Sun-kissed tandeming at Muthill Sportive 2018 – yellow route

Team Matilda – kitted out in eye-catching King of Mountain gear – at the Muthill Sportive.

There was much excitement at Matildas Rest on a recent Saturday as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official competitive bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2018. This would only be my second ever Sportive and I was all geared up for the big event as the “old git” had told me that not only was I going to have an official participant number but that I was going to have a timing chip. Serious stuff!

Those of you with good memories may remember my Sportive debut a year ago when the “old git’s” son Niall took up a role as substitute stoker as the “old gal” was working. Team Matilda hadn’t planned to be taking part this year as the date was scheduled to be the penultimate day of our Nutty Tandemers Club Hebridean Way Challenge. But sadly personal circumstances resulted in that adventure having to be postponed. So my dynamic crew decided on a last minute entry.

The Muthill cycling event has the reputation for being Scotland’s friendliest Sportive and that was immediately apparent from the warm welcome my crew received at the registration desk – which was basking in bright sunshine, in stark contrast to heavy rain of last year.

The idea of the Sportive is to raise funds for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project which will create a safe route along the 4 miles to the Strath capital, avoiding the busy A822 road. Phase 1 of the project is complete – a 1 mile off-road route from Muthill to Templemill, which links with other core paths and quiet country walking and cycling friendly roads. Just over two years ago when it was opened, I was the first tandem to ride the new cycle path. You can read more about the project in my blog of that ride.

Ready for the off- with my official ‘158’ sportive competitor number!

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. I had my start number of 158 firmly attached to my handlebars and the “old gal” volunteered to attach my snazzy timer chip to her ankle – even tho it did look like she was wearing an electronic monitoring tag!

No comments about the “old gal” being used to wearing a tag! This is the official timing chip!

Then it was time for the off and we lined up with just under 30 other bikes. I was proud to be the only tandem on the start line and I am glad to say I got quite a few “nice bike” and “special machine” compliments. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway!

At the start line – ready for the hooter!

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

The “old git” and the “old gal” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. This turned out to be a bit of a “killer hill” so soon in the route – which is perhaps no surprise as a later check measured the incline at 10.3%.

I think the joke turned out to be on my dynamic crew who thought that wearing their King of the Mountain cycling shirts would be a big joke! But after a bit of a push (literally!) we reached the plateau and then the rest of the ride was much more enjoyable and we soon picked up speed again.

The ride was well signposted with big yellow arrows marking directions at every possible junction to ensure we couldn’t get lost – and there were marshalls at any intersections with busier roads. The route developed into a gently undulating ride, along well maintained farm roads before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

We crossed the Auchterarder to Crieff road before the route took us along the roads around Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalisinly there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct road for another loop round country roads – just as my crew were starting to feel their fuel tanks getting low on energy.

Fortunately there was a nice downhill stretch before the last section which made use of the completed first section of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path. Only difficulty was that this was uphill creating a Tour de France-style finish at the top of a climb! Well almost … but obviously just a tad less steep!

As we turned into Muthill church yard Team Matilda had that euphoric feeling of knowing they had actually completed a sportive as they crossed the finishing line. A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of  just under 1 hour 31 minutes.

Hi-fives at the end – the “old git” and “old gal” happy at the end!

The friendly nature of the Muthill Sportive was underlined by the amazing hospitality on offer back in the church hall. An army of volunteers had been busy and yummy home made soup was on offer, along with tasty filled rolls, followed by a fantastic selection of home baked cakes. The fact that they even had gluten free cakes was quite literally the icing on the … well you know what I mean!

So after some much needed re-fuelling it was time to head back to Matildas Rest where the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of no less than 15 gongs – 5 personal bests; 8 second bests; and 2 third bests.

Amazingly Strava also gave my dynamic crew another 3rd best ever gong – meaning that our time of 6 mins 49 secs is now down in history as the 3rd fastest time ever recorded on the 2.3 mile section ‘Machanay Road only’. Well to be totally honest, it was the 3rd fastest time ever recorded by a female as I am officially registered as a female by Strava – but a gong is a gong! And there was also an 9th best ever time too! Phew – quite a day!

The detailed Strava figures showed my dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 18.3 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 31 minutes. The average speed was a healthy 12.1 mph given the hilly terrain while the elevation was 1036 feet. The maximum speed was 31.3 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 1229 calories and produce an average power output of  202 W.

