Karen Darke: The Great Escape

The snow fell thick and fast as we sped down the A9 south through the whitening Cairngorms. A few days of travelling around the country later, not least to see the Queen at a Buckingham Palace evening for adventurers and explorers where I had a good chat with the dynamic Prince Edward, we’ve landed in the calm, breathless winter of Mallorca. The news says it’s 165mph winds back home on Cairngorm. Phew, it really was a great time to escape!

John Hampshire (my coach from www.fit-for-purpose.co.uk) is here with me, encouraging me to pedal faster through sweaty interval sessions. It’s good to have company when out riding – I spend too many hours alone riding the handbike – and John cranking beside me on his Trice trike is keeping me ‘on it’ instead of drifting into daydreams. It’s weird having someone riding at the same height as me to chat to!

The roads are quiet at the moment, no gangs of German cyclists like there are in March (and no overweight men in white Lycra!); just the pro teams. We’ve had a few waves from Bradley Wiggins now – Team Sky is staying just around the bay so their morning rides seem to coincide with us setting out.

Yesterday was a mountain ride. A great ride through fields of sheep with their bells jangling like mountain goats up through the forests where locals gathered for Sunday BBQs in the picnic areas, and finally into the rocky outcrops up top. The Traumantana Mountains are really stunning. I was excited to find myself at the top 20 minutes faster than last year (over 2.5 hours), so all this training must be paying off.