Beating the demons tour of Loch Katrine ….in the rain!

A nice arty shot through my handlebars of moody Loch Katrine. in the rain!

A nice arty shot through my handlebars of moody Loch Katrine. in the rain!

There’s nothing like tempting fate! In his infinite wisdom (ie questionable!) the “old git” decided that we needed to beat our demons and do a tour of Loch Katrine – which nestles in some of Scotland’s most atmospheric, picturesque and historic scenery.

The “old gal’s” reaction to this news was somewhat unenthusiastic – which went along the lines of “You cannot be serious!”. To be fair, this “old lady” did think she had a point. That’s because our previous Team Matilda Loch Katrine trips have ended in fairly disastrous mechanical issues – resulting in a long walk (or run) to jump on boats offering an escape route out of the remote area in the heart of the Trossachs within Scotland’s first National Park.

For those of you unfamiliar with the – how shall we call them – breakdowns (which seemed to be put down to my ageing frame) – a quick reminder. Two years ago, in July 2014, my rear gear cog disintegrated resulting in a long push to the pier.

Then in August last year, just three weekends before leaving for our Tour de Bordeaux the pedal arm sheared clean off my rear pedal crank axle. Now as you know a tandem without pedals is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard – and this resulted in a  four mile route march back to the pier.

So it was with more than a little trepidation that we set off from Matildas Rest – with confidence levels not helped by the fact that the “old git” decided lightning couldn’t possibly strike three times and had already named today’s ride a “Beating the demons” tour!

But to try and placate any mutiny in the ranks, the “old git” had done his research and discovered there was a Blues Cruise on the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott  later in the afternoon – and booked a couple of tickets so my dynamic duo could relax after their exertions!

And that’s why at ten o’clock on Sunday morning – after the “old git” managed to persuade the “old gal” that getting up early was preferable to sleeping – we were parked at the head of the beautiful Loch Katrine at Trossachs Pier.  The itinerary – planned (as usual) with military precision – was for us to tandem the 13 miles down to the bottom of the lock at Stronachlachar, before having a spot of lunch, then cycle the return leg, before the Blues Cruise.

The distance would be a manageable 26 miles – but the terrain is fairly undulating! (“That’s HILLY – not undulating” shouts the “old gal”!) So it was going to be a good test for my dynamic crew’s new found fitness! You can check out the route of our tour of Loch Katrine on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

Loch Katrine strava map

In lovely dry conditions we set off tandeming down the loch – with the synchronicity soon kicking in and we picked up a fair pace. The route down the side of the loch is a well maintained private road owned by Scottish Water who use the loch as a reservoir to supply Glasgow. The dynamic duo were really enjoying the cycle – managing to nail all the hills that previously required them to get off and push.

Overlooking the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor - you can almost feel the history!

Overlooking the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – you can almost feel the history!

And of course the amazing scenery was real brain food. One of the highlights, about half way along the route, is a scenic viewpoint at Portnellan which overlooks the burial ground of the Clan MacGregor – which dates back to the 17th century – and has historic links to the legendary Rob Roy MacGregor.

In what seemed like no time at all we reached the bottom of the loch and cycled round to Stronachlachar for a welcome break. There is a fantastic spot for lunch there – the Pier Cafe – right on the pier which the boats dock at when taking passengers up and down the loch.

The "old git" at Stronalachar Pier - just beside the highly recommended Pier Cafe.

The “old git” at Stronalachar Pier – just beside the highly recommended Pier Cafe.

It really is a treasure of a find, in a very remote corner of Scotland. All food is home-made on the premises and after a much-needed chilled drink, extremely tasty paninis were ordered and demolished! Coffee and caramel shortcake followed – to ensure energy levels were topped up for the return journey. Five stars for the food and service at the Pier Cafe, and it is remarkably good value too.

The "old gal" - nicknamed Two Dinners Di before the "old git" demolished his panini!

The “old gal” – nicknamed Two Dinners Di before the “old git” demolished his panini!

Unfortunately during the lunch break, the cloud had thickened and as we set off on the return 13 mile leg the first spots of rain started to fall. This quickly got heavier and by the time the first hill the rain was falling heavily resulting in my dynamic crew donning their rain jackets. As they hit the first hill the rain did bring back happy memories for the “old gal” and the “old git” – as they reminisced about this day exactly four years go when the pair visited Loch Katrine on their first proper date together!