As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

My dynamic crew both agreed that The Muthill Sportive was a great event and fun to be part of! Apart from living up to its reputation of being one of Scotland’s friendliest sportives, it certainly offered a great opportunity to promote cycling and the benefits of off-road cycle paths in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre.

Lets hope the event raised lots of money for the Muthill to Crieff Cyclepath project and that I will soon be blogging about new developments and an extension to the existing first stage of the route – including a large span bridge to cross the River Earn at Crieff.

Team Matilda is certainly planning on being on the starting line next year!

Team Matilda are already planning to join Scotland’s friendliest sportive in 2019!

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Matilda’s maiden trip on new Muthill cycle path

At the start of the new Muthill cycle path in brilliant Perthshire sunshine.

At the start of the new Muthill cycle path in brilliant Perthshire sunshine.

Much excitement at Matildas Rest on Sunday! Not only was the sun shining, and a ride out beckoned, but I had been invited to be the first tandem to ride the newly opened cycle path at the nearby village of Muthill. And the local volunteers who raised all the money for the project wanted me to blog about my experience! The “old gal” is even talking about a video! Fame indeed!

I mean it’s going to be quite a week – what with my maiden trip on the cycle path and then at the end of the week the awards ceremony for the UK Blog Awards. And you’ll remember that I am the only Scottish blog to reach the finals – listed in the Most Innovative category! It’s soooo exciting!

My dynamic duo promised to take a picture of me with my invitation on our return from the trip, so more about the blog awards later.

But firstly there was the big weigh in with the “old git” and the “old gal” in the middle of their Hay Plan weight loss regime that they have been embracing. And I am so impressed as they have now lost a combined total of 49 pounds in 10 weeks!

So I am expecting big things on the ride out today – hoping for an improvement in our average speed – as they tell me that they are feeling much healthier and fitter. I mean my ageing frame is now carrying almost 50 pounds less that it was! What a relief!

After a healthy breakfast we headed off from Auchterarder in brilliant sunshine on the quiet back roads heading to Muthill. And we were all in good spirits being out in the fresh air, and my four pedals were soon spinning along at a fair rate!

Check out the route of my maiden trip on the new Muthill cycle path on Strava below – don’t forget to click on the map to get the full data and statistics!

MCP - strava map

In what seemed like no time we tandemed into Muthill and turned down past the primary school towards Strageath to the banner sign which marks the start of the new path about half a mile from the village on a nice quiet road.

The start of the path is next to the sewage works, but fortunately it is nicely hidden by large trees! And there is no smell – honest!

Selfie time for the "old git" and the "old gal" at the sign at the start of the new Muthill cycle path.

Selfie time for the “old git” and the “old gal” at the sign at the start of the new Muthill cycle path.

The path was officially opened on Friday and 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. Phase 1 is now open and stretches about a mile from Muthill to Templehill.

The cyclepath is funded from a variety of sources including The Gannochy Trust, Sustrans, Big Lottery Fund Scotland and the Perth and Kinross Community Environment Challenge Fund.

The "old gal" at the start of the smooth new path surrounded by Perthshire countryside.

The “old gal” at the start of the smooth new path surrounded by Perthshire countryside.

So after a few pictures it was time for my maiden trip on the new path. And what a joy it is to ride on. They really have done a fantastic job. We were soon whizzing along on a wonderfully smooth tarmacadam path which takes you right across wonderful Perthshire farming countryside with stunning views in all directions.

There are a couple of 90 degree bends, and because I am a “long vehicle” the “old git” needed to pay a bit of attention to steer round, but as the “old gal” commented, they are perfectly tandem friendly!

To make up for the tight bends there are a couple of long straight stretches, with only gentle undulations – which were a delight to tandem on.

The new path has several long straight stretches where you can admire the views.

The new path has several long straight stretches where you can admire the views.

There is a slightly steeper downhill stretch where we picked up speed, leading to another 90 degree bend before a bridge across a stream. The “old git” applied my brakes just before the turn (and just before the “old gal” screamed!) and it was perfectly manageable.

Up a slight incline and we were soon at the end of the first stage at Templemill – which is marked with a cycle path and walkers bollard.

The end of phase 1 - with cyclists and walkers bollard - looking towards Crieff.

The end of phase 1 – with cyclists and walkers bollard – looking towards Crieff.

Eventually the path will go all the way to Crieff, incorporating quiet country roads, off-road paths and a new bridge over the River Earn.

In all there are four phases to the project with phase 1 just opened. Phase 2 will upgrade the track beyond Templemill down to the River Earn. There will then be a bridge built across the river, before the final stage of a path leading to the Strathearn Community Campus.

