The Highland Cycle
Day 4 - Mission Accomplished
Sub zero temperatures in Braemar this morning. Four layers of clothing required.Rode a gorgeous 10 miles alongside the Dee to Balmoral, then turned onto the 23 mile road to Tomintoul. This goes up and over the Cairngorms to the Lecht. A beautiful ride across stunning terrain with a series of sharp climbs. One of these had a 20% incline, but none had the relentless ferocity of the previous day's ascent to Glenshee.
We arrived cheerfully at the fifth ski resort of our tour and then relished the descent, reaching 55mph - pretty exhilarating on wheels less than an inch wide.
Through Tomintoul, the highest village in the UK, then 25 miles more to Granton, Nethy Bridge, Boat of Garten and our cottage.
A wonderful adventure. 290 miles across the most attractive terrain in the country. Passed through only three traffic lights on the entire route. Plenty of climbing to test the legs, but we never had to get off our bikes and walk. No crashes and no injuries, just a pleasant level of fatigue. Very pleased to have raised a substantial amount for the Maddy Fund.
We could not have done it without Dad's support along the way - he helped make the trip so memorable. Mum, Sarah and Nonny were hugely supportive and kindly enabled us to leave our family obligations behind for four days.
"Thank you" to everyone who sponsored our ride - we really appreciate your generosity and will ensure all monies are put to great use through the Maddy Fund.
Day 3 - The going gets tough!
Beautiful weather for the toughest day of the tour. Lovely start along the south bank of Loch Tay. However, the B roads in this part of the world follow the contours of the land, so are incessantly undulating, which made for hard yards early on this morning.Passed through the beautiful village of Kenmore and then headed across a relatively flat stretch to Pitlochry. Main hazards were the hundreds of pheasants that waited until we were within a few feet before taking off loudly and narrowly avoiding a scene that would have been equally messy for pheasant and cyclist.
Hard climbing out of Pitlochry to Kirkmichael where we stopped for a classic Highland lunch - selecting our tin of soup from the shelves to be heated up.Refuelled, we launched up towards the Spittal of Glenshee, where a fierce and bitterly cold wind embraced us. The nine mile climb from there to Cairntoul mountain was suitably brutal, particularly with sixty miles in our legs by the time we reached that point. We missed David McCall, James Spratt and Duncan Martin, three friends who share the appropriate degree of masochism to think this is fun!
It was cold up at Glenshee, so we raced down to Braemar with relief.Ready for tomorrow's climb over the Cairngorms, which takes in the famous A939 from Cockbridge to Tomintoul - Britain's steepest road.
Day 2 - Still going strong!
Great day started in a misty, grey Fort William where we rather gingerly placed bums onto saddles. Forgot about discomfort after a mile or two as Robby hared out of the blocks. Soon found ourselves in the stunning scenery around Ballachulish where Loch Linnhe meets Loch Leven. Took a few photos on the bridge looking east to Glencoe then set off through that amazing glen. Hard yards on the long climb to White Corries where the ski resort sits. Inevitably, it was cold and raining as we slogged up the climb, but we arrived cheerful enough. At Glencoe we met a charming fellow who was touring the Highlands in his camper van, bagging Munros. He donated to the Maddy Fund in a gesture of such spontaneous generosity that we were buoyed for the rest of the day.
Left Glencoe and raced across the bleak Rannoch Moore to Bridge of Orchy, where we stopped for lunch and met a number of hardy souls hiking north on the second half of the West Highland Way. Post lunch, we sped alongside the railway where the Harry Potter Hogwarts Express is filmed and climbed into Tyndrum before diving down to Crianlarich and on towards Killin at the head of Loch Tay.The scenery on day 2 had surpassed even the wonders of day 1, but the roads on the west coast are far more bruising on the backside. Even our support driver thought the track was bumpy and our bikes rattled over ridges, compressions and minor potholes most of the way. Ten miles from Killin, we were surging happily through the sunshine when Andrew endured the mechanical problem of the day - this time ripping the cleat from his shoe, narrowly avoiding a calamitous crash. We spent 20 minutes scouring the roadside for the missing cleat (without which there is no means of attaching shoe to pedal) only to find it still locked in the pedal. The last ten miles were spent a little gingerly, with Andrew taking periodic major wobbles as his foot came off the pedal, but we arrived in Killin in good time, found a local hardware store with approximately the screws we needed and undertook the necessary repairs. Should be all fine tomorrow.
