The Snow Roads is one of the finest 300km of cycling in the UK. Starting from Kirriemuir in the Angus Glens of North East Scotland and winding its way over the Cairn O’Mount to Banchory and North into Aberdeenshire and on into Whisky country and Strathdon to Duthtown before reaching the Cairngorm National Park and the first of the ‘Snow Roads’ and the climb up to the Lecht Ski Centre. Following the Lecht is the wildest part of the route over to Braemar before the final climb over the highest navigable road in the UK to Glenshee Ski Centre before a fantastic descent and the return to Kirriemuir.
The bare statistics are 300k (188 miles) and 5000 meters (16500ft) of climbing and this combined with the fickle Scottish Weather makes for a big day.
I have also made a video of the ride on Youtube
This was my third time on the Snow Roads and a little bit different in that I was on the ‘Organisers Ride’ which was a week before the main event and had just a hand full of people riding it including Alex the man who dreamed up this beautiful event and had invited me up to ride knowing I couldn’t do the actual event as I had prior work commitments.
The day started in the early dawn and we left in a small group with several Snow Road virgins (indeed long distance virgins!) including a couple of ladies – which if they completed the loop would double the female finishers on the ten year history of the ride!
The first near 200k (125miles) of the ride is I always think a bit of a softening up for the Snow Roads proper and we had a wonderful ride over the 1st climb of the day of the Cairn O’Mount and its super-fast decent through Strathdon and the undulating car free glens to Dufftown in Whisky Country. From Dufftown the route undulates on towards the Cairngorm National Park and I always find it a bit of a strange section. The road undulates constantly but mentally you are waiting for the Lecht, and this section just seems to go on and on….
The climb of the Lecht, which at 200k is a major landmark and also the physical turning for home of the route. By now I was in a group of five including Alex and the three newbies. I must admit I was filled with admiration for the dogged determination to finish this brutal section up the Lecht before a magnificent decent (and a quick beer in Cock Bridge!) ond over the edges of the Cairngorms over climb B1 and B2 (I think it will not take much imagination to work out what B stands for when you hit a big hill with 200+ k in the legs!)
Hills B1 & B2 for me are the finest part of the ride – the country you are in looking over to the High Cairngorms and the Snow covered Ben Avon and forward to Royal Lochnagar is breath-taking. And after a really sunny day it was starting to get cold and layers where needed. The weather so far had been brilliant.
Arriving at Braemar and a bite to eat, and only one climb left – the road up to the Glenshee ski resort – this is quite an easy climb, but maybe not so easy with 250k in the legs and 4000+ meters of climbing. It also went dark about now and the temperature plummeted – my GPS was showing 4c!
I can still remember the Braemar control here from the previous year, several riders quite unable to face the pull up to Glenshee and many looked totally beaten up by the route. Yet today the group I was with showed character and determination going back ‘Once more unto the breach’. It was an honour to be riding with such people.
This last section in the dark and cold with summer gear (well that all I had….) was a bit brutal at times and Glen Isla is just hilly enough to really hurt at the business end of a 300k
All five of riders arrived in Kirriemuir to the sound of pubs full of merriment and noise. And we had doubled the amount of female finishers!!
I had a great time on the Snowroads and enjoyed helping Alex help three newbies around one of the most challenging 300k rides in the UK. Always a pleasure to help Alex and I hope to see you on the Snowroads sometime soon. And hopefully with a few Chester Road Club newbies along for the ride