Monday 12 August 2019

Memorable rides in Scotland

The inaugural Women's Tour of Scotland cycle race took place over the weekend. It was a professional road race with stages that went to various parts of southern Scotland, except stage 1 was cut short 30km before the end, in Dunfermline, due to heavy rain and standing water. The race featured local rider Katie Archibald (Team Scotland), pre-race favourite Cecile Uttrup Ludwig, and eventual winner Leah Thomas (both from Bigla).

The inaugural Women's Tour of Scotland passes through Southern Scotland
Women's peloton at the Tour of Scotland (credit: Women's Tour of Scotland)

The route showcased some of the finest parts of Scotland - well at least when there wasn't pouring rain and brisk winds.

I wasn't able to go up and watch the race, but I have been to some of the areas the riders passed. In fact here are the parts of stage three that I have been to with my bike, and highly recommend.

Edinburgh Suburbs - Holyrood, Arthur's Seat and Craigmillar Castle

While on a visit to the Edinburgh Festival, some years ago I had my bike with me, and did a ride out across the Meadows, through Morningside, and then up the hill at Braid and Blackford Nature Reserve. My return journey then took me past the 14th Century Craigmillar Castle and back into Edinburgh via Arthur's Seat and through Holyrood Park.

Even though Edinburgh city centre is barely three miles away, it still feels as though you are in the countryside. The riding can be a little challenging as there are a few hills to get over.

Of course the biggest hill around there is Arthur's Seat, which the riders contested as part of the Queen of the Mountains competition during the finish line loop.

I did a short bike ride around Edinburgh and particularly liked this view.
Near Craigmillar Castle, with Pentland Hills behind
Getting to the top of Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags beneath it wasn't possible with a road bike, so I parked up my bike, put on some trainers and walked from there. The views over Edinburgh are well worth it.

Pentland Hills

Another area that the riders passed was the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

I was not able to ride there, due to being on the road bike, but from Craigmillar Castle I had a very good view of the hills.

I did have the opportunity to ride on the Pentland Hills some years later when I did the Rachel Atherton Red Bull Fox Hunt.
It was a women's downhill mountain bike race in which the World DH Mountain Bike Champion gave us a head start to race down from the summit and she would fly down the hill and try to overtake as many of us as possible.

Red Bull Fox Hunt saw 150 women race down Caerketton Hill and stay ahead of Rachel Atherton
The women (AKA the hounds) race down Pentland Hills
So there I was, a 45-year-old who had never done downhill in her life, quaking in her SPDs, lined up with about 150 other women on Caerketton Hill.

We threw ourselves down the rocky, tussocky, heather-covered descent as fast as we could, hopefully without breaking any bones, while Rachel came after us in hot pursuit.

She caught me in no time at all, but surprisingly she wasn't able to get past everyone. Congestion on the trail meant that Rachel finished in a comparatively modest 35th place, while the winner was an amateur downhiller, Bex Baraona.

It had been a really good weekend. We'd had the chance to get an up-lift by Jeep so we were able to do a few practice runs, and seeding runs before the main event. It was just as well really, as I was extremely nervous when I first arrived at the venue, and wondered if I had done a stupid thing signing up for it.

Feeling good after my race with Rachel Atherton
In fact on my first run I crashed because I was gripping the brakes so tightly that the bike lost momentum on the descent and tipped sideways. Eventually, I got the hang of things and after the run I felt sooo exhilarated.

I thoroughly recommend this sort of thing. But then again, I can afford to say that now because I came away with no injuries - unlike a few unlucky girls!

I am eternally grateful to Alpine Bikes who let me use a lovely Trek Remedy bike for the occasion.

Glentress Forest

Given that I was in the area on the weekend of the Red Bull Fox Hunt, and I had loaned a bike from Alpine Bikes in Glentress Forest, I decided to do a spin at the mountain bike trail centre. This was another area that the Women's Tour of Scotland visited - well not the mountain bike centre itself, but the route went through nearby Peebles, and the riders would have gone through full gas to contest the sprint bonus at Innerleithen.

Trek Remedy at Glentress
They moved significantly faster than the pace that I travelled at on the Green family route, and a bit of the Red route at Glentress! I was probably still feeling a little tired after my weekend capers with Rachel Atherton. But what I did appreciate was the beauty of the forest, and the lovely views over the Tweed Valley.

I have good memories of these rides in bonnie Scotland, and would recommend doing them if you have time. And I would encourage you to take your time. There's no need to ride as fast as Katie Archibald or Cecile Uttrup Ludwig in order to enjoy it!

Related Posts
Red Bull Fox Hunt with Rachel Atherton

Trek Remedy goes to Red Bull Fox Hunt

Riding Etape Loch Ness


2Wheel Chick said...

From Catherine Wykes via Facebook:
"Interesting read! I’m in Dundee, so have ridden some of the stage 1 route - there’s some lovely riding around the top end of Fife. I’ve ridden most of the Innerleithen to Edinburgh stretch too, on holiday last year, though at a much more leisurely pace! The view of Edinburgh when you get to the top of the Moorfoot Hills is both beautiful and incredibly welcome."

2Wheel Chick said...

Response from Maria David via Facebook:
"That must be a lovely view, especially with the Firth of Forth right behind. I would love to do more cycle tourism around Scotland. There's a lot of spectacular stuff to see."