The use of the land is under the agreement of the local Drummond Foundation, who actively support the project.

You can see the overall route on the map below (Click on map if you need to see it larger.)

The plan showing the route of the remaining stages of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

The plan showing the route of the remaining stages of the Muthill to Crieff cycle path.

Time for the return journey and although it is slightly more of a climb going from Templemill to Muthill was equally enjoyable for my dynamic duo. And as an “old lady” classic tandem, the smooth surface is a real treat to my tyres and my suspension!

It really is a great project and good to see the local community coming together to get it off the ground.

Lindsay Lennie of the Muthill Village Trust says the path was identified as a key project the local community wanted in the Muthill Community Action Plan 2011-16. Not surprisingly, it has been many years in the making – with community consultations, local fundraising, grant applications and landowner negotiations.

The main focus of the path is to allow purposeful journeys between the village and Crieff – particularly focusing on children cycling to school.

But there is also a leisure side to it – with the track  attracting local cyclists, as well as forming part of the proposed Three Saints Way walking route from Killin to St Andrews.

So after completing the return journey in just a few minutes, it was time for a quick coffee stop at the Muthill end before setting off in the original direction again – with the “old gal” in charge of the video camera!

You can get a good impression of the path – and the scenic views – by clicking on the video below – complete with commentary from the “old gal” and the “old git” who clearly have missed out on their vocations as tour guides! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click onto the actual blog first via the link at the bottom of the email to view the video.)

So after being honoured to be the first tandem to try out the new path I have to offer my hearty congratulations to all those involved in the project. It is well worth a visit to Muthill to try the path out – and you can easily combine it with any other routes through the area. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

MCP - sportive logoYou may also want to sign up for the third annual Muthill Sportive which is being held on Saturday June 11th to raise funds for the next stage of the cycle path. There are three routes appealing to all grades of cyclists. And you better to be quick to sign up (via Entry Central) as already a third of the available places are now taken with less than two months to go. Every penny raised goes to making the cycle path project a reality.

As for our Sunday ride out, we left the new cycle path – promising to return soon – and took a circular route back from Templemill back to Muthill, before heading to Tullibardine and then homeward.

And I was amazed, no make that I was flabbergasted, at the new found fitness of my dynamic duo when we managed to tandem up a very steep hill just after Machanay Bridge for the first time ever! This has always been a hill too far and ended up with me being “taken for a walk” and pushed up that stretch. But I was mega impressed!

And so was the “old gal” who – as regular readers of my Musings know only too well – doesn’t do hills. The “old git” was a happy chappy and of course claimed it was all down to his clever use of my gears! Aye right!

Buoyed by that success we easily managed to nail the long – but gentler – climb at Easthill before the nice fast downhill stretch back to Matildas Rest. Time for a well deserved coffee for my crew, while sitting out on the decking enjoying the Spring sunshine while checking out the details of the ride.

A welcome coffee as a treat on the decking back at Matildas Rest!

A welcome coffee as a treat on the decking back at Matildas Rest!

Strava officially recorded the ride at a distance of 20.8 miles, covering an elevation of 872 feet, with a moving time of 2 hours 17 minutes. The average speed was 9.1 mph and we reached a thrilling (well for this “old lady” anyway) maximum speed of 30.2 mph!

The most pleasing thing was that Team Matilda managed to clock up no less than 8 personal records on the route!  See I told you the weight loss of my dynamic duo would boost our stamina and speed!

Before I was returned to my comfortable garage there was the important job of the “old gal” taking my picture with my official invite for the glitzy UK Blog Awards 2016 awards ceremony which takes place at the Park Plaza Hotel at Westminster in London this Friday, April 29.

Happily posing with my invite to the UK Blog Awards 2016 awards ceremony.

Happily posing with my invite to the UK Blog Awards 2016 awards ceremony.

I was one very happy tandem posing with my invite! After all as the author of this blog, who did the “old git” think it would be sent to?! Just a reminder that my Matildas Musings blog is not only a finalist in the Most Innovative category but it is the only Scottish blog to reach the finals.

Given that it was me who got the invite, the question is does that make my dynamic duo my “plus one” – or should that be my “plus two”?!

If I am being honest, I don’t think I will win – especially when you see the other blogs who are finalists in the Most Innovative category.

But if the judges are looking for something really original – what can be more original than a witty blog written by a classic Jack Taylor tandem?

My spokes are firmly crossed and I know you will cross your fingers and toes and anything else you can for me.

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