TheÂ 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 â€œby far the most logistically difficult and scary event I have ever organisedâ€.
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 â€œextremely nervousâ€ 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: â€œAt the finish line I got my more handshakes and congratulations than I did on my wedding day. I had an inkling then that I mightÂ be going to all the trouble next year and that there would be a second 3 Pistes Sportive.â€
Alanâ€™s ambition was to host a sportive that would become an iconic, must-ride event. In what is billed as the UKâ€™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).Â 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.Â 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.Â Only six riders did not finish â€“ and this was mainly because of irreparable bike problems.
â€œIt was great to see such a range of riders,â€ says Alan. â€œAlthough this was obviously going to be a challenging ride, so many people seemed to be up for it.â€
The fastest recorded time was an amazing 5hrs 09 mins by Walter Hamilton. The average was 7hrs 21 mins.Â One rider reached a speed of 56mph on a downhill stretch from Glenshee to Braemar.
‘Beautiful but brutal’
For Nick Green, of Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, the sportive was â€œbeautiful but brutalâ€. He finished in 7hrs 17 mins.
Nick says: â€œI love a big challenge and the 3 Pistes was exactly that.Â The route was unbeatable and the scenery was fantastic. We were also lucky with the fine weather and very little wind.Â But those hills. They were very long and very hard. Of course, I would probably do it all again next year.â€
Another rider, Douglas Burns, of Balmore, also in East Dunbartonshire, completed the sportive in 6hr 17 mins. He says: â€œIn a word, this event is hellish.Â The road up the Lecht should be for rock climbing practice and not for bicycles. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll be trying that one again in a hurry â€“ although my Garmin says I hit 52.6mph (85kph) on the descent, so maybe I will. Â It was actually a superb event.â€
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: â€œThat was my hardest ever day on the bike.Â The Lecht was the toughestÂ 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.
â€œBut I did it.Â 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 â€œexcellent organisation and supportâ€ but, tongue in cheek, reckoned the route was planned by a â€œchild with a warped mindâ€.
3 Pistes next year
Now Alan has had time to reflect on the event, he is keen to make it happen again next year.Â He says: â€œThe weather was kind to us and thankfully we had no serious crashes or injuries on the course.
â€œThe 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.
â€œAfter its first year, the 3 Pistes Cycle Sportive is now firmly positioned in the UK sportive calendar as an iconic, must-do annual event.Â Not only is it the UK’s highest sportive, but it also follows some of the UKâ€™s quietest A roads, circumnavigates the UKâ€™s largest national park and heads through the UKâ€™s most stunning mountain range.
â€œI also think it boasts the best atmosphere of any sportive. Entries for 2015 will open in September.Â But for now Iâ€™d like to catch up on some quality time with my wife and kids.â€
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