Ullapool Sportive

Wet, Wind and Hills. That about sums it up.

The week before

Tanya and I were in London for the past couple weeks so it made training for this a bit tough, but managed to get into a gym down there only to find the spin bikes are locked up until a class was on, and most of the classes were for ladies only, unless I took up some form of cross dressing it wasn't likely that I could get on a bike. So I settled for cross trainer and some weights. Unfortunately we were coming back up on the Friday, with the sportive on the saturday, so that meant early train up to glasgow, couple hours of packing then heading off up in the van to Ullapool. I picked up Ade on the way up and we got there about 8pm, of course, just in time for me to put the tent up in the dark, luckily i've done it many times before so no big problems there.

The Morning

Woke up to the tent being battered by the wind and rain, kept getting slapped in the face by the side of the tent as it flapped in the wind, and that was it being sheltered behind the van too! The weather was atrocious, horizontal rain that would come and go, with a wind that only the north of scotland could call relatively normal. Ade had come over to pick up his bike, so we both were sheltering in the van in the morning trying to decide when would be the best time to make a run for it to the village hall to register, eventually it died down, we got the bikes out and made a dash for it, stopping to pick up George on the way across.

And so it begins

After registration we had to wait for the the start time, at which we got underway with all three of us starting in the first few riders. After the first corner, the course presented us with a nice warm-up hill. Of course, I immediately lost the other two, who disappeared off up the hill (i saw Ade breifly as he had stopped to put his chain back on, he was back up and running before I got to him though). The first section for me was really, really tough. The hardest section i've ever ridden. Strong headwind all the way for 35 miles with climbs followed by descents you had to go slow down because you couldn't open your eyes in the rain (had ditched my glasses as they were even worse). Because the descents couldn't be used to give you a push up the next hill, every hill was a proper climb, and thats tough for a 100kg guy like me. I kept going though, at some point I realised that I had forgotten to put any food/energy into my pockets and that I would have to wait for the first feed stop to pick up any. Of course, i'm always organised... not, I hadn't taken note of where the first one was, and unfortunately, it turned up at 29 miles in, it had felt like 60! Got bananas and flapjacks on-board and got going as quickly as I could, I didn't even know that it was 29miles I had to ask another rider as I didn't have my iphone on (battery wouldn't have lasted) and my cycle computer hadn't been reset at the beginning.

The fast bit

After that feed stop, there was another 5-10 miles of the same that we had come through, however, after turning onto the 65 mile route, the road changed to an A road, meaning that the hills were more rolling and I could use the descents to get me half way up the next hill, plus we had a bit of a tailwind at that point too, so I was flying. Managed to overtake quite a few people at that point which was very satisfying, I also had remembered that I had a couple power bars in my saddle bag for emergencies, and had had one of those, which could be something to do with why I had so much energy there. I enjoyed that bit.


The last section was also headwind city, but with all the signposts now pointing to Ullapool, it gave me hope that I was nearly there. The rain was on and off and sometimes was just that highland smur that makes it look like its not raining, but gets you soaked within 5 seconds. By this time though, I was pushing the bike up the tough hills, and unfortunately, it was at one of these that George had caught up with me (he was riding in the 88 mile route), bit embarrasing pushing the bike up the hill, but at that point, I didn't care! There were about 5-6 big hills left after that one (ahem Geo...), 2 of which I pushed up. I did have one even more embarasing moment though, as I had stopped for a rest on one of the hills, and as I was moving off, the back wheel spun in some mud, and as I had clips on, couldn't get my feet out to put them down and kaboom, over I went. Luckily no-one saw me go down, and I could just see the head of one guy coming up the hill round the corner, so got up as quick as I could, I think I got away with it!


By far the best part of the ride though, was the descent back in to Ullapool, at that point the wind had died down slightly, the rain was gone, and we were greeted with a beautiful view over the town as we flew down the hill to the finish.

As much as it was really bad weather and a really tough event, I actually enjoyed it. If the weather was better next year and I was better at the hills by then (ie I weighed less) then I might give it another go. The scenery up there was amazing!

