Our journey began at 5.30am as Mr and Mrs Pat drove us to Luton airport. A punctual flight and we were soon hurtling (literally) north in the comfort of our Inverness guide, Gavin’s Land Rover. Nervous and excited in equal measure we were given an excellent guide to the area by Gavin as well as getting a sneak preview of the climbs in store. Meanwhile Mark and Bill were already in Scotland and after a rendezvous in the hire car lot set off up the A9 in the support van to join the rest of the group.
A general team “faff” ensued in the John O’Groats car park as we took an hour to get changed, set up bikes and so on. Well, technically we took half an hour and Pat took a further half hour. He managed to puncture without actually mounting his steed and then faffed about with at least two other tubes before finally settling on a long valved version.
A quick photo by the harbour and finally we were on the way. A fairly gentle start and we made good progress waving enthusiastically at the other end to enders who were completing their journey. We gave up counting at about 20 which only took 30 minutes. There is a beauty to the bleakness of the landscape, however the first big hill at Dunbeath soon focussed our minds. The second climb at Berridale Braes was a real sharpener at 13%. This slowed us considerably and having started after 3pm we were in a mad dash to be at the hotel in time for dinner. Bill, our soigneur, driver, photographer, bag carrier and chief supporter was doing a sterling job stopping every 10 miles or so to refill bottles pass round flapjacks and keep us all going.
Despite the steep hills (max height 758ft) and the 76.7 mile afternoon ride we managed 15.7 mph. Not bad considering the 5.30 am start in Kesgrave! We settled in for a quick meal at Trentham Hotel, good “home made” food, rooms also a little “home made” (needs a little TLC, but did the job).
Faff of the day winner: Pat for his car park tyre-change marathon