The Coalition of Chaos – A S’Winter Ride

The Coalition of Chaos – A S’Winter Ride

Club Run, Saturday 3rd June, 2017           

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  95 km / 59 miles with 378 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          3 hours 56 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         9 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          S’Winter

 


10 june
Ride Profile

 

Capture
Glorious British Summer Time

The Ride:

Once again the fickle British weather continues to toy with us and swing from one extreme to another, substituting last weekend’s glorious warmth and wall to wall sunshine, with a lumpen mass of oppressive grey cloud. This was due to stay hunched over Northern England for most of Saturday, emitting a constant stream of rain that hardly ever stopped, although it did occasionally vary in intensity – from light shower to a hard, stinging deluge and all points in-between.

Assuming the forecasts were going to be at least part-right, the Peugeot had been prepped the night before and made ready for a day when even cursed and rubbing mudguards would be, not only tolerated, but considered a necessity and a small price to pay for added protection. Luckily they even behaved.

Along with a change back to winter bikes, waterproof socks and my most impermeable jacket were selected for a real field test of effectiveness. (The Santini jacket passed admirably, the Sealskinz socks were an abject failure.)

It was also one of those days when the rain was heavy enough to screw with my Garmin, so the ride profile probably isn’t very accurate. If it is, then not only did I ride off a vertical cliff after 60km, but my home finished the day over 50 metres lower than where it was when I set out in the morning, even though the climb back up the hill was no easier.

Setting out and onto the Heinous Hill, I floated downstream with the current, noticing as I bottomed out on the valley floor just how noisy wet roads make the rest of the traffic, car tyres ripping and hissing past on the water-slicked tarmac.

Across the bridge and the River Tyne was a flat, sullen and grey below, devoid of boats or any other movement. Perhaps it was too wet even for the rowers?

Working back along the other side of the river, the Cobblestone Runway was now flanked by two new sets of traffic lights and temporary road works. At the first of these I queued behind a stream of cars for a good five minutes before the drivers decided the lights weren’t working and started to drive through on red.

Not wanting to come face-to-face with any approaching traffic that had the same idea, I picked out a large, heavy goods vehicle that looked suitably intimidating, tucked in behind it for protection and used it as a lead blocker for my own end-around through the roadworks.

Climbing up, out of the valley on the other side, more temporary lights pulled me to a stop half way up the slope, but this time I had only moments to wait before I was released by the green light.

The rest of the way was plain sailing and I swept through the meeting place and ducked into the shelter on the multi-storey car park just as Crazy Legs rolled in from the other side.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Hammer would be leading the ride today and had proposed a route that included wheat fields aplenty to run through, for those needing to get in touch with their rebellious side. The weather though was going to be the deciding factor and a shorter, more direct route to the café looked considerably more appealing – even if it meant foregoing such total, May-esque frivolity and utterly wicked abandon.

Crazy Legs admitted to being tired after following the extraordinary events of Thursday’s election as they had unfolded across his TV screen like a slow-motion car crash. I suspect he watched with the same glee and satisfaction most of us felt, as the overweening hubris of our elected government was shattered in a completely unnecessary, wasteful election they had brought solely on themselves. Smugness, conceit and presumption put to the sword – empty slogans, a robotic, delusional, uninspiring, empty and arrogant “leader” horribly exposed and a rabidly vicious and horribly twisted, biased press largely ignored.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the great British public can surprise me in a good way.

With world attention seemingly focussed, however briefly on this small island, we did wonder what outsiders might have made of some of our more colourful candidates, such as Lord Buckethead who, on the same platform as our incumbent PM, somehow seemed warmer and more genuine and appealing.

Others included a very large, very red Elmo, Howling “Laud” Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party and one hopeful dressed (and I don’t think even he knows why) as a giant fishfinger.

Crazy Legs in particular liked Lord Buckethead’s manifesto, built on a platform of “strong, but not very stable leadership” it included the pledge of no third runway at Heathrow: (“where we’re going we don’t need runways”) the nationalisation of Adele and a firm public commitment to build the £100bn renewal of the Trident weapons system, followed by an equally private commitment not to build it, the flawless logic being: “they’re secret submarines, no one will ever know. It’s a win win.”

Particularly appealing, Lord Buckethead promised free bikes for everyone, to help combat obesity, traffic congestion and, err … bike theft.

The ever pragmatic Taffy Steve, suggested we didn’t need to an election to negotiate Brexit, we simply had to point at the Norwegian model, say that’s what we want and how much will it cost. The only slight flaw in this argument is the presumption of some that we can somehow leave the EU and they’ll then give us for free everything we used to pay for. I don’t even think Lord Buckethead is that delusional.

European adventures were also under discussion in relation to our upcoming Alpine invasion, with the plan Crazy Legs proposed of riding the Marmotte Granfondo route possibly under threat due to the closure of one of the tunnels. He’d checked out the recommended traffic diversion, but backed out quickly when he found it involved an additional 2½ hours just to drive it!

Latest reports from Carlton and Cowin’ Bovril who are across there this weekend suggest the route is now open and we may yet be spared a circumnavigation of the entire mountain range.


It was a small group of only 9 diehards who pushed off clipped in and rode out into the rain. After some discussion we’d agreed to amend the route and head, more or less directly to the café, the only real contention being which café, with Big Dunc’s suggestion of the Costa, 800 metres away on the High Street getting serious consideration.

I took to the front with Big Dunc as we set out. We hadn’t gone far when the BFG trailing us closely drew our attention to what he thought might be two cycling ghosts up ahead. I suggested they might be the restless spirits of Coppi and Bartali, but received only an uneducated, “Huh?” in response.

As we drew closer we saw it wasn’t the ghosts of long dead, Italian cycling campionissimo’s we were tracking, but a father and son on mountain-bikes and wearing long, white rain ponchos. Hmm, bit early for trick or treat?

As an act of sheer, devil-may-care, rebellion, almost as reckless as running through a field of wheat, we decided to head straight up Brunton Lane, rather than taking the usual route past the Sage HQ.

Unfortunately, rebellion isn’t without consequence and we hadn’t gone far when our path was blocked by hundreds upon hundreds of soaking wet, T-shirt clad kids doing a “fun run” in the most atrocious conditions imaginable. It looked to me like nothing so much as the Pied Piper leading an army of wet and bedraggled rats out of Hamelin. Still, to be fair, despite the horrible weather the kids did actually look to be enjoying themselves.

We turned around and back-tracked toward the Sage HQ, to find the road here was closed as well, but the run had already passed and once the cones had been cleared, we were free to proceed.

Having lost my station at the front I drifted back to find Sneaky Pete, who was starting to wonder what kind of lunacy had tempted him out on a day like this. I tried to convince him it wasn’t so bad and once he was home in his slippers and silk smoking jacket, toasting his feet by the fire while enjoying a cigar and sturdy snifter of brandy, he’d look back fondly on the day and realise how much fun it had been. Honest.

