03 September 2023 – Tushielaw to Tibbie Shiels


When the day of Oliver’s first sportive ride approached (the Tour of the Borders), we were keen to go and support him somewhere along the route. With the roads being closed to normal traffic, there weren’t all that many places to choose from. However, I remembered cycling off-road to Berrybush from Tibbie Shiels, near St Mary’s Loch a good few years ago,  providing an option so that I could meet him as he passed the Glen Cafe over there.

We drove down to Selkirk, then up the Ettrick valley towards Tushielaw. I dropped Colette off at the junction just before so she could get a head start, then parked at the hotel and cycled back. From the junction, I headed uphill, but I didn’t catch up Colette till nearly the top. We then paused at the top of the climb by the Berrybush sign to find out how Oliver was doing, as he had activated live tracking on his phone. He appeared to be on the Devil’s Beef Tub, heading towards Moffat, making really good time. 

Colette and I now went different ways. I headed off-road into Berrybush forest, following the Captain’s Road off-road track. Colette didn’t fancy going off-road, so she carried on down the normal road to the crossroads at the Gordon Arms, a few miles distant.

Berrybush forest

My route continued going uphill for a while on gravel roads through the forest. It was a lot more open than the last time I passed through, as a lot of the trees had been felled in the intervening years. After the road topped out, it descended for a short while before coming to a gate.

Captain’s Road

After that, Captain’s Road became more of a grassy landrover track, heading quite steeply downhill. The views over towards St Mary’s Loch opened up for a very pleasant, if quite bumpy descent, with plenty of sheep randomly crossing in front, so that I didn’t want to let the speed get up too much.

The road flattened out at Tibbie Shiels, and after crossing the little humpback bridge, I reached the “Road Closed” sign close to the Glen Cafe. I chatted to some of the people waiting around for the riders to arrive, then popped into the cafe for a takeaway coffee. They were busy inside laying out macaroni pies for any of the hungry sportive riders who choose to take a refuelling stop.

Meantime, Colette reached the Gordon Arms crossroads to a round of applause by the waiting stewards. She chatted to them and told them that she was waiting to cheer Oliver on and to take a video of him riding round the corner.

By this time, Oliver was well beyond Moffat, and it didn’t take too long before he was closing in on my position. I was holding a spare water bottle that he had given me, in case he needed it, so I placed myself at the side of the road to hand it over. Pretty soon, a sole rider on a white bike came flying past and I started a stopwatch.

One minute and fifteen seconds later a group of seven riders flew past, with Oliver on the front. He shook his head, indicating that he didn’t want to take the bottle. I was glad of that, as it could have been a bit sketchy at the speed he was going. Then he was past before I could shout any encouragement or even tell him the time gap.

As the riders carried on towards where Colette was waiting, I started heading back up the Captain’s Road. The climb was fairly steep in places, but still manageable in my lowest gear. I actually really enjoyed it, and it made me think about getting back to doing more off-road cycling.

Rounding the corner at the Gordon Arms. Many thanks to the anonymous steward for this photo.

Meantime, Oliver’s group was closing in on Colette. She started taking video, but as they approached, she got overexciting cheering for him and ended up with a video of the road. Luckily, one of the stewards took a photo as they passed, and shared that with Colette.

By the time I got back to Berrybush, Colette was still on her way back up the climb from the crossroads, so I went down to meet her and we continued up together. We paused here and there to check on Oliver’s progress, and by the time we were at Berrybush again, he had finished, crossing the line in third place! 

Cows in no rush to move!

We only had a descent left to get us back to the car, but we had to stop halfway down, as there were cows lying on the road. They got up and gradually moved off when a car arrived. The occupants of the car had been on their way to Oban but had been redirected due to the closed roads. We discussed some options for rerouting with them before getting underway again and returned to the car.

The drive back was a bit frustrating as we were out of phone signal for quite a while before Colette managed to get in touch with Oliver to talk about his experience of the Tour of the Borders. He had a great time and took really well to riding in a fast-paced group, considering he’d never done anything like it before. The rider who was leading when we saw them, Chris Browell, worked really hard and stayed clear of Oliver’s group all the way to the finish. Oliver made a break for it as they closed in on Peebles, but he ran out of legs at the very end, and he was pipped for 2nd place by Nikki Elder on the line. What a great effort, we’re so proud of him!

[As an aside, the timing chip puts Oliver as 7th fastest around the course, as a quirk of where exactly you are in the wave of riders as you file past the start. But forget that, he finished THIRD!!!]



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *