Club Run, Saturday 27th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  115 km/71 miles with 977 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 25 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.1 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Just about perfect


The Ride:

Ride profile

Ride Profile

Saturday morning and I’m up at my usual time and shovelling down my usual pre-ride breakfast, sitting at my usual seat at the dining table and surfing all the usual websites as I go.

I then start to collect my gear. In the right-hand pocket of my jersey (always) goes a spare tube to supplement the two I carry in a tool tub in my bottle cage, a mini-pump, two tyre levers and a multi-tool.

In the left-hand pocket (always) goes my wallet containing money and rather ancient, cracked and thankfully never needed tyre patches – just in case three tubes isn’t quite enough (it always is) – my mobile phone with the free Road Id tracking app already enabled and running and an emergency gel for, well emergencies and potential catastrophic body failures.

In the middle pocket (always) goes my rain jacket, unless it’s already raining, in which case I’ll be wearing it. Occasionally, on very rare “Ribble Days*” I’ll leave the jacket behind, but the middle pocket is still always reserved for spare items of clothing – gloves, caps, arm warmers, knee warmers etc.

* Ribble Days – those with absolutely zero chance of precipitation – i.e. the kind of day when Crazy Legs is willing to take his much cossetted Ribble out of its hermetically-sealed storage pod and, rather daringly expose it to the vicissitudes of the weather.

I’ll then leave the house at roughly the same time each week and follow the exact same-route to the meeting point where I’ll usually find, in amongst an ever-changing cast of extras, the same dozen or so “Usual Suspects” – those whose absence from a club ride is more noteworthy than their actual appearance at one.

It struck me as I began to carefully load up my jersey pockets that the whole thing has become very routine and predictable. Of course, there are obvious benefits too – knowing precisely what goes in each jersey pocket helps me remember to take everything I need and I know what I can comfortably carry and where it needs be stored, while taking the same route ensures I should always arrive predictably on time.

There are other times though when change would be welcome, which could explain why we occasionally pay to ride local sportive events and traverse the same roads we could ride for free on club runs.

It also means that doing something just a little bit different on a ride can elevate it from good to great. What would today’s ride bring?

It was quite chilly early on, but promised to be dry, so the middle jersey pocket was empty, but available for when the arm warmers were no longer needed. The ride across to the meeting point was rather uneventful, although I did find myself hunting down another cyclist as I clambered out of the valley, which is foolish, but who can resist?

At the meeting point it was good to see Crazy Legs on his Ribble and have it confirmed we were in for a dry day.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

OGL rolled up trying to brake and steer while carrying a cup of coffee in one hand, successfully slopping coffee onto his new, pristinely-white bar tape and down his newly polished frame. No doubt a cleaning job for his cadre of trained monkey minions when he gets back.

Crazy Legs described how he’d nearly “done a Prof” (or even a Kristina Vogel) and jettisoned his saddle halfway round a ride, after one of its retaining bolts worked loose and dropped away.

He had a brief exchange with OGL and they agreed how difficult it was to source replacement seat post bolts, even when you run your own bike shop. OGL did suggest a local ironmonger where you could potentially buy all sorts of nuts, screws, washers and bolts. This in turn reminded him of a hoary old joke and he was still cackling to himself when Crazy Legs cut him off before the punchline to describe his personal epiphany as, after an extensive search of his entire house, he’d found the exact bolt he needed as part of his sons Ikea bed.

Crazy Legs has now firmly secured his saddle to his bike, while we await the news of the imminent collapse of the sons bed.

As a footnote, Kristina Vogel did make me laugh with her mealy-mouthed, cowardly comments about the successes of British Olympic cycling, “I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything but it is all very questionable” – she said accusingly – a statement uttered with not the slightest hint of irony after she beat British athletes into second and third place.

It was phrased exactly the same way as one of those disrespectful statements that always begins “I don’t want to appear disrespectful, but…” or the belief you can say anything you want as long as you tag allegedly onto the end. Allegedly. Honestly, if she suspects foul play why not say it, instead of hiding behind crass insinuation?


As we made our way from pavement to road, young Mellford and the X11 bus to Blyth started vying to occupy the exact same space at the exact same time. He was forced to turn sharply and ride along the kerb parallel to the bus as it slid to a halt in front of him and he was directly opposite the doors as they hissed open. With nowhere else to go, for an instant I thought he was going to bunny-hop straight on-board a la Eduardo Sepulveda, but he somehow managed to slip around the front of the bus and escape an unwanted journey to the coast.

As we left the meeting point I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete, who’d been missing the past few weeks on doctor’s orders, but now appeared to have recovered and was keen to make up for lost time.


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I also had a chat with Keel who between his work in a call-centre and taking in guests for Airbnb had in short order managed to plumb the depths of social boorishness, rudeness, selfishness, discourtesy and impatience – from the kind of people you hope only exist amongst the worst kind of trolls in the febrile, disconnected world of social media and on rabid Internet forum’s. Apparently however they walk (or drive) among us too.

We’d just turned off the main road onto a narrow lane with houses and parked cars down one side and open fields on the other, a road so narrow that it would be dangerous to try and overtake and where such rashness is actively discouraged by a series of 7 or 8 rather savage speed bumps.

We were however directly impeding an aged RIM in his bright red Hyundai, who announced his presence and displeasure behind us by leaning long and hard on his horn. How dare we delay him on his vital journey by blocking his road and not immediately pulling over to wave him and his tutting harridan of a wife through.


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Spot the Arse Hat – I’ve added colour highlights to help


Half way along the lane his impatience got the better of him and he managed to overtake a few back-markers before a parked car on the opposite side of the road blocked his progress and he had to brake hard and swing back, forcing his way into the long line of cyclists.

He tried again and this time his progress was curtailed by an approaching car and once again he swung dangerously back into our group, seemingly oblivious to just how much damage even his tinny little car could do to a load of skinny lads, lasses and kids on plastic bikes.

Finally, the road opened up, he was able to accelerate hard, crash through a few gears and once again lean hard on his horn as he overtook and then pulled sharply across the front of our group.

Naturally we all gave him our biggest, friendliest, cheesiest waves. I’m ridden with guilt that we delayed him those precious 60 seconds or so, but he’s a big, brave and considerate human being so I’m sure he’ll get over it. Arse hat.

The ride progressed smoothly and without incident, until Sneaky Pete looked behind and realised he was last in line having been beaten at his own game – an entire bunch had dropped off the back and sneaked away to the café unannounced.


