Sunday 13th May 2012 will not be remembered as one of the more balmy of Scottish summer days as wind and rain dominated the scene, and yet over 4000 cyclists took of from Pitlochry to ride the 81 mile Caledonian etape. We have to consider ourselves most fortunate that the rain which lashed the central belt was a lot more gentle in the Highlands and I only really suffered it for a few miles just after Kinloch Rannoch. It was the headwind riding West along Loch Rannoch shore that caused more distress than anything, but as the rain died away, I found that it also served to help dry me out from my soaking (the irony of the waterproof jacket remaining in my rucksack was not lost on me!). Rounding Loch Rannoch to turn back towards the Shiehallion climb, suddenly the wind was my friend blowing me over the undulating roads, visibly raising the spirits of all the riders.
The Shiehallion climb was less onerous than many of the training runs Finlay had made me endure in preparation for this event, but once we were up top, the wind had changed sides once again and worked against us, taking some of the fun away from the descent and turning what should have been the relatively benign Fortingal Loop into the toughest assignment of the day - probably the only time my spirits dropped as rider after rider cruised past, seemingly making light of the difficulty I was encountering. it was at this point that I thought most of how cold my feet were, but also of how proud I was to have helped raise over £1100 for a wonderful charity. That warm thought drove me on to the turn and suddenly the wind was back onside. Just a few km of recovery cycling and suddenly I was back in the groove. With the wind at my tail, the road surface in great nick and the sun even breaking the clouds we made light of the next 18 miles down to Logierait, before the final sting in the tail with some short sharp climbs over a 5 mile stretch through the woods back up to Pitlochry. My bike started creaking, rattling and groaning as the gears were once again under pressure, but fortunately I suffered no mechanical mishaps and made it into Pitlochry with 5 hours 53 mins on the chip. Finlay had soundly beaten me with an outstanding effort of 5 hours 28 mins, but now I know the course and there's always next year!