We are lucky in the Cairngorms National Park to be the chosen venue for many cycle events. Given the spectacular scenery and the quiet roads, it’s not hard to see why. One of the most recent additions to the events calendar is the Etape Royale, a closed road cycle event with a 65 mile or a 100 mile option, starting and finishing in the famous Royal Deeside village of Ballater.

One day I mentioned to a colleague that I wouldn’t mind trying the event, really I was thinking out loud, but before I knew it…… she jumped on the idea and after everyone in the office had agreed that this was a great opportunity (for who!?), Pete at Wildfox Events had been contacted and I had a place in the 65 mile event!

Now I like a challenge but this one is slightly scaring me…. I was all for it until I read that you have to be able to cycle at an average of 11mph. Sounds simple enough – until you factor in the hill climbs. The first time I cycled up the Cairngorm ski road (my chosen hill practice) I was doing 4mph on the Sugar Bowl climb which drastically reduced my average speed over the course of a ride.

Etape Training

I only got into road biking this year after borrowing a road bike to do the Corrieyairack Challenge two years ago. One shot on a road bike that was too big for me – but soooo much easier than doing the 38 mile road section on my mountain bike – and I was hooked. I had a baby last year but promised myself that once I was back at work I would get a road bike.

Mikes Bikes in Aviemore was my first port of call and I got a road bike on interest free credit, a great service if you can’t buy one outright. So I have my bike, but no experience of road biking. So instead of the expression ‘all the gear and no idea’, I have very little gear and no idea. There are bike shoes to buy, pedals, lots of lycra, the list goes on, but for now I am happy to be able to hit the road!

Training has been going ok….said baby and work means less time to do long rides. So lunch breaks and evenings are when I try to get the miles in. I play shinty for Badenoch and Strathspey Ladies so this is helping in my fitness for that too. We have made it to the Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup Final on the 5th September and all the girls are pushing hard to be as fit as possible for the big day.

Etape Training obviously means being on your bike but my unique training plan also involves shinty matches, pulling a baby in his trailer on my mountain bike, walking and running! When I do get out on my road bike there are so many brilliant rides from my base in Aviemore. On my lunch time breaks at work I head out from Inverdruie towards Feshie Bridge or up the ski road past Loch Morlich. The girls in the office send me past the honesty box just before Loch Insh to get them cake to hit their afternoon sugar fix! In the evenings I head towards Nethy Bridge on the B970 past beautiful loch Pityoulish. Already though it is starting to get darker in the evenings. The summer in this part of the world is too short.

I recently watched Dave Smith on ‘Dead Man Cycling’ on BBC2, It was a huge inspiration and when I am struggling I just think about his efforts. What struck me was his amazing and unfailing mental strength. Obviously he has worked very hard on his fitness, but it is the brain which can send the wrong messages at the wrong time. His ability to keep pushing and striving for his next goal is amazing.

I have to remind myself….

”Will is a skill”

“Your fitness is 100% mental, Your body won’t go where your mind doesn’t push it”


So training continues and a couple of weekends with no shinty games will mean more time for longer bike rides!

Any advice of the positive nature will be gratefully received.

Find out more about the Etape Royale (or even enter if you’re feeling inspired by Sarah’s blog) at http://www.etaperoyale.com/ or find out more about road biking in the Cairngorms National Park at http://visitcairngorms.com/roadbiking.html