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The terrible moment when you realise you’re the last man on the road


And then, because change can be a good thing, we rode straight past the place on the route where we usually stop and split into different groups. Obviously already unnerved by being at the very back of the group, Sneaky Pete decided this was too much and sneaked away to the café by himself.

Around one bend we were waved to slow down by a very concerned dog walker who seemed insistent we didn’t disturb her Labrador mid-dump. I’m not an expert on these things so I can only assume the highly-strung animal would suffer dire psychological consequences if disturbed au toilette, which seems rather strange for an animal which has such an interest in sticking its nose into all manner of faeces.


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We clawed our way up toward a crossroads, where two or three took the opportunity for a faster, longer, harder ride, while the rest of us worked our way to the café via a route that avoided our usual assault on Middleton Bank or the Quarry climb.

On the hill out from Stamfordham, I took the chance to move from the back to the front of the group, skipping up the outside and earning a growl of “keep in pairs!” as I passed OGL who was doing the exact same thing I was, only a lot slower.

The pace started to pick up as we closed on the café – but at the junction to the road which would lead us down to the Snake Bends, Crazy Legs spotted another of our group, Big Dunc barrelling down toward us at high speed on a completely different re-entry vector. Crazy Legs called out a warning, but a few slipped dangerously across the road anyway, seemingly oblivious to the fast approaching rider.

Big Dunc managed to pull some smart evasive manoeuvres and catastrophe was averted, a situation he would later refer to rather phlegmatically as “a bit chaotic!”

The rest of us now exited the junction and gave chase to the first group and I pulled us all across the gap to Keel’s back wheel. Somewhere ahead Son of G-Dawg nipped off the front to steal the sprint, but just like last week everyone was more or less together in a mass hurtle as we eased for the Snake Bends.

With the speed still high and everyone bunched together we swept into the café car park like (according to the Prof) a “herd of rampaging stallions.” I suggested more like a herd of stampeding bison and the Prof wondered aloud what the difference was between a bison and a buffalo.

“I know,” Bydand Fecht volunteered, “An Australian can’t wash his hands in a buffalo.”

Groan.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Once again the weather was good enough for us to sit out in the garden and once again we taunted the wasps by carelessly flaunting numerous pots of jam. Will we never learn?

Ovis tried hiding his jam under a napkin, but the wasps just laughed at his foolishness, while the Monkey Butler Boy circled the table endlessly, hoping to present a moving target to discourage their attentions. He then sat down just long enough to pour a can of Coke down his jersey, an act as foolish as stirring blood and chum into shark infested waters. He couldn’t circle the table quickly enough after this mishap.

We discovered that he was not only scared of wasps but spiders as well and didn’t take well to Crazy Legs’s suggestion that he needed to embrace his fear and let himself get stung a few times.

Being manly and brave, Son of G-Dawg related wrestling with and capturing a massive hairy spider in his bare hands, going to throw it out the window and being surprised when he found it had just vanished without trace. Crazy Legs said there was a website for disappearing spiders, while I earned worst joke of the day honours by suggesting that surely all spiders had a website. Obviously no one else at the table had heard Bydand Fecht’s buffalo comment.

Szell was then distracted by a tiny, red spider mite that was whizzing round and round his saucer in perfect synchronous orbit with the Monkey Butler Boy. Going for a hat-trick of groans, I said it was probably racing for the cup, but luckily no one heard … or I’d sunk so low that this time that they’d all chosen to ignore me.

Szell was amazed at how fast the mite was running and wondered what it would look like if it was scaled up. (Probably the Monkey Butler Boy’s worst nightmare.) “Have you seen the acceleration!” he called, while Red Max commented that he was surprised Szell even knew what acceleration looked like. Ouch.

Luckily we were distracted by Sneaky Pete sneaking off home early and then we fed Szell two or three dubious lines about spouts, rims and curtains and let him lose himself in a blizzard of single-entendres.  


The ride home was suitably civilised, all the lights were in my favour and the traffic was sparse. Perfect conditions and a bit of a different route all helped make it another great ride and there can’t be too many of them left for this year.


YTD Totals: 4,772 km / 2,965 miles with 47,235 metres of climbing

Club Run, Saturday 20th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   99 km/61 miles with 1,064 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           3 hours 55 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.2 km/h

Group size:                                           21 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      18°C

Weather in a word or two:              Chilly with showers


The Ride:

ride profile 20 august

Ride Profile

The on-board camera failed today, reporting Error Code: 2754/86#3, which checking in the on-line manual appears to translate as “extreme user idiocy”. So, no pretty pictures, just the usual flood of err… coruscating and witty effulgence?

Late August already and this is beginning to feel more like monsoon season rather than the Indian Summer that’s been widely predicted. All the forecasts for Saturday were predicting a relatively dry start, giving way to heavy and prolonged, lashing rain showers at about 11.00 – or at just about the time when we hit the furthest point from home on our outward trajectory. It looked impossible to avoid a drenching, the only question was just how bad it was going to be.

I might have considered breaking the Peugeot out of storage, but it’s enjoying an extended holiday in the LBS for a full service in preparation for winter. The only other choice with mudguards was the single-speed hack the venerable Toshi San built for me, which sees intermittent use as a commuter when I get tired of the ratbag MTB.

I say intermittent because we’ve only just managed to get it up and running again after some initial teething problems. First the chain kept slipping as the standard tensioner failed to do its job properly.


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Never mind sock length, what’s the UCI doing about the far more important shorts length?


Toshi San did some deep thunking and bike-tinkering par excellence and replaced the chain tensioner with a converted rear mech. This cleverly utilises a length of brake cable to provide the tension to keep the mech properly aligned and the chain taut, but don’t ask me for the technical details – it’s all techno mumbo-jumbo and dark arts as far as I’m concerned.

With the chain sorted, further downtime became necessary when I snapped a crank off while trying to climb the Heinous Hill. I suspect this had more to do with stresses through the crank arm caused by slightly too loose fitting, rather than a manufacturing flaw in Campagnolo cranks – not even in the darkest recesses of my own fevered imaginings did I suspect it was due to the immense strength and power I was putting down on the climb.

I’m not sure the single-speed was the right answer for a high-speed club run and I’d already used it three times on commutes throughout the week, so it looked like a day for Reg and sitting on black bin bags in the café.

It was a strange ride across to the meeting point as I felt largely disassociated, lost in thought while, paradoxically not really thinking about anything at all. I also started to feel strange aches as if my saddle had suddenly become ultra-uncomfortable, which is odd because I’ve probably spent more time on it than any other and it’s always been reliably comfortable. Maybe it was just a reaction of a week away, or swapping from one bike to another?

First at the meeting point, I was soon joined by Crazy Legs, unexpectedly out on the much cossetted Ribble. Perhaps this was a divine sign that the weather wasn’t going to be too bad after all.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

Jason Kenny’s travails with false starts in the Keirin were the main topic du jour – with everyone convinced he was going to be disqualified, but impressed with him endlessly circling the track, arms folded, looking cool and blithely unconcerned while debate and uncertainty raged all around him.

To have survived this, a second and even more blatant false start and further delays, before toying with the rest of the field and then destroying them with contemptuous ease had to be one of the highlights of the Olympic track cycling.

OGL said that he’d done some work with the British Track Team and suggested they were inflating tyres to 240 psi, with mechanics approaching very cautiously with the air hoses and treating the tyres like unexploded bombs.

He also mentioned they were using Dordoigne tubs, which I remember from my youth, along with some very poor jokes about how they gave a very bumpy ride, going “du-doing, du-doing, du-doing” as you rode along. Simpler times.

Crazy Legs jabbed a thumb into Caracol’s front tyre and winced at its all-round flabbiness and flaccidity. “It’s for improved grip in the wet!” Caracol argued.

A quick conversation with the Prof helped us to determine that the wind was either blowing from the North West or perhaps the South East, illustrated with exaggerated arm movements that looked like he was trying to land a fully-laden bomber on a pitching aircraft carrier-deck. We thanked him for his erudite wisdom, very, very useful.


At precisely 9:15 Garmin time, there was a general movement toward bikes and someone intoned, “Gentlemen, start your motors.”  With numbers somewhat reduced by the poor forecast, 21 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and set out and I dropped toward the back and slotted into line.

By the time we reached the first major junction the rain had started in earnest and everyone took the opportunity to pull on rain jackets. A fairly uneventful, if wet first hour passed by until our progress was punctuated by a puncture.

While we waited, the Monkey Butler Boy started insisting his saddle was too low and he wanted it raised. The Red Max was having none of it, but it took OGL’s intervention to settle the debate. With the Monkey Butler Boy perched on his bike, OGL quickly determined that, if anything his saddle was already a smidge high (smidge: a technical expression, generally used to cover the range between 1.5mm to 2.5mm.)

The Monkey Butler Boy seemed to accept this decision with good grace, prompting us to wonder why children treat their parents as foolhardy lack-wits. The Red Max said he was used to this, having two daughters who would never listen to him once they turned 5. I suggested he’d had a good run, as my two daughters have never listened to me.

OGL confided one son in his late thirties had finally, belatedly, conceded, “You know Dad, you were right all along.” The Red Max was confident he would never have to admit this to his Dad, simply because he had to all intents and purposes simply turned into his Dad.

Somewhere around this time the rain eased and stopped and I had the opportunity to take off the rain jacket, but reasoned the rain would be returning fairly shortly so didn’t bother. Ok, everyone makes mistakes.

Repairs were quickly effected, but no sooner had we pushed off to resume our ride than Caracol was pulling over with his own puncture, discovered before he’d even managed to clip in properly. Surprisingly, this turned out to be his rear tyre, not his super-soft front one.

This time I lent a hand as we swapped out the tube while discussing tyre choice and Mad Colin’s assertion that a torque wrench was the best and most useful bit of kit he’d ever bought. Repairs made, Taffy Steve lent his mighty frame pump to the task of forcing air into the tyre, and I estimated Caracol’s most strenuous efforts probably managed to get the pressure up to a massive 50 psi.

Re-starting again we had maybe a half hour of trouble free riding before Aether pulled up with another puncture and a small group of us circled back to help him. It was here that the Prof began to illustrate his uncanny levels of prescience, declaring that the car we heard approaching would be a 5 cylinder, Volvo S40 in sapphire blue, while it was still hidden around the bend. Impressive…

… and ruined only by the fact that the car was a small, non-descript and very beige Renault hatchback.

As another cycling club whistled past in the opposite direction with a series of hearty “How do’s!” he then pondered why they all felt the need to sport matching, hipster beards. I could only shake my head in wonder as I hadn’t seen a single beard amongst them.

Repairs made we pressed on again. Quickly rounding a corner, we passed a large open lay-by which would have been the ideal spot for the club to wait for us while we repaired the puncture. It was empty however, so I assumed they’d had enough of punctures for the day and decided not to stop.

Immediately after I rode past a large, stone-built house to find the rest of the club pulled up and pressed tightly together, waiting on the narrowest, muddiest and steepest verge you could possibly imagine. Cyclists, eh?

It was determined we’d wasted enough time with punctures and everyone seemed keen to head straight to the café without splitting the group, so we set course for the Quarry Climb.

A quick scamper up the climb, a dive down to the next junction and a large front group started to assemble and accelerate for a mass hurtle toward the café. The Red Max appeared on my inside and we did a quick swap so he could launch his trademark kamikaze attack down the middle of the road.

Everything got strung out and a small gap opened to the wheel in front, I didn’t feel any pressure to jump to close it immediately so only slowly started to accelerate. I then felt Mad Colin’s giant mitt on my back and he gently eased me across, closing the gap in an eye-blink with his turbo-assisted aid and a minimum of effort.

A few more tried to jump off the front, without creating any real gaps as we swarmed down the road in a compact, buzzing and rattling thrum.

Somehow I found Captain Black’s wheel and since he’d begun tearing it up on the café sprints recently, decided it was as good a place as any. I still felt comfortably within my limits and think I had a couple of gears left as we started passing other riders on the final run down to the Snake Bends, where I rolled up within the first half dozen or so riders.

And the most valuable lesson from this madcap escapade – sprinting in a rain jacket totally defeats its primary purpose of keeping you dry.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop

Crazy legs noted wryly that now we were all sitting indoors, the weather was miserable and cold and there was zero chance of us being assailed by wasps … not a single person had bought anything accompanied by that ultimate wasp lure – jam.

This was in direct contrast to the past couple of weeks where we seemed to be having jam with everything, even the ham and egg pie, before sitting outside and deliberately taunting the pesky critters, who had revelled in and grown over-excited by our largesse.

Crazy Legs revealed that last week the little boogers had been so bad that the Monkey Butler Boy had been ostracised from all the tables for having a too sticky, too sweet cake. Pressed into service as a makeshift, sacrificial wasp decoy, he apparently played the role with remarkable aplomb, until they actually started to notice him. At this point he squealed like a prepubescent schoolgirl, hurled his plate into an agitated mass of the wee beasties and ran away. Allegedly.

Son of G-Dawg commented on the sprint where he felt everyone had played a part taking a few turns on the front, he’d apparently missed me lurking among the wheels and fearful of ever sticking my nose in the wind.

This brought back fond recollections of the one time we had somehow managed to force the clubs worst inveterate wheelsucker (yes, even worse than me) onto the front to lead the sprint out. Known simply as the wheelsucker, he wasn’t allowed to drop back, even as the speed slowed to a snail’s pace and we ended up almost doing track stands to keep him in place, while I’m sure he must have wondered why everyone behind was giggling so much.

An oblivious Prof was fascinated to learn we had a codename for a particular rider and wondered if we had others. “Well, Crash-Kill,” I addressed him directly, “Just one or two.”

Caracol then made the cardinal mistake of asking which brand of tyres he should look for if he wanted to replace his current worn set. Amongst cyclists this is almost as dangerous as playing pass-the-parcel with a live hand-grenade or, even worse initiating the hoary old Campagnolo-Shimano-SRAM debate.

Of course he asked three different people and got three completely different answers. Crazy Legs suggested Continental Grand Prix’s, Son of G-Dawg said Schwalbe Ultremo’s, while as a loyal Vittorian I naturally stuck up for the Corsa Evo’s.

Captain Black was questioned about a recent holiday in Spain when he’d managed to get some sneaky miles and much climbing in. Crazy Leg’s was surprised to learn the Captain wasn’t on Strava, so of course declared it never happened. As the Captain made to protest Crazy Leg’s looked straight through him. “Who said that?” He asked me, “Did you hear something?”


We had been slightly distracted in the café by the appearance of an older, rather rotund gentleman cyclist wearing the tightest, skimpiest, briefest pair of cycling shorts known to man, something so tasteless in fact it would put a mid-80’s footballer to shame.


dave

Oh my!


Crazy Leg’s was so perturbed by the sight he’d given the feller an extra 2 metres of space in the queue, while I wondered if he’d worn his garish and jarring fuschia, navy blue and moss green Lampre-Merida jersey to try and distract from the disconcerting display, err… “downstairs.”

I now came out of the café to find G-Dawg, Red Max and a few others cavorting around with their shorts legs rolled right up to their crotches, exposing huge expanses of lily-white thigh above their tan-lines in bizarre tribute to the strange feller. Thankfully good taste prevailed and shorts lengths were restored before we rode out, or anyone thought to whip out a phone and preserve the disturbing images for posterity.

Never mind sock length – what the hell’s the UCI doing about shorts length?

The good order on the way home was disturbed when a TT’er went huffing past, in an aero-tuck and with a serious game-face on. This predictably flipped the switch to send the Red Max into loopy Labrador mode and he immediately gave chase and everyone got pulled along.

As I shot out of the Mad Mile and turned for home, my drive-train started to grind a little, hopefully just a consequence of the rain and accumulated grit and crud. And then to make matters worse, someone granted the puncture fairy visitation rights. I felt the front tyre go sloppy as the rim started to rumble on the tarmac and had to stop for a quick tube change.

So, a bit of a stop-start, frustrating day and a somewhat foreshortened ride, but at least it wasn’t as wet as predicted.


YTD Totals: 4,603 km / 2,860 miles with 45,572 metres of climbing

Club Run, Saturday 8th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   110 km/68 miles with 1,043 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 14 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.8 km/h

Group size:                                           32 riders, No FNG’s

Temperature:                                      23°C

Weather in a word or two:              Bright and breezy


The Ride:

Ride Profile 6 August

Ride Profile

 

Well, I’m off on holiday tomorrow, so this could be quick and dirty – let’s see where it goes…

Saturday was again bright and breezy and looked like another great day for a ride, so I was up in good time and raring to go, but delayed when Cat#2 decided to violently reject his breakfast all over the office floor. Leaving 10 minutes late as a consequence of cat-yark cleaning-up duties, I had the choice of shortening my route in, or just pedalling a little bit harder.

I chose the latter, perhaps unwisely, as I wasn’t feeling super-fit: a lingering but very mild cold (even by man-flu standards) had plagued me all week with a sore throat and seemed to have brought on a visitation from the snot fairy overnight.


Snot Fairy

An Unwelcome Visitation from the Snot Fairy

The happy circumstances of kids’ holidays, fine weather and Mrs. SLJ working from home had also allowed me to commute into work by bike on four consecutive days. I’ve taken to riding the last third of the Heinous Hill climb sur la plaque (although I realise that’s a rather relative term on a mountain bike) and three or four cogs down the cassette to try and build some leg power. Four iterations in a week had left me suitably leaden-legged.

Even worse when I hit the valley floor, the “benign and gentle summer breezes” promised for the day in a series of overly optimistic forecasts, turned out to be a rather stiff headwind. I pressed on with the plan to use my normal route nonetheless, figuring I’d be able to make up some of the lost time once I crossed the river and picked up a tailwind, or failing that on the climb out of the valley.

For such a promising day the roads were surprisingly cyclist free, but there was an increased volume of cars to contend with, perhaps a consequence of the on-going repairs to stop the A1 Tyne crossing slowly crumbling and I found myself queuing behind a long line of traffic to cross the Newburn Bridge, just managing to skip through the lights as they were changing.

Once across the river I picked up the pace and managed a couple Strava PR’s and four 2nd fastest times clambering up the other side of the valley. When I hit my usual checkpoint: 8.42 miles into the ride, the time was only 8.40, I was 2 minutes ahead of schedule and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the ride to the meeting point.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

Rab Dee’s new bike saga has finally reached a satisfactory conclusion and he was out astride his new, super-smart BMC Time Machine, having actually delayed his holidays in order to be able to ride his first club run on it. His only minor gripe was that OGL had charged him more than he expected for help assembly help. We suggested this was just the storage costs for keeping the bike securely in the shop for such an over-extended period of time. It also seems like a small price to pay for the horrible ball-ache involved in routing the internal cabling through the frame and making sure everything worked “just so” – you know, a hap’p’orth of tar and all that.

Crazy Legs politely asked permission and then did the standard, UCI approved weight-test, hefting the bike off the ground on extended fingers. He put it down, slightly perplexed and pursed his lips and shook his head a little. Ah! He fished both full water-bottles out of their cages and set them carefully on the pavement, then picked up the bike again, this time nodding approvingly.