You see, this spot has a very special place in the hearts of my dynamic duo as without Loch Katrine they may never have teamed up together! You see it is the very reason they got into tandeming in the first place and it was totally by accident! They had planned a walk along the loch but as they arrived, they noticed tandems for hire from Katrine Wheelz at Trossachs Pier.

The "old git" and the "old gal" on heir first ever tandem ride four years ago on their first proper date!

The “old git” and “old gal” on their first ever tandem ride four years ago on their first proper date!

Thinking this would be a fun way to break the ice on the date they set off in an unsteady fashion – but the result was they got hooked on tandeming immediately – despite the constant heavy rain and falling off into an unglamorous muddy heap on at least two occasions.

And the rest, as they say, is history – with my crew romantically falling in love with a new hobby and each other as a result! And despite my crews unconventional way of starting out, they have gelled as an unbreakable team – having become synchronised with each others foibles both on and off the saddle. You can read a humorous account of that day here.

Those fourth anniversary memories of their first tandem ride warmed their hearts, and kept them going as the rain hosed down on them – with rain drops pouring down off their helmets, down inside their sunglasses and down their noses! The scenery was still gorgeous, but surrounded by a heavy mist! As we passed numerous walkers on the route, the “old gal” greeted everyone with a cheery “Welcome to summer in Scotland!”

The weather was actually cruel as at least three times it looked to be clearing up, giving us all hope that the sun would return, before it started pouring again!

Drowned rats selfie time! the rain so heavy that the sunglasses were off!

Drowned rats selfie time! the rain so heavy that the sunglasses were off!

We arrived back at Trossachs Pier soaked through, with the “old git” not winning too many brownie points for his comment of “well at least it was warm rain!” In fact the response was one of those stares that the “old gal” is an expert in!

Back at Matilda Transport I was quickly packed back inside before my dynamic duo took refuge from the rain to catch their breath. Despite the rain we were all delighted that we had in fact beaten our demons and completed Team Matilda’s first tour of Loch Katrine without a major mechanical incident!

As we all dried out, there was time for a look at Strava to see it officially recorded the ride as covering an elevation of 1,766 feet – by far the biggest up and down hill ride that my dynamic duo have done since Team Matilda started using the Strava app. The last highest elevation was 954 feet back in May – so this was more than 700 feet above that! And as this ride was taking place on the last day of the Tour de France I think my crew (almost!) deserve the chance to wear one of those coveted polka dot cycling jerseys with white and red dots – known as ‘malliot a pois rouges’ in French – which denotes the King of the Mountains winner!

We tandemed a distance of 27 miles with a moving time of 3 hours 16 minutes, with an average speed of 8.3 mph – which is pretty impressive given the hilly terrain and the heavy rain on the return journey! Top speed was 27.3 mph – and we even managed to burn up 2,714 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 207 W.

The only  slight disappointment is that we didn’t earn any gongs on the Strava app – as this was the first time we had used it on this ride and therefore there was no previous ride of ours to compare today’s ride against.

As I rested my dynamic duo got changed out of their (very) wet cycling gear and into some dry clothes  before joining the two hour Blues Cruise on Loch Katrine. It was a wonderful event, sailing on an iconic 115 year old steam ship, listening to blues and rock and roll music from a group called The Rosy Blue Band against a backdrop of the stunning mountains and lochs – even if the rain kept falling. But we were under cover – and it was made all the better by one of the “old gal’s” special prosecco picnics to eat while listening to the music. And obviously there was a toast to that fateful day four years ago – and that first ever tandem ride together!

A toast to my dynamic duo's 4th anniversary of their first tandem date!

A toast to my dynamic duo’s 4th anniversary of their first tandem date!

The band were fabulous – really showing why they have earned a reputation as one of Scotland’s most popular and exciting blues bands. Led by Rosie Nimmo’s smouldering vocals the five piece put their unique spin on early blues through to rock, soul and modern classics – keeping the audience highly entertained.

