December and the close of another year, 9,000 miles clocked on the bike but no chance to hit the big 10k. I wondered how to sign off the year and the Rapha Festive 500 popped on to my timeline. Hmm. In previous years I’d been injured or away, but this year it might just work.
24th December - 178/500
Away visiting family (sans bike) 5 of the 8 days meant big up front miles. That was the plan for the first day, Christmas Eve.
Wind. And lots of it. I headed first to Dundee, trying my upmost to not make it a commute. Three deer near the top of Coarse Brae was a highlight, and the wind putting in a shift from there to the Tay Road Bridge was not unappreciated.
Over the bridge and time to face that wind. I tackled the Rait climb for the first time, quite steep enough, goes on and on a bit, but some great countryside to keep your eyes occupied. It took my mind off the rain that had started falling too.
A pit stop at Pillars of Hercules it was good to catch up with a couple of the Sunday cafe ride regulars. Refuelled I set out to make up a few of the miles I’d missed with a low average speed to that point. A puncture put a pause on that, but 111 miles was a decent haul to kick it all off.
25th December - 288/500
Ride a route in the shape of a Christmas tree, it was a good idea until the weather decided not too be very helpful and my right knee decided not to turn up, sore from the day before. But once you start a Christmas tree you’re committed.
Presents first, then out at 9, back at 1, several re-checks of the map, and a couple of energy bars. Once it was done, and I’d warmed up, and an extra helping of turkey, it felt pretty good.
26th - 30th December
Visiting family, and the knee still sore from the previous days I didn’t get out before we hit the road. It would be all down to an effort at the other end of the festivities.
30th December - 348/500
Back home late afternoon it was time to get this festive 500 back on track. A quick 54k to make tomorrow's milage more doable. A both ways commute route so plenty of pothole knowledge. Frosty, but felt good to get out and work a couple of mince pies off.
31st December - 510/500
Did it. Well that’s the conclusion, but are a few details to be covered first…
Storm Dylan enter stage right. Fun times. I got out just after 8 and headed round the coast. It was bright along by Crail but the strengthening wind kept me honest as I turned into it.
“Morning!” I shouted to the alpacas near Arncroach and my front mudguard decided to detach. The first of many times this would happen.
I turned north and into a band of rain I’d seen forecast, not too bad the wind was with me for this stretch. But it wasn’t long before turning west again. Heading for Ladybank and the wind was picking up, it was becoming tiresome in the tree-cover gaps.
But that was nothing. The conditions for the run from Ladybank to Auchtermuchty were the hardest I can remember riding in. With little shelter from trees or hedges the wind attacked at around my 10 o’clock. It was difficult to keep the bike to the left hand side of the road. At the same time the rain was piercing - quite painful. The buff was deployed as I couldn’t spare a hand to shield myself. The front mudguard couldn’t cope with this onslaught - it detached itself with annoying regularity prompting stops to re-secure, only prolonging the discomfort.
I eventually made it to today’s lunch spot - Berryfields Tearoom in Abernethy where Gemma was already waiting. She’d brought a change of gloves, socks and a fresh jacket, so along with those and a belly full of food I was ready to take this over the line.
The Tay Road Bridge had been closed, but the forecast was for the wind to drop. so I opted to return via the north side of the Tay. A little like the route that had kicked this thing off, only in the opposite direction. Increasingly tired legs finally got me home in the nick of time as my front light had failed and darkness was looming.
This year has had it’s ups and downs but overall it's been a good one on the bike. Really pleased to round out the year with a century, and to complete the 500. Now time to finalise some of those plans for 2018…
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