With my socks slowly getting waterlogged and cold water squelching up between my toes on every pedal stroke, we pressed on and out into the rather grey and sodden countryside, occasionally skirting the wide puddles that crept out from the verges and into the road.


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We called a pee stop and discussed route options, with the Hammer’s suggestion for a referendum and then a vote, roundly shouted down, before finding a degree of consensus. With it still being too early for a direct run to the café, G-Dawg led us on a route across the top of the Quarry climb.

Loop successfully completed, we started to close in on the café and the pace unconsciously quickened a little, while the BFG specs misted horribly. With the rain now lashing down hard and caught in the spray kicked up from the wheel in front, he started wailing that he was blind and couldn’t see.

Crazy Legs suggested he wasn’t going to be contesting any sprints today as the weather was rank, our run-in was down the horribly potted and rutted surface that led to the Snake Bends and he was conscious of a big week ahead.

This conviction lasted almost as long as the BFG’s sudden attack, as he jumped hard and out of the saddle, briefly opening up a small gap which Crazy Legs almost instantly moved to close down.

I assumed the BFG was just trying to force a Damascene conversion and hoping a bit of clear air and open road might help the scales fall from his eyes. His effort was quite short-lived and he was soon back in the fold. We then reformed and I took to the front alongside G-Dawg, bouncing and rattling down the road and the speed starting to build again.

The Hammer was the next to attack, appropriately hammering down the outside and everyone swept around me to give chase, while I just kept pounding away, not looking to add any speed and just trying to maintain what I already had.

We flashed past a junction where another large group of cyclist were waiting to turn onto the road. Luckily they’d seen us and held back, otherwise it could have become sketchy – our lot were at full bore and unlikely to be happy with anyone riding into their path.

I was too far back and it was too murky to see the outcome of the sprint, but I do know that despite all his protestations Crazy Legs was in the mix right up to the end. No surprise there then.

We regrouped at the junction and then pressed on down the narrow, horribly potholed lane that paralleled the main drag. Here the other group of cyclists caught up and pointlessly forced their way past, while we singled out and everyone had to slalom and weave precariously around the fissures, holes and divots that littered our route.

At the end of the lane they turned right along with us, just before our last hurrah, a short ramp that we traditionally take at full gas as a full-stop to our actual café sprint. Traditions have to be upheld, even though the other group seemed particularly disgruntled and nonplussed as we bustled them out of the way and burst up the outside of their line, before easing and rolling into the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café, with black bin bags to park our water-logged derriere’s on, we pushed a few tables into one long line and convened around it.

The Hammer finished his poached eggs on toast and then started in on a bacon sarnie, suggesting he’d been so hungry in the week he’d eaten an entire box of muesli in one sitting. Crazy Legs mimed upending a large box of cereal and pouring it directly into his mouth, before asking how the Hammer could still manage to talk without constantly coughing out a cloud of muesli dust.

Crazy Legs next suggested drinking down a pint of milk to see if it would cause the Hammer’s stomach to suddenly bulge like an instant pregnancy, or John Hurts chest just before the Alien rips its way out of his innards.

For some reason talk turned to glam-rock legends, The Sweet, as Crazy Legs tried to recall one of their songs that was always on heavy rotation at the ice hockey. I felt anything was good as long as it wasn’t “Love is Like Oxygen” – a song the Hammer would later declare “has an elegiac quality, reminiscent of running alone through a field of wheat.”

He then suggested that The Sweet were the kind of band Led Zeppelin could have been if only … (I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t inadvertently discovered the secret identity of Lord Buckethead and now know who the person is under that … err… bucket.)

The Hammer and Big Dunc became all misty-eyed and nostalgic about prog rock and discussions about the best Pink Floyd album, while both Crazy Legs and I excused ourselves from the discussion and affirmed our Punk, Post-Punk-New Wave, Ska and Mod credentials by  declaring we’d never even consider listening to Pink Floyd and would instantly destroy any of their material that might infiltrate our households and taint our music sensibilities.

Meanwhile, as the rain continued to lash down outside and despite our dripping, soaked through gear, we all agreed we were strangely content to live in a moderate if changeable climate and pleased we didn’t have to suffer the extremes of long, baking hot summers, or deep frozen, snowbound winters.

Crazy Legs started toying with his track mitts and I told him it was too late to try and dry them out now. He gave us a fine display of jazz hands and suggested if he could ride home like that, his gloves would probably be dry before he made it back. The Hammer felt he might as well go the whole hog, black up and ride home doing a bad impersonation of Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.

And then it was time to leave and with a quick rendition of “Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo’ Bye)” make our way out into the rain again, while the rest of the cafe patrons heaved a huge sigh of relief.

As we were making for the exit someone in the café seemed to suggest we were, as my water-logged ears interpreted it, as “mad as otters” – perhaps I misheard, but I have to say that given the wet weather that seemed an altogether appropriate epithet.


I had a chat with Taffy Steve as we rode back and we both agreed the ride had the feel of one of our winter epics – a small band of die-hard compadre’s, gamely battling the elements together, while spouting all sorts of complete and utter nonsense. The only difference was, this time the rain was warm!

This reminded me of the  Phineas and Ferb episode where they used a snow-cone machine to create “a unique and logic defying amalgam of winter and summer” or S’Winter. Leaving the others and heading for home,  the S’Winter song became deeply lodged in my brain and I found myself pedalling along quite happily, singing:

It’s a S’Winter S’Wonderland,

Unusual and grand,

You can freeze while you get tan,

Because it’s S’Winter.

(Apparently, some people call it W’ummer too!)


YTD Totals: 3,593 km / 2,233 miles with 38,618 metres of climbing

Go Long, Bullseye

Go Long, Bullseye

Club Run, Saturday 3rd June, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  116 km / 72 miles with 1,183 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                         40+ riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    23°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and bright


 

3 june
Ride Profile

The Ride:

A quick look out of the window, early Saturday morning showed bright blue skies and the trees utterly motionless in the still air. It looked like being a good one.

Outside it was still surprisingly chilly, but I was convinced it was going to warm up and my “just in case” arm warmers stayed firmly in my jersey pocket as I made my way to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Shoeless was one of the first to arrive for a very rare outing with the club. He explained it needed a precise alignment of weather, shift patterns, family commitments, lack of other “triathlony” type sporting events along with his own personal inclination and motivation for him to make a ride these days.

It was so hot that … oh, sorry, I’ve done that one haven’t I. Nevertheless, it was warm enough once again to encourage Szell in another general disrobing and the removal of unwarranted base layers. I think perhaps he’s developing an exhibitionist’s streak – he certainly seems incapable of finding a reliable weather forecast.

