August 27, 2012, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 2 Blog: Day 3 – Inchbae to Spean Bridge

One of the most sensational results in Scottish football is Berwick 1, Rangers 0: the Scottish Cup in 1967. Today Rangers were again at Berwick. This time because the Glasgow giants are in the Third Division, having been demoted from the Scottish Premier League to the bottom tier of Scottish football for financial irregularities. This time they did better and came away with a draw.

Inchbae Lodge Hotel is really quirky in all sorts of ways, but was comfortable and we were well looked after by Jeanette, who served us dinner, ran the bar and was there to serve us breakfast at 7am. The Lodge had a simple pricing policy: all dinners were £8, all drinks were £3, whatever you had.

We left Inchbae before 8am, in a 1-3-5-3 formation: Chris R out first; then Andy, Gavin and Mike; followed by me, Karen, Kate, Nick and Neville; and finally Chris J, Penelope and Steve. Happily, conditions were again good, breezier than we had experienced so far and a colder wind-chill, but bright and sunny with not a hint of rain. Unexpectedly we have had ideal conditions for the first three days.

The first part of our journey took us south on the western end of the Black Isle. The terrain is fairly flat and the land used predominantly for arable farming, principally barley (much of which goes to whisky production). We passed through Muir of Ord and then on to Beauly, which I have visited a few times whilst on vacation. Legend has it that Mary Queen of Scots gave the town its name in stating ‘Quel beau lieu’ when she first visited, and it is a lovely place. (I had to slip that in to impress those in the team who remain in awe of my command of French).

We resisted the temptation to stop, having set a target of 35 miles for the first stretch, to take us to Drumnadrochit. Not long after Beauly we had an eight mile climb to 900 feet up over the high moors. We crossed Moniack Moor. The descent back down to sea level takes place over about a mile. It is very steep with sharp turns and a broken surface, treacherous and a really scary ride.

At Drumnadrochit, famous for its Loch Ness monster exhibitions, we were joined by Chris J, Penelope and Steve for a second breakfast. While we were there a group from the Grampian Motorcycle Club asked about what we were doing and made a donation.

From Drumnadrochit to Spean Bridge we had to use the A82 down the north side of Loch Ness, very different cycling to the last two days. This is the main east-west artery, a winding single carriageway which is fast and with a high proportion of oversized vehicles of one form or another. Drivers were overwhelmingly patient. Sadly a few were not, intentionally coming close at speed, or just yelling abuse. On an incline after Fort Augustus Nick was bumped off the road into some road works. Fortunately he was unhurt, but disappointing to see such negligence and wanton disregard for safety.

Today’s other mishap was with Mike, a spoke snapped and his front wheel immediately buckled. Though on a slope, he managed to retain control and avoided coming off. Fortunately it happened just a couple of miles from the hotel so he was able to walk his bike in, but now needs a new wheel.

There is always an upside however, two in Mike’s case: he gets to have the pink bell on his bike; and he only has to go back two miles in the morning to start Day 4.

Our final stop before Spean Bridge was at The Commando Memorial. This is sited on a rise facing Ben Nevis. It is a stunning setting and a moving and fitting tribute to the Commandos who lost their lives in World War Two. With Ben Nevis cloudless, it was a perfect day to see it.

Although Chris R was first out he was third in, Andy gets the yellow jersey for being first. He and Gavin covered the 78 miles at an average speed of almost 18 miles an hour. That is pretty impressive. Actually we all made good time, which meant being at our destination to give us maximum recovery time, as well as doing essentials like washing cycling kit.

Amazingly no punctures again. Though I now know why. Last year’s puncture stars, Nick and Karen have both fitted puncture resistant tyre. Nick finds they are slowing him so much he is going back to regular tyres. Watch this space.

At 78 miles this is our longest day so far and takes our total mileage to 186. Although the first aches and pains are appearing (my lower neck and shoulders have started grumbling) everyone is in good shape and excellent spirits. Steve’s gait increasingly resembles John Wayne’s. So I put a call in to see if his special cream could be released, but they are still testing it for banned substances. Just as well given the way he has been laying bets on hill climbs.

Andrew Burden has been with us filming since Cape Wrath and sadly leaves us here. It has been great to have him along. We are joined by our first leg rider, Carl Fey, Dean of the Business School at the China Campus. Carl will be with us for the next two days.

Tomorrow we head for Cairndow. The weather forecast looks grim, heavy rain and headwinds, a cyclist’s worst combination possible.

Professor David Greenaway


Posted in Life Cycle 2