EMMS Challenger, Tim Cooke shares his experience of this years 89 mile Tour de Lauder challenge, which raised a fantastic £2000 for our work!
The weekend started off with a little trepidation because the trip down to Peebles was quite wet and the weather forecast for the ride was not great.
We awoke to sunshine on the Saturday morning, and we hoped that maybe the rain had passed us by, how foolish! Riding out of Lauder, we were spurred by good crowds lining the route, ringing their cow bells - I could have been riding an alpine stage in the Tour-De-France - and that very quickly became the reality as we climbed out of Lauder towards Stow. Strangely, the cow bells gave way to the sound of bag-pipes as we were piped over the moor - now you don't get that in the French race. The steep descent into Stow reminded us of what was to come in the other direction at the end of the ride.
We continued at a good pace towards Innerleithen and the first rest stop at Traquair Village Hall under gathering storm clouds. The stop was very welcome and we re-fuelled on sugary tea, bananas and cake in the middle of a sudden torrential rain storm. Fortunately, the rain did not last long, and then I was on my way again in sunshine, this time on my own as only a few had opted for the longer route - or maybe I was just at the back of the field! This part of the route was very much off the beaten track, and I started to enjoy the beauty of the Borders climbing in and out of valleys and having to navigate cattle-grids that were often in a bad state of repair. Bouncing over one of the grids caused me to puncture as I approached the Gordon Arms Hotel. Too be honest I was glad of the rest and the enforced delay meant that I was able to meet up with a couple of great blokes Grieg and Andy who had punctured themselves even before getting out of Lauder! We cycled the rest of the tour together (approx 50 miles) passing the time chatting about everything from football, old cars, Mrs Thatcher, and Derry Girls!
We were now onto the really tough part of the ride, climbing the notorious Witchy Knowe, which is a grueling climb but we knew there was going to be more food at the top in the form of the second rest stop. What we hadn't planned for was the hail stones. Eating our cake, we cowered for shelter at one side of a support van because the rain and hail were being blown horizontally. The poor support guys at this stop were dressed head to toe in gore-tex and probably had a tougher gig than us riders. We gladly remounted and swooped down the Yarrow valley back towards Innerleithen.
We knew we had broken the back of the ride but there was another long drag out of Innerleithen which seemed to go on forever and was not helped by the unrelenting head-wind coming from the north. Quite chilly! On reaching the top (although I can't remember exactly where) we coasted down into Heriots - the third and final refreshment stop, in brilliant sunshine. Again, multiple cups of sugary tea and fantastic brownies were called for and delivered, and then we were off again on the final 15 miles. For me, these were the hardest miles, and I just could not keep up with Andy and Greig. So imagine how I felt when I rounded a corner and found them waiting for me, sitting at a road-side bench tucking into the last of their provisions. Great guys! We looked across the valley and contemplated the final climb out of Stow towards the chequered flag in Lauder ....
It was a tough climb out of Stow - we knew it would be. There were encouraging cow bells again and the strange sight of a couple of Austrian-looking-blokes in Lederhosen. Even stranger, one of them gave me a push. After that, it seemed simple. Together again , we zoomed down the other side into Lauder and soon we were back in Thirlestane Castle grounds crossing the finish line, all three of us together.
One-Hundred-and-Forty-Three kilometres. Eighty-nine miles. Six-Thousand feet of ascent. One puncture. Loads of cakes. Many cups of tea plus sugar!
The Tour-De-Lauder was a great experience and one that I will remember for a long time. Do it all again next year .... hopefully !