Written by Stewart McKee on

Pedal for Scotland Sportive

This is my second year doing the pedal for scotland charity ride. Last year, I was in the Challenge ride, a 47 mile ride from Glasgow Green heading up to the north and across to Edinburgh, finishing at Murrayfield. This year I decided to up my game and go for the 110 mile sportive, and the way my legs gave up on me at the end of the 47 mile challenge ride last year I must have been crazy!

At the beginning of the year I missed out on the Dunfermline sportive due to illness and signed up for the 100 mile Scottish Bike Show sportive instead, which was really tough, and I managed to finish in just over 10 hours. So I had an idea of the distance I had to cover and the time I definitely had to beat.

The Sportive

Pedal for Scotland Sportive Info

I started the sportive with George, who, has been cycling for far longer than me, and is much better at it (for now anyway!), but I stuck with him on the way out of Glasgow, but as we started heading down to Kilmarnock, inevitably I slowed up from his pace (he finished 22nd), my pace with George, was a little faster than I should have been doing, but I slowed up a little, but was still overtaking loads of people, which is always nice.

And So It Begins

Stewart, rider 9002 on bike

The route took us down towards Kilmarnock and the start timing beam was about 8 miles into the ride and there was a reassuring beep as I crossed it, so I knew it was working. I spent the next few miles to the first feed stop leap-frogging people, then duck in behind for a rest, then get some speed on again, maybe to get some momentum for getting up a hill, or to get some speed going downhill. It was a good solid cycle to the first feed stop, at which I stopped, probably more out of it just being there than me needing a stop, but had something to eat and then got cracking again. The second section had quite a few long uphill sections, and if I can't use momentum to get me up those hills, then I'm stuck in first gear, grinding away at 6mph, so frustrating! It was a fairly tough section for me, but towards the end I got stuck in with a few of the Lenzie cycle club boys and followed them into the second feed stop. Before that though, technical problems were beginning to creep in though, I noticed that my handlebars seemed to be a bit lower, and a solid shove on the bottom bars confirmed that they were loose, I was just hoping the feed stop would come soon, otherwise it could be a bit messy, there were a few fast downhill sections there, and following centimetres off the back of someones wheel, when you are not sure if the brakes will be there when you reach for them is a bit disconcerting, but its not the first time I've had to deal with it so, not too much of a problem. This actually was my first experience riding in a group though, and it was fantastic, the speeds were really good and I wasn't really working too hard, a lot of it was freewheeling, I'm going to have to get in with a club!

Second Section

Getting a tow

After tightening up my bars and second feed stop over, as we were in a valley, the obvious hill started the third section. It wasn't as bad as I had thought though, however, this section was long, with lots of hills and descents and I wasn't sure how far the next feed stop was, I thought I had missed it, and as they were rationing out the water (crazy, as much milk as we want but one bottle of water per person!) and I was running low. This section was my worst, a real slog, with some heavy headwinds, really bad road surfaces and hills. Finally I reached the third feed stop, and made sure I took a couple bottles of water (don't care if it was rationed!), and as much food as I could and then got on with it again. I was conscious of the fact that, the longer I waited, the longer my time would be, but more importantly, the worse my legs would be, and by now they were beginning getting weak.

Downhill to the finish

The last section was fantastic, if getting a little spread out, we had a tailwind for most of it and the vast majority of it was a nice downhill into edinburgh, was getting a good speed and overtaking people, which at this point in the sportive, is really nice! :)

My legs were sore, my knee was a bit more painful than I would have liked, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, much more than the SBS one at the beginning of the year, although, that may have been something to do with me coming third last! They said they added more hills this year, and added 14 miles, don't know what it was like last year, but I enjoyed it this year.

At finish in Murrayfield

Points I've taken away from it...

  • My bike is awesome! :) (appart from handlebar mount)
  • Main part of my cycling I need to work on... HILLS!
  • Will I do it next year... YES!

Dailymile entry and map for the ride (as long as the battery lasted that is!)

Hopefully you've found this interesting, if you been reading this far, and if you don't cycle, get on your bike, its awesome fun, and there is such a sense of achievement in doing something like this I can't really describe it.

Thanks for listening and be safe on the roads!

Written by Stewart McKee on