Saturday, 26 April 2014

Training Week: Ayrshire Alps

Usually in March and April cyclists travel abroad seeking sun, hills and a tan. Lucinda and I on the other hand decided to head to Scotland, and the county of Ayrshire to be exact (where Lucinda's parents live) for a week of riding in the Ayrshire Alps.

The Ayrshire Alps is the UK's first road bike park, and like many mountain bike centres the climbs and routes are graded from green (easy) to black (hard) there are also 4 recommended routes, ranging from 20 miles to an epic 90 miles. All of which take in some (or all) of the climbs below. 

Day One:
There is no other way to say this. The train from London was at 5:40am, early indeed, this did however mean we would be in Glasgow by 10:30am! Once at Glasgow it was onto another train to Ayr, a regular and quick service taking just 40 minutes. Then from Ayr it was a 15 miles ride to Base Camp (Lucinda's House) Given we'd both been sat on trains for 6 hours and the early start this was going to be a slow ride, thankfully the weather was good though, and we arrived just in time for lunch and an afternoon or doing nothing, well apart from planning the rides for the following week.
14.9 miles
703ft climbing
1:00 hour

Day Two:
What was that sound? Ow yeah, rain. Today we would be riding the Dailly 7up. One of the longer rides in the Ayrshire Alps, taking in 7 summits in the area. Now for some real hill riding. A short ride to the start in Dailly, and we started climbing instantly on a 1.5 mile climb averaging 7%, this was a good indication of the type of riding and climbing we'd be doing over the next week, long climbs where you can get into a good rhythm. After looking at the route the previous night it was clear the second half will be more of a challenge than the first, with the hardest climb in the area being the 5th climb of the day. Nic O Balloch, a 2.4 mile climb averaging 7%. The weather though was now getting worse, and as we climbed up through the clouds I couldn't help but think the decent will be COLD. I was right, especially as the decent was 5.2 miles long, which i'm sure would be fun in the dry... Overall though a great first day on the bike and back to warm up by the fire with coffee, very nice indeed!
59.6 miles
5,364ft climbing
4:24 hours 

Lucinda climbing into the cloud:

Day Three:
Today started a bit different, and after looking at the weather forecast last night we were glad. A bright blue sky greeted us, and it was beautiful! Out nice and early with the plan to do 2 laps of the Shark circuit, a 20 mile loop taking in two tough climbs, Hadyard Hill (3.4 miles at 4% average) and Glenalla (2 miles at 5% average) first time around was to get used to the climbs, with the second time where we can both put in a solid effort, and see just where we stack up against the locals... I felt great on the climbs, legs were really strong and the new bike was proving to be an incredible climbing machine. I was pleased to see I managed to get the KOM on Hadyard Hill... After the second loop was done, I did the route in reverse, again putting in some big efforts and just generally enjoying the incredible scenery! Think I might have got sun burnt today....
53 miles
5,027ft climbing
3:34 hours

Nice morning view:

Day Four:
We woke up to yet another glorious morning, with today's plan to tackle the Classic route. A slightly different route which did many of the climbs in the first half, but then went down to the coast at Girvan in the second half of the ride. Out of Dailly and up Hadyard Hill, Nic O Balloch and down into Staiton again, truly incredible scenery and almost as important the roads were in such brilliant condition, even though these were very small single carriageway B roads, because of the wind farms and logging activity in the area the roads have to be good quality, great news for anybody cycling on them. A lunch stop in the little village of Barr and we have a problem. Lucinda's gear cable has just snapped! No spare gear cables anywhere so rescue arrived and it was off to the bike shop to fix it. I carried on to complete the ride, and was glad I did as the route down to the coast for the second half was great, very different to the mountain climbs of the first half, but still a few climbs to keep you awake.
82.3 miles
6,600ft climbing
5:15 Hours
Blue skies and sea

Day Five:
As yesterday's ride had to be cut short due to mechanicals (now fixed) we headed out towards the coast to do the second half the classic route, then back to Barr for some lunch, well that was the plan, so not a big ride as Monday would be the biggest ride of the week. Another great day of weather, a few stops for photos and snacks and we got the Barr a bit earlier than we thought... So we decided to ride up Noc O Balloch and then straight back to Barr to meet Lucinda's parents for afternoon tea, which by the way is a great mid ride snack! Setting off with a stomach full of coffee and cakes though, interesting. Despite this I wanted to
 put in a big effort up Glengennet (1.6 miles at 6% average) as expected didn't feel that great during the first few hundred yards, but something seemed to click and the legs felt great, I kept pushing hard alternating between out the saddle efforts and seated rhythm climbing. All seemed to work out as I bagged the KOM, happy days.
61.5 miles
5,178ft climbing
4:28 Hours

Nic O Balloch summit
 Hill Top Smiles

Day Six:
The final ride of the week, also the longest ride of the week. The Omnibus 8 which essentially takes in all the climbs of the Ayrshire Alps over 90 miles, a true all day epic in the mountains, great! Yet again, somehow the weather was great, and the ride start off with a nice 13% kick which thankfully flattened out and took us over and down to Barr, then back up Glengennet, Glenalla North, Nic O Balloch, all the classics and then down into Straiton for dome lunch. We then headed East, directly into a nasty headwind which made going down hill quite slow, especially after cake at lunch! Thankfully we headed West once we hit Dalmellinton, tailwind assisted of course now! Some rolling hills and we were nearly back and done, apart from one final climb, Wallactown (1.5 miles at 7% average) having ridden this earlier in the week I knew what was needed and was keen to get the KOM, however a long week and day in the saddle wouldn't help. I went hard on the bottom half of the climb, and got into a good rhythm and cadence. Nice to see it paid off and I got the KOM. All down hill from here and it was back to the house for a pint of Tennants in the sun. Perfect.
83 miles
6,700ft climbing
6:40 Hours

Lucinda on the climb out of Barr. 

So there we go:
354 miles
29,567 ft of climbing 
24:45 hours 

The Ayrshire Alps really were brilliant, great climbs, great roads, simply breathtaking scenery and very easy to get to from London!

More information can be found on the Ayrshire Alps webiste:
and if you're in Barr please go to the community shop and cafe, great place!

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