OGL turned up with a new seat clamp for Szell’s “fat lad’s bike” and fitted it while we waited. Now that’s service for you. Meanwhile Crazy Legs urged Szell to make a careful examination of OGL’s new, custom-painted Orbea as this is what he’s likely be inheriting in the near future.

The Orbea is supposed to be highlighted in club colours, but both shades of tangerine and green look a touch off to my untrained eye. To compound the issues, OGL was wearing a sample pair of customised shorts a new potential supplier had sent him to review. These too were meant to be in club colours, but they had been matched from nothing more than a photo on a web page and were also quite subtly, wrong. the colours yet again different from both the club jersey and the bike.

The overall effect was like a kids drawing  where they’d been forced to change pens halfway through and got bored with too precise colouring in.

Sneaky Peter sneaked up, back on his beloved, impeccably fixed and restored De Rosa. Where OGL showed us the perils of mismatching colours, the repair work on the De Rosa was so accomplished that not even G-Dawg’s hyper-critical eye (able to spot the difference between a 3mm and 2.5mm spoke at 30 paces) could find fault or discern where the cracked chainstay had been repaired.

Taffy Steve likened this to his own patch job on his favourite sunglasses, having snapped an arm off these while polishing the lenses the previous week, these too had been restored to fully functioning order by the liberal application of superglue.

He suggested there was little difference between the job done on his glasses and the De Rosa, while I suspected he’d used probably twenty times the amount of superglue for his small repair, which seemed functional and robust, but was perhaps lacking a little in artisanship.

Talk turned to football, with the Garrulous Kid announcing Germany would win the next World Cup and he was so confident he’d put money on it. If anyone wants to take him up on the offer, let me know and I’ll forward his details.

Ridiculed for suggesting Phillip Lham would be a driving force (he’s apparently retired) – Crazy Legs was unfazed and unbothered by the criticism and declared he’d be happy and content as long as Joachim Löw was still in charge of Germany, so he could once again entertain with his nose-picking, testicle-cupping, anus-fingering and hand-sniffing exploits.

This week’s route had been conceived, pre-published and would be led by Aether and with over 40 cyclists crowding the pavement, it’s never been so obvious we needed to split into at least two groups on the road. Aether outlined his plans for the ride and led the first group off.

Perhaps simply to sow a bit of confusion and discord, OGL wondered aloud who would lead the second group, but whatever point he was trying to make was lost when the Red Max instantly stepped up to the mark and volunteered.

As the first riders pulled away, Crazy Legs suggested a few of us hang back, so there were no complaints about the two groups being unbalanced or all the stronger riders disappearing up the road. He certainly needn’t have worried on the latter count as super-strong riders, Benedict and Den Haag were still behind and they set off at the head of the second group.


Three of us were delayed at the first set of lights and we were joined by a few latecomers as we started to slowly converge on the back of the second group. By the time we were negotiating Brunton Lane several groups of riders had all merged and our small group became a peloton in its own right.

One moment Szell had been riding with half a dozen others and the next he’d been surrounded by over 20 riders swooping around to form up behind him. “Bloody hell,”  he declared, “It’s just like Taras Bulba!” Cossacks Hourra! Hourra!

As we cleared the city traffic, Benedict and OGL became involved in a very intense conversation about the structure of the club runs and how best to organise them so no one felt left out, disadvantaged or held back.

This left Den Haag ploughing a lone furrow on the front of the group, so I moved up to slot in alongside him for a chat about the Giro, Dumoulin’s Dump (or defecategate as one Internet wag dubbed it) the Hammer series, time-trialling, cyclo-cross and other such things, all the while trying to keep half an ear on the increasingly animated conversation behind.

Through Dinnington and up past the Cheese Farm, OGL and Benedict kept at it, until the clamber up Bell’s Hill splintered the group apart and offered some respite for both parties. I’m still not sure anything was resolved.

I called a halt at the top of Bell’s Hill so we could regroup and also because we’d started to close in on the first group and needed to give them a bit more space.

“Is that the fast group, up ahead?” Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom suggested, tongue lodged firmly in his cheek and blatantly fishing with an apparently irresistable lump of bait.

“There is no fast group.” OGL snapped.

“Are you sure?” Thom-Thom asked, deliberately misunderstanding, “That looks like the fast group…”

Oh, dear. Moving swiftly on, we set off again and I had a chuckle with Taffy Steve as we first determined that if Bugs Bunny rode with the club he’d doubtless refer to the Kia Sportage as a Spore-tadjee and then compared OGL to Foghorn Leghorn.

The strangest sight of the day had to be a dog owner taking their small, very young puppy for “a walk” by dragging it on a lead behind his mountain bike. I couldn’t help thinking if he went too slow the excitable pup was going to wrap the lead around his forks, get caught under the knobbly tyres and bring him down, but if he went too fast he probably end up dragging the luckless pup behind him and wear its legs down to stubs. I’m not utterly convinced the kennel club or Canine Defence League would have approved of his training methods.


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A long looping descent dropped us off at the bottom of the Mur de Mitford and up we went, with Taffy Steve messing up his gear change and storming up it in the big ring, while I messed up in the opposite direction and ended up in the granny ring and twiddling my way to the top.

Again we regrouped and pressed on with Benedict and Den Haag re-united on the front and keeping the pace decidedly brisk as we closed in on Netherwhitton. We stopped here for some respite and to split the group, with half taking the left turn to track their way up the Trench, while the rest of us pressed on to Ritton Bank, still at speed.

Ritton Bank is one of the first real tests on the Cyclone route, but today we would take a sharp left just before its rather gnarly summit. Nonetheless it was a decent leg stretcher and strung us out into a long line.

Regrouping at the top we followed a twisting rolling road just below the top of the fells, flanked by dry stone walls that were lined with thoroughly disinterested and somnolent shaggy black cows. Crazy Legs gave them a rather desultory “Moo” while, riding up behind him, I unleashed my own imitation of a bovine greeting, which was apparently so realistic he visibly flinched and looked back in panic like a sweating fat lad tripping over his own feet on the Pamplona Bull Run.

Crazy Legs was so taken with my “cow call” he had me repeat it several times and then again to a visibly unimpressed Taffy Steve, who I think only responds to sheep. Luckily there were no locals around to wonder about the strange, randomly mooing cyclist riding down their road.

A long, screaming descent down into the Font Valley saw Benedict and Den Haag open up a gap at the front and then we were onto the Category 4 Rothley Lakes climb, 3kms at an average of 3% with the sharpest ramps of almost 13% at the bottom.

Working out of the saddle, I overhauled Taffy Steve and then Crazy Legs and as the slope eased, I plonked myself down, found a good rhythm and started to work my way upwards, managing to hold the distance on the front two and opening up a gap to those behind.