New bikes seemed to be the order of the day and the Monkey Butler Boy was there on his new steed, wearing what the BFG described as a “carbon-fibre cushion smile” courtesy of the saddle he’d donated to the project. I expressed surprise at finding the Monkey Butler Boy and Red Max at the meeting so early and put this down to the simple enthusiasm of the new bike.

Apparently it was even worse than I suspected though, as Max related how the Monkey Butler Boy had been awake dressed and down to the Post Office at 6.30 that morning to pick up a parcel containing his new carbon fibre pedals and then pestered his dad to fix them on immediately – all this from someone that Max says he usually has to pry out of bed with a crowbar.

The Red Max then confirmed the Monkey Butler Boy had blown his entire life-savings on his new bike and now only had only one single penny left to his name. Crazy Legs surmised that weight-saving on bikes must cost about a £1 for every gram lost, perhaps £2 a gram once you get below a certain threshold.

The consensus among the club seems to be that Lizzie Armitstead should not be riding in the Olympics and should accept the sanction imposed for missing three drugs-tests, even though many gave her the benefit of the doubt and suspected she probably wasn’t cheating, but just a bit dopey. Crazy Legs made the valid point of asking what sort of reaction we’d had to Christine Ohuruogu following her series of missed tests. Fair point.

Spry, who has an unrequited love affair with Miss Armitstead (unrequited only because they haven’t yet met, of course) remained silent, but I suspect he wasn’t actually paying attention as he’s lately been much too busy devising ever more labyrinthine plots whereby Philip Deignan would meet a gruesome end in an unfortunate accident with an out-of-control agricultural threshing machine.


The good weather had enticed a large bunch out for the run, so at 9.15 Crazy Legs led a procession of over 30 lads and lasses as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out. I joined him on the front as we spent the first couple of mile at a very gentle pace ensuring everyone negotiated the lights, traffic and roundabouts in good order and we were “all on” as we picked our way out into the countryside and began to pick up speed.


 

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As we started up Berwick Hill, Crazy Legs song of choice for the day was “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy” and I wondered aloud about where Kid Creole is now, and if he was living under a witness protection programme after turning state’s evidence. Naturally and as intended, the requisite ear-worm was planted and Crazy Legs started singing “Stool Pigeon” while I added some appropriate “Ha-cha-cha-cha’s!”

Crazy Legs determined that our recent duets – “Rawhide”, “Jimmy, Jimmy” and now “Stool Pigeon” actually helped on the climbs and made them go a little quicker and easier. We decided we needed a song for every hill and he wondered what songs the professional might adopt.

I felt it was obvious Andy Shleck would choose some cheesy Euro-hit and suggested “Barbie Girl” or anything else by Aqua. Crazy Legs disagreed, saying that you couldn’t possibly be expected to complete a long climb Alpe d’Huez or the Hautacam singing “Barbie Girl” over and over, well not without suffering serious psychological repercussions. Hmm, well if the cap fits…


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We found the hills were not only alive with the sound of … well I daren’t suggest music, but singing at least … but we were intermittingly riding through clouds of black flies that had been enticed out by the weather and were proving difficult  to both avoid and ingest. Crazy Legs gagged on one particularly meaty example, coughed and spat it out where it ricocheted of the road and pinged solidly off someone’s frame.

We then had a discussion about the collective noun for flies. I suggested swarm would be acceptable, Crazy Legs though thought that given the bullet-like, armour-plated nature of the kamikaze insect that had just dive-bombed his larynx, then perhaps “bolus” would be more appropriate.

Tired of breaking through each new bolus of flies, we ceded the front to Caracol and Moose Bumps and dropped in behind their wheels. Speeding up to the turn-off to Mitford we always take, all was quiet behind as Crazy Legs began a deliberate countdown, “Three … Two… One…Now!”

“Left, left, turn left!” OGL bellowed, but too late – we were well past the junction and there was no turning back. Oh well, that’s one way of finding some slightly less-travelled routes.


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Tracing our way back onto the right roads, it wasn’t long before we were climbing up to Dyke Neuk and waving goodbye to G-Dawg who had to zip off home early to look after the family dogs. A few miles further on we stopped to split the group and at this point both the BFG and me were found floundering and wondering what to do in the absence of G-Dawg who we always follow. The BFG admitted to feeling quite bereft now we’d lost our spiritual, if not de facto leader.


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While the faster-harder-longer, self-flagellation group set off for a faster-harder-longer, self-flagellation ride, Crazy Legs took charge of the rest and suggested a Hartburn to Middleton Bank route, even getting Szell’s approval for his nemesis climb, as he growled, “Bring it on!” with a just the smallest hint of trembling behind his misplaced bravado.

As we dropped down to the bridge at Hartburn and kicked up the other side I saw the BFG get his gearing all wrong to send his legs spinning in a wild, ineffective blur and I was laughing so hard I could barely climb up the hill after him and dropped to the back of the group trying to recover. I was still there as we began the climb up Middleton Bank, but was happy to take it at my own pace even as a small group broke clear ahead and rode away, reasoning that we always regroup over the top for the race to the café.


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Today however was one of those rare days where there would be no re-grouping and I found myself cresting the hill to see the front group disappearing into the distance. I set off in pursuit, eventually catching Carlton and the BFG, but our chase was disorganised and I couldn’t see us catching the leaders, so I eased back, determined to at least win the sprint for the minor placings. I dropped onto the BFG’s wheel as we started the last climb to the café and just waited until his tank inevitably clicked over onto empty and the strength fled his legs. Simple.

“Is that it?” I asked, easing past him.

“Exact same bloody place as last week.” He moaned as I rode away from him.

Well, there’s certainly a virtue in consistency.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Yet more new bikes were noticed at the café, this time belonging to a couple of riders who’d both had Litespeed titanium “bikes for life” that had suffered cracks and frame failures and both concluded their “Lifetime Warranty” was actually worthless.

They now both have shiny new plastic/carbon bikes to look after. This caused Szell no little discomfort, having just recently invested in a top of the line Van Nicholas titanium or “fat lad’s bike” as he described it. OGL assured him that Van Nicholas don’t have the same seemingly desperate reputation that Litespeed seems to be garnering … but then again he is a Van Nicholas dealer.

For some reason the conversation turned to dead pop stars with Crazy Legs lamenting the loss of Prince, who Szell declared he’d hated. When asked why, Szell seemed to suggest it was just pure jealousy as Prince was richer, better-looking, more successful, a better singer, more talented, “Hell,” he concluded, “Prince could probably climb Middleton Bank better.”

