I had forgotten how pleasant it is to ride in a big group, taking the slipstream of others and moving along effortlessly. People were chatting and relaxed in the bunch, and it made me feel comfortable to be there. I was beginning to feel at home.
At the first few villages that we arrived at – Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus, people had come out to cheer us on – despite it not yet being 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning! I was impressed, and grateful.
A stopover at the feed-station in Invermoriston was not to be missed as we would soon be tackling the main climb of the day. I would need all the energy I could get for the upcoming 5-mile climb to the summit at Glen Doe. A 350 metre-altitude gain over 5 miles (8km) does not sound so tough, but the climb along the military road has a few downhill sections, so it wouldn’t be easy.
This was definitely the highpoint of the ride in literal and in metaphorical terms. Rolling over this long stretch on General Wade’s Military Road has a bit of everything – short sharp ramps that must reach about 16%, false flats and even some descending.
Fortunately for me, it wasn’t a constant grind out of the saddle. Around me there was moorland, mountains and lakes as well as thousands of riders. I was determined to ride all of this climb (apart from a couple of moments where I took photos – that’s my excuse!). If I stopped and walked I wouldn’t have been alone as there were tens of riders who had been compelled to do so, such were some of the gradients. But the spectacular scenes kept us going.
Finally, at the summit we were rewarded with serenading from a lone piper, as well as numerous spectators – and a lovely descent through the frost-laced forest.
A final feed-station right along the lake near Dores was much needed, as I had started to flag while in the little unofficial chain-gang we had formed, so I stocked up with some tasty dream rings and pressed on with the final 12 miles on my own just trying to keep my pedals turning.