Topping out the Rothley Lakes climb led to 5km of mixed climbing and descending on rolling roads and the front pair started to pull ahead. Nonetheless I pressed on in solo pursuit, indulging in a rather grand bout of chasse patate and thoroughly enjoying myself. Twists and turns on the route conspired to keep my quarry out of sight through Scots Gap, but as they took the sharp turn for Middleton Bank I saw a flash of red that was Benedict’s jersey.

As I approached the climb I could see a long stream of riders disappearing over the crest, which included the notable, shocking-pink jersey beZ was wearing that morning. I reasoned Benedict and Den Haag must have caught and joined up with our first group and found I had something else to chase now.

Up Middleton Bank, I passed a labouring Richard of Flanders, detached from the front group and pushing on alone. I tried to give him some encouragement and thought he might be able to hold onto my wheel, but I’m not even certain he tried and I was off solo once again.

With the front group winding up for the final sprint, there was no way I was going to catch them now and reasoned the gap was going to grow. Sure enough, I caught only one or two further glimpses of the pack and it wasn’t long until they were well out of sight and my ride to the café was completed in splendid isolation.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

As I parked up the bike and made my away indoors, the BFG called me across. “Where did we drop you and how far off the back must you have been?” he asked, glancing at his watch.

Ha ha, everyone’s a comedian.

I tagged onto the back of the queue inside and was soon joined by Taffy Steve, Crazy Legs and the others as they arrived in in ones and twos.

The Garrulous Kid appeared to buy a can of Coke and to tell us of another epic failure of his cornering skills. This had seen him engaging, not for the first time, in a little cyclo-cross riding, off the road and up an embankment. He said that it had looked so dangerous someone had apparently called him a stunt rider.

I naturally suggested he may have misheard the actual comment, while Taffy Steve wanted to know if they might perhaps have included the word cunning in their appreciation of his off-piste skills.

Collecting his coffee and cake, Taffy Steve carefully made his way to the table outside on jelly legs, or what he perceptively described as baby giraffe legs, the special feeling you get after a hard, intensive effort on what had proven to be a fairly demanding route.

Later, Szell would make his way to the table, wobbly and stumbling like the town drunk.

“You see,” Taffy Steve declared, “Baby giraffe legs.” Couldn’t argue there.

Enjoying our relaxation and recovery in the sun and against all accepted protocol, we sneaked two refills of coffee, which caused the Garrulous Kid to declare, “I’m not allowed coffee.” while he bounced around the table like a chipmunk on speed.

“I’m not surprised, I can’t begin to imagine you loaded on caffeine,” I offered, looking pointedly at his Coke.

“Yeah,” he giggled madly, “I’m not supposed to have Coke either.”

Amped up like a toddler overdosing on E-numbers and a blood-boiling sugar rush, the Garrulous Kid returned to a recurring complaint, the fact he doesn’t like the particular moniker I’ve bestowed on him.

As before I listened patiently and then told him he had been given numerous name suggestions he could choose from, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander or the Garrulous Kid. In fact, I’m not sure anyone in the club can claim more potential names, which I think is quite an achievement in so short a space of time.

Receiving very little sympathy and with his attention span stretched way beyond capacity, he bounded away to another table to repeat his complaint and in the process apparently admitted to hating his middle name too.

“What’s that then?” was the obvious question.

From all accounts – and I’ve gathered these from numerous independent witnesses and reliable sources – the answer that came back most closely sounded like “Helen.”

So, one more choice to add to his options, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander, the Garrulous Kid or … Helen.

All good things must come to an end, so three coffees’ later and with our brief sojourn in the sunny garden coming to a close, we gathered together, formed up and rode out.


Riding along beside Zardoz, he nodded his head at the Red Max’s back pack and whispered conspiratorially, “Do you think there’s actually anything in there?”

I assured him it was like Felix the Cat’s magical bag of tricks and the Red Max would reach into it whenever he was in a fix. I could only begin to speculate to its precise contents, but had seen him pull tools such as pliers, spanners and screwdrivers from the bag, complete sets of clothing, rain jackets, spare bike components, chains, assorted nuts, bolts, screws and brake blocks, food, drink, snacks, gels, sun creams, spare specs, hats, socks, gloves, bike spares and repairs, inner tubes, tyre shoes, patches, gaffer tape, zip ties, chain links – the list was almost endless.

In fact, I suggested the only time Red Max’s bag of tricks had let him down was when someone snapped their gear hanger. Red Max didn’t have one and to his everlasting shame was mortified when OGL produced one out of his back-pocket. I’m fairly confident his bag also includes a spare gear hanger now.

Descending Berwick Hill and perhaps in appreciation of last weeks splenetic, Mr. Angry the cyclist, we had Mr. Angry, the splenetic RIM, over-taking at high speed and bellowing “Ride in single file!” out of the window. We all gave him our biggest, friendliest, cheeriest waves and I’m not certain, but I think G-Dawg may have even have blown him a kiss.

Moments later and another RIM in a massive 4×4  was cutting across into our lane to overtake a slower car and came powering straight at us. Thankfully he swooped back at the last instant, just before we started hurling ourselves off the road to escape the brain-dead moron.

Still even these incidents couldn’t sour what had been a good, long and testing ride over some less travelled routes and challenging climbs. I’d gone over 72 miles by the time I made it home, grinning from ear to ear and looking forward to doing it all again next week.


YTD Totals: 3,442 km / 2,139 miles with 37,377 metres of climbing

I’m Free …

 


COVER2I’ve finally manged to wrap my head around the Amazon promotional stuff – (ok, it wasn’t that hard) and so can offer the eBook free for the next 5 days.

If you want it … go and get it and it’ll cost you nowt. Hell, go crazy and get two …

The UK version can be found here  – the US version here

And all the others via your usual, local Amazon marketplace.


 

Swept Up

Swept Up

Club Run, Saturday 27th May, 2017       

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  113 km / 70 miles with 1,069 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 27 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         38 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    24°C

Weather in a word or two:          Hot and sticky


 

27 May
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Saturday morning found me smeared in Factor 30 and dropping down the hill under pale skies that were only slightly marred by a few, high altitude, chalky-gauze clouds. The real start of summer? Doubtful, but it will do for now.

It was actually considerably cooler than it had been mid-week, when early evening commutes home had been like riding through a sauna. Today we were even promised some sharp showers, possibly punctuated by an occassional thunderstorm, but hopefully we’d all be home and hosed by the time they arrived.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

The ride across town was pleasant and uneventful and I pulled up at the meeting place to be instantly greeted by a happy, bouncing Garrulous Kid, who announced rather ominously, “I’m Back!”

Lord, help us.

