So today we thought we would mix it up a bit and go for a bike ride. Just a short 73 miles, over the Highlands, nothing too difficult. The end target was just north of Fort William, and to get there, we had to climb over the Black Mountain and Buachaille Etive Mountains.
The day started badly when Graham J discovered he had another puncture (it had to be him!) and then Graham R also suffered a flat tyre due to a faulty valve. Both were repaired, the repair on Graham J’s bike didn’t last, and the tube had to be replaced with a new one. So we finally set off properly at around 9.30, having just received a challenge that if we could arrive at our destination by for 5.30pm, we would get an extra donation of £50 to the website. This sounded too much of a challenge, and it was agreed that for every hour after that, we would lose £10.
The weather in the morning was cool and very dull (which is ideal conditions as it was not too hot or too cold) but the roads were fairly wet which is not so good as spray goes all up your back. The first 13 miles were relatively flat, but on some very narrow ‘A’ roads, and we got held up by coaches that were struggling to pass each other on the road. We were dreading the climbs, knowing that we were going to go right up into the Highlands, and seeing huge mountains in front of us, however, once we started to climb, it wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated. Whether this is due to the hills not being too steep or the fact in the last 8 days, our legs have got stronger, we are not really sure. However, a few miles further on, we found ourselves up in the clouds before facing a long steady 4 mile decent and then a further climb and decent before lunch.
After lunch, we still had 45 miles to do, and faced the biggest climb of all to reach the top of the mountains, which was achieved with good spirit. Then we had a very long decent with some very steep drops at the side of the road. Graham R and Shane loved the decent, but Graham J complained that his bike was wobbling, and at one point was on the opposite side of the road to try and stay away from the drop. On reflection, he thinks the shaking of the bike was due to his knees shaking out of fear.
We met the support crew (Charlotte) for a second time in Glencoe National Park for a well earned break, where we took on more fluids and sugar to boost our energy, whilst admiring the view of the mountains. After the break we were left with 26 miles to do in 100 minutes if we were to reach the 5.30pm target set for us. We knew we had to cross another high bridge, for which Graham J would need some coaxing. We pedalled on hard, working as a team with different people taking the lead, just like the tour de france peloton, however at one point, Graham R suffered a tightening of the calf muscle which further hampered our progress. We eventually reached the end of the days ride, 8 minutes late, so earning a further £40 for the website. We all felt this had been a great achievement, especially as today is the earliest we have finished for the whole ride so far.
Spirits lifted as the day progressed, due to a combination of the messages of support from numerous people who are clearly reading out blog every day, the spectacular scenery we experienced throughout the ride and the fact that we are nearing the end of the ride. We are beginning to think that maybe we can all make it, although that is clearly tempting fate.
Please keep all your messages of support coming though, as tomorrow is another long day of 96 miles along the side of Loch Ness, over the mountains south west of Inverness and along the Cromarty Firth to Tain.