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Mark McPhilips @ Trans Scotland 2007

Day 6: Linking Stage; 62km, 200m climbing

By lunch, I thought I had the measure of this stage. For only the second time this week, I sit down in the sun and enjoy my lunch over a leisurely half an hour.

I set off on the remainder of the days stage in high spirits confident that I have plenty of time. A tarmac climb, followed by a gravel track and then grassy moorland eventually led to the perimeter of a dark, dank forest. I ride into the darkness and quickly come to a halt due to the soft boggy ground. Yet again, a sinking feeling is taking over. Do I have enough time?Mak getting wet at Trans Scotland 2007

When I emerge from the forest, Dan has caught up with me. The urgency in his riding suggests that he too thought time was limited. We do not say much but we know what needs to be done. We looked upwards, a ridgeline at approx 2,500ft is our target, approximately 1,500ft higher than our current location.  It is quicker to run with the bike than ride. This more than anything shows how steep this track was.

The penny was starting to drop with the other competitors too. We were ALL going to be late (thus receiving time penalties)! One of the lead women had completely lost the plot as we rode past. I heard her shout out at Keith Bontrager, “F**king C**t, this is so unfair!”


We still had hope! I thought we would make it, as once we gained the ridge we could ride our bikes again. However, it would not be easy as the profile of the ridge was more ‘saw’ like than billiard table. At the end of the ridge, one of the fastest and longest descents possible in the whole of the UK opens up right before you. It drops all the way down to Peebles mainly grassy, not very technical but very, very fast.  I have not used a bike computer, since scaring myself senseless, witnessing 53mph flash up during a downhill race at Bedgelert in 1994. Sensations akin to that infamous day were washing all over me.

Once in Peebles I relaxed. No sign of Dan. He had wisely used more caution on the downhill, he had more to loose than I did. A quick scan of the stage map and profile, showed another climb of approx 200m before picking up a singletrack descent down to the finish. This was going to be close. Near the top of the climb Dan caught me up and we took turns to go through and off on the flat fire track approach to the singletrack. Once on the descent we were back in the zone, nothing could stop us.

After seven hours of cycling, we made it with two minutes to spare!  We burst out laughing, what a pair of idiots. Poor attention to route detail meant we had raced the last 2hrs at XC racing pace and we still had the final time trial stage to come that night! God that was going to hurt!