Thursday, August 5, 2021
HomeStoriesGran Fondo Scotland; social and scenic cycling with pals, pasta, and a...

Gran Fondo Scotland; social and scenic cycling with pals, pasta, and a piper!


Foregoing my usual Saturday night at the movies I set the alarm for 05:00 am, reminded myself how much I like being in the Trossachs of a Sunday morning, sighed and switched off the light. Davie thought we were leaving his house at 06:45 am not 05:45 am – but we were soon on our way along the Hill Foots en route the Gran Fondo Scotland – Summer Edition.

Photo©Ed Hood

The guy on the entrance to Stirling Castle wasn’t impressed with my press pass and we had to park down the road to abandon the van but the view from the castle esplanade over to the Wallace Monument made the walk worthwhile, even if the light wasn’t the best.

Gary and Laura Hand could hardly have provided a more impressive start for their event.

Photo©Ed Hood

And the piper to pipe the groups off under the watchful eye of The Bruce was a great touch.

‘Scotland the Brave,’ the King would have approved.

Photo©Ed Hood

The first wave lined up for the 07:15 depart with ex-Scottish Champion, Davie Lines on the front row.

Photo©Ed Hood

Recently crowned Scottish Veteran’s Road Race Champion, Andy Bruce was in smiley mood.

Photo©Ed Hood

And Christina McKenzie rolled out to add another 75 miles to the 212 she did yesterday as preparation for her forthcoming Lands End to John O Groats record bid.

Christina is current British ladies veteran 24 hour record holder and is preparing fastidiously for her ride, including trialling feeding in the dark and how it feels to catch short sleeps then get back on the bike.

Answer; ‘Grim!

And, if you’re into ‘ultra-distance’ we have an interview coming up soon on VeloVeritas soon with Lands End to John O Groats AND BACK record holder, James MacDonald who’s attacking the world 24 hour record on Newport Velodrome within the next week.

Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

Wave two rolled out some five minutes later with our piper still blowing hard – I hope he got his customary dram?

Or maybe it was too early for that?

Photo©Ed Hood
Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

Gary was keeping a watchful eye on proceedings as they rattled down over the same cobbles over which Chris Boardman beat George Hincapie by a single second to win the 4.2 kilometre prologue of the 1998 Prutour.

We caught up with affairs at Cambusbarron, passing what was once the largest tweed mill in Scotland, re-joined the main Kippen Flats road and hung a left up to Kippen  – no pictures, we wanted to get up to the first group, which we didn’t manage until the road across to Port of Menteith.

A pleasure to drive on safe, quiet, leafy roads past the Lake of Menteith, whose Inchmahome Priory provided refuge for a young Mary Queen of Scots.

Photo©Ed Hood

We parked up at one of our favourite Tour of the Trossachs, VeloVeritas photo opp. spots – the drag up from the Lake.

An Andrew Allan man was stringing them out but Andy Bruce didn’t seem too troubled.

Photo©Ed Hood

‘King of the Mountains’ start – a nice touch just before Aberfoyle Village Hall, race HQ for the Tour de Trossachs.

Photo©Ed Hood

There was a wee bit of a habble on The Dukes Pass with the ‘prime line’ a tad before the ‘official’ Tour de Trossachs one.

Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

Habble or nae, nice to get a greeting from my old GS Modena club mate and ex-Scottish Road Race Champion, Graeme McGarrity.

Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

Former Scottish international rider Maurice Laing is on the comeback trail and has qualified for the Worlds Fondo for his age group in Poland, later this year – but the Santa Devil seemed unimpressed by this…

Photo©Ed Hood

We’re not sure how this sign got past Gary and Laura’s ‘morals committee’ – it was probably that Santa Devil character’s work.

Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

One of my favourite views in Scotland comes off the descent of the Dukes Pass, the hard to access but beautiful Loch Drunkie.

Just one of the spectacular lochs this Fondo takes in.

