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SCOTTISH BORDERS DIY the event of a tumble, wondering how long would it be before I’d be discovered . As the ice approaches, I can tell it’s just a narrow strip and judge that I could whizz across it to safe dry tarmac before any trouble starts. Luckily, I’m right. The first pass is Cross Hill, 334m and on the boundary between the regions of Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. It is not very high, but is tough into the headwind as the climb steepens towards the top. I’m looking forward to being blown back later on. I can see high rounded hills, snow-capped and gleaming in the early spring sunshine. A nice long gentle descent soon finds me in Tushielaw. Unfortunately the inn is now closed. As I dream of previous happy pints I’ve enjoyed there, I realise I’ve just missed the right turn to Hawick. A bit silly really as road junctions are rare in places like this. I do a U-turn and then head east on the B711. Despite the change of direction, I’ve still got to battle that pesky breeze. The contours can alter the direction of air flows and I suppose a cyclist with local knowledge could devise a circuit with the wind behind all the way; he’d certainly be going the opposite way to me. I’m wondering if I’ll make the next pass before having to retrace to Eskdalemuir. The road gently climbs up the steep-sided valley of the Rankle Burn and then that of its tributary, Clear Burn, to emerge on Hurkle

Rigg, a false summit at 308m. False summits can be a bit dispiriting, especially in a headwind and with time running out. After a short descent, I’m climbing again and pass the enticingly named Alemoor reservoir (thinking of Tushielaw again). True to form, there are now banks of cloud in front of the sun and the water is titanium grey and uninviting as I cross the bridge over a narrow part of the reservoir. Finally, I make Firestane Edge (331m). Despite its grand -sounding name, this pass is not a very magnificent spot*, nonetheless it’s worth a visit for the approach roads and surrounding countryside. I’m tempted to turn round here: “ The descent may retrace the ascent” – so say the OCD rules and I’ve achieved my objective. But I notice I’ve done about 24 miles. Hmm, if I go a bit further, I’ll get 50 miles round trip in – it sounds so much better than 48. So, I foolishly do the steep descent to Roberton. That extra mile and a bit seems never-ending as I cannot help thinking about the climb back I’ll have to do shortly. At least I’ll have the wind behind… I turn round at Roberton, charming little hamlet, and hit the not-so-charming little hill. I grovel to the top, reminding myself it’s only a mile. I’m aware that I still seem to have no help from the wind: how did that happen? I console myself with the thought that it’s all downhill to Tushielaw, once over the hurdle of Hurkle Rigg . Tushielaw arrives and I have

a quick sandwich in the brittle sunshine which has reappeared. Now for the tailwind! Unbelievably, it’s against me for the first few hundred yards, leaving me glancing nervously at my watch. Then I round a bend and start flying – those tricky contours are at last acting in my favour. I’m doing 15 miles an hour (well, at least on the easier bits) which must prove the strength of the wind, as I’m now feeling slightly knackered. Back in Samye Ling carpark, and on time, I’m divesting my cycling gear in favour of something more suitable for the occasion. I’m congratulating myself on having maintained a skill from my long-gone time-trialling days: that of being able to get changed in odd places. A pity I haven’t retained the skill of riding at 25 miles an hour. Then I realise I’ve forgotten to pack my trousers. I envisage the embarrassment of appearing in the monastery with bright “World Champ” ribbing on the ankle cuffs of my tracksuit bottoms. I needn’t have worried - they are totally eclipsed by the light of a thousand candles. *Mid-June, and I’ve just done Firestane Edge again as part of a longer ride. This was a fine day of sun, wind and cloud and I must record that the views from the Edge were excellent, down Teviot Dale and across Ettrick Forest to the distant Lammermuir Hills. And this time, there were equal shares of headwind and tail-wind on the circuit.

Paul Harrison rides through the Borders

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Arrivée Summer 2016 • No.133

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Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

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