culross for a swig at my ice bottle, pop a couple of painkillers and I was off again, this time on my own. Through Low Valleyfield, past another mining monument, then Newmills where the pack caught up with me and then up the penultimate hill to the Cairneyhill roundabout. Went around without any problem then out on the last leg to Rosyth, I dropped off the back of the pack only to rejoin at Rosyth, around the Admiralty, Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay roundabouts, nearly there…. one last hill and it was all over, a good hour longer than my previous 100s. This was certainly a challenge, the Iditarod of Central Scotland… now what’s next?

My thanks must go to Dougie Latto and everyone that turned up to help… not forgetting the staff at the Marconi Club and those rejuvenating bowls of soup.

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