He then proudly told me he’d managed to fix a puncture last week.

“Did you do it all by yourself?” I asked.

“Yes. I was with the Prof and he just rode away and left me …”

“Ah, yes,” I explained, “He does have a habit of doing that…”

It was so hot … that our even our delicate, Dutch flower, De Uitheems Bloem had arrived in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey, revealing limbs that might not have seen the light of day since last July.

G-Dawg rolled in to proudly show off the yellow spacers in his cassette.

“Did you manage to source some, then?” The BFG enquired, a hint of jealousy creeping into his voice.

“Nope, I made them myself.” G-Dawg replied proudly, explaining how he’d visited a model shop and started quizzing them about the different paints they had and what they were suitable for.

Apparently he had the entire shop staff around him, intrigued by his request for hard-wearing, gloss paint in bright canary yellow and wondering why he needed it. Was it for the ailerons on a B17 perhaps, or the propeller tips of a Focke-Wulf 190? I’m not sure they would have believed him if he’d ‘fessed up.

I wanted to know if he’d gone for Humbrol or Tamiya paint.

“Hah!” the BFG instantly pounced, “I bet you used to make models. Is that when you were young, had no personality and couldn’t talk to girls?”

“What?” I countered, “As opposed to now, when I’m old, have no personality and can’t talk to girls?”

“Ah, so that’s why you became a cyclist?” Son of G-Dawg declared.

You see what a cruel and heartless bunch I’m forced to ride with?

We then learned that G-Dawg had made his own paint rig from a toilet roll tube and fully prepped and prepared his cassette spacers, before giving them two full coats of paint, because, as Son of G-Dawg confirmed: “he’s not an amateur you know.”

Of course, everyone’s a critic and Crazy Legs wanted to know why he hadn’t gone for World Championship rainbow stripes (“There’s only 3 spacers.”) while I thought a bit of creative painting could have produced a hypnotic Zoetrope effect once the cassette was spinning – perhaps galloping horses or something similar.

I then, jokingly suggested G-Dawg could paint his brake blocks to match and was quite surprised when this was duly taken into consideration and he started planning how he could do this without actually ruining the braking surface.

It was so hot … that the Garrulous Kid had filled his bottle with water, stuck it in the freezer to chill and forgotten to remove it. He was now carting around a solid block of ice in his bottle cage and hoping it would melt before he became too desperate for a drink. This led to some discussion about the efficacy of insulated water bottles, which I suggested could also be useful if you wanted a hot drink of tea midway through a winter ride.

“Oh, I can just see it now.” G-Dawg laughed, miming drinking from a bottle with his pinkie finger ostentatiously raised. Son of G-Dawg suggested he could spread a crisp, white linen tablecloth over his handlebars too, just so we were compliant with all the rules of etiquette.

You see, utterly heartless. All of them.

It was so hot … that our mindless banter was interrupted by the unseemly sight of Szell disrobing, after he had decided that even a thin base-layer was too much insulation. It was not a pretty sight and the local residents hate us enough already without that kind of provocation.

Sur-reality was restored by the Garrulous Kid arguing that the black, sticky tape on his handlebars wasn’t black, sticky tape at all – I’m not sure what he actually thought it was and no one was brave, or foolish enough to ask.

It was so hot … that the fine weather seemed to have drawn just about everyone out and we formed a massive block of 38 riders. As the clock ticked down to official Garmin Time, a couple of groups were agreed and we managed a reasonable two-thirds, one third split as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


I started out in the first group alongside Taffy Steve, had a chat with Slim Michael (who doesn’t often ride with us much anymore) and then slotted in beside the Garrulous Kid. As we dropped through Dinnington, the group split behind us and a Colnago riding, Mr. Angry infiltrated our ranks.

“Do youse lot never single out when there’s a car behind?” He demanded aggressively.

Oh dear, this wasn’t a conversation I wanted at this time and in this place. Truth be told we were on a fairly twisting road with reduced visibility and there was no safe place to pass, even if we’d all been in single file. (Notwithstanding the fact the line would have been at least twice as long, with the head disappearing around the next corner even as the tail reached any semblance of a straight.) So, no, we weren’t going to single out and ride in the gutter so some motorist could try and squeeze past, too fast and too close, in order to save a few seconds on their journey.

I muttered something non-committal, along the lines of “No, not always,” only to be castigated with, “It’s no wonder cyclists get a bad name with motorists.”

Perhaps expecting some kind of reasoned debate was probably too much at this point and anyway, Mr Angry seemed to succumb to a sudden attack of Tourette’s as he sat behind, frothing at the mouth and proving he had a quite remarkable and extensive vocabulary of swear words that he could direct at us.

It’s bad enough dealing with indignant motorists, but abusive, splenetic fellow cyclists too?

Sadly, much as I was enjoying Mr. Angry’s apoplectic and foul-mouthed diatribe, he obviously decided we were too amateurish, selfish, arrogant and egotistical to ride with and turned off at the first opportunity. Hopefully he found some misplaced inner calm once he was riding solo and only had to deal with the demons in his own head, while he could give way to motorists to his heart’s desire.

Our own ride returned to its former peaceable state and we pressed on. As we swung through Mitford we were greeted by a hearty “Good morning, chaps,” as OGL bridged across with our second group, who’d taken a different route to get to the same place at around the same time.


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A bounce through an unexpected pot then jettisoned my tool-tub and I swung over to the side of the road and pulled to a stop to let the long, long line of cyclist’s whirr past. I rode back down the road and retrieved my tub, turned around again and set off in pursuit.

Sneaky Pete, having seen me pull over and stop, had sneaked off the back and was soft pedalling, waiting for me to catch up  to provide some company for the chase. As the road started to twist and rise up to Dyke Neuk, we worked together to close down the gap and catch back on.

Up ahead, the second group had called a halt at the junction to regroup and we were able to tag onto the back, which was perfect and saved a much harder and much longer chase. I had in effect been swept up.

Off we set again, dropping down, then scrambling up through Hartburn. Here a bit of dithering and indecision about which way to go, left Moscas almost doing a track-stand half way up a sharp rise, his bike parallel to whichever direction we decided to take and horribly stuck in the wrong gear.

OGL and a few others decided to set off for Middleton Bank, while the rest of us pushed on for Angerton. With a route finally determined, a grunting, straining effort from Moscas somehow saw him turn the pedals over, swing his bike around and  finally accelerate away up the climb.

We pressed on with the BFG and Laurelan a mismatched, little and large pairing on the front, climbing up toward Bolam Lake, where we stopped to regroup and wait. This wait proved a little longer than expected, as the back-markers had stopped when the group heading to Middleton Bank had become engaged in an altercation with a RIM in a black Volvo, who seemed incapable of grasping the meaning of a simple Give Way sign and markers.

