Friday, 7 May 2010

Day 9: Blairgowrie to Grantown on Spey

A tough day through the Cairngorms and although, without doubt, the most strenuous day of the trip it was definitely the best. The weather was kind (apart from the northerly wind again) and I felt in good shape. The climbs were challenging but the views were just spectacular. If I was choosing a LEJOG route again I'd definitely include this.

Straight out of Blairgowrie and you are in to a gradual climb. There are a few really steep bits up towards the cafe/hotel at Spittal of Glenshee but nothing in comparison to what would follow. After this cafe the road kicks up and keeps getting steeper towards the ski area at Glenshee. Slogging up in bottom gear for what seemed like ages. At about 2250 ft it was really cold at the top and still some snow around on the ground. I was looking forward to the descent but it was miserable! The northerly wind was strong and I had to pedal down in a low gear struggling to maintain a speed of 13mph. Demoralising but at least the views were still good.

On the way up to Glenshee.

At the top!

A food and drink break in Braemar and then a stretch of gradual descent alongside the river Dee before turning left near Balmoral and climbing steeply again up to over 1500 ft. A steep and fast descent and then a really steep climb again. Someone told me that all ascents in Scotland were gradual and long. Well these were steep and long. Generally ranging from 8% to over 20%. Tough going. Respite came when Cath and Sarah passed and I had a welcome break near the summit. Can of relentless and loads of peanuts!

Near the top of one of MANY big climbs.

Also had a cup of coffee. Probably a mistake as near the bottom of the next descent I felt really lightheaded and had to stop for a few minutes. Needed to recover before the next 20% climb which then levelled a bit before really kicking up to the ski centre at Lecht. A biker had stopped to wait for me near the top of the 20% bit and I stopped for a chat and some more food. He gave me some useful advice about the rest of the route before speeding off on his motorbike.

The climb up to Lecht.

A fantastic descent down to Tomintoul and then another short climb before another fast descent and the final big climb from Bridge of Brown. I was glad of the descent down to Grantown but overall I'd enjoyed the day tremendously. It was probably the most challenging 81 miles I've spent on the bike but also the most rewarding by far. And I'm feeling fitter every day! I might be fit to drop by Sunday though :-)

Looking back to the mountains.

Distance: 81 miles
Av. Speed: 10.6 mph (slow but not bad considering the terrain)

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