It may go down as one of the most extreme sportives in history – as participants in Sunday’s Tour o’ the Borders battled flooded roads, gale force winds and torrential rain.
But despite the challenging conditions, the majority of the 1000 strong field battled through to complete the route – albeit a shortened version thanks to flash flooding rendering some roads completely impassable.
Starting and finishing in Peebles, the non-competitive group ride was meant to be a fun, but challenging, day out on the bike. But neither organisers nor cyclists knew just how challenging when they awoke on Sunday morning, with no weather warnings in place and no flood alerts issued.
And it wasn’t until the cyclists were on course that the weather really closed in. Organisers sent out scores of cars to go and collect any riders who wanted to turn back, but most seemed determined to finish the route.
Neil Dalgleish, one of the organisers of the Tour o’ the Borders, said, “We really couldn’t have predicted just how bad the weather was going to be. The forecast wasn’t great, but there were no flood or weather warnings in place. I’ve never seen anything like it – the combination of snow melt, heavy rain and strong winds made for atrocious riding conditions.
“As soon as the storm really set in we sent out a fleet of vehicles to go and pick up riders and help anyone who needed it, but amazingly, only six of them took us up on it. When we were out on course it was great to see everyone helping each other out and just making the most of it – it was a sort of ‘blitz spirit’ mentality. Most people seemed to see the funny side and crossed the line with a smile on their face. I think it’s safe to say this year’s tour will be remembered for a very long time to come!”
And one participant, Chris Turbitt, even found himself being rescued by a tractor as he was caught out by the rising flood water on the B711 near Tushielaw.
The 42 year old from Roslin said, “The weather was truly awful but I actually felt more sorry for the marshals than the riders. We put our heads down, gritted our teeth and just got on with it, but they were standing still at the side of the road for hours on end. I take my hats off to the marshals and organisers for they way they handled the situation.”
The riders were rewarded for their efforts with hot food and showers at Peebles High School, with many saying the weather hadn’t put them off.
Peter Wilson, from Darlington, commented, “I have never ridden in anything like it but I will be back to conquer it next year without a doubt. It’s a fantastically well organised event with some great people involved – I’m looking forward to 2014 already.”