Methlick Cycle Challenge June 2024

A couple of weekends ago, I took part in the Methlick Cycle Challenge. The event has 3 mixed-terrain distances – 23 miles, 45 miles & 54 miles, along with a 61 mile on-road distance. The event is based in Methlick, Aberdeenshire, a short distance from my house.

This year I took part in the 54 mile event. This distance was introduced last year, when I missed the event due to Covid.

The weather wasn't great at the start, which meant tights and a long-sleeve top instead of shorts & t-shirt! Fortunately, the rain held off for most of the event.

The event route heads along the Ythan river before joining the Methlick-Fyvie road and heading East to a climb up to the wind turbines at Skelmonae and a tricky descent back to tarmac. Shortly after this, the route joins the Buchan and Formartine way, a converted railway path, then bypasses the town of Ellon through Ythan Bank, before rejoining the Buchan and Formartine way south of Ellon, heading for Udny Station. At this point, I got a little bit lost, having missed the sign sending us down some steps to the old railway line - once I realised my mistake, I soon got back on course.

You can see my detour and return here!

At Udny Station (site of a welcome feed station!), the route leaves the old railway line and heads East through Tillygreig and around some very exclusive-looking houses at Whiterashes - the strata segment's called 'Dirt up past millionaire row' to give you some idea of who lives there!

From there we headed to Udny Green (not to be confused with Udny Station), and passed Udny Castle, somewhere I hadn't been since my childhood. After the castle, we passed through Pitmedden Gardens, along an off-road section on Fisher Walk, and onto the Old Aberdeen Road (I sure I went through someone's garden at one point).

The Old Aberdeen Road, as the names suggests, is the original road from Aberdeen to Tarves. Today, it's just a track through the woods, with the occasional tractor (and cyclist) along its path. The end of the road is a steep descent into Tarves - every time I've come down it, I'm convinced I'm going to come off, but it hasn't happened yet!

At this point, we head up into Tarves, past the Muckle Tuck cafe (which I must visit on one of my bike rides), and drop down Tree Road into Haddo House Estate.

On previous editions of the event, we've gone past Haddo House, and then back to the finish in Methlick. This year, I'd opted for the 54-mile route, which added some extra milage in through Barthol Chapel and returned into Methick from the North-West. I did seriously consider heading directly back to Methlick at this point (the 45-mile option followed this route), but decided against it, and headed out off on the extra leg. This took me on some roads I'd certainly never cycled before, and probably never driven on either, despite living in the area for most of my life! This final section had a good mix of off-road and tarmac, with a final off-road section on concrete, taking me back to my cycling days in the Netherlands & Belgium, where this sort of road surface is much more common.

The route ended with a welcome descent into Methlick with the finish at the Ythan View Hotel, where a barbecue and a welcome pint awaited the finishers.

At the end, I felt pretty wrecked. My finishing time was 4:30, my longest ride in about 8 years. I'd expected to be finished in around 4 hours, but I'd based that on the distance being 80 km, when, in fact, it was nearer 90 km. The overall speed was pretty consistent with the previous times I'd done the event, albeit over the shorter distance, at about 20 km/hr.

Before I do the event again (and I definitely will!), I need to get some longer rides in, particularly on gravel.

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