The driver had cut in so close that one of our riders had been able to deliver a hefty thump to the side of his precious car. He’d reversed for a confrontation, only to back off quickly when he found himself up against half a dozen pissed-off cyclists, all of whom seemed to have a much better grasp of the Highway Code than he was able to muster. I think the fact one of them was blatantly videoing the entire episode didn’t help either.

Back together again, things stayed that way until we swept through Milestone Wood and the BFG unleashed a powerful attack at the foot of the first slope – a move about as unexpected as the room going dark when you turn off the light.

I was already accelerating up onto his wheel in anticipation of the jump and trailed him up and over the first two ramps, before sitting back in the saddle and drifting to one side where he couldn’t miss me. Despite the effort, I took a moment to control my breathing and composed my face to look as calm, reassured and as at ease as possible.

When the BFG finally looked back over his shoulder he found me sitting there, seemingly comfortable and smiling benevolently back at him.

“Oh, you’re still there!” He exclaimed in surprise, before swinging aside and ceding the front in disgust.

I nudged ahead over the last rise and soft-pedalled a little as we dropped down the other side. As the road started to ramp up again I waited until the sweeping left hand corner and then started to accelerate. Slowly, slowly the BFG pulled alongside, nudged his wheel in front and then with a long, loud hiss like a deflating tyre, he blew and dropped away.

I pressed on and could hear other riders rattling along behind in pursuit, but no one seemed to have either the legs or the inclination to come past as I rolled through the junction and onto the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The BFG explained that Gardening was the new Cycling, or at least it is for him in terms of his most recent obsession. It’s all very well and good him slipping new bikes and bits of bikes into the house, but I’m not sure how he’s going to cover up buying another garden. Perhaps he can smuggle it in shovel load by shovel-load, shaking it our from secret pockets inside his pants like a latter day Great Escapee?

Part of his current plan of expansion by subterfuge (if a massive, hulking, scary, Kurgan looking feller can ever do anything by subterfuge) is to subsume land at the back of his garden into his own plot, stealing it from under the nose of rightful owners RailTrack.

He revealed that if he could secure this land he could then fulfill a long term ambition of dressing like Jenny Agutter in the Railway Children and skip down the tracks waving a white flag to stop approaching trains. It takes all sorts.

Meanwhile Sneaky Pete was pacing all around the table like an expectant father awaiting for news of his firtsborn. The reason for his anxiety was the impending return of his beloved De Rosa after he’d cracked the chainstay on one of the Orca tank traps that line the Great North Road Cycle Maze and Deathtrap and had to have it sent away for specialist repair.

Soon incessant pacing was coupled with terse phone calls to find out of delivery had been deemed successful and without complication. The denouement was all positive and a smiling and much relieved Sneaky Pete was finally able to relax and return to the table, although I was disappointed he didn’t hand round celebratory cigars.

Buster was suffering with pollen allergies and regretted not having wrap-around shades. A divers face mask was offered up as the perfect solution, perhaps even with the addition of a snorkel with a cotton wool filter. The face mask was deemed a strong possibility, but Buster wasn’t sold on the snorkel idea – unless he could get one about 70 foot long that he could use to draw in air from above the tree tops.

The conversation about face masks led to Sneaky Pete testing us to name two films where the main character wears a divers face mask – the answers he was looking for were The Graduate and Notting Hill.

Laurelan was slightly taken aback when the BFG revealed he would much rather watch Notting Hill, Love Actually or some other standard Rom-Com, than a testosterone-fuelled, action thriller like The Fast and the Furious 32 or Die Hard with a Zimmer Frame. Then again, what can you expect with a man who feels the need to dress up like Jenny Agutter in the Railway Children.

OGL wandered by to announce tomorrow’s club ride would be longer than normal, maybe 70 miles or more.

“What about Monday?” Crazy Legs asked.

“Oh, you should be back long before then.” The BFG quipped. Ba-boom! It made me laugh anyway.


It was, if anything a too quick jaunt home from the cafe and I found myself at the river before 1.00 o’clock had even rolled up. I decided I had time to tack on another loop up to Westerhope and back, padding my totals with a few more miles and metres of climbing.

This got me home at about normal time, but also gave the rain a chance to catch me as I climbed the Heinous Hill. It wasn’t too unpleasant though and luckily I was well indoors when the real storm arrived and unleashed a fusilade of stinging hailstones the size of marbles, that rattled and bounced ominously off the windows and roof. I can’t imagine being caught out in that while on a bike would have been a whole heap of fun.


YTD Totals: 3,216 km / 1,998 miles with 35,288 metres of climbing

 

 

 

Buy the Book Too

Buy the Book Too

Anyone with a Kindle and a strong and a powerful, unfulfilled Sur La Jante addiction (and who am I to judge?) can now access the collected witterings from all of 2016 in one handy volume.

All this for a nominal fee of 99p or US $1.29, or whatever the equivalent is in your local currency and exclusively available from an Amazon site near you.

The UK version can be found here and the US version (complete with whacky/wacky UK spellings)  here.

Amazon wouldn’t let me give the book away for free, so this is as low as it goes until I find a way to manipulate their marketing promotions. The exact same content is of course always available completely free on this very blog site.

Reviews of the first Sur La Jante Chronicles – Float Like a Buffalo, Sting Like a Moth:

“Genuinely funny, well at least my lines are.” Taffy Steve

“I hate that wheel-sucking scumbag.” G-Dawg

“Great. I’m pretty sure I can re-purpose this to make all sorts of different things.” The Prof

“Attack! Attack! Attack!” The Red Max

“Is. It. Safe?” Szell

“Who?  Nah … Never heard of him.” OGL


COVER2
Cover by the extraordinarily talented, Mr. Phil Smith

 

Of course, for the truly masochistic, the 2015 edition, Float Like a Buffalo, Sting Like a Moth is still available. The UK version can be found here and the US version (complete with whacky/wacky UK spellings)  here.

The Devil’s in the Detail

The Devil’s in the Detail

Club Run, Saturday 20th May, 2017       

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  112 km / 70 miles with 879 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 14 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    16°C

Weather in a word or two:          Showery


 

May 20th
Ride Profile

The Ride:

I awoke from a disturbed night of chasing multiple wet cats and their multiple mice “house guests” through multiple rooms, feeling generally unrested and mildly nauseous and with thundering headache pounding dully in the back of my skull.

Unusually, I also hadn’t prepared anything the night before, so wasted a whole heap of time dithering about what to wear and trying to second-guess the weather.

Heavy rain showers had rolled over during the night, but now seemed to be clearing. The roads though were still awash and there was every chance we’d be hit by further rain throughout the day. So jersey, shorts and arm warmers were the starting point, but overshoes or not? Knee or leg warmers? Jacket or gilet? I even (very) briefly considered breaking the Peugeot out of mothballs for the added protection of mudguards.

