A CLOSER LOOK AT THE STAGES OF THE DUKES WEEKENDER
The Dukes Hill Climb.
(Available as an individual race and prologue of the Dukes Overall).
- Length 2km
- Ascent 145m
- Gradient 7% average.
Our chosen bike:
- Light weight with slick tyres and locked out suspension. It’s tarmac.
Taking its name from its creator in the 1800s, this road winds its way up and over the fault line that signifies the start of the Scottish Highlands. Weaving up through lush deciduous forest on one side and pines rich with wildlife on the other, the hairpins are the perfect backdrop for a bike race. Peaceful and closed for much of the winter and a tourist route through the summer, on the 8th September the road will come alive with cowbells, as riders race to the plateau. Leaving the village to the tunes of fantastic local band AbTrad, riders will pass school corner (think Dutch Corner Alp D’Huez swapping drunk men for kids with chalk), our drummer in the forest and a Harviestoun sponsored pop up bar before reaching the finish.
Despite its grand title, the road isn’t the longest or steepest out there, but its location and beauty has attracted racers for decades. Polka dot jersey winner Robert Millar knows the hill well as does the world famous Graeme Obree, who is making a return to racing for the Dukes Weekender! Currently however, as far as we know, the King and Queen of the Hill are actually Scottish Cycling’s most powerful siblings, the Archibald’s. Will our Duke and Duchess be able to topple their dynasty?
Stage 1: Loch Drunkie
- Length 1.03km
- Ascent 38m
- Descent 36m.
- It's twisty a few roots and undulating. Suits a bit bigger on the tires with plenty of edge, fast changing low gears too.
Surely the best name of all the Lochs, nestled in the Trossachs, Drunkie is a favourite of Aberfoyles Ospreys. Approaching the stage keep your eyes peeled for them stocking up on fish before heading off to Africa mid-September. Once racing however there will be no time for bird watching. The stage is a smooth, flowy singletrack. It swoops up and down, right and left and has a little kick that appears out of nowhere so keep your thumbs near your gear lever.
Stage 2: Venachar Lochside
- Length 3km
- Ascent 66m
- Descent 80m.
- Fast rolling, strong legs and skills on the turns all needed! We have a lot of friendly MTB vs CX debate about this one. We’ll see.
Not far from Drunkie, you will transition down to the picturesque Loch Venachar. Sitting beneath Ben Ledi, and Ben Aan, this sheltered loch provides the perfect destination for water sports and tranquil walks…. AND gravel biking! This is a corker of a stage that hugs the lochs coast line. Starting off fairly flat and fast, some sharp bends and little rises will keep you on your toes in the second half. If you needed to keep you thumb near the gears on stage one, keep your fingers on the brakes for this one. Does it get any more beautiful than this? (Maybe – see every other stage!).
Stage 3: Green Gate
- Length: 3.2km
- Ascent 52m
- Descent 108m.
The one full gravel road stage. Smooth and fast!
Another change in nature for this one. This stage takes you into remote areas of the forest. Occasional glimpses of Ben Lomond, Ledi, Venue and the Arrochar Alps, will give you a handle on the scale of the Forest Park. Refuelled after lunch, you’ll be full of energy. Which is a good thing. Groomed, smooth and fast gravel will let you really open the tanks. But again, keep your eyes on the trail. A mix of rolling climbing and descending this stage is where we expect you to hit your top speeds.
Stage 4: 'Alp Duchray'
- Length 1.2km
- Ascent 52m
- Descent 9m.
- A punchy little hairpin climb, then over the top and if you've got the legs for it you'll get up to speed. Quite rough in places so suits wider tyres.
This stage follows part of a Victorian water pipeline. Built to transport clean water from Loch Katrine in the Industrial Revolution this pipe “cured” Glasgow of Cholera and is still an engineering masterpiece. You will race up some switchbacks next to the pipes and then roll and descend to finish underneath a beautiful 150 year old Aqueduct. The climb itself is not quite as smooth as Stage 3 but then the trail opens out and speeds up again if you’ve still got the legs.
Stage 5: Rob Roys Cave
- Length 1.3km
- Ascent 63m
- Descent 72m.
- Lots of turns, very undulating and one short but super steep kick that you'll need big legs or a low gear!
Yep that’s right, despite being a beautiful huge playground of a forest that’s full of wildlife, there is enough history to write several books about this area. Rob Roy. He fell out with the Great Grandad of the Duke who built the road, and got outlawed. Then he spent the rest of his life making a nuisance of himself rustling cattle and being a local bandit. This stage at Loch Ard is also a bit of a rascal. It’s another loch side trail, but this one swoops up and down over rocky outcrops above the water. Near the end of this final stage is a tricky little sting in the tail which will challenge everyone, rewarded by a fun flowy descent to the final finish line of the day.
You’ve finished the race. Well done. Just make sure you’ve saved enough energy to enjoy the final great fun little transition back to the village.