So looking at the route notes we knew today would be tricky. Rated as ‘hard’ and with 2 notorious climbs I was feeling anxious before we had even started.
We stayed at a really lovely hotel last night, but as Jon had already alluded, there were a few orienteering Norwegians at the same hotel. This meant that breakfast at 7:30am was quite busy and we ended up being late for the morning briefing. Well, I say late. We missed it! Not a great start.
So we started the day leaving Ballater (a place I would definitely like to re-visit with my walking boots) on a fairly unremarkable road. However, the whole time I was keeping my eyes peeled for signs to the Lecht ski resort. When I saw these I knew I would be in trouble. Rated in the top 10 of the Guardian’s toughest bike climbs it started pretty aggressively with a 20% incline.
After 15 miles my stomach churned as I spotted the mountain ahead of me. I took a deep breath and dropped into my lowest gear. This is possible if I just put my mind to it. I started well – pedaling like mad and managed a good 200m until… I yelped and fell! Being clipped into my pedals, once I lost a bit of power I just tumbled. Shouting ‘timberrrrr’ probably would have been appropriate judging by the way I fell. Always known to be graceful!! This proved to be a nuisance, not only as I suffered from some lower back pain and a grazed elbow but as I was on a steep slope it was almost impossible to get back on my bike. However, I did eventually remount and slowly and steadily finished the climb.
Bridge of Pain
After the brew stop at the top of the Lecht we were warned about another pending hill. This one was shorter and only 13% but was not to be underestimated. The hill at ‘Bridge of Brown’ was a steep, winding road with some rather large traffic sharing the route and did not add any joy to my day. I was very glad when I reached the top and was reassured that the toughest part of LEJOG was behind me. We were able to enjoy some stunning views of the Scottish Highlands before the rain began and we made a dash for lunch.
Although the terrain of the afternoon’s ride was a lot smoother and very picturesque- this did not make it any more pleasant than the morning session. Being 12 days into the tour and having tackled the ascents this morning our legs were not really in the mood for much more pedalling!! This, in addition to my niggling back pain, meant I was desperate to arrive into Inverness. It was a 73 mile day so this did not come nearly as quickly as I would have liked.
When, 7 hours later, we came over a ridge that lead down into Inverness the view took my breath away. Having never been this far north before it was a bit of a shock to discover the beauty of this city. We quickly free-wheeled down into the centre and found our B&B and was eager to get out to see the sights. If my muscles will allow me to that is!
This has definitely been my toughest day. At this point I am glad that there are only 2 more cycling days left. As are my poor legs!
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