3 Pistes cycle sportive report

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3 Pistes Cycle Sportive. Photograph: Paddy McCullagh

The inaugural 3 Pistes Cycle Sportive attracted almost 800 riders. How did it go?

For two decades, Alan Anderson, of Glasgow, has programmed DJ nights, comedy shows and festivals around the world. But he rates his inaugural 3 Pistes Cycle Sportive in Scotland as “by far the most logistically difficult and scary event I have ever organised”.

Behind the scenes, he spent months arranging coaches, lorries, safety cover, bananas, gels, PA systems, bananas, malt loaf, gazebos, ambulances, bananas, luminous yellow signs and coping with a mountain of bureaucratic red tape for the event, which took place on 1 June.

A few days before the sportive, Alan confessed he was “extremely nervous” about how the ride would turn out. He also told his long-suffering wife he would not be organising another 3 Pistes event. “Ever.”

But when the dad-of-two saw the smiling riders at registration in Pitlochry and then their exhausted but jubilant faces at the finish at CairnGorm, he realised it had been worth all the hassle. “More than worth it,” he adds.

With a huge grin, Alan says: “At the finish line I got my more handshakes and congratulations than I did on my wedding day. I had an inkling then that I might be going to all the trouble next year and that there would be a second 3 Pistes Sportive.”

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‘Must-ride sportive’

Alan’s ambition was to host a sportive that would become an iconic, must-ride event. In what is billed as the UK’s highest cycle sportive, participants rode 102 miles with a huge 2690m of ascent and between three ski centres, Glenshee, the Lecht and CairnGorm (hence the 3 pistes). Many riders reported that The Lecht was by far the hardest climb on the day, with 20 per cent gradients in places.

Almost 800 riders entered . The age range was 18 to 75 and 11 per cent were female. Almost 90 per cent of riders were from Scotland, 24 from Northern Ireland, 30 riders from England, eight from Poland and three from Sweden. A few Australians, a Frenchman and a Slovak made up the rest of the field. Only six riders did not finish – and this was mainly because of irreparable bike problems.

“It was great to see such a range of riders,” says Alan. “Although this was obviously going to be a challenging ride, so many people seemed to be up for it.”

The fastest recorded time was an amazing 5hrs 09 mins by Walter Hamilton. The average was 7hrs 21 mins. One rider reached a speed of 56mph on a downhill stretch from Glenshee to Braemar.

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‘Beautiful but brutal’

For Nick Green, of Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, the sportive was “beautiful but brutal”. He finished in 7hrs 17 mins.

Nick says: “I love a big challenge and the 3 Pistes was exactly that. The route was unbeatable and the scenery was fantastic. We were also lucky with the fine weather and very little wind. But those hills. They were very long and very hard. Of course, I would probably do it all again next year.”

Another rider, Douglas Burns, of Balmore, also in East Dunbartonshire, completed the sportive in 6hr 17 mins. He says: “In a word, this event is hellish. The road up the Lecht should be for rock climbing practice and not for bicycles. I don’t think I’ll be trying that one again in a hurry – although my Garmin says I hit 52.6mph (85kph) on the descent, so maybe I will.  It was actually a superb event.”

One of the female riders, Debbie Ley, of Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, crossed the finish line in 8hr 36 mins.

Although exhausted, she said she was delighted to have got through it all. She says: “That was my hardest ever day on the bike. The Lecht was the toughest climb and it broke quite a few people. The CairnGorm ascent would have been comfortable enough if I hadn’t done 99 miles and loads of climbing before it.

“But I did it.  More than 100 miles and a world of pain and I made it across the finish line. I am delighted.”

Other riders had a great deal of praise for the organisation of the event. One said: “This was the best organised sportive I have ever ridden, on the most stunning route and with the best atmosphere.”

Another agreed with “excellent organisation and support” but, tongue in cheek, reckoned the route was planned by a “child with a warped mind”.

3 Pistes next year

Organiser Alan Anderson

Organiser Alan Anderson

Now Alan has had time to reflect on the event, he is keen to make it happen again next year. He says: “The weather was kind to us and thankfully we had no serious crashes or injuries on the course.
“The British Red Cross and the three ski centres ski patrol staff provided the first aid cover. Their busiest job of the day was keeping up with requests for more sun cream.

“After its first year, the 3 Pistes Cycle Sportive is now firmly positioned in the UK sportive calendar as an iconic, must-do annual event. Not only is it the UK’s highest sportive, but it also follows some of the UK’s quietest A roads, circumnavigates the UK’s largest national park and heads through the UK’s most stunning mountain range.

“I also think it boasts the best atmosphere of any sportive. Entries for 2015 will open in September. But for now I’d like to catch up on some quality time with my wife and kids.”

Keep an eye on 3 Pistes Cycle Sportive



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One comment on “3 Pistes cycle sportive report
  1. albert says:

    A Catalan was there too. And enjoyed every second!

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