Simon Usborne: 'The real joy of the Caledonia is to see the faces of people who had never taken on a challenge like it'

Cyclo-therapy

A A A

You might remember "Tackman", the misguided soul who brought chaos to Britain's biggest cycling event last year. In an idiotic act of sabotage, he scattered thousands of carpet tacks over sections of the Etape Caledonia, which had to be suspended when hundreds of riders picked up punctures.

All eyes were on the town of Pitlochry in Highland Perthshire again last month for the fourth running of the ride, which raises thousands of pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support but has incited a small group of locals to protest against brief road closures. Would Tackman return?

More than 3,600 riders rolled out of town on a sunny Sunday morning. They included rower-turned-cyclist James Cracknell, his adventurer sidekick Ben Fogle, and track cycling legend Graeme "Flying Scotsman" Obree. The route (see my GPS record at Ind.pn/etapeC) winds for 81 miles, skirting the sparkling waters of Strathtummel and Loch Rannoch – a 45-mile warm-up for Schiehallion, the only significant climb.

Snow clung to north-facing gulleys up top but disappeared behind us for the descent, a thrilling, 1,000ft drop. It's hard to describe the thrill of cycling on closed roads – imagine approaching speeds of 50mph as you take the racing line down five miles of twists and straights through stunning countryside.

The first finishers arrived after just three-and-a-half hours. I managed 3hr 57min. On no other ride could I ride for four hours, at an average speed of over 20mph, without unclipping a shoe. But the real joy of the Caledonia is to see the faces of people who, like me only two years ago, had never taken on a challenge like it. Some spent eight hours in the saddle but only 30 riders, including Ben Fogle, who broke a finger in a crash, did not finish. Best of all, a festival spirit hung over the lochs and hills of Perthshire, as crowds cheered in every village. Locals seemed delighted to see us, helping the Etape Caledonia to reclaim its status as Britain's greatest sportive.

The Independent's blogs have re-launched (blogs.independent.co.uk). Visit independent.co.uk/susborne or the usual address, below, to follow my daily dispatches from Ride Across Britain, the nine-day, 1,000 mile ride, which starts today.

s.usborne@independent.co.uk or see independent.co.uk/cyclotherapy

Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor