Muthill Sportive 2017 yellow route with sub stoker!

My regular stoker “the old gal” was replaced by “the young son” for the Muthill Sportive 2017!

There was much excitement on Saturday morning at Matildas Rest as it was a big day for this “old lady” – I was taking part in a real official bike event – the Muthill Sportive 2017. This would be my first 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!

To add to the sense of anticipation I was going to have a substitute stoker for the event as the “old gal” – who is usually on my back saddle – was working and couldn’t get time off. So she was replaced by the “old git’s” son Niall, who will from here on be referred to as the “young son” in this blog post!

Now the “young son” had only had the briefest of outings on a tandem before so it was brave of him – if slightly mad – to readily volunteer to be substitute stoker for the first time in an event like a Sportive! But volunteer he did and don’t tell the “old gal” but I was looking forward to having his youthful legs power me along! (And, whisper it, but so was the “old git – although he would never admit to that!)

Now the village of Muthill is about 5 miles away from Matildas Rest and the “old git” decided it would be a good plan for us to tandem to the start line to give the “young son” a chance to get used to the joys of tandeming! Unfortunately the weather gods had plans for almost biblical rain.

The buoyant atmosphere as we set off in dry, almost sunny conditions was soon blown away as the skies darkened and heavy showers rolled in which saw my crew arrive to register at Muthill Church like drowned rats! Getting soaked before the off wasn’t exactly in the plan, and the “young son” was questioning whether his volunteering for the role of stoker had been such a good idea!

The “old git” and the “young son” ready for the start – with soaking cycling jackets!

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 – in stark contrast to the chilly inclement weather outside.

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 a year 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.

Team Matilda was taking part in the Yellow Route – an 18 mile cycle around quiet local Strathearn roads. And after I had my start number of 009 firmly attached, along with my snazzy timer chip, 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 from other riders. A quick safety briefing, and the horn was blown and we were underway! You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

The “old git” and the “young son” set off at good pace along Muthill’s main street before starting a long slow climb up past the local golf course. But the youthful energy provided by the “young son” in his role as stoker helped us reach the plateau in no time. And amazingly Team Matilda was in second place at this stage with just a lone female rider ahead of us.

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 – where we played cat and mouse with the female rider overtaking each other on several occasions before briefly emerging on to the Crieff to Braco road for a short section, turning into another maze of farm roads.

Just before crossing the Auchterarder to Crieff road the solo rider decided enough was enough and powered off with a cheery wave never to be seen again! So now determination kicked in and the “young son” decided that we were going to maintain our second position and helped power us along the quiet roads to Tullibardine and then along in front of Strathallan Airfield.

Tantalising there were signs for Muthill but we were directed away from the direct route 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 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 crossed the finishing line in second place! I will repeat that … we finished second! Unbelievable!

That feeling when you have just finished your first ever Sportive … and finished second!

A quick glance at the electronic timer clock revealed that we had finished in a fairly respectable time of 1 hour 28 minutes and 23 seconds. And it had stayed mainly dry. Because we kept cycling there were no photos en route, but the “old git” did ask the guy running the Dr Bike clinic to take a couple of the three of us to record our achievement at the end, which he was happy to oblige.

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!

There was time to say a quick hello to a few people the “old git” recognised – including Lorna Davidson from local folk group Tarneybackle who we met at the launch of the Blackford Paths Network project recently. And as my crew were chatting they were asked to take part in a publicity shot for the event. Oh if you insist! Ever the PR man, the “old git” grabbed every available prop!

Time for sustenance – my crew with Lorna Davidson from local folk group Tarneybackle.

As we were finishing our food, the team from Keep it Simple Timing announced that the official times for the first few bikes home had been officially verified – and my crew were delighted with the proof that the results showed that we had indeed finished second in the yellow route category! Simple pleasures and all that!

Official confirmation of the “old git” Colin and the “young son” Niall coming in second!

So after some much needed re-fuelling – and basking in the glory of being second home in our first ever Sportive – it was back to reality for my crew with the slight issue of getting back on my saddles for the five mile tandem back home! It would need to be said this was a bit of a grind as muscles had seized up a bit after stopping at the end of the Sportive! And that wasn’t confined to the “old git” as the “young son” wasn’t quite so full of that youthful exuberance that was on show earlier!

After returning to Matildas Rest a check of Strava revealed Team Matilda had registered three personal bests along the way – beating times on previous cycles set by the “old git” and the “old gal”.

Strava officially recorded the Sportive ride as a distance of 18.3 miles at an average speed of 12.1 mph, with a top speed of 28.9 mph. The elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,048 feet, as we managed to burn up 1,201 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 192 W.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (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.)

After a warm reviving shower, the “old git” and the “young son” agreed that despite the rain, it was a great event and fun to be part of! The Sportive 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. A great day to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace for cycling!

Lets hope the Sportive raises 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.

And it may have been my first Sportive … but it certainly won’t be my last!

Oh – and for the avoidance of doubt – although I enjoyed having the extra thrust provided by the “young son” I am looking forward to having the “old gal” back in her rightful place on my rear saddle!

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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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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