The music was so addictive that the “old git” even decided to do a spot of “dad dancing” as the boat sailed along – much to the embarrassment of the “old gal” – who had to video this for posterity! Have a laugh here! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

While the “old git” was showing off his dancing steps(!!!) the “old gal” decided to keep warm by huddling under a travel blanket as the temperature had dropped a bit and the wind had strengthened as we returned to the pier to disembark.

The "old gal" enjoying the blues music while huddled under a travel blanket!

The “old gal” enjoying the blues music while huddled under a travel blanket!

All in all another fabulous tandem ride – with no mechanical mishaps – and another day full of fun, laughs, iconic scenery, sunshine, rain, and a fantastic picnic!

And that is truly the definition of a great tandem day out for Team Matilda!

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Just 8 weeks to go – Scottish-Yukon update for Le Tour de Loire Valley

John clocking up the miles against a backdrop of amazing scsnery.

Clocking up the Yukon miles against a backdrop of wilderness scenery for Le Tour de Loire Valley.

The clock is ticking! The “old git” had a quick look at the calendar and exclaimed that there were “just eight weeks to go!”

Yes the final countdown is on to the Grand Depart for Le Tour de Loire Valley in mid September  which will see my dynamic duo having to pedal me nearly 230 miles while through the world-famous vineyards and stunning chateaux of the region.

This will be Team tandem Ecosse’s third annual Tour de France tandem holiday – following in the footsteps of amazing tours of Burgundy in 2014 and Bordeaux in 2015. (If you want to read my Musings of those wonderful trips – just type Burgundy or Bordeaux into the ‘Search Matildas Musings’ box  and you will see the postings.)

The two pre-requisites for these tours are that they offer fairly flat cycling – as regular blog readers know we don’t do hills – and some fabulous vineyards – as regular readers know we definitely do do wine!

LV Cyclomundo logoSo after much consideration we chose the Loire Valley for this year’s tour.  We chose a French-based company Cyclomundo to book our self-guided tour with as they seem to know the area inside out. The seven day tour we have chosen is called: Fairytale Castles along the Loire River and starts in Blois and finishes in to Angers.

caption here for map with details of what it shows

The route map for Le Tour de Loire Valley – starting in Blois and finishing in Angers.

You can see the route map above, and you can check out the the full daily itinerary of the tour  by clicking here.

Now as regular readers of my blog will know this year it is not going to be just Team Tandem Ecosse on the tour as we are teaming up with Team Yukon! Yes we are going to be meeting up with friends Nancy and John who we met in Burgundy during our week long tour there in 2014.

As a reminder, we had such a good time when our paths crossed – including a memorable dinner and some lovely wines – that we subsequently decided it would be fun to do the Loire Valley trip together. They don’t have a tandem, but are keen solo cyclists. And they also have a love for good French food and wine and a similar dislike for hills as my dynamic duo – so it should be a good match!

Now why are they known as Team Yukon? Well they happen to live in Whitehorse, which is the capital of the remote Yukon territory in northern Canada – which is a mere 3,930 miles (or 6,319 kilometres) away from Matildas Rest in Perthshire! (You can find out more about Whitehorse and the Yukon here and here.)

Logistically that seems a trifle mad – but with electronic communications the “old git” and the “old gal” say distance doesn’t matter. So all four of us are booked and in September they will fly from Yukon to France and hire bikes (hopefully not e-bikes!) as we drive to France in Matilda Transporter to enjoy the tour together.

This “old lady” of a tandem is certainly looking forward to having company on the trip and I know Nancy and John are really looking forward to it – and to the Scottish-Yukon link up. Here is Nancy’s latest contribution to my blog as to how their training is going:

Greetings from Whitehorse in the Yukon.

An update from Team Yukon, to say we’ve been out riding quite a bit recently to get in shape for the Tour de Loire Valley.

The country that we bike through here in Yukon and Alaska is mostly wilderness, with the occasional bear to liven things up! I like my long rides along the Alaska Highway but must confess that I am looking forward to the bike-friendly, food/wine laden routes that await us in the Loire!

As part of our training for France, John and I did a bike ride from Fraser, BC to Skagway, Alaska. This is an annual tradition of ours, entailing 13 km of uphill – from the Canada customs station to the White Pass summit – followed by 26 km of downhill to tidewater in Skagway, through some pretty amazing country.

Nancy and John at the White Pass Summit – on the border between the US/Canada and Alaska/BC.

