The biggest day of the Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes) unleashes a full frontal assault on the riders with Biblical singletrack and true grit, mountain goat descents, reports Matt Skinner in the third of his daily reports...Linking Stage Three
Drumlanrig to Dalbeattie
Total distance: 107km
Day three dawned under the towering eminence of Drumlanrig Castle for the start of the longest linking stage - all 107km and 2,000m of climbing - of the entire Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes). The stage would take the riders from the beautiful Drumlanrig Castle to Dalbeatie, via the roller coaster trails of Ae Forest and through some epic big country with on-going rock-strewn descents. With the miles already accrued beginning to toll for some, the stage was going to be a test of grit and determination as much as fitness. Add in some big singletrack pay off and blistering rocky descents to temper the physical suffering, and body and mind were going to be equally at war.
The trail climbed from the off and, on the approach over the saddle of Bellybought Hill at 443m, granny rings were well and truly warmed up to near melting point. Cresting the climb and the valley descent opened up before the riders, shifting up to the big ring to welcome in an uninterrupted 3km descent. Continously rocky from its head to its toe, it hammered the arms and legs in equal measure. A few slippery stream crossings caught out the unwary and the tired, dumping them unceremoniously into the chilled watery depths, before a tarmac spin helped dry out the dampness in time for Ae Forest's undulating singletrackalicious haven.
For most, Ae was a revelation as the singletrack off-loaded with both barrels: steeply swooping and whoopy trails peppered with jumps, drops, chutes and bermed boardwalk cut the wheat from the chaff and mainlined endorfins into the bloodstreams of every rider. Some ODed and metaphorically flatlined on the Omega Man section (thankfully every one got up, dusted themselves off and got on with flowing downwards once more), whilst others revelled in the gravity orgy with the bit firmly between their teeth to carry their elation all the way through the 10km tarmac spin to the lunch point.
Following from a brief bite, the tarmac wound its way onward and gave respite from the full body workout that was wrought on the riders on the first half of the course. With the sun breaking out to dance with the blue skies, some riders took advantage of the opportunity for a little R&R by stopping for tea and the obligatory cake at Rik's Bike Shack at Mabie forest. All very SPD sedate. A taster of the Dalbeattie singletrack variety was then next, giving the riders a flavour of tomorrow morning's team time trial.
Following on from yesterday's special stage at Drumlanrig from which the first leaders of the Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes) emerged, the Overall Standings were formally presented after today's linking stage. With one special stage done and three to go, the story is only just beginning and, although the plot is beginning to be fleshed out, it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings or until the last rider is left peddling...
In the Scottish Borders sponsored Solo categories, Meggie Bichard (Extreme Endurance) is leading the women's, with Andy Barlow (Whyte Bikes) doing similarly in the men's by just 15 seconds over Ben Thomson (Nevis Cycles). In the Scottish Borders Veteran Men's, Rob Waller (ERC One Week Younger) has taken the early lead, with Hilary Bloor (Team Planetfear) stolidly taking the Veteran women's.
The Buff Women's Open category is being led by the 7Stanes team consisting of Julie Cartner and Renel Brennan by a good seven minute cushion. The High5 mixed category has seen Jay and Maddie Horton (XC Racer.com/Trek) ride into a comfortable early lead, although Trek/VW singlespeed riders Shaggy (aka John Ross) and Matt Carr's entry into the category was vetoed despite the pairs best efforts at cross dressing fooled no one.
In the Gore Veteran's category, Bryan Singleton and Peter Strong (Global/Torq/Buff) have not felt the need to fall back onto transvestism to further their cause, relying instead on fitness and bike handling skills to see them into the lead of their category. Whilst in the BeOne Open Male category, whippets Ryan Bevis and Jonathan Pugh (RAM Bikes/Scott UK) let rip with a fiery display of fitness, finesse and power to take the lead over second placed Andrew Wardman and Steven Halsall (7Stanes) by just under three minutes.
Tomorrow sees the team time trial first thing, with both team riders riding together for the full 15km course with the results being decided by the team's average time. The linking stage will then kick off in a relaxed manner from 11.30am and will take the Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes) riders from Dalbeattie to New Abbey via a total of 59km and 1,300m of climbing. With the weather beginning to break, tomorrow is promising to be a great day to be in the saddle, and with all to play for in every category there should be some intense racing to boot...
Current Overall Standings After Special Stage OneScottish Tourism Women's Solo Open Category
1 - Meggie Bichard (Extreme-Endurance.com): 21:42:55
2 - Christie Boucher: 21:46:05
3 - Helen Lambert: 21:49:24
Scottish Tourism Men's Solo Open Category
1 - Andy Barlow (Whyte Bikes): 21:35:27
2 - Ben Thompson (Nevis Cycles): 21:35:42
3 - Mansour Youssef (Fusion Bikes): 21:36:35
Scottish Tourism Veteran Women's Solo Category
1 - Hilary Bloor (Team Planetfear): 21:54:22
2 - Tatjana Troll: 21:57:35
3 - Julie Dinsdale: 22:00:23
Scottish Touism Veteran Men's Solo Category
1 - Rob Waller (ERC One Week Younger): 21:37:06
2 - Antony Green (G A Cycles/gonebikinmad): 21:40:02
3 - Matt Scrase (MTBMarathon.co.uk): 21:40:17
High5 Mixed Category
1 - Jay Horton and Maddie Horton (XC Racer.com/Trek): 21:40:09
2 - Alice Crook and Neil Hamblin (Cakemonsters): 21:44:31
3 - Yolande Wase and John Singleton (Laurel & Hardy): 21:48:03
Gore Veteran's Category
1 - Bryan Singleton and Peter Strong (Global/Torq/Buff): 21:39:08
2 - Robert Barker and Mark Langdon (Sportstest.co.uk): 21:41:17
3 - Arthur Rijk and Tim Snyder (TNT): 21:43:40
Buff Female Category
1 - Julie Cartner and Renel Brennan (7Stanes): 21:42:38
2 - Sally Lee and Kate Chappell (Extreme-Endurance.com): 21:48:41
BeOne Male Category
1 - Ryan Bevis and Jonathan Pugh (RAM Bikes/Scott UK): 21:33:24
2 - Andrew Wardman and Steven Halsall (7Stanes): 21:36:05
3 - William Pearson and Edward Kerly (Good Willed): 21:37:42