Etape Caledonia ~ Jai Watson

The long drive to the highlands of Perthshire took around 10 hours, including rest breaks and fuel stops; covering approx 1,000 miles by road for the round trip. 

A trip made much easier by the presence of my lovely girlfriend Kaylee, who was a great co-driver and excellent race support crew! ; )  Oh - and pretty good company too, I should mention!

The weather was a little cold and damp when we arrived late Friday evening, with rain overnight on Saturday and early Sunday morning before the race started at 7am on Sunday.

The roads were wet from the overnight showers, but the rain held off for the duration of the race and the roads had dried by the time we had covered around 20 miles of riding.  At which point the skies cleared, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature reached a pleasant 20*C; which in Scotland is practically tropical!

Pitlochry and the surrounding areas had snow, hail stones, heavy rain and high winds earlier that week, so if you want to experience four seasons in one week, then go to Scotland!

The riders filtered in to Pitlochry one by one from Friday to Saturday evening and assembled in their thousands at the start area on Atholl Road in the centre of town. The temperature was around 6*C at 7am, a little cold but thankfully no rain or strong winds for the riders to contend with.

The main attractions to this event are the closed roads of this challenging course.  81 miles of spectacular scenery of the beautiful Perthshire region with rolling hills, forests and natural expanses of water such as Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch. 

These are  the main features of the landscape along the course, which the riders pass by en route to Mt.Schiehallion.  The road runs alongside Loch Rannoch (above) for around 40 miles with breathtaking views across the water during the ride.

The race attracted some 4,600 entries, of which 3.635 riders took part in the race, with 3,587 finishers.  The ride entrants were approximately 90% male and 10% female. 

There were many strong female riders, with the eventual fastest female winner who had ridden with our group for around 40 miles finishing in 3:44:45 hours - an incredible performance.

She was also around 40 years of age, proving that age and experience can conquer youth and natural talent!

I took my place in the second wave of riders, setting off at 7:02 with about 130 in our group and 250 riders ahead of me, including the first wave who had a 2 minute head start.

This group contained several professional athletes including James Cracknell, the former Olympic rower and many members of the British National Alpine Ski team of 11, featuring four Olympians; Andy Noble, Dave Ryding, Noel Baxter and Finlay Mickel .

Such a fast pace was set by the first wave of riders once they had set off, that they remained out of sight until the end of the race.  The race winner finishing in just 3:29:51, covering the 81 mile hilly route at an average speed of 23.3mph!

The hardest part of the race was the climb to the top of Mt Schiehallion, (measured in minutes taken from the start of the climb to the bottom of the descent), taking the fastest riders just 17:46 mins to complete with the slowest riders over an hour. (It wasn't me by the way! - I was the 123rd rider over the mountain in 21:30:01).

I completed the race in 3:42:10 hours, finishing in 52nd overall position and inside my target finishing time of 3:45 by just under 3 minutes.

The winning riders' finishing time in 2009 was 3:44:05 hours, so this year the course record was smashed and it seems many more competitive riders took part who really increased the pace, making it a very competitive race.

I have already booked my accommodation for next year and will return to see if I can better my time and overall finishing position in the event in 2011.

Many thanks to you all once again for your support and I am now ready for your contributions to begin flooding in! ; )

I am pleased to announce that my cycle race in Scotland went very well on Sunday and with your help I have managed to raise just over 300  in donations to the Macmillan Cancer Support charity.

Your donations are very much appreciated and now I have completed the event I hope to collect contributions soon to complete payment to the charity. Thank you all again for your very generous donations and your support in raising money for this worthy cause