Nancy and John at the White Pass Summit – on the border between the US/Canada and Alaska/BC.

We combined this expedition with a ride up first on the scenic White Pass & Yukon Route train. Built to support the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow gauge railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, a designation shared with the Eiffel Tower.

Known as “the railway built of gold” it climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles – which we experienced from vintage rail cars.

Nancy and John taking in the views at the scenic White Pass & Yukon Route scenic railway.

Nancy and John taking in the views at the scenic White Pass & Yukon Route scenic railway.

That ride was part of our training for the annual Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay in June. At a distance of 148 miles, it covers some of the most spectacular countryside anywhere in the world – with mountain valleys, alpine passes and ocean views. You can check out the route profile here. 

John and I competed as part of the “Wobbly Wheelers” team. I did Leg 2 this year, which was a 40 km stretch which had lots of headwinds – which I am very much hoping will not be part of the agenda in France!

John successfully rode Leg 6 – which saw him cycle 27 km through the wilderness area. Overall the “Wobbly Wheelers” team was not the fastest by a long shot in our category (Mixed 8) – but not the slowest either. But one of the great things about the relay is the social side of the event – including a beer garden and barbecue at the finishing line – which we both thoroughly enjoyed!

John climbing the big hill on his 27 km leg of the relay through some spectacular wilderness.

John climbing the big hill on his 27 km leg of the relay through some spectacular wilderness.

Now that the relay race is behind us we’ll be finding excuses to get out to do a 20-km hill loop to keep in shape for the Loire. Not a hardship in the land of the midnight sun! And the route has the added appeal of ending at the Takhini Hot Springs so we can have a good soak at the end!

The good news is that we are also practicing our wine and cheese consumption, to ensure we will both be in fine fettle for September!

Glad to hear of Team Matilda’s success with training and weight loss … we seem to be trimming up a bit at this end but not to such a degree.

Matilda, you and your crew are obviously in A-number-one shape for the great French adventure – the question is will we even recognize you all?!

We really can’t wait for the Scottish-Yukon link up in September. In the meantime we are getting our thinking caps on to come up with a slogan for those day-glo Tour T-shirts!

Just off to open another bottle of French wine to get in the mood!

Nancy and John (aka Team Yukon)

So look out for more updates from Nancy and John from the Yukon in future blogs, and clearly they will be a big part of my Musings on the tour itself!

The new Le Tour de Loire Valley logo!

The new Le Tour de Loire Valley logo!

In the meantime, the “old git” has managed to get a work colleague who is a graphic designer to adapt that alternative Tour de France logo which he found – which if you look carefully has a wine bottle strategically positioned as the air valve.

It is now changed to Le Tour de Loire Valley and has a few more wine bottles and a couple of glasses within the logo. And hopefully it will now appear as the official logo of this year’s tour on the sleeve of this year’s team t-shirts!

But despite just eight weeks to go, no training ride this weekend as the “old gal” has badly sprained her ankle after a nasty fall on a slippy car park floor, while rushing in heavy rain! And no not a drop of gin was spilled in the incident – because none had been taken! Maybe if it had been, the result wouldn’t have been so painful!

“Oouuuch” is one of the few repeatable phrases that the “old gal” has repeated regularly since the fall. And that means that cycling is off the agenda till the ankle heals.

Di's sore ankle with physio sleeve on it

Di’s sprained ankle – with the cuff compress on it.

It is fair to say, however, that the “old git” has actually been giving the “old gal” some sympathy – as her pain is obvious, as is the swelling. And that has not been helped by the fact that the “old gal” is on her feet all day in her role as hair salon owner – quick plug here its Number 57 Hair Salon in Auchterarder if you want to book an appointment!

So painful it has been that the “old gal” had to book a couple of intensive sessions with a physiotherapist – who also suggested regular treatments with a cold compress cuff which wraps around her foot and ankle. The physio also strapped the ankle up with Kinesio tape to help give it some support.

Di's sore ankle after physio taped up blue tape

The “old gal’s” swollen and sprained ankle strapped up with Kinesio tape.

So hopefully  a temporary gap in the training programme will allow the ankle to get better and we will be back on the road soon. The next outing is planned for next Sunday when we have a visit scheduled for Loch Katrine – including a Blues Cruise on the loch after we tandem up and down the loch. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery!