A beautiful evening involved a gorgeous leg-stretching stroll around the western edge of Loch Tay and then a hearty dinner. Tomorrow is a far more brutal trip to Braemar via Pitlochry and Glenshee - some tough climbs ahead, but the weather looks to be good. Legs feel fine tonight.Day 1 - And They Are Off!
Left cottage at 9:30am. Wet roads after overnight rainstorms, but no rain and pleasant temperatures.Headed off on backroads via Boat of Garten and Coylumbridge onto the ski road, past Loch Morlich and up to the Cairngorm ski resort, arriving in the car park by 10:45. Stopped for photos and work calls, then headed down to Feshiebridge. Robby achieved fastest speed of the day - 49mph, though wet roads made the descent a wee bit adventurous. Via Insh towards Kingussie. First puncture at 38 miles (Andrew's front wheel), crash avoided, roadside change and on to Newtonmore for lunch at highland Folk Museum café at 12:45. Then 50 mile ride beside Loch Laggan via Spean Bridge (HQ of WWII Commandos) to Nevis Range ski area on the side of Ben Nevis. After 90 miles, the short climb up to the resort tested the legs. Arrived 4:30pm. Damp and foggy as we reached the west coast. Then on to Fort William and overnight at a b&b overlooking Loch Fynne.
Big dinner, warm shower and bed. All set for ride south to Killin via Glencoe tomorrow.The Inspiration behind the Cycle
Maddy Steel was Andrew and Nonny's beloved daughter. Born with a severe heart problem in 2001, she died, following essential surgery, at the age of 5 months. Hopeful of creating something positive from this loss, we established annual fellowships for British doctors to spend time in North America learning new techniques to advance the treatment of children's heart disease. We rely upon the support of friends and family to fund the fellowships through the charitable foundation set up in memory of Maddy.
Over 4 days in October, Maddy’s father Andrew and uncle Robby plan to cycle a 288 mile circuit across the Scottish Highlands, starting and finishing at the family cottage in Kinveachy, a few miles north of Aviemore. As former amateur ski racers, the brothers have plotted a course that links all five of Scotland’s ski centres. The route promises spectacular scenery and challenging climbs. They are not as young or as light as they once were and so any encouragement is very gratefully received. The course is detailed below. If anyone would like to join them on one or more stages, please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org.So far the Madeleine Steel Charitable Trust has made five annual awards. The recipient doctors are starting to return to the UK and take up consultant posts around the country. The British Congenital Cardiac Association administers the awards and there is strong competition every year. The expertise developed by the recipients is being practically applied to improve the lives of children throughout the UK. We are delighted that the charity has raised nearly £100,000 so far and we aim to perpetuate the contribution it is making.
We are extremely grateful for any donation you are able to make to help secure the future of the fellowships and to enable the value of the awards to increase over time. Please help by sponsoring Andrew & Robby's ride.Andrew & Robby's Highland Cycle Itinerary
Day 1: Wednesday 14th October
from Kinveachy via Cairngorm and Nevis Range Ski Centres to Fort William92 miles, 1 climb (400m)
Day 2: Thursday 15th Octoberfrom Fort William via Glencoe White Corries Ski Centre to Killin
67 miles, 2 climbs (350m + 100m)
Day 3: Friday 16th Octoberfrom Killin via Glenshee Ski Centre to Braemar
77 miles, 2 climbs (250m + 350m)
Day 4: Saturday 17th October
from Braemar via The Lecht Ski Centre to Kinveachy52 miles, 2 climbs (200m + 300m)