Allez Maggie’s

Five guys, 10 wheels, 170 miles and 4,000 pounds raised for Monty’s Maggie’s Appeal – the figures are impressive, yet they don’t really tell the story of last weekend’s Ride the North event that Team Fifth Ring completed in aid of Monty’s Maggie’s Appeal.

What a great event! Neil Innes at VeloDays organised an epic bike ride between Inverness and Aberdeen via some of the most scenic – and traffic-free – roads in Scotland. As an advert for how good Scotland can be as a cycling destination, this was straight out of Saatchi and Saatchi’s scrapbook – even the weather played a blinder.

Anyhow – back to the ride … Fifth Ring and pals were represented by me, Ian Ord, Nick Dunn, Jason Smith and Andrew Rose (honorary team manager for the duration). We sent the bikes up on a truck supplied by RtN sponsor G.o.T who ensured our bikes were ready to roll from Eden Court Theatre on Friday morning. After making sure tyres were at the correct pressure and charged bidons (water bottles) were on the bikes, we set off – only 82 miles (which turned in 95 miles, but more about that later) between us and a cold beer.

Down the south bank of Loch Ness and then up and over the moors via Cawdor – Neil ensured the route was signposted and perfectly mapped. Sadly, someone had nicked a crucial Turn Left sign after our lunch stop ensuring myself, Nick and a few others ended up doing a 13-mile detour and adding to the fatigue for our first day. Needless to say, dinner that evening at the half-way stop in Elgin was most welcome!

Saturday dawned cool, bright and dry – and not a breath of wind – perfect cycling weather. Although day one was hardly flat, we knew day two would be the hilly stage with climbs up from Craigellachie, the Cabrach and the Suie, near Alford, still to come. Soon enough, the road began to become more sticky as the gradients took their toll. The drag up the Cabrach was 10 miles of gradually rising road. As we passed the early starters I was struck by how cheerful everyone was – and it’s incredible to see people of all shapes and sizes taking on such a challenge on all kinds of bikes. Our fancy-pants Tour de France-standard bikes and expensive cycling gear undoubtedly quickened our journey, but I tip my hat to those who undertook RtN on nothing more than 'shopping bikes' and trainers – Chapeau!

Once on familiar Aberdeenshire roads, we made good time towards our own Champs Elysees – otherwise known as the Gordon Highlanders' Museum in Aberdeen. The final couple of miles into the city flew by, as we knew we’d accomplished our latest cycling challenge. The traditional sprint for the final 30 mile-an-hour sign at the city limit was won by … Nick – though I’m claiming I led him out for the win!

Of course, the real winner is Monty’s Maggie’s Appeal – we’ve still to find out the final total from the ride but with 100 people taking part in RtN – it’s gonna be a fantastic total for the charity.

So, at ‘fin de course’, it’s a big ‘merci beaucoup’ to all those who made this trip so enjoyable. On behalf of all those who took part and on behalf of all those who will benefit from the fantastic new Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre that will open in Aberdeen in 2013, salut!