Finally for this post, often people ask the “old git” and the “old gal” why they like to go out tandeming. Well this diagram below outlines just exactly why all three of us who make up Team Matilda love getting out on the open road  – added to the fact that, of course, on a tandem it’s always better when you’re together!

why we cycle

Whisper it, but my dynamic duo particularly like number 7 – especially the country pub bit! Those energy bars are so over rated!

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Matildas Muthill reprise and T in the Park snub!

Quelle excitement! Getting tips watching Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France.

Quelle excitement! Getting tips watching Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France.

I could hardly contain my excitement on Saturday! Let me explain – well you know I get to get to look out my passport and head off on a Tour de France du Tandem each year. This year’s trip is to the Vineyards of the Loire Valley and will continue the tradition of a tour of the Vineyards of  Burgundy in 2014 and the Vineyards of Bordeaux last year. These tours offer the “old git” and the “old gal” the opportunity to do a fair bit of semi-serious tandeming in warm weather through scenic countryside – but are really an excuse to sample as many of the wines of the region in wine tastings along the route as possible!

So perhaps you get my drift that the cycling is not perhaps the main focus – but it is the journey which is important!

Well that is in sharp contrast to the real Tour de France which got underway at the weekend with Le Grand Depart getting from the fantastic magical island of Mont St Michael in Normandy. Now the excitement was that the “old gal” – as a co-founding member of the Nutty Tandemers club – decided that it would be a good idea if I got to watch Le Grand Depart live on television to see if I could pick up any tips. So I was ceremoniously wheeled in from my cosy garage for a rare visit to the lounge at Matildas Rest to see the action!

Mont St Michel in Normandy provided a dramatic backdrop for the start of the 2016 Tour.

Mont St Michel in Normandy provided a dramatic backdrop for the start of the 2016 Tour.

aaa tour de france logoThis really was quite a spectacle and this “old lady” was most impressed with some of the shapely models on display – and some of the fancy bikes were not bad as well! I also had to quickly get to grips with a whole new Tour de France vocabulary that we don’t normally have to bother with on our tandeming adventures – like peloton, which simply means the group of riders and is also the most frequently misspelled piece of cycling jargon there is! And of course I knew that bidons was French for water bottles. I guess that the Tour riders don’t actually swap the water for wine tho, like my dynamic duo have been known to do on a couple of occasions.

One piece of jargon which caught the eye of the “old gal” was bonking! Yes, you read that correctly! It seems that refers to a rider who has completely run out of glycogen – the carbohydrate that fuels the muscles. As in “that rider is bonked!” So now you know! Amazing how some words have different meanings in different situations ….

bbb tdf wineAnyway moving on, the “old git” found an alternative Tour de France logo, which if you look carefully has a wine bottle strategically positioned as the air valve. It seems Team Matilda may be adopting that as their official logo on the sleeve of this year’s team t-shirts!

Amazingly this logo also caught the attention and of fellow members of the Tandem Club UK when the “old git” posted it on Facebook – and sparked a significant number of  “likes” from tandemers who obviously have the same philosophy as us!

So after watching Le Grand Depart I was itching to get out on the open road and on Sunday we headed out on a looping route to the village of Muthill where I could reprise my maiden trip on the new Muthill cycle path, which I took back in April.

The "old git" having a breather at the start of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

The “old git” having a breather at the start of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

The path marks the first stage of a bigger project to have a user-friendly Muthill to Crieff cycle path running the 4 miles to the Strath capital. The ambitious project has been driven forward by community development group Muthill Village Trust. The first phase stretches about a mile from Muthill to Templemill.

Having had a couple of months or so to settle in, the new path is looking fantastic and the surface is a joy to cycle on. Even though it is relatively short, I would highly recommend that you try and  include the path as part of a longer route – as it is fun and takes you safely off the roads and through some great rolling Perthshire countryside. This classic tandem, for one, can’t wait till another of the sections is opened as it is a great asset to the area.

The "old gal" at the end of stage 1 of the new Muthill cycle path - looking towards Crieff.

The “old gal” at the end of stage 1 of the new Muthill cycle path – looking towards Crieff.

