Perhaps embarrassingly so for one who quite fancies herself as a cyclist (add rueful but appropriate tinge of reality to that though) I had never really watched pro cycling on tv prior to taking up cycling a couple of years ago. And of course being a creature of extremes I am now redressing that imbalance by watching every single televised event as much as I can including some tours I didn’t even know existed. It therefore came as a big surprise to discover there was a Tour of Britain (proper cyclists are now throwing their eyebrows heavenward and tutting). It was even more of a surprise to discover that there was a charity cycle event being run in conjunction with it in aid of the Prostate Cancer Charity and of course (being a creature of extremes she says again) it became my must-do charity cycle for 2011.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this (apart from the shameless self-publicising) was because several people I know are suffering or have suffered from this disease. The immediacy of this is provided through the very fact that John Walker, one of the owners of Walkers Cycle Shop to which my cycling club is attached, is a sufferer. So, I teamed up with John and Susan Walker to do the 70km Challenge ride route while their daughter Fiona Walker signed up to the full 170km Pro ride.
I had, it appeared, also signed up as unofficial cycle trainer to Susan who is recovering from a year of foot and other injury. Putting to one side the obvious irony of me being a cycle trainer to anyone at all, far less someone who has been quite a cyclist in her day (sheesh! she still is), we embarked on a few training rides starting with some flat short routes and working up to a full 40miler the other week which will forever been etched on our memories for the cracking thunder storm that accompanied us for the last five miles. If ever anything is guaranteed to boost one’s average speed it is being chased along a route by big crashy thunder and the thought of where the very jaggy lightning might strike. It also tested the efficiency of my new Altura pocket rocket showerproof jacket.
The ride itself left from Dock Park in Dumfries and when I arrived in the town the evening before, I realised that there was a good reason why someone had altered the sign on the park gate to Dock Ark because of the volume of rain that was pouring out of the sky. However, the event day brought with it early fog which was soon replaced by brilliant sunshine, but more importantly a total absence of wind. It must be John and Susan that have the blameless lives to bring about such favour from the weather deities.
Our route started off on a gently undulating path along the Nith estuary. Although there was a bit of a rise to negotiate just before New Abbey, the first real climbing of the route came at the turn off and rise over to Dalbeattie. Although not large in terms of gradient, the climb was long and constant. The outward 20miles of the course continued the same undulating pattern right up to the half way point at Haugh of Urr when the riders were met with a steep climb out of the valley. This marked the start of the return leg of the route which was by far the more challenging and the strong sunshine certainly made the riders feel as if they were putting in the graft. The eventual drop into Dumfries over the last two miles came as a very welcome relief as riders swooped down and back under the gantry at Dock Park. resplendent in our Walkers cycling gear, we crossed the line together in a creditable 4hrs 27 minutes. My Garmin recorded my actual moving time as 3hours 13minutes which i am reasonably happy about. I had made the promise to Susan that I would stick with her and coax, cajole, bully etc her round and that is what I did.It was not about racing but about raising money for this very worthy cause and I am very glad that I did it and raised enarly £400 in the process. iw as also very taken by the beauty of the area as I have not travelled in Dumfriesshire much. Well worth a return visit.