1st woman, 14th overall and QOM @EtapeLochNess this weekend. 66 miles and 900m all before breakfast!

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A great event in my home town of Inverness. Nearly 3500 people gathered to ride round the Highland’s iconic Loch Ness this Sunday morning. With the A82 on a rolling closure to traffic, this was an event not to be missed and so I found myself sitting at my kitchen table at 4am spooning porridge into my mouth in preparation for the early morning start.

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At 6.20am I set off in the first wave of 200 riders and was gently towed along at a steady 23mph all the way down the loch side. The story changed in Fort Augustus though with a 9km climb up Glen Doe where the pack split into chards and we all got lost in our own bubbles of misery. Jamie Henderson (the first man back) broke free followed by a group of chasers. I lost these guys too when the road levelled half way up the climb and my frozen fingers couldn’t operate my gear shifters! I tried in vain to shift up and stay with them but I might as well have been a penguin for all the effect my hands were having on my controls.

I topped out after 23 minutes near max effort and tried to close the gap to the break on my own. I made it to Foyers after a solitary few miles then tried working with a young lad who had fallen off the break. He was strong but we got swallowed by the chasing group and worked with them back to Inverness.

I came over the line amongst a strong pack in a time of 2 hours 57 minutes and 33 seconds. It was 9.20am. I’d be about getting up now on a normal Sunday.

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Well done to Ingrid Kidd (Angus Bike Chain) and Rachel Crichton  for their 2nd and 3rd places and to Jamie Henderson (Limits Technology) 1st, Gavin Beaton (MFCC) 2nd Paul Gallacher (Fife Cyclcing) 3rd overall.

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Enormous thanks to the organisers Caledonian Concepts and their sponsors, partners and volunteers for an amazingly well organised event. And to Cannondale UK who, as ever, supply the tools for me to do my job.

http://www.etapelochness.com/news/press-releases/thousands-of-cyclists-complete-etape-loch-ness/

Petal Power training camp with Ride Sierra Nevada. 7 days, 100km’s of singletrack, 1000’s of metres of climbing, copious tapas consumed, some Irish dancing and lots of new skills nailed. Ladies, it has been a pleasure.

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Last Tuesday I built my bike by the luggage concourse of Malaga airport and rode my Cannondale Jekyll 150km to Granada. Carrying only 1 extra pair of pants, a sawn off toothbrush and a jar of Marmite over and above the kit I would need to lead the following weeks Petal Power training camp, I sweated my way up from the coast and into the mountains. 8 hours later I was sitting in a bar in Monachil, my home form home, with my good friends and hosts for the week, Shaun and Csilla from Ride Sierra Nevada.

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I spent 3 blissful days reacquainting myself with the trails in the area, catching up with friends and wondering to myself why I don’t live here and then the Petals arrived. That sounds bad doesn’t it?

Our aim for the week: to take each individual’s skill level from wherever it is and send it through the roof.

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Day 1: Bike build and faff day. We got out for a ride in the nearby forest in the afternoon after everyone had done some swearing and footering with bikes. We talked about body positioning and attempted to get a bit more dynamic on our bikes.

Day 2: While a few of us opted for self flagellation and rode the infamous Purche climb out of the village, others saved their beans and got an uplift safe in the knowledge that there was still a 700m climb to complete before a techy, switchback descent back into Monachil. Today we concentrated on cornering technique and reading the trail for traction as well as not crying at the overwhelming effort required to get home in one piece. This we did and so we celebrated a little.

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Day 3: Today we rode from Monachil to Granada on contouring singletrack stopping only for coffee and to session drops. We eventually popped out above the Alhambra palace and wiggled about the cobbled streets of Sacromonte before descending a gazillion steps in the historic Albycin. No one enjoyed that at all and there was absolutely no whooping or smiling whatsoever. With some evening energy left, we practised our Irish dancing in the kitchen and I gave myself a groin strain.

Day 4: Rest day (notes to self: Things Not To Do On A Rest Day – Go running with an amazonian warrior for 3 hours up Los Cahorros gorge). While I went running for 3 hours with my good friend and winter training partner up Los Cahorros gorge (idiot), the group explored its lower more intricate nooks and crannies. In the evening we had a yoga session. I ignored the badly stifled giggles when the OMMMM’s began and lost myself a bit. Lovely. Then, 2 of members of the group went down with a vomiting bug. Shouldn’t have giggled at the OMMM’s.

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Day 5: With 2 down, the rest of us rode uphill all morning then round Mount Trevenque to descent on a mixture of dry riverbeds and glorious singletrack. We practised using our whole bodies to manoeuvre our bikes and tried to stay loose. We felt like the cast of Lord of the Rings up in the sunbleached, moonscape of Trevenque. Here you can see Frodo trying to take Strider’s hand while Legolas stands nearby.

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Day 6: We lost another one to the sickness bug last night and so the remainder of us deployed the strategy we called Make-Yourself-A-Bad-Host-For-A-Virus. How we did this is for your imagination to conjure but it did involve staying out late and getting up early. Today we made use of Ride Sierra Nevada’s van and trail knowledge and rode 2 stages of their upcoming enduro race high above the beautiful village of Guejar Sierra . We consolidated what we’d learned about body positioning, reading trails, carrying speeds out of corners and not crashing. Some of us seemed much more advanced than others at the not crashing part. The more cultured (and broken) among us ditched riding altogether today and visited Granada’s Alhambra palace.

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Day 7: Those with any beans left made an early start up a stiff climb into the forest and sneaked in a cheeky wee extra descent before we all gathered together to practise weighting, unweighting and pumping our bikes for speed. We dropped back down into the village on steep switchbacks that would have spooked everyone on day one but that most people had dialled by now. More celebrations before bike packing and airport transfers. All that remained was a flight and a 4 hour drive that would see us getting back to the Highlands at 5am happy, tired and slightly sick from the sugar required to full such concentration.

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I couldn’t quite believe how much everyone progressed in the course of this week. The cameraderie, encouragement and support within the group coupled with a few coaching points from me and we have ourselves some extremely competent riders. Enormous thanks to Ride Sierra Nevada for their amazing hostliness and Csilla for her patience as we sessioned sections of her local trails to death. We will be back for more. Wanna come too?