This naturally led to us considering what kind of cyclist Prince would be – obviously a grimpeur and Crazy Legs wondering what his climbing song would be and nominating “Starfish and Coffee” a song he’d spent quite some time trying to make sense of, before realising it was quite nonsensical.

So the cycling world missed out on a potential King of the Mountains contender, but as Crazy Legs surmised, you really wouldn’t want to watch a climber who would punctuate every pedal stroke with a “Whoo!” or “Ee-ee!”


As we were gathering everything up to leave the café, Taffy Steve appeared, having snapped his chain on the ride in from the coast that morning and being delayed by a diversion to a bike shop for repairs. He was just sitting down to a well-deserved coffee and cake combo as we were leaving and waved us off.

As we started down Berwick Hill someone was just saying how unusually civilized and orderly the run back had been, when a yellow blur flashed past, Taffy Steve going full-bore having chased us from the café in an epic pursuit and intent on finishing his solo ride in style. All hell then broke loose as a chase began, amidst much futile OGL shouting.

Things seemed to calm briefly for the steep ramp into Dinnington, before disintegrating again and we were soon scattered all over the road in small groups and single riders. I worked my way forwards jumping from wheel to wheel until I hit the roundabout to turn for home and eased, determined to enjoy the sunshine and the ride back alone at a more relaxed pace.

There was still time for the unusual sight of the day, a wedding procession that almost rivalled the 3 massive tractors of a few weeks ago, as I passed an entire wedding party aboard two ribbon-adorned, big red double-decker buses, before I was dropping down toward the river.

Again traffic was queued up and it was busier than I’d ever seen it on the approach to the bridge. This was nothing, however compared to the south side where the line of waiting cars must have been half a mile long, as I guess some sort of diversion was in effect. As I rode past all the frustrated impatient drivers, sweltering in their hot cars, I couldn’t help but feel glad that I was out in the open, moving freely and actually able to enjoy the weather.


YTD Totals: 4,603 km / 2,860 miles with 45,572 metres of climbing

Club Rules

Posted: August 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

A Series of unWritten Club Rules …

I’ve been at this club run malarkey long enough to recognise that our club is constantly evolving and developing our own unique rules of etiquette for the safety and eminent enjoyment of all.

I felt it was about time some of these rules were formally enshrined in writing, so they can be disseminated, discussed and adopted among my brother and sister cyclists.


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Rule#1 – the club run only adheres to Official Garmin Time (OGT). The departure time for club runs will always be precisely 15 minutes after any advertised start-time (OGT+15). Why? Just because.

Official Garmin Time is used to ensure perfect accuracy and synchronisation – if we can’t be on time, we can at least be precise!

Rule#2 – A club run can only commence when at least two members verify via separate Garmin devices that the Official Garmin Time has ticked over to the requisite 15 minutes from the advertised start-time.  (OGT+15).

In the absence of two Garmin’s, one or both timing devices can be substituted for mobile phones, other bike computers or any other satellite-synchronised timepiece. Mechanical or digital wristwatches, pocket watches, clocks, sundials, the height of the sun above the horizon, avian migratory patterns or the inexplicably variable timings employed by local public transport services are not adequate substitutes.

In the absence of two properly configured Garmin devices or other adequate and suitable substitutes, the time of departure must be determined by a show of hands and intoning of the single word of consensus: “Aye.” Only when a majority have indicated it is time to leave will the club run officially commence.

Rule#3 – departure (when at least two members verify via their Garmin devices that the Official Garmin Time has ticked over to the requisite 15 minutes from the advertised start-time) is to be announced by nothing further than the ostentatious and audibly pronounced application of foot to pedal and clipping in.

Rule#4 – any items found on the road that are not immediately claimed by a member of the group are forfeit and belong, in their entirety to the Prof. This includes, but is not confined to: all articles of clothing, regardless of if they are cycling related or not, bike, motor car or motorcycle componentry, any and all roadkill, any and all fly-tipping or littering and any and all other manner of detritus, leavings or flotsam and jetsam.

In the Prof’s absence, beZ is his legally appointed lieutenant and proxy and will maintain the right of first refusal on all roadside items discovered during the ride.

If the Prof or beZ declare the materials as unwanted, they will in all likelihood be left in situ until such time as the Prof believes they have mouldered long enough to be of value.

Rule#5 – when riding two abreast, the correct point of alignment should always be the leading edge of your companions front most tyre. This is to allow for strange and misguided eccentrics who may occasionally wish to accompany us astride small-wheeled velocipedes.

Rule#6 – Is the only exception to Rule#5 – when riding alongside the Red Max the correct positioning is to have the leading edge of your front most tyre advanced no further forward than his front hub.

Rule#7 – it is bad form for any coffee order placed in the café to be anything other than a standard mug or cup of filter coffee.

Effete, premium and exotic orders such as Espresso’s, Flat White’s, Cappuccino’s, Latte’s, Machiato’s, Americano’s etc. etc. shall only be ordered if you are the very last person in the queue and you are certain that the time-consuming making of said beverages will not delay or impede the service afforded your brother or sister cyclists. The needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the one.

Rule#8 – Other exotic, non-standard hot beverages may be purchased and consumed, such as green tea, jasmine tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea, hot chocolate et al. as long as said purchaser understands they will be called an “effete poseur” and may be told at anytime to MTFU.

Rule#9 – we are not the Velominati – socks can be any colour, any length and any style. But, they must be straight at all times.

Rule#10 – When the inevitable occurs and we are harassed, harangued, sworn at, swerved at, honked or tooted at, flipped off, abused or otherwise threatened by a Random Indignant Motorist (RIM) it is the duty of all cyclists to give them the biggest, friendliest, most exaggerated, cheesy and cheerful wave possible.

I’ve no idea if it confuses the RIM’s or even registers across their tiny brains, but it looks bloody hilarious.

Now, what have I missed?


 

Club Run, Saturday 30th July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   107 km/ 67 miles with 984 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                   24.9 km/h

Group size:                                           28 riders, No FNG’s

Temperature:                                      21°C

Weather in a word or two:              Cool, bright


30 july

Ride Profile

The Ride:

Another dry and relatively bright Saturday with no hint of rain and I’m beginning to feel rather spoiled. I could definitely get used to this. The stifling humidity of the past couple of weeks had given way to a cooler and much fresher feeling and it was chilly enough early on for me to pull on a pair of arm warmers for my ride across town.

