By this point I’d got quite good at setting up camp and putting it back down again. Not quite as good as my fellow riders though, merely unrolling a bivi bag, climbing in and then doing the reverse the following morning.
I was still up by a reasonable hour though, and on my way after a couple of porridge bars. Not so for Giacomo, who remained in his tent as I pressed on.
Glen Cassley, another headwind. Mapping out the route for some respite from the wind, hoping that a corner rounded would take the wind out of my face for a while. Sadly this was not meant to be. The dam was reached quicker than I’d imagined it would be, perhaps the early hour contributing to an increase pace. The climb from hell last year, the roadies’ paradise, was easier too, with the headwind interspersed with the luxury of a tailwind or the compromise of a crosswind.
Up at the top of the climb, things changed again. Last year’s hoot of a descent, best described as “whee!!” was now a downhill slog into the wind. Sunshine last year was now mist and clouds.
I reached the bottom of the descent and turned back on myself to traverse a short section of Loch Shin. The road section to the Bealach Horn turnoff seemed fine by this stage, not too tough going.
Last year I walked this entire climb, this year I rode most of it. A small victory in the dreich conditions. Pushing up Glen Golly into a headwind felt a lot worse than before, the ground far wetter and going a lot slower. By this point I was tiring, the wind in my face and intermittent rain showers. I hit the Bealach eventually, after much more pushing and swearing, and once again saw the horrible descent and climb ahead of me. It’s one of the sections I didn’t enjoy both times, but both times I knew it needed to be done.
I think when you get into this style of riding, you push through anything knowing it’s a means to an end. There’s always something on the next hill worth riding, or if there’s not you hang on to the belief that there might just be something on the one after.
Anyway, the peat hag descent came and went, the river crossing not overly memorable, and the push up the other side just as horrible as expected.
I hit the end of the climb, the metres counting down on the GPS, and began the fast descent to Achfary. I was feeling pretty burst by this point, the early stages of a bonk setting in. A fun descent though, especially the technical section at the entrance to the forest. Into Achfary, nothing of note. No pay phone, no food supplies. No matter, Kylesku was just over the next pass…
The next pass was the site of a legendary bonk for me. I’d been eating all day but clearly, with hindsight, not enough. I felt all my energy, and then my motivation ebb out of me. I slowed to a near crawling pace, each step a mere shuffle, the temptation to curl up into a ball and cry particularly strong. Emergency food time, more Stoats bars and probably four gels, plus a bottle of Coke. I think dipping this deep into my reserves at this point set me up to fail the following day, truly a horrible feeling.
It was mid afternoon, and I hit the top of the climb, with a sum total of zero pedal revolutions. Back on the bike, a bit of the descent, and then some further gorilla tape clothing repair attempts. The rest of the descent was a blur, not through pace though.
Kylesku did not look too inviting for food, so I kept going. At this point last year it was around 10pm, whereas it must have been around 5pm. I decided to press on, with the intention of stopping at a B&B on the Drumbeg road somewhere. I knew this was going to be horrible, but my 2015 motto “make hay while the sun shines” was fresh in my mind. Every mile today is one less tomorrow.
Drumbeg arrived, nothing was open. 7pm this year, 9:30am the next morning in 2014. Things were looking up, I was well ahead of time. No room at the inn, anywhere. A flushing toilet though so a luxurious visit to the loo was in order.
Achmelvich next, via some lovely singletrack that I only remembered when the turnoff for it arrived. Only a couple of miles from Lochinver though, and at this rate I might make the Pie Larder. I sprinted on, another gel in the tank. Sadly arriving at Lochinver just before 9, I found the Pie Larder closed. As was everything else. No rooms in any hotels, even the completely empty one by the end of the front. Nothing for it but to continue…
Suileaig bothy was the next place of interest on the map. I knew that getting there would make sense, as my food options were zero anyway. No point in a bivi on the front either as it would be hours lost. With hindsight I should have stopped for a proper feed. However, the climb into Suileaig wasn’t too bad, easy trail so I knew the crap would be ahead of me at some point.
I arrived at the bothy, four bikes outside – a fat bike and a Camber so I knew I’d caught up with Phil and Alan at least. Not wanting to make any noise as everyone else had bedded down, I ate what savoury food I had outside (two bags of cashews and half a chorizo) and snuck inside to fall asleep.
A 90 mile day after two back to back centuries – tough going.