With Holyrood park being closed and town being snarled up with festival traffic Michael was 30mins late. Happily we had built in plenty extra and arrived in fine time. I have to thank Michael for doing all the driving every day - which added considerably to the trials of the 5 days for him. Being a non driver I was no use. It is something to consider if planning taking part in the Tour - alternating driving with a fellow Touree.
I have many pleasant memories of past years of the ToF (this is my 5th) but had forgotten just how exhausting the whole business becomes. Also note to self: build in a holiday Monday for catching up with sleep and blogging. I had to work and it was a long day.
Ordnance Survey couldn't have done it better.
Unfortunately there was a bit of rain in the air. Fortunately it was only ever a light drizzle while we were running and the heavy stuff rattled down while we were indoors. Since it was trails and hills today I wore my orange Inov8 hill shoes. Good choice although there were maybe a couple of miles on road. After a bit of a warm up we returned to the start. There was a tremendous sense of camaraderie and lots of hands were shaken. I noticed that Scott and Alastair (first and second) were deep in conversation yet theirs was probably the greatest rivalry. Alastair had only beaten Scott on one occasion - the up-hill time trial, but had 19 seconds (I think) lead going into the last race. If he could keep him in sight Alastair would win, if Scott could get 20secs ahead he would win. I hoped I'd see the battle unfold. Meanwhile they were chatting like team mates. It is this friendliness that seems to pervade the Tour from the organisers down, that saturates the 5 days. Although the competition is as fierce as any race, the camaraderie comes from going through the same difficulties and facing similar aches and pains. Graham said some words then said GO.
All the action photos here thanks to Gordon Donnachie
The start began with a steep climb out the field and I felt ok. Most of the hills were followed by recovery flat or less steep trails and I found to my surprise I was keeping up with the (back of the) peloton. After the first 2, there was a group of half a dozen or more (mostly Dundee Hawks and MG and I) who swapped places in all the races; each taking a turn at the front and most taking a turn at the back. Martin (Carnegie) had been working well and after a massive run on Friday night and another third place on Saturday had got enough of a lead to be (barring disaster) unassailable in third overall. Then there was a tight knit group of us. I was so displeased with my runs on Friday and Saturday that I had spent Saturday evening taking and posting pictures of the moon rather than checking to see how many seconds I needed to be faster than x or y to come where. I think I had dropped to 6th or 7th on the leader board and thought I'd just see how I felt on the day. I was pleased to say I felt fine, though I was judging this solely on the others around me and I knew if I could keep up on the ascents, things should improve on the downhills. We had been told 2 miles of up. I looked at my watch as we popped out the narrow dirt trail between the trees onto the main landrover trail. Around 10 minutes. So a bit more up on broad paths and sure enough it was. But I was reeling folk in steadily, especially when there was a descending undulation. I caught up with Michael who I knew had been leading the charge of the peloton up the ascents - his ground. And then a marshal pointing us off the main trail onto a thin twisting roller coaster descent. "Let's go" I said to Michael as I slotted onto the singletrack in third place, wondering how long I would stay there.
This is my favourite kind of racing - sliding between the air and the trees turning left and right on a swooping downhill trail taking the speed up to the maximum without spinning off at the corners, the sound of footfalls behind drifting further back then disappearing. A thought jogs through my head I once chased Chris Upson down this trail but I can't recall the occasion - a Falkland 10k, 5k, Santa Race or the Lomonds of Fife? I did remember enjoying it although I never caught Chris. A flour arrow keeps us on track at a junction and I am brought back to reality: must pay attention, this could go well and it would be daft to go the wrong way and blow it.
Then we are marshalled out onto a road. I recognise it and my heart sinks a little. I have run here as well (Twisted Chicken run ToF 201?) and know exactly how long it goes on for. EVER. A fair bit along the tarmac I hear Geoghegan's breathing and more than one set of footsteps. I am not going to look behind. They are getting closer but so is the gate at the end. We all arrive together at the barrier and I am thinking the gap through is on my side, how is Steve/Johnny going to... but the barrier is vaulted. Was that Steve? Hmm it is late in the day for acrobatics, but hat's off to you. Every step is an effort and we now have about 200 of them till we get to the blessed relief of the descent.
Third top pic is Alastair on this bit. Scott had taken the lead on the road but Alastair wasn't that far behind from what I could see. It certainly wasn't settled at this point. That's us in the blurry group behind. Michael closed the gap on the road bringing Steve and Johnny. Now Johnny was something of a dark horse. I hadn't noticed him in the first couple of races, but then he just got stronger and did a good Friday and an excellent Saturday chasing Martin all the way and now he has just overtaken me although he is making some funny noises and faces but doesn't seem to be letting up.
We turn the corner and race down the road. I love downhills, even tarmac ones. Michael has dropped back a bit and it is three now battling for third. I think we all swapped positions a couple of times and were probably equally raddled. I knew there was one medium length ascent before the field and braced myself, shortening my stride, trying to keep my breathing in control while not losing too much ground to Steve and Johnny. They were a couple of yards ahead towards the fake summit and on the second up I got the last gasp of a second wind and pushed on just as everyones' legs were burning up at the apex. I pushed through and gained 4 yards maybe as we all raced on in desperation for the hidden right turn into the finishing field. When I reached the turn ahead of the other 2, I had a good feeling that I'd be able to sustain it for the dangerously steep muddy curve through the field onto the finishing straight. I had already noticed the potential for coming unstuck and carefully mapped a line following the right hand tyre track to a certain point where the grassy centre section would give more grip etc. There was no challenge from either side and I romped along the finishing straight crossing the line in third and delighted, no matter what place I finished on the leader board.
Michael, after yesterday's outing, was considerably more happy with today; proving it's all about horses for courses and today suited him (and I) a lot more. Unfortunately MG has been hampered by injuries fairly comprehensively this year which has curtailed his training. It looked at times like he wouldn't (or shouldn't) take part this last week but he came along and got totally caught up in all the highs and lows, as we all did, finishing 6th in the race, 8th in the Tour.
(because he needed to finish a handful of seconds ahead of me to (technically speaking) win first m40.)
Meanwhile dark horse Johnny (88) after 5 races and 15 secs behind today, finishes one second ahead of me on the leaderboard in 4th overall. Great running and stamina!
All won prizes!
I could eat something off every plate here now, but at the time (having overdone the running) I could only manage a jam sandwich and small square of chocolate homebake. Impressive spread though.
I didn't get much of a chance to find out how these 2 enjoyed their first tour. Graham gave them a spot on stage to raise awareness of their cause and a £200 donation which went down very well.
photo Gordon again
Billy (7th overall) didn't have such a strong run today but got a prize for navigation
(not getting lost for the duration of the 5 days?)
- who arrived at the finish line very nearly a minute ahead of Alastair
Strathmiglo results here
5 races results and final place on leaderboard here
I had remembered what a special event the Tour was from the 4 previous I have taken part in. I had forgotten just how tiring they are. Or maybe I am getting older? Although I think everyone has been feeling the strain. However everybody seemed to love it. The routes (some of the routes,) the summer weather, the hats, the swim in the sea, the battles with the competition, the results on the website every night, but mostly the camaraderie - old friends and new, the Dundee Hawks off to a nightclub as soon as the final leaderboard has been posted, and the memories of another great Tour from Graham and his team, who must be pretty tired themselves. Thank you and very well done, it was outstanding.