Wow, what a day. We left the wonderful hostel in fine fettle. Mark had made various adjustments to several of our bikes, and had even allowed us to put our kit through two industrial washing machines, so spirits were high.
The route began with a steady 12 mile stretch which took us to our first water stop at the site of Rob Roy's grave. Then the climbing began, and the wheels came off. I ascended the hill well out in front, only to miss the turn for the cycle track. I ploughed on down the dis-used railway, which gradually became marshier and marshier, to the point where I became stuck several times. By this stage, I knew I was off course, but could see and hear a main road ahead, so decided to continue. As I did, I somehow managed to twist my derailleur, trapping my chain. I made the best repairs I could, but knew I would be without my highest gear on the back cog for the rest of the day.
En route, the old railway bridge had collapsed, meaning that I had to cross a river with my bike, certainly a first. Eventually, I ended up at a camping and caravanning site and asked a local where I was. He replied that I was about 7 miles from Killin, our rendez-vous point with the van. He also kindly allowed me to borrow his mobile phone, so I telephoned Neil to assure him that I was safe and well, would make my way to the van, and that the others should press on.
I decided to head along the main road for speed, only to be hit by the mirror of a car driving far too close for me. Fortunately, I managed to stay on my bike, as I dread to think what would happen had the car knocked me off, and potentially into the path of other vehicles. It was the first time I have ever been hit whilst on my bike, but it seemed a regular occurrence for Lance Armstrong in his autobiography, "It's not about the bike", so I felt I was in good company.
I eventually met Neil at Killin waterfalls, after probably covering an additional 14 miles. Having re-fuelled, I pressed on, hoping to catch the others by lunch time. The next 16 miles looked fairly simple on the map, all along the side of a Loch, but by no means were they. The climbs were regular and fairly torturous, and sapped a lot of my energy as I pressed on, playing catch up. About 4 miles from our lunch stop, I caught Alan and Ian, who was battling with his knee. The man is a star, determined to complete the route, even if he has to walk it. I just hope he is not doing any permanent damage to his knee, particularly as he is getting married a week on Saturday.
I also arrived at lunch ahead of Colin and Graeme, who had made a minor navigational error trying to find the van. I was so tired, but there was little time to rest, as I went to the local bike shop to try to bend back my derailleur, but the gentleman was very unsure and didn't want to do anything, for fear of causing further damage. After a very welcome hot chocolate in a local cafÃ©, we were off again.
Dave, Ric, Richard and I pulled ahead, drafting one another into the wind. At one stage, I was in the lead, doing a constant 20 miles per hour, when Ric asked me if I wanted to go faster. Of course I agreed, and upped the pace to about 23 miles per hour. This was too much for Dave and Richard, so the two of us pressed on, working really hard until we arrived at the water stop. We were both shattered, but almost giddy with the elation of putting our bodies to the test.
The last leg was a mirror of the previous one, with Ric and I pounding up the steep slopes as fast as we could. Eventually, we reached Pitlochry, and found our hotel for the night. I was shattered, having covered over 80 miles in the day, and after a lovely bath, fell asleep on my bed. Spirits among the group were low, with fatigue having really set in, but I gather they picked up over dinner in a local pub, which I slept through. When I eventually woke, at about 21:00, I headed into town for an Indian take away. It's now 00:25 and our last full day awaits.