At the end of the cycle path – clearly marked with a cycle path sign, we continued onto lovely quiet – and undulating – farm roads in the general direction of Auchterarder. You can check out the route of our Muthill Reprise on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!

TITP strava map

The “old git” deliberately planned the route home to take in the steep hill after Machanay Bridge that my dynamic duo managed to tandem up for the first time in April – just to see it could be done again. My crew were full of confidence and soon the hill was behind us – with hardly a wheeze to be heard.  This new found fitness – which has seen the “old git” and the “old gal” shed 70 pounds or five stone between them, yes I will repeat that … shed five stones – is obviously working! And the good thing is that they tell me they are enjoying it much more being able to tackle such hills which previously would have ended up with me being “taken for a walk”!

t in parkBuoyed by that hill climb success, on we tandemed around the perimeter of the site which next weekend will host T in the Park – effectively Scotland’s Glastonbury. The three day event is set to attract 70,000 music fans to the rural site at Strathallan Castle and will feature headlining acts such as Stone Roses, Kaiser Chiefs, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Calvin Harris and Jess Glynne. So we thought it would be a good idea to see if we could cycle around the site itself – just to see for ourselves the much-promoted improved layout after the festival ran into big problems last year, in its first year after moving to the new venue.

T in the Park snub! No way thru for Matilda without a pass!

T in the Park snub! No way thru for tandems – even classic tandems – without a car pass!

But unfortunately Team Matilda received a T in the Park snub! The burly security officials told us “yez cannae get in without a car pass.” Credit to the “old git”, he doesn’t normally take a no at the first answer, so he gamely tried to enter into communication with said security guards pointing out that I was a bike, in fact a tandem bike, and not a car – and we would just take a quick look before heading back out again. Unfortunately this eloquent appeal failed to sway the monosyllabic guard who just kept grunting “Naw.”

So retreating seemed the sensible policy – but undeterred the “old git” knew a side road which was not fenced off where we could get the chance to peek in to see what was happening. And the site was going like a fair – literally as workers toiled to install a fun fair as well as the main stage which was still under construction with less than a week to go.

Peeking over the fence to see the big tents and fun fair

Peeking over the fence to see the big tents, fun fair, and – thru the tree – the main stage.

We were able to get close enough to see the landmark blue and yellow marquee which hosts the T Break Stage for up and coming acts – under the ‘BBC introducing’ banner – and also the red and white Stand Comedy Tent. And the “old gal” had a big smile on her face when she spied a tent with “wine” on it – but unfortunately it was so close – but just out of reach due to the security fence!

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So near – but so far away … the wine tent!

So having been snubbed after failing to convince the security guards of the merits, indeed attraction, of a classic tandem touring their site, we headed back to Matildas Rest including notching up another personal best as they nailed the long – but gentler – climb at Easthill.

Strava officially recorded the ride at a distance of 18.5 miles, covering an elevation of 827 feet – the second biggest elevation covered since my dynamic duo started using the Strava gizmo. The moving time was 1 hour 56 minutes, with an average speed of 9.6 mph. Top speed was 33.3 mph – and we even managed to burn up 1,124 calories and produce an estimated average power output of 161 W.

And particularly pleasing was that Team Matilda managed to clock up 7 personal records on the route – including the tough hilly section around Machanay! Let me tell you a funny moment here – when my crew returned to Matildas Rest they were analysing all the data from Strava and discovered they also had been awarded two Queen of the Mountain gongs!

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Time to dream of a ‘malliot a pois rouges’!

The “old gal” was ecstatic about her new found hill climbing recognition until the “old git” looked a little more in depth to discover that it was for our fastest times on the two DOWNhill sections named ‘Auchterarder whizz down to Kinkell Bridge’ right at the start, and also ‘Downhill to Matildas Rest’ right at the end! Sorry but I can’t repeat the “old git’s” response to that as this is a family blog! But a clue – it was a four letter word containing one vowel and ending in k!

Soon they will be dreaming about getting one of those coveted polka dot cycling jerseys with white and red dots – known as ‘malliot a pois rouges’ in French – which denotes the rider with most points from the mountain stages in the Tour de France! Now the “old git” and the “old gal” both agree that does deserve respect!

Whisper it – but I think they need just a bit more practice! But then hopefully there won’t be too many mountain stages in the Loire Valley!

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