I found a fairly stiff tailwind pushing me along the valley floor, which soon turned into a headwind as I looped back on the opposite side of the river. Nevertheless, a week away and free from commutes had me fairly fresh-legged and at the meeting point long before anyone else arrived.

The micro-climate of the Transport Interchange Centre suntrap allowed me to shed the arm warmers and it was very pleasant lounging in the sun while 28 lads and lasses assembled before riding out.


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Main topic of conversation at the start:

Rab Dee appeared, once again without his new BMC Time Machine which still resides in OGL’s workshop for continued tinkering with the internal cable routing. Perhaps only now are we slowly beginning to understand that the unlikely, overstated moniker isn’t a reflection of how fast the completed bike will be, but simply a consequence of how much time it eats away trying to get it into that completed state.

Relief is apparently at hand however, as OGL has conceived of a cunning plan involving superglue. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing but I wouldn’t be comfortable mixing expensive carbon frames, bottom brackets, internally routed cables and superglue.

G- Dawg and Son of G-Dawg fondly reminisced about their own familial bonding over the integrated carbon handlebar and stem set Son of G-Dawg received as a Christmas present. This took them most of Boxing Day to fit and the remainder of the day to take apart and re-assemble once they worked out where the critical spare component they had left at the end should have slotted in at the beginning. Next year, apparently Son of G-Dawg should expect nothing more technical than a bottle cage and bottle.

The BFG wrestled with something inside his jersey and finally, triumphantly revealed a saddle. A spare saddle? Apparently not, this was a gift for the Monkey Butler Boy, who wants a new bike and is perhaps contemplating building it piece by piece from other people’s cast-offs, something he’ll have to keep well hidden from the Prof, who believes he has the right of first refusal on all cast-off components or randomly encountered roadside detritus.

The BFG reflected that the saddle, nothing more than an unforgiving blade of pure carbon-fibre was “actually quite comfortable” but its sharp edges were wearing holes in his shorts. Now the Monkey Butler Boy has the chance to wear holes in his shorts instead.


I dropped to the back of the group as we set off, slotting in alongside Cowin’ Bovril as we threaded our way out of the city and into the countryside, variously discussing daughters and drinking, both electric and eclectic cars and thunderstorms and flash flooding in Cumbria.


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A loud clatter announced that my camera had shaken loose yet again from its mount under my saddle and was bouncing and cartwheeling back down the road. I stopped to retrieve it and found this time I was exonerated of all blame for shoddy fixing as the bracket had simply sheared completely away from the case. I can only guess that this was perhaps a consequence of the accumulated stresses from the horrible road surfaces we ride over, or perhaps it’s just an indictment of shoddy Chinese manufacturing and my own cheapskate buying patterns.

Back on the group we turned off for the Cheese Farm, only to be halted when Grover punctured and we stopped for repairs. He deftly swapped out his tube, slotted his chain back onto his chainring and then stood back to contemplate his be-grimed and oily paws and super-pristine, dazzlingly white bar tape in dismay. Oh. There’s a good reason for sticking to black bar tape.


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A long descent followed by a sharp, momentum-robbing right hand turn spat us out at the base of the Mur de Mitford, a real shock to the system for anyone who’d never scaled its hoary ramps before – and anyone getting their gearing hopelessly wrong.

I tried standing on the pedals and sweeping up the outside, but the road surface was damp and greasy and  my rear wheel was constantly slipping. “Softly, softly catchy monkey,” OGL called and I followed his advice, dropping back into the saddle and spinning upwards in a more restrained way, moving up from the back to the middle of the pack.

We regrouped again at the top, where another puncture was discovered, although this time the rider insisted he was turning off soon and so urged us to keep going.

We split the group further down the road and I went with the amblers as we tackled the Coldlaw Woods climb, avoiding the slightly harder and longer route up the Trench.

Nevertheless, the climb was still long enough and hard enough to split the group and I joined a small selection off the front with G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, the BFG and Cushty. We waited and regrouped at the top, but the next series of short sharp climbs as we started looping back toward the café splintered the group again and the same five of us rode clear.

I had a chat with Cushty who was wondering when the best time to attack would be. I advised him that with  just 20 metres left before the café would be a good time and warned that Son of G-Dawg had rather unfairly decided not to turn up hungover and was assuredly feeling more frisky than last week.

I took the lead as we swung down and around Bolam Lake, pushing the pace as hard as I could through Milestone Woods and over the rollers. As we swooped down and started the drag back up toward the café, Cushty put in his attack and for one, brief, glorious moment he had some daylight. Then the BFG with G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg in tow started to grind their way back to him.


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I tagged onto the back of the line as we swept upwards, incurring the wrath of a following car, who generously decided to treat us to an unwarranted blast of his horn. Son of G-Dawg coolly and phlegmatically pointed out to the RIM that he had the whole right hand lane available in all its empty entirety if he wanted to overtake us. As the car sped off Son of G-Dawg jumped, quickly burned off the BFG and then opened a big gap on G-Dawg.

With the BFG transitioning quickly and smoothly from “full-on” to “empty” in one brief nanosecond, I swept around him and gave chase, without ever threatening to close the gap on the front two.

I rolled into the café alongside the BFG who felt the need to retch dramatically from the effort and bemoan the decades long bout of pleurisy that seems to be inhibiting his natural potential.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the raddled confusion from sprint-induced oxygen-deprivation, the BFG’s eyes were playing tricks on him as he imagined one of the waitresses was dressed in some sort of fetish wear, French-maid outfit. He managed to shake himself out of his erotic reveries before it had unforeseen, yet highly visible consequences, reflecting that tight Lycra clothing could occasionally be a dangerous impediment to acceptable social mores.

I reassured him that a cycling helmet would not only make a suitable codpiece, but an eminently impressive one too. Word up.


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Word Up!


The BFG then received a disparaging, “I thought we were riding as a group” remark from the belatedly arriving OGL. We were riding as a group, just a little bit ahead and a little bit faster than the group that he was part of.

Retreating quickly to the garden, we were joined by G-Dawg who managed to spill enough coffee on his tray to turn the collected sugar cubes he was reserving for his refill into a slowly dissolving morass which he dumped onto the table to act as a “wasp assault course.”

Szell reported that earlier OGL had been stung by a wasp – not for the first time this year (although he claims the first incident was no mere wasp, but an exotic, mutant, killer hornet). We pondered what the attraction might be.

Someone then wondered if a thin smear of jam on his handlebars might enhance his attractiveness and net him even more attentive followers, perhaps encouraging him to trail a cloud of flying insects in a style reminiscent of Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoons. I uncharitably concluded that he’d then never have to complain about being left to ride alone.

