Shetland was well represented in Central Scotland’s Tour of the Trossachs by past and present members of the Shetland Wheelers.
Carlos Riise, Christine McLean, Mari Todd and James Millar entered the classic event of Scottish cycling, first held in 1943 and which riders from across the country to the town of Aberfoyle on the first Sunday in October every year.
It is an extremely challenging course which tests the rider’s ability to climb, corner, descend and suffer on the 28-mile circuit of rough, gnarly roads that encircle the heart of the beautiful Trossachs countryside.
In contrast to the previous day’s stormy conditions last Sunday developed into a glorious autumnal day and by the time the first rider got under way at 10am the frosty air was beginning to warm.
Starting at Aberfoyle the course takes the riders up the steep and winding Dukes Pass over the top where the spectacular view is wasted on the cyclists as they concentrate on descending around the hairpin bends to the shores of Loch Achray.
The route then follows the undulating Invertrossachs road to Callander, another climb across to Thornhill finishing up with a tough eight mile stretch of ups and downs, left and rights and some of the worst road surfaces imaginable. A rising headwind added to the challenges of this remaining stretch.
A 100-strong field of riders had entered the event which also incorporated the Olympic Time Trial Championship and a competition for the hill climb timed from the start of the course up to the top of the Dukes Pass.
Christine McLean, last year’s women’s gold medal winner and women’s hill climb record holder, was up against strong competition from former Shetland Wheeler Mari Todd, who has had an outstanding season and excels at these technical, sporting courses.
Despite beating her 2008 hill climb record McLean lagged seven seconds behind Todd at the top and then her more tentative tackling of the descent with its sharp bends and leaf strewn surfaces lost her more time compared to Mari’s expert, fast and fearless downhill ride.
Nevertheless McLean was extremely pleased with her ride which she completed in 1:19:19, earning her the silver medal over five minutes ahead of bronze medallist Sarah Gleave (Glasgow Nightingales CC).
Todd, who now competes for Sandy Wallace Cycles, rode a superb race, not only breaking the hill climb record but also the course record itself. What a shame she isn’t still riding for Shetland.
Carlos Riise powered up the Dukes Pass faster than the previous year in a time of 14:40, placing him seventh fastest for the hill climb. However, his cautious descent lost him time.
He swept around the rest of the course and completed the circuit in a very respectable 1:12:48, finishing overall 13th, an excellent result seeing as the course is a far cry from his typical straight and flat time trialling courses.
James Millar, now riding for Dooleys Cycles but once a Shetland asset, started slower than Riise with a hill climb time 15:14. But Millar’s familiarity with tackling the fast and tricky downhill section meant he was able to reclaim some time, finishing 12th in a time of 1:12:28.
This was a hard and challenging event but successfully completing it gives riders a satisfying feeling of achievement. The old cliché a test of man and machine could have been invented for the Tour de Trossachs.