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Snapshots from the Ride Across Britain part III: Edinburgh to John O’Groats

17 Sep 2019

Pictures snatched from the roadside during the 2019 Deloitte Ride Across Britain 
(lead image from a previous edition of the Ride Across Britain)

Words and photography Joseph Delves  
Part I: Land's End to Ludlow | Part II: Ludlow to Edinburgh | Part III: Edinburgh to John O’Groats

Day 7, Hopetoun Estate to Strathdon - 180km, 2144m

After crossing the span of the Forth Bridge, the scenery gets more exposed as we traverse the Grampians, then head into the Cairngorms via the climb of Glenshee. Coming on slowly, it takes a while to get on top of, even with a favourable breeze. The second of the ride’s three big climbs, racing down, it feels as if we’re now in the high mountains proper.

To Braemar, then along the River Dee, the terrain is windswept, and birds of prey circle above us. Despite being warned about them, the day’s last two climbs catch me out, and I’ve not kept enough in reserve to do anything but crawl up.

For the first time, my body is refusing to play along, and I start to worry about what I’ll feel like tomorrow. Like most riders, I’m very happy when we reach the Highland Games Field at Strathdon.

Day 8, Strathdon to Kyle of Sutherland - 191km, 1985m

The longest day. Rolling by 6am, as the light increases enough to reveal the scenery, the earliest risers hit the Lecht. Like an ascent brought in from the Alps, it climbs over a thousand barren feet up to the eponymous ski station.

Coming from the side, the wind is leaning on me like a drunk on the night bus. It’s wild. By the next climb, it’s head-on and I can barely keep moving. Through areas familiar to whiskey drinkers, hours of slogging ensue, although by the time we hit Inverness at least there’s a rainbow.

With the wind now behind us, the miles tick down, until cresting one last hill it swings around and starts slinging hail in my face. Just making it home, as I get in the weather turns, leaving everyone still out to battle heavy rain and rising wind.

Day 9, Kyle of Sutherland to John O’Groats - 168km, 1384m

The last leg. Scared what the wind might do to the chances of me making my transfer, I leave while it’s still dark. Far north, the pale sun takes an age to rise. As it gets light I find myself with one other rider on a high plain.

With the wind coming across us at over 80kmh, we have to stand on the pedals to make progress. After a couple of slow hours, we drop into the more sheltered Strathnaver Valley. Having got my obligatory shot of a highland cow, on hitting the coast, huge waves are being driven into the cove at Bettyhill.

Swinging around 90 degrees, we’re now pushed on at well over 32kmh without pedalling, and my worries about reaching the finish line in time vanish. Blown the final third of the way, the tailwind makes everyone feel superhuman.

When the finish comes into view, after 1580km, nine days, and rolling the entire length of the country, it seems incredible that tomorrow I won’t be getting back on my bike.

Deloitte Ride Across Britain takes place from 7th to 15th September, for more information visit the Ride Across Britain website.