Between 1725 and 1733 General George Wade built a road high above Loch Ness, linking Fort Augustus with Inverness. Ostensibly to move men and equipment between forts, in fact the road was as much about projecting the power of the British Government deep into the Highlands in the wake of the Jacobite Rebellion.
Enough of the history – what you really need to know is that, as a military man, General Wade wasn’t going to let a mountain get in his way. He just went straight over it. And in doing so created the cycling challenge of the End-to-End. A Category 2 climb of more than 1100 vertical feet in five and a half miles.
The day had started in torrential rain. Probably our most miserable morning along the busy A82 from Glencoe. Conditions made the forest cycle path along the west of Loch Linnie an unwise choice, so we stuck to the main road on the eastern bank.
Then the rain stopped and the sun emerged just as we started the mighty climb. All the great climbs on the continent have a simple name. We dubbed this one The General in honour of its builder. All the great climbs on the continent are also classified Category 1 – 5 (with 1 being the steepest). Legend has it that if a Renault 4 had to go down into first gear to get up the mountain, that made it a Category 1, second gear a Category 2. If the Renault 4 couldn’t get up it at all then it was “Hors Categorie”.
Enough of the history – what you really need to know is that a Category 2 climb comes with lung-searing pain, bucketloads of sweat and a huge sense of achievement. A fortnight previously the conversation had been about the right gears needed to tackle this monster hill after more than 700 miles of riding. Now the conversation was about the riders, not the gear.
Day 8: Glencoe to Alness: 108 miles; 5523 ft ascent