Some nervous faces, some confident. 32 of us lined up. I lurked at the back, to make sure that I wasn't drawn into the inevitable sprint towards the first proper hill, the Devil's staircase.
Near Bridge of Orchy I stopped to put a bit of air in my rear tyre to avoid getting a pinch puncture. What should have taken 5 minutes took longer as my pump had disassembled itself, so that required putting back together first which was fiddly to do.
As we climbed up Black Mount, I caught Mike, Ricardo and Matt, and stopped to take a couple of pictures.
By the time we'd got to the Kingshouse, the sun was out.
The remains of the winter's snow on the Buchaille, and the first of many pictures of my bike. :)
As I neared the top of the Devil's staircase, a stiff little climb, I noticed my rear tyre was soft again. I'm not sure what I thought I'd acheive by putting some more air in, but that's what I did.
A couple of minutes later my near flat tyre require attention again. This time I did the right thing. Time to fix puncture. I've ridden bikes for over 40 years, and have never fixed a puncture on the trail. I knew though I had a spare tube, repairing one in the sunshine even if accompanied by a few midges was the thing to do.
As I did my DIY Alan, Riccardo, Phil, and Mike rode by.
Puncture fixed I made my way cautiously down, intent on not causing any more punctures.
I'd planned on stopping at Kinlochleven for a Coke, but knowing that I'd already lost time I pushed on into the Mamore Forest.
At Luibeit came the first of river crossings. I'm not a fan of crossing rivers, so I just got on with it. Shin deep and not particularly fast flowing I was quickly across. Flood debris around showed that things could be very different here though.
Next was a delightful section of bog and tussocks that required some manhandling of bike.
A sandy beach at the head of Lochan Na H Earba.
I saw a rider in the distance here (Alan Parkinson) who I attempted to catch up. Nik Kinloch caught me first though, and I rode with him for a while. We did catch Alan a bit later, but only because he'd taken a wrong turn.
It was good to chat with Nik, he was the only person I spent more than a passing moment with all day. Reading the reports and speaking to others from last year the social aspect of the event was also a big draw for me. Riding with other folk is always interesting.
Near the bottom of the Corrieyairack Nik pushed on and I decided to call it a day having found a sofa with my name on it for the night. I'd hoped to get to Fort Augustus in time for pizza, but instead planned to get there for a hot breakfast instead. I'd not brought a stove.
Not long after Bryan, Mike, Alan (P) and Andy also stopped. Whilst others rode on past.
I'd done 84 miles, my legs felt good and surprisingly my knees (my bête noire) weren't feeling bad either.
I was behind the schedule I was hoping for, but I was not worried, there'd be time to make up some extra miles. Or so I thought.