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!
This 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 ….
Anyway 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 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.
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!
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”!
Buoyed 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.
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.
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!
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!
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!