“Every great journey starts with a first step” were the words we uttered as the team set out from the Old Course Clubhouse before the 18th green at St Andrews. It was cold and windy with threatening skies and there was an air of huge anticipation as we hooked up with Jake who would act as our photographer, ace router and ‘domestique’ for the trip down Britain. It had been an eventful journey up from London the day before with the van breaking-down with starter-motor problems 180 miles short of our first overnight stay at Andrew Wemyss’s stunningly beautiful Torrie House in Dunfermline – a short hop down the coast from St Andrews. However we made it to our hosts’ albeit rather later than planned after expert assistance from the AA.
Setting off from St Andrews, we were immediately faced with short, steep hill climbs that blew the cobwebs away but quickly established the speeds of the three riders. Very quickly it was decided that we would all go at our own pace rather than riding in a group as it was important that we all established a rhythm, meaning that Magnus would shoot off on his full carbon bike and punch the distance whilst Barry and Paul kept it steady but still covered the ground. The wind built all morning with pulses blowing across the open fields and exposed hill-tops and by the time we started the first big descent towards the beach at Kircaldy, the wind was howling and rain hang heavy in the air.
For all of us, the stretch across the beach front at Kircaldy was tough with 40 knot wind and rain combining with sand bringing the riders down to below 5mph! Magnus decided to head inland towards Cowdenbeath whilst Barry and Paul manfully struggled along the coastline headland towns of Burntisland, Aberdour and Dalgety Bay. Everyone’s goal was the famous Forth Road Bridge which came as a welcome sight although somewhat daunting to cross by bike. By now the wind was howling and the rain really starting to close in and by the time Barry and Paul crossed it was quite dangerous especially when a lorry shed a couple of pallets and wood blew literally over Paul’s head narrowly missing him…a lucky escape!
Jake was on hand to greet us at the southern end of the bridge, taking some fabulous photos of us crossing and also providing hot soup, food and power bars before the blast to Edinburgh with the wind behind us. The Edinburgh leg was almost certainly the most difficult of the trip to navigate as the City has a series of fast roads into the centre so finding the minor roads through the tough outskirts of Livingston, East Calder, Ratho and Saughton was quite tricky especially with the driving rain that made the road surfaces slippy. Magnus ended up missing the ring road B701 and ended up heading into Edinburgh City Centre more for shelter from the storm than anything else and then picked up the main roads leading out from the centre. With the temperature dropping and over 60 tough miles covered, the storm finally got the better of the team. The winds were now gusting steadily at 40 knots and by the time Magnus made it to the top of Comiston Road and across the By-Pass it was becoming dangerous – flood waters above rim height made the roads treacherous and by the top of Hillend on the A702 Magnus called it a day and called in support.
We transferred the short remaining distance to the welcome sight of the Earl and Countess of Portarlington’s beautiful home in Melrose where we were provided with a safe haven from the storm, a refreshing supper and some very energetic dogs that were bemused at the sight of lycra clad, exhausted cyclists!