Wednesday 27 April 2011

For Every Doon There's an Up - Sportive Kinross

Cyclists like hills, at least a certain type do. There is a whole other blog post I'll write one day about that. However, over the years, I too have learnt the joys of hills. So when my wife gave me a 'pass' to enter a couple of sportives this year, I took an interest in the Kinross Sportive.....sorry, Sportive Kinross (must get that right!) as that seemed to fit the bill.

 It had hills.

Not just the odd one, like in the sportives I had done before but 7 fairly significant hills. Luckily when I entered I hadn't actually counted them!

So here I am, a few days later, looking back on the sportive.

How did it go?

Thanks for asking! Personally it went very well. I hadn't trained enough. Then again, talking to a few riders on the course, I wasn't alone in that! Despite that I managed a official time of 5 hours 39 mins (rolling time of 5 hourse 23) over the 87 mile route. I was very happy with that.

But what about the sportive itself? Is it one that you should be considering for next year?I had high hopes for this one. Would my hopes be dashed?

I have been on a couple of very good sportives before (Etape Caledonia, and Trossachs Ton) and one very poor one (Rapha Condor Blackpool Sportive) and so I had some experience as a rider of what works and what doesn't.

For a brand new sportive I have to say, this one was excellent!

On arrival in Kinross, which the organisers had given plenty of information about (directions, parking etc) there was a good atmosphere from the start. There were three routes (I went for the hard one of course!) so there were a mixture of novices and experts. However, I detected no snobbery. Everyone was keen to get going. There was a delay at the start, due to a road traffic accident on the route (hopefully nothing serious), however it gave everyone at the start a chance to gab, and once things got moving we all warmed up.

The route started off gentle enough and there were plenty of pelotons to attach to....oh and to take the lead on of course! I love taking part in a peloton. If you haven't zoomed along a twisty road with 15 other like minded cyclists at 25 mph, then you haven't lived! I met a chap here on his first sportive who was keeping up with the group. It turned out that instead of taking the easy option on his first sportive, he went for the BLACK ROUTE OF DOOM! (I think that's its official name...) Brave man! Not only that, but he was pelting along with the group. I was worrying that I had started off too quick, I hoped he hadn't done the same. Still chapeau for going in at the deep end!

Then the first hill came, Lomond Hill. The pelotons soon became individual riders! The first hill hurt a bit. Not because it was a particularly hard hill, but because the legs were still warming up. However, by the top warmth wasn't a problem! Then followed an enjoyable downhill, passing through mist and clouds and onto the relatively flat section, where there were plenty of pelotons again! This was going to be easy.....

It wasn't to last, and to be fair, I knew the worst was to come. So I stocked up on more drink at the feed stop...and what a feed stop! There were cakes and buns galore, all home made. Yum!

It's not long after the feed stop that the real test began. 6 sizeable hills with no breaks in between....eek! I was lucky though, I didn't know the course well enough, so I couldn't remember how many hills there were. Probably just as well.

The hills started coming thick and fast, and to be honest, I lost track of which one was which. What was surprising was the variety. Each hill was very different, some had very steep sections, which I don't actually mind too much. I have sections like this on my commute. Some hills had some ups and downs, and some, just seemed to keep on going for a looooong time! One particular part of the course even made me laugh. On a descent there was a sign indicating it was a 1:6 descent. Then the road levelled out, you made a sharp turn and there you came across a second sign also labelled 1:6. This time it's not a descent though!

It was the long ascent that was my worst though. This was my low point on the course. This is where, for me, it hurt. I find, it's not unusual on a long ride like this to go through a tough period where thoughts of, 'why am I doing this!?!' go through my mind. Maybe if I was actually properly fit this wouldn't happen! I've been lucky until now though, as I've always made through the other side and have often felt stronger afterwards. My luck continued.

I cramped, I slowed, it hurt, but I made it.

Having conquered the pain, I gained my second wind, just a shame I also found some heavy rain as well! Yes the rain kicked in as I was getting ready to leave the second feed stop at Dunning (more yummy food!). On went the rain jacket, though I'm not sure how much difference that made. It rained a lot! Oh well, all part of the challenge!

I must admit I didn't notice the rain much, which surprised me. Looking back on it, I think I was concentrating so much on getting up the hills as quickly as I could and getting down the other side without crashing.

Heading up Knockhill (I know this as I noticed the racetrack entrance) I met a couple of other riders fighting their own personal battles.

'Is this the last big hill?' I asked.
'No idea, I don't know the course either.....but I really hope it is!!'

Of course it wasn't the last hill, but thankfully the last hill, wasn't as nasty as it could have been. Not fun with 6 big hills behind you, but there were no 25% sections, and we all made it over the top for the short 'sprint' for the finish line. The descent of this last hill, Cleish Hill apparently, was glorious. The rain was all but gone at this point, the clouds had cleared a bit, and the view was glorious!

I'm quite a fast descender, but another rider shot past me on the way down! That was fast. I caught up with him on the flat...

'Great view on the way down wasn't it?'
'I don't know I wasn't looking'
'Aye, you were descending fast!'
'Aye, I'm a bit of an ar$ehole when descending' he said with a big grin!

At this point, knowing that it wasn't far to go (a marshal confirmed this with his, 'only 4 miles to go lads' shout!) I decided to push hard for home. The legs still had something left in them, which really surprised me! It was hard work, but I enjoyed this sprint for Kinross, and felt really good as I cruised over the finish.

There were no great crowds to welcome me home, the rain put an end to that, but it still felt like a victory conquering what was by far my toughest course yet.

I did it! :-)

Of course stopping was the worst bit, as that's when I realised how cold it was, and how wet I was. Eek! Luckily the organisers had prepared for that and had a free lunch organised, indoors! So I've never enjoyed a roll and sausage, cup of tea and a bun more (and a cream egg to keep you happy waiting in the queue!). Magic!

What a day!

Was it perfect? No. My one criticism was that the signs weren't great. They were quite small and often were placed just after the junction rather than warning you before. I came close to missing a turn, and I did hear a couple of others saying they did miss turns. I also saw almost no signage at the finish which meant I had to stop to check I was going the right way. However, this is a minor criticism in what was, and I think will continue to be a great sportive.

The organisation was great, the camaraderie was great, the food was great and the course was great. For me though, it was one comment from a fellow cyclist that summed up the day perfectly when I pointed out that the hills were a bit hard...

'Aye, for every doon, there's an up...'


  1. Nice blog, and as the Event Director I quite agree about the signs at the end (a simple oversight) and can see with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight the issue with some of the signs on the route. It was something we put a lot of work into but hands up, clearly did not get that quite right. We can learn for next year. Thanks for entering and I'm really glad you enjoyed the day.

  2. Zarbio,

    You can't expect to get it perfect, and it wasn't too bad. But get that right (oh and the weather) and it will be a classic. I am keeping an eye on the website to make sure I get registered for next year. I think there will be an early rush!

    Well done! :-)

  3. enjoyed the blog ! did the red route - my second sportive - I thought this was was great and I did whizz along after joining a group at 24mph - excellent


  4. Many thanks Alidonn. Glad the red route was good as well. I've heard from a few folk that enjoyed it. Black route next year? :-)