Up here in Scotland we had the choice of two BRM 200s on Saturday to kick off the Scotish PBP qualifiers. There will be two SR series run, one in the Highlands and one in the Borders. There will also be a couple one off events too such as the Auld Alliance.
Late last week the Borders 200 from Selkirk was cancelled due to the heavy snow forecast, leaving only the Monster Munch 200 from Duffus near Elgin. For this area no two forecasts were in agreement, but all were forecasting precipitation in one form or another. Friday afternoon Mark, the organiser, sent a final update confirming the ride would go ahead.
I dressed expecting snowfall, and hoped that we'd not encounter too much settling, i.e. not putting on the studded tyres that made a 200km perm in February take 13.5 hours.
At the Village Hall 50 or so cards were laid out, but come 8.00 there were only 16 or so starters. As soon as we left Duffus heading SW a light rain started and the temperature hovered around zero. Throughout the ride the intensity of the precipitation continued to increase.
6km was our first info control as a group of 6 of us worked our way at a good pace towards Dava Moor. As we climed over the Moor the rain turned to snow and it was starting to accumulate on the road. Thankfully there was still some black tar showing through and we kept in these tracks for some semblance of safety. Switching tracks to avoid oncoming cars on the decent into Carrbridge was interesting.
The first cafe control in Carrbridge was lovely and a log burner was utilised for trying to dry out as much kit as possible as by this point 66km in every later was saturated. At this point one rider (whose first audax this was) dropped out fedup of numb feet and won over by the fire.
As we cracked on along the old A9 road to the summit of Slochd at 400m the snow was a few inches deep over the road. After 5km of this the road merged with the new A9 near the summit. The bike path continued down the old road bed but was deep in snow and I didn't fancy a quick decent without seeing the surface underneath. As we were in a group we decided to take the dual carriageway down to Tomatin where at the lower elevation the snow wasn't settling.
An info control just past Farr and I fell off the back of the group. At The Dores Inn pub control at on Loch Ness I met the others, now 125km in Sadly no roaring fire, just a poxy space heater and cold drafty bar. Attempts to dry kit were futile while we tried to warm up with the spicy tomato soup.
The others set off while I was changing gloves. I thought myself lucky to have a pair of dry merino liners and Rapha taped Lobster-style overmits. Either I didn't wear them right with my other layers or waterproof claims were unfounded as slowly moisture and cold settled in. The rigid lobster style glove made di2 shifting a bit of a craps shoot on which way the mechs would move.
30km later instead of going to the Culloden Moor visitor center for the free control I went to the Culloden Moor Inn public bar. This place had a lot of character. Walking in like a drowned rat I was asked if I was there for the Darts Tournament. 8 dart boards lined the walls of the bar and purple Strongbow swilling crowd looked on in bemusement. Thankfully a quick pint of coke and bag of Golden Wonders helped my energy and I looked forward to the remaining 56km of downhill and then flat riding to the Arrivee. I could see the lead group a kilometer or so ahead on the straight sections but never managed to reel them in.
At the finish I realised my hands were in a really bad way. I couldn't take off my gloves with my hands and resorted to my teeth for the liners. Accidentally biting into my pinky finger and feeling nothing was disturbing, yet thankfully didn't break the skin. After handing in my card the idea of kitting up again and cycling 12km in the 45 mins I had until my train wasn't appealing and instead waited for a friend who was behind in the ride to finish who'd offered a lift back to Aberdeen as an insurance option for the train if things had taken longer than usual.
Lovely potato soup and sandwiches were on offer, but sadly a missed opportunity to provide finishers with a bag of the ride's titular Monster Munch themselves. I happily decompressed reflecting on the ride before daring to take a warm shower. Was this my hardest 200, probably not, but definitely the one in which I suffered the most.
For another perspective on the ride and photos , you can read my friend's report here he rode pretty much solo.
Ps first ride report I’ve written so sorry if it is a bit rubbish