A sportive organised by West Lothian Clarion, this event was on its inaugural launch this year, with a good few hundred at least on the start line. The route started from Cambusbarron near Stirling and headed north to Callander, then west to Aberfoyle going past Loch Venacher, over the Duke’s pass (500 feet of climbing over 2 miles), south to Drymen near Loch Lomond and then east back to Cambusbarron going past the Carron Valley. A total distance of 70miles, West Lothian Clarion, were hosting the national Easter Clarion event. If you want to know more about Clarion clubs, then do a web search.
All in all it was a great day with no real complaints - expect for a couple of missing signs! I arrived a bit late and it seemed like I was the last rider off at 09:37am. I had decided that I was going to go for, all guns blazing over the distance and try to get a decent time. The weather was a little on the chilly side, but a covering of embrocation helped out. In fact the gilet jacket was never off the whole way round.
Conscious of the fact that I was last, I hurried along the course looking out for the sign arrows. For quite a few miles I never came across another rider, until I spotted someone far off in the distance wearing a red top. I closed in on them and eventually passed by. I was ready to have a joke with them that they were wearing the appropriate coloured top as they were now the 'lantern rouge' - the last person in the field. However it turned out that they were actually from Stirling Triathlon club and not even doing the event. Damn, I was still last.
So I pressed on and it was good to see some marshals at the main turning points. At least I knew I was on the right track. In a strange way, it does give you much more of an incentive to ‘gun’ it along when you are last. I think I went along for the whole 31 miles to the feed station stop without over taking anyone. I was wondering ‘where the heck is everyone?’. This question was answered when I go to the feed station. They was a large bunch of riders there, lots of them all tucking into the energy food and drink on offer. In accordance with my aim to do the course fast, I only stopped for a bottle refill. I actually felt a tad on the impolite side as I tore off again without stopping to socialise and chat!
So I pressed on around the course and started to come across riders strung out along the route. I over took them, but as stressed earlier, this wasn't about racing against them and overtaking people – but racing against myself. It was then up and over the legendary Duke’s pass, with 500 feet of climbing to be done and then down the mighty descent to Aberfoyle. What a descent this is, it gives you a real feel of what it must be like to race in the Tour or the Giro. The route sign was hard to sport in Aberfoyle, but I eventually headed in the right direction, but only to be held up at the next round about where there was no sign. So I had to wait up for some other riders to find out which direction I should head in. Here we turned south towards Drymen, a few miles away from the Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. It felt strange cycling into Drymen, probably because I’ve been through it a hundred times in car, but never on a bike.
The route then turned east passing along some very small and rough country lanes. All the while, I was overtaking more riders. Sections of this road had been re-surfaced and were tarmac heaven, where it was possible to glide along at very fast speeds and wishing that every road could be like this. With about 10 miles to go, I over took another bunch of riders from different Clarion clubs. One chap was from Bolton and he was riding something that wouldn’t look out of place in the vintage Strade Bianchi ride, a really old looking touring bike with down tube shifters. This group were going well and with a surge I passed them by and moved on ahead down the course. After a little while a rider passed by me coming in the opposite direction. I though, ‘oh oh, this doesn’t look too good’ and when I got to the end of the road, there was no sign to turn anywhere. Pondering which way to go, the group that I had overtook caught me up. It turned out they had been following me, thinking I knew where I was going. We had missed a turn off at further back at Carron Bridge and agreed that the sign was absent. Pranksters maybe? Who knows, but luckily 2 of the riders were local from the West Lothian Clarion and they led us back to the finish at Cambusbarron. It wasn’t a scenic route thats for sure – but at least it got us back. We did an extra 3 miles and 73 miles in total. My time was 4hrs 29mins, so that would probably have been about 4hrs 20mins. I’m sure if I hadn’t got lost and had to stop a few times, then I maybe, just maybe I could have got under 4 hours.
The post ride drum up was very impressive with soup, rolls, cakes, cakes and more cakes. I chatted away to the rider from Bolton and was surprised to learn that he had in fact combined his trip up north with a touring holiday and had in fact cycled up from Bolton on his trusty touring bike (with the down tube shifters). That would account for his good form then. Another rider was Brighton Clarion and had traveled all the way up for this event. I was surprised by the camaraderie, dedication and friendship network offered by the Clarion system. So hopefully the event will run again next year. Is so, its a definite must even date for your diary.