The BFG mentioned that his Local Bike Shop (LBS) had managed to destroy one of his wheels while truing the spokes. I surmised that tweaking your nipples was never a good thing, encouraging Szell to recount a tale about his own extreme version of jogger’s nipple suffered during a “fun run” where the abrasion of his vest caused bleeding “like stigmata.” By the time he’d somehow turned the conversation around to include the phrase “light frotting” I’d luckily managed to tune out.

Meanwhile, Richard of Flanders recounted a brief but seemingly serious interaction (can you have any other?) with old Stone-Face himself, Nairo Quintana and a routinely standard blow off by Cav when requesting a photo op (“Sorry mate, not at the moment”) at the recent Toady France.

He then went on to claim that the number of new cyclists was exactly equal to the number of people who’ve recently given up golf, implying a direct relationship between men in the midst of a mid-life crisis switching from a sport where they wear ridiculous clothing and spend far too much money on ultra-expensive equipment with the false promise that it will make them better, to one where they wear ridiculous clothing and spend far too much money on ultra-expensive equipment with the false promise that it will make them better.

While we were talking we saw our first butterfly of the summer, circling among the shiny plastic bikes, before happily alighting on G-Dawg’s chain, proof it ever it was needed that his was the cleanest of them all.

Someone said if it had landed on Szell’s it would probably still be stuck there, while he fantasised about plucking it up and pressing it into his calf so he could have a butterfly shape to complement the sharply defined and impressively delineated dirty chain-ring tattoo freshly applied to his leg this morning.

At the table opposite we watched jealously as the Monkey Butler Boy was press-ganged into service, handed a tray and sent off to secure coffee refills. I think it should be the ambition of every cycling group to have its own designated Monkey Butler Boy.

Having admirably discharged his coffee refill duties, he next swung his leg over a bike and disappeared around the corner, leaving me to surmise that the café had run out of milk and he was off on an errand to the local shops to buy some more. Sadly, he was back much too quickly for this to be the case and had apparently been trying out his dad’s bike. Just for size, honest.

Crazy Legs looked worryingly up at the blue sky and very high, very benign, fluffy white clouds and declared, “You know, I think it might rain.” He quickly scrambled onto his much cossetted-Ribble and was away before I could even say, “Eh?”

I suspect he was only joking and had to be back at a certain time to discharge family commitments, but then again maybe his finely tuned senses detected an infinitesimal increase in atmospheric moisture and a similarly small, but nonetheless threatening increment in the potential for a few random spots of light precipitation.


The return home was punctuated by Red Max trying to convince the Monkey Butler Boy that if he wanted to improve he needed to eat porridge even if he hated porridge, by employing the simple, perhaps flawed, but indisputably strong argument that all cyclists hate porridge!

I swept through the Mad Mile and pushed on for home, catching a favourable tailwind once I’d crossed the river to ease my way back. Good weather, a decent ride, but ever so slightly too short, too slow and too flat to be truly belter. Still, there’s always next week.


YTD Totals: 4,419 km / 2,745 miles with 43,596 metres of climbing

Club Run, Saturday 23rd July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   114 km/71 miles with 1,075 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 23 minutes

Average Speed:                                   26.0 km/h

Group size:                                           22 riders, No FNG’s

Temperature:                                      23°C

Weather in a word or two:              Overcast, humid


Ride Profile 23 july

Ride Profile


The Ride:

Overnight rain had washed some of the mugginess out of the air and it was appreciably cooler compared to the stifling and oppressive stuffiness we’d endured in the past few days.

It didn’t look like it would be long before things warmed up though, with the sky capped by an insulating layer of thick, grey cloud and the wind light enough to leave the grass unstirred.

One consequence of the morning freshness following a week of warm humidity was that all the gardens, hedgerows and fields were growing with lush, unchecked abandon and the air was thick with a noticeable scent of blossom and pollen – which I found appealing, but is probably hell for anyone with allergies.

A few minor incidents with motorists kept me distracted on the run in and got me thinking about certain makes of car and my expectations of their drivers.

The first happened shortly after I’d left home and was dropping over the brow of the Heinous Hill, letting gravity pull me down and picking up speed rapidly. Around half way down I became aware of a car surging up on my right and moving to overtake – despite the fact I was already travelling at 38 mph, there was a traffic island slap bang in the middle of the road and we were fast approaching a sharp, blind bend.

I glanced behind to see a low-slung, black car hovering menacingly on my shoulder, so swung further out into the lane to dispel any notion that this was a suitable or safe place to try and overtake a solitary cyclist. Luckily sense prevailed, the car pulled back and I managed to open up a fairly sizeable gap as I skimmed down to the foot of the hill.

Turning left at the bottom I set out along the valley floor and it wasn’t long before the black car went blatting past at a quite ridiculous speed. I wasn’t even remotely surprised to register that it was an Audi TT, although they did catch me out by not remonstrating more forcefully about the 20 second delay I’d caused them.

Crossing the river and then doubling-back on myself, I then swooped around one bend to find a double-decker bus pulling out in front of me, so slowed to allow him space. Once again I sensed a car travelling too fast and too close, surge up close behind me before braking sharply and falling back.

This time it was blue Audi saloon, with a hugely pressing need to be somewhere else in a hurry and the righteous entitlement to all of the road. Oh, plus that unique capabilities that only a big German car can bestow, the capacity to see around corners and completely through large opaque objects, coupled with a magic shield of invulnerability.

Then, clambering up the other side of the valley, I was swinging left at a junction when a car followed me around, sweeping by much too close. This turned out to be a red Audi estate, driven (badly) by a man steering only with his left hand, because his right was much too hot and sticky, so he felt the need to dangle it out of his open window.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every Audi driver is a brainless RIM, or psychotic, self-entitled and dangerous arse-hat, but it does strike me that in my experience, these types of car have a higher chance of being piloted by just this type of driver. Vorsprung durch entrüsten, if you will.

It’s interesting, because a few years ago I would have classed BMW drivers as the ones to be wary around – perhaps our economic woes have caused them all to downshift? I also get the feeling that every cyclist has different experiences and their own personal bête noire when it comes to motor vehicles. Perhaps we need a national survey to identify the worst offenders – but for the time being, in lieu of more definitive evidence I’ll stick to my Audi-ophobia.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

I arrived to find Rab Dee discussing the latest progress (or perhaps lack of progress would be more accurate) on his new bike-build project, which seems to be struