The Snow Roads is one of the finest 300K (186 miles) Audax rides in the UK over the ski resorts of Eastern Scotland. Apart from being long it is also rather hilly with 5000 meters of climbing and in some very wild and open land of the Scottish Highlands. It was my second time around the Snow Road and as a Aberdeen lad these are the roads of home.
You have to love the organisers sense of humour (Yes Alex!!) when you look at the profile and realise the second half is much harder and the first!! These are the highest ‘proper’ roads in the UK.
The preparation for the Snow Roads was riding the Way of the Roses the week before, not really that clever as I only had five days to recover! I figured I would ether fly around the route suffer. No guessing which one was correct! I was nearly put out of worrying, the Thursday before the ride was due to take place the Snow Roads were closed due to erm snow! The Forecast was good so the worst part of the journey was about to begin the long drive to the start at Kirriemuir. I hate driving…..
Alex Pattison the organiser had as always done a wonderful job arranging food, accomodation in the hall and sleeping quarters for the 100 or so riders who had entered, it was lovely meeting some old friends and making some new acquaintances but all too soon the alarm was ringing and we were all ready for the 6am start time.
The is something really wonderful about leaving to start a big ride in the morning with such a big bunch going through the Angus Glens as we meandered through the beauty of this often forgotten corner of Scotland on to the first climb of the day – the Cairn O’Mount which really gets the legs going and is a pretty steep at the top! On the Graph above it is at the 50km mark and goes up to 450 meters.
On the Cairn O’Mount with wall to wall blue sky and rapidly increasing temperatures. To think the area was snowed under a few days before. The decent off of the Cairn O’Mount is a wonderful fast one as the route sweeps you away to Banchory and then into the remoter parts of Aberdeenshire towards Kemnay and over to Dufftown (where I once lived as a baby in arms) all the time the route undulates and my legs never felt good as soon as the route went up! I blame the Coast 2 Coast 5 days before.
This is a pretty typical road for the ride, heavy and undulating in gorgeous scenery.
An unshaven and sunbaked me. Sunbaked in Scotland – who would’ve guessed!
The ride stopped in Dufftown for food and this is a the turning point as finally the road heads for home, but at around a 160 km (100 miles) in the stiffest sections are still to come. The Lecht with it 20% climb is the first obstacle but it seems to take forever to get there as the road undulates through Moray towards the Ski stations and the Cairngorms National Park.
The bottom of the Lecht climb, it not that bad really but has a steep pitch in the center it would help not having 200K (125 miles) in the legs!
The Ski station is a great target.
The Lecht climb leads onto one of the finest stretches of cycling in the UK, if you check the graph at the top you can see it climbing just before the 200K mark and two more hills after, I am not sure if these are categorized in any way but I did hear people referring to them affectionately as climb B1 and B2 where B stands for a certain obscenity I think you can guess! I managed to find a Youtube clip of this section of road from a fellow rider – brilliant riding! The weather was also (for Scotland) really warm now, well over 20c and a few riders had overdressed and had started to suffer!
Me just after the first drop from the Lecht. 20% up 20% down!
The Cairngorms across Strathdon from near the summit of the Lecht
Hopefully you get an idea of the stunning surroundings from the photos above, it really was a privilege to be riding in such wonderful country in such perfect weather even with heavy legs!
After this the ‘Queen’ section of the route we arrived at the last control of the at Braemar. The organisers had hired a hall and attempted to feed 100+ riders with the best part of 150 miles in the legs. The beans on toast and cake was gone very quickly! It was a shame but the seemed quite a few riders scratching at Braemar. The distance and heat finally getting the better of them. I couldn’t help but think the was only one more big un to climb and that was at a modest percentage and then apart from the uphill bits it was all downhill..
Leaving Braemar the route heads towards the highest point of the day at the top of the Cairnwell Ski Resort, it may be higher but it is actually a very nice climb, or it would be if you hadn’t got a 150 miles in the legs! The views are never nothing but spectacular and as the evening closed in the temperatures dropped to a much more Caledonia average.
The approaches to the Cairnwell and the final climb of note and the highest point of the day. It is also the highest road in the UK. Still wall to wall blue sky and spectacular scenery.
Riders lost in the vastness of the Cairnwell Murno’s. This is at the top of the pass ready for a fine down hill.
After the Cairnwell the is a fast descent down into Glen Isla, this bit is predominantly downhill but has a few kicks, I remember on my first Snow Roads beginning to lose my sense of humour in Glen Isla in the dark but this time it didn’t seem so bad and even through the legs never felt good all day I felt pretty strong running into Kirriemuir.
Glen Isla, a magical glen which leads you straight to the finish.
It was a superb outing and I think possible one of the grandest tours you can do in there isles. When this is combined with great company and brilliant weather it is hard to find a better way to spend time on the bike. As soon as the Audax calendar is published I am checking my availability. I can’t ride in 2014 through work commitments but then again I don’t think I could ever get such good conditions again.