Unpreparedness translated into dithering and then dithering into delay.  As a consequence, it was 15 minutes later than usual when I finally saddled up and pushed off from the kerb. The showers seemed to have cleared for the time being, but the roads were still wet and I dropped down the hill taking extra care to avoid the slickly shining manhole covers and white lines.

In the valley a mental inventory of my back pockets revealed I’d left my spare inner tube as an ugly, useless and impromptu centrepiece in the middle of the dining room table. Having bragged about how pleased I was with my tyres last week, I couldn’t help feel this was tempting fate and the spare was something I might be needing later. Too late now, I just hoped the other two tubes I carried on the bike would be enough if the cycling gods wanted to punish me for my Vittorian-inspired hubris.

Still feeling generally washed-out and a bit “meh” (funnily enough, a word whose precise meaning I’d recently been debating with the Prof) – I took the dual-carriageway-surfing, short-cut across the river and out of the valley.

Somehow, someway I managed to make up lost time and found myself arriving at the meeting point a good ten minutes earlier than usual, my only company a huge, scavenging Herring Gull that seemed intent on giving me the evil eye.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Today the Prof had volunteered to lead us and had posted up a suitably eccentric route that included precisely 666 metres of climbing and a fun trip, straight down the A69. Trying to share the road with a hurtling mass of death-dealing traffic wasn’t in anyone’s best interests, so various suggestions and amendments had been made, until the proposed route had been knocked into a shape that everyone seemed happy with.

(I quite liked the initial, satanically-inspired 666 metres of climbing, but suspect it didn’t survive the final cut. Maybe that’s just as well though as we have had one rider in the past who refused to wear a club jersey simply because it was made by (the totally respectable) Imp Sport and (allegedly) actively encouraged devil worship. Luckily this rider never learned about my unhealthy Van Impe obsession, or I might have been declared unclean, excommunicated and cast out.)

I was chatting with Taffy Steve and De Uitheems Bloem, when the Prof rolled to a stop behind us.

“Hmm, where is your helmet?” De Uitheems Bloem asked, glancing over at the Prof.

In a moment of surprised befuddlement, the Prof raised both of his hands to comically pat all around his naked head, as if indeed trying to discern exactly where his helmet might have gone. When this failed to reveal the errant headgear hiding somewhere in the fairly limited space between his ears, he finally had to concede he’d simply forgotten to pick it up on the way out of the door.

With the clock ticking down toward official Garmin Muppet Time, a compromise solution was reached and the Prof disappeared around a nearby corner to borrow a helmet from De Uitheems Bloem’s family stock.

By this time G-Dawg had arrived on his winter fixie, apparently in an attempt to preserve the true blue tyres of his best bike in their still pristine condition. Realising that the impending weather was simply too much for “Cloudchaser” to cope with, Crazy Legs had also swapped the cossetted Ribble for his Bianchi, while OGL pulled up and declared, “W.R.W.B.”

I looked at him quizzically, “Huh?”

“Wet roads, winter bike.” He explained.

“Ah.”

Son of G-Dawg had no such qualms about subjecting his all-carbon, aero-stealth bike to a little variable weather and looking it over I noticed his short, stubby stem had no cap on. I wondered if it whistled in the wind and would fill up with water if it rained. Jimmy Mac suggested sticking a straw in it for a handy mid-ride drink, while I finally decided it most resembled an ink well and needed a quill pen to complete the look.

The Red Max was more concerned with the aerodynamic effects and turbulence the hole might cause. Son of G-Dawg indicated his own size compared to the small void in his stem and suggested it really wasn’t going to make that much difference.

The Red Max insisted though that now the issue had been raised it would prey on Son of G-Dawg’s mind. Son of G-Dawg finally conceded the truth of this and promised by next week he’d have carefully fashioned a diaphragm from cling film to smooth out any troublesome airflow.

The Prof returned having not only scored a borrowed helmet, but some specs as well and we were good to go.

With only 24 riders out a single-group with a pre-planned split was agreed and we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


I spent the first part of the ride chatting with the Prof about the intricacies of the Dutch education system and the benefits of a meritocracy. I then had some time with Laurelan discussing festivals and holidays and, more bizarrely, silent jazz disco’s.

From here I rotated through Richard of Flanders, Ovis and the Plank, before ending up back with Laurelan.

“It’s a bit like a barn dance, with ever changing partners,” she suggested as I slotted in beside her again.

“Yep, do-si-do,” I agreed.

“The next thing you know, we’ll all be chucking keys into a bowl,” she added.

“Hmm, that’s not going to work for cyclists,” I countered, “What about multi-tools instead?”

Before we could finalise the correct etiquette to follow for cycling-partner swaps, we were calling a pee stop and I found Crazy Legs ferreting around in his back pocket. Half-expecting him to whip out a multi-tool to throw into a bowl, I was more than a little relieved when he simply brandished a cereal bar in my face, declaring with seemingly great enthusiasm that these were the best, because they were so dry they instantly sucked all the moisture out of your body

“Try some,” he urged.

I cautiously nibbled off a corner which instantly sucked in my cheeks, made my teeth so dry they stuck to my lips, and caused my tongue to curl up and shrivel like a slug basted in salt.

Bloody hell, I can only assume these bars were forged in the heat of the Gobi Desert from a mix of oven-baked sawdust, desiccated coconut, wood ash and silica gel. How on earth do you swallow that? Five minutes later I was still speechless, coughing out dust like a broken vacuum cleaner and I’d gone through half a bottle trying to wash the dustbowl out of my chalky, mummified mouth.


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As we dropped into the Tyne Valley, I slipped to the back of the group and watched the sky turn ominously dark as a light shower transformed itself into lashing rain. Caracol sensibly called a halt and we ducked into a convenient parking space at the side of the road to pull on jackets.

The shower continued to increase in intensity and soon the rain was stotting off the road and cold tendrils of water started sliding their way slowly and unpleasantly into my shoes and shorts.

Cold, wet and feeling decidedly queasy, I was concentrating on ignoring the unpleasant water-ingress while trying to avoid doing a “Mollema” as we pressed on.

I think it’s fair to say that no one was surprised to find the Prof and De Uitheems Bloem riding off the front and away from everyone else in another attempt at Dutch independence, or a Hexit. We chased them down, catching up sometime later as they stopped at a junction, dithering about which way to go next.

“Your planned and published route had us turning off this road long before now.” G-Dawg informed the Prof. Oh dear.

We were now faced with either back-tracking or finding another way to climb out of the valley, using a route that G-Dawg stood at least a fighting chance of managing on his fixie. I recalled Zardoz telling me of one ride with the Wednesday Wrecking Crew of Venerable Gentlemen Cyclists™ when he’d seen G-Dawg and fixie defeated by one particularly steep hill and he’d simply clambered off, shouldered his bike cyclo-cross style and ran up the hill faster than anyone could ride up it.

Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that today.

A few options were discussed, before we settled on a likely route up to the A69, across and then onto the 4th category climb up through Newton. It would be bloody hard going on a fixie, but should be doable for G-Dawg if he got a clear run at it.

Yet more games of Frogger with the A69 gave us a new High Score and Bonus and we managed to escape with all lives intact to start the climb upwards.

I sat and spun away behind G-Dawg, trying to give him as much room as possible and marvelling at the raw power, as he ground the hill slowly down into submission. As we approached the village of Newton a car turned down into the narrow lane, and the riders all slowed and bunched. For an instant it looked like G-Dawg was going to lose all momentum and be forced to stop, but the driver saw us, pulled over to the side and we were able to squeeze past to complete the climb.

More climbing followed and the group started to splinter apart, while I slipped to the back to find Szell struggling on the inclines.

Apparently, up ahead open-season had been declared and all informed that now it was “everyone for themselves” – or as Ovis commented to Crazy Legs, “Ah, a Margaret Thatcher ride!”

I joined a small group that slowly coalesced at the back with G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Taffy Steve, Red Max, Crazy Legs and Laurelan and we eased to allow Szell to re-join, before picking up speed to follow the rest.

Passing through Matfen, we decided on the fly to miss out the Quarry Climb and route through Stamfordham instead, where we kept the group together and at a civilised pace right up to the road down to the Snake Bends.

At the last, Son of G-Dawg, Taffy Steve and the Red Max popped out to play, skipping off the front to contest a rather subdued sprint, while I was content to sit in amongst the wheels. We regrouped to dart down the lane parallel to the main road and rolled our way to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café queue, Crazy Legs likened OGL to South Park’s Cartman, patrolling the roads on his “Big Wheel” and demanding everyone: “respect my authoritah!”

“Did you ever watch South Park?” he asked Laurelan.

“Only when I was allowed to,” she replied innocently.

Ouch. Burn.

Meanwhile, on Taffy Steve’s advice, Szell passed up on his usual scone and went for an exotic Mars-Snickers-Malteser-Twix sort of chocolate combination tray bake, only to take a bite and recoil in horror because it was chilled.

We then learned that Szell was the only one around the table who has never had cold chocolate and it was a revelation to him that we all thought it perfectly natural to keep our Dairy Milk and Galaxy in the refrigerator

He was quite astounded that this seemed such a common trait and he eyed up everyone around the table and demanded, “So what else does everyone do that I don’t?”

“Err… ride our bikes from September to April?” Taffy Steve dead-panned.

Ouch. And. Burn.

Dissecting today’s ride, everyone decided that it had gone exactly as they had expected and if they’d prepared a check list in advance the Prof would have managed to tick every box:

Riding away from everyone off the front. Check.

Missing the right route and going off piste. Check.

Leading us onto a dangerous road. Check.

Instigating a hell for leather, chaotic free for all finale. Check.

Taffy Steve was the only one who demurred, insisting at least one thing had been different … because the Prof had borrowed a different pair of specs from his usual pitch-black, Ray-Ban welders goggles, he hadn’t felt the need to tilt his head back and peer myopically out from underneath them when addressing us. Vive le difference.

I then asked if it had been a good ride and if we’d trust the Prof to lead us again and received a resounding yes to both questions. Cyclists, eh?

Thoughts turned to succession planning within the club and we tried to establish if OGL’s son had ever had any interest in cycling. Crazy Legs suspected he’d probably have feigned interest in anything but cycling, even synchronised swimming, in order to avoid riding with his dad.

Despite this lack of cycling interest, we still suspected he might turn up at the meeting point one morning in a carefully staged, super-smooth succession coup, that would make the power transfer of Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un look as complex as a Kudzu plot.


With a bit of food inside, I began to feel better and abandoning my cap, which had served its primary purpose and kept rain and spray out of my eyes, let some air through my helmet vents to my noggin which seemed to help ease the headache.

A heavy hail shower had come and gone as we sat sheltered in the café and now the day slowly started to brighten as we set off. I rode back for the most part alongside Biden Fecht, chatting about books and authors, both cycling and in general, until it was time to split for home.

An uneventful trip back followed and sometime later, sitting in front of my computer, a message popped up from Taffy Steve declaring Strava was “on glue” because he’d been comparing our estimated power outputs on one of the climbs and determined that in order for him to match me he’d need to put out a frankly impossible 750 watts for several minutes.

I have to admit I never pay a great deal of attention to cycling’s more esoteric stats such as power outputs, VAM, heart rates and all the rest. I’d even given up on measuring my heart rate because I kept forgetting to wear the monitor and never looked at the data anyway.

Still, I was mildly intrigued by Taffy Steve’s assertion. I thought I might find some answers by checking my personal details on Strava, reasoning that I’d set the account up a couple of years ago and had shed a few pounds since then and this might be throwing things off.

I was however completely unprepared for what I found – apparently in the box for Weight: I’d entered 170 kgs or 375 pounds – I’d tricked Strava into believing I resembled a starting calibre, NFL defensive lineman who could climb like a gazelle!

I had to shamefacedly admit to Taffy Steve that Strava wasn’t on glue, but I obviously had been when setting up my account. I’ve still no idea where the 170 figure came from and what it refers to – perhaps I’d simply tried to enter my weight in “old money” – troys, cloves or maybe scruples?

I’ve corrected it now, so my Strava stats will no longer look stratospheric and might start to more accurately reflect the travails of a mediocre to startlingly average, strictly amateur, middle-aged cyclist, rather than a freak of nature.


YTD Totals: 3,054 km / 1,898 miles with 33,505 metres of climbing

Questions of the day


The 15th Stage of the Giro from Valdengo to Bergamo, featured a select group of the top GC riders in a flat out, straight-up, drag-race sprint for glory and the win.

Quick-Step’s Bob Jungels finally prevailed, powering to the line just ahead of the surprisingly fast, quickly closing, pint-sized Nairo Quintana. In claiming a surprise second place Quintana handily beat “heavyweight contenders” such as Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot, Bauke Mollema, Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk.


Capture
Getty Images Sport

This for me then raises some serious questions: If Jungels had been beaten in a sprint by Quintana, would he ever have been allowed back onto the Quick-Step bus? Would his career have recovered from such a disgrace? Surely this Giro’s peerless sprinter, Fernando Gaviria could legitimately have refused to share a room with such a loser?

And, just how much do the other GC riders owe Jungels for actually pulling off the win and deflecting attention from the fact they all had their backsides whupped in a sprint by the feather-weight climber from Columbia?