The second linking stage takes riders to the beautiful grounds of Drumlanrig Castle ready and raring for the first special stage, a team time trial on some super buff root infested singletracks, reports Matt Skinner in the third of his daily reports...Linking Stage Two
Moffat to Drumlanrig
Total distance: 45km
Special Stage One
Team time trial on Drumlanrig Red Route (abridged)
The first competitive day of the Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes) bloomed strong under a blue fluffy sky in much welcome contrast to the first day in Selkirk. It was rounded out with a team time trial on the natural feeling tech and flowing, root infested singletrack of Drumlanrig to reward riders with high grade speed shakes. But before that, 45km of fine single malt Scottish wilderness lay between the riders and their singletrack sugar.
Straight from the off from Moffat the riders were thrown into things. The particular thing in question being a behemoth of a climb up Hods Hill that was both steep and sustained in pitch right up to 567m. Many riders, wary of the cumulative toll over the seven days, portaged this wee beastie's more severe parts as they slowly followed the Southern Upland Way. The trail eventually then kicked downwards over more wide open grassy 'piste' sections, a sweet reminder of the awesomely steep final descent of the day before that Keith Bontrager described yesterday in his CyclingNews diary of the event: "Imagine a groomed black diamond ski hill, many hundred feet of vert, covered in well mown grass, smooth and untracked. It was a trip."
Back to day two and things were again continuing in a high quality downward vein: a 2km Roman Road descent gave back to the riders all that the bugger of a climb had taken as it snaked its way smoothly down the Kir Burn valley, only tempering the devil may care abandon approach to braking by the occasional ass-kicking water bar. High speeds, carving lines and smooth grassy contour caressing trails brought the riders down into Durisdeer and back onto the black top. But then the day's linking stage was all but done: the black top and a singletrack foray brought riders onto the picturesque Drumlanrig estate, before the very final climb took the riders into the woods for a brief but satisfying taster of the trails yet to come in the special stage team trial. Not, as it turned out, an inconsequential carrot, as the trail flitted this way and that, doing its best impression of a convulsing serpent with plenty of pumpy undulations and a matted network of wheel grabbing roots to boot.
A rooty singletrack surprise for the riders of the special stage
With a few hours to kill before the beginning of the special stage, the event village filled out and the riders made the most of a few quiet hours under the much-welcomed sunshine. Riders also explored the treasure trove that is Rik's Bike Shed's Bike Museum, a literal historical walk through of the bicycle, albeit beautifully higgledy-piggeldy.
The special stage itself would see team riders racing in relay - one from the off who would then hand over to their partner mid-way through the lap - around the 10km Drumlanrig circuit. With the first half of the course containing the more techy, picky, rocky and rooty singletrack and a plethora of power climbs, and the second being made up of more flowing and undulating trail with more singletrack climbs, team tactics came into play for the teams to decide who would open the batting and who would come in at the halfway point to bring the team home. For the many solo riders, it was just flat out all the way round the full 10km circuit.
Set against the background of the impressive Drumlanrig castle, the riders went off at 30 second intervals from the Chain Reaction Cycles start ramp to launch flat out through the High5 arch and out onto the course. After a brief fire road climb the singletrack began in predatory manner and jumped the riders from the summit of the climb. Snaking downwards the trails spun a web of singletrack seduction that lasted became more and more acute as the lap wore on. The fastest pair, Ryan Bevis and Jonathan Pugh of Ram Bikes/Scott UK blasted the trails to smithereens in a time of 33:24 to claim the stage win, with the fastest solo male, Andy Barlow of Whyte Bikes coming home in just 35:27. In the women's open, Meggie Bichard of Extreme-Endurance.com wrapped up the win with 42:55, and Julie Cartner and Renel Brennan of the 7Stanes did likewise in the Buff Female category with a total time of 42:38.
With a monster 100km linking stage tomorrow and a the miles in the legs beginning to make themselves known, riders have turned in for an early night amdist the beautiful grounds of Drumlanrig Castle. The morning will see them turn southwards through the Forest of Ae towards Dalbeattie as well as tackling 2,000m of climbing to get there. It's going to be a long, hard day.
WMB regular Matt Carr showing his usual style