Photo©Ed Hood

One of the advantages of a Fondo, unlike a road race, is that you can wait for your buddies if they get dropped…

Photo©Ed Hood

We were sorry we missed the garden party on Venachar side last night, another of the lovely lochs the event passes.

Photo©Ed Hood

The Invertrossachs Road to by-pass Callander always gives us palpitations in the Tour de Trossachs – focussed riders on twitchy TT bikes over poor and inevitably wet surfaces don’t mix well with Sunday drivers.

But today was a much more sedate affair, Christina leads her gruppo over the stone bridge at the entrance to the road.

Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

‘Imagine our surprise’ when we came upon a ‘feeding station’ complete with bananas, cookies and all the water and sports drinks a rider could wish for.

Another of the nice touches.

I saw someone on social media ask; ‘why ride a fondo, just go out and do it yourself!

I can answer that; there’s zero chance of me getting up to ride 75 miles at that time on a Sunday so I can have the rest of the day to myself, less chance of anyone to actually ride with, no sense of occasion riding up Windmill Road to head up the Dundee Road to roads which I’ve ridden a hundred times before, no wheels to hang if needs be and definitely no piper, feeding station or post-ride pasta and chats with old friends.

Photo©Ed Hood

Hang a right at the end of the Invertrossachs Road and the long straight leads you to the bottom of the Braes of Greenock.

The Tour de Trossachs used to go up the ‘big’ Braes but now goes over the ‘wee’ Braes.

Another of the VeloVeritas favourite picture spots is at the top of ‘wee’ Braes looking north back toward Callander and Callander Craig, the view never disappoints.

And if anyone can tell us how the Braes of Greenock got their name, we’d be very interested.

Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

At the foot of the Braes lies Thornhill with the ‘Medio’ Fondo heading straight on to the Kippen Flats and the road to Stirling but with the ‘Gran’ taking a left and then a left again just at the edge of the village.

The Gran route then described a big loop round by Doune and along the River Teith to pick up the ‘big’ Braes then back to Thornhill via Ruskie,

Photo©Ed Hood

Back at Thornhill the marshal was asking; ‘the short or long route?’ with this young lady saying definitely; ‘short!

Photo©Ed Hood

We took the ‘short’ route back across the 2,000 acres of Flanders Moss, an 8,000 years-old peat bog then turned left along the Kippen Flats to the finish and event village at Stirling Park & Ride where many riders were already finished and changed.

The Perth boys were lined up for their picture – I liked the old Perth United ‘Czech’ jersey better guys, sorry.

Photo©Ed Hood

Former Scottish ‘cross, Criterium and MTB champion, Davie Lines didn’t look like he’d just done a brisk 75 miles as he chatted to us about the Espresso Coaching company which he and Gary Hand run; ‘Zwift’ – ‘power files’ – ‘smart trainers’ zoomed over our dinosaur heads.  

Gran Fondo Scotland
Photo©Ed Hood

All that remained was for us to blag our pasta from Gary and thank him and wife Laura for a great day out – we might even ride it, next year.

But ‘medio,’ you understand…

And if you like the idea of a Fondo then don’t despair, the ‘Autumn Classic’ on 29th September is still to come:

“Starting at the Kelpies, riders can enjoy the scenic route out towards Stirling before heading west where the road begins to climb around the Carron Valley Reservoir. 

We chose this part of the course after being inspired by the lakes of Italy. 

Riders will then take on the challenging Crow Road with characteristics of the shallow yet long, lower French Alpine slopes.

This road is also where Britain’s only Tour de France King of the Mountains jersey winner formerly known as Robert Millar previously trained.

En route, stop off at our feed station to refuel before taking on the Tak-Ma-Doon climb then afterwards, the peaceful winding roads will take you back into Falkirk where you can finish your day with true  “Italian Panache” at our Pasta Party Celebration, a Gran Fondo favourite, at The Falkirk Stadium.”

For more information check out the official website.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Road racing, Rhododendrons, Sportives, and Sunday Shopping

We look at the popularity of Sportives in this article. In 2014, both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia will visit the UK. The 2011 World Road Race Champion was a British rider and the current Tour de France champion is British also.

Book Review – “World’s Ultimate Cycling Races”

The new book by respected cycling journalist Ellis Bacon may help - the "World's Ultimate Cycling Races" is an eclectic mix of facts and stats about events all over the globe, from Pro level races such as the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana to MTB races, Gran Fondos and Sportives that anyone can take part in.

Gary Hand – From Rider to (Gran Fondo) Organiser

Gary Hand used to be a regular on the pages of VeloVeritas, he raced in France; he was always in the mix in Scottish road races; he was the driving force behind the formation of the powerful Endura team in 2009 and in 2012 achieved a long held goal of winning the Scottish Senior Road race Championship. And he’s back, at the helm of Gran Fondo Scotland.

Rob Simpson – the Man Behind “Velo Sportive”

Despite my bemusement at the popularity of Sportives - as Vik says; 'you go out on your bike to get away from folk, not ride round with 500 others!' there's no denying their popularity. Rob Simpson is the man behind 'Velo Sportive' who organise participation in Sportives and will be promoting his first sportiv in April - we decided to reach out to him and seek enlightenment.

Sestriere-Colle delle Finestre Gran Fondo on 24 July

Turin, 29 June 2016 – The iconic gravel roads of the Colle delle Finestre and the finish line at Sestriere, scene of epic gestures by generations of pro riders, are two of the features that define the story of the Gran Fondo La Marmotte – Sestriere – Colle delle Finestre. The sportive ride organised by RCS Sport / RCS Active Team, now in its second edition, will be held on Sunday 24 July.

At Random

Peter Murphy – “Go To Belgium”

Scottish bike racing; let's face it, no matter how well you do in the Super Sixes, or how quick you can go around West Ferry, you're going nowhere if you stay in Auld Scotia.

Minor Details: Eneco 2010 Stage 4

Minor Details. Today was the first stage that the boys didn't have any specific job to do in the race. We had held the jersey for the first three days of the race, and will continue to fight out the general classification with Svein, but the stage today was quite flat, so it would not in any way effect the gc standings, meaning our boys finally had a low responsibility day.

Scottish 25 Mile TT Championship 2019 goes to Kyle Gordon

On a rain sodden but mild and fast Sunday morning on the A90 Dundee to Aberdeen dual carriageway, starting and finishing at Forfar, Kyle Gordon (RT23) added to his Scottish 10 Mile TT Title with a rapid 48:53 to win the Scottish 25 Mile TT Championship 2019 crown from jockey-turned-bike-rider, former Olympic TT Champion, Wilson Renwick (Java Partizan Pro Cycling Team) on 49:16 and former Hill Climb Champion, David Griffiths (Bioracer-Moriarty Bikes) with 49:24.

Dan Fleeman – Sprinting to the Win in the Rutland – Melton International CiCLE Classic!

Alejandro Valverde winning his fourth Doyenne as last Sunday’s hi-lite? Well, we were expecting that – the Movistar Spaniard and Sky’s Polish flyer Kwiatkowski were ‘super favourites’ and delivered two of the three podium places. But what we weren’t expecting was the phone call from VeloVeritas soothe sayer and mentor, Viktor on Sunday evening; ‘your man Dan Fleeman’s just won The Rutland!’ Now, that was a surprise!

Tour de Yorkshire 2018 – Stage 4 Wrap Up; Greg Van Avermaet takes the Stage and GC

Greg van Avermaet dedicated his stunning Tour de Yorkshire success to the memory of BMC Racing Team owner Andy Rihs after a superb final stage saw him crowned champion in Leeds. Rihs passed away at the age of 75 last month, with BMC still in mourning after losing a friend and passionate cycling fan as well as owner.

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 11: Cambados – Pontevedra 39.4 km ITT

We're in Cambados, mulling over how could we overlook Fred? He won the TT in the Tour of Switzerland - beating Cancellara in the process - then pushed TV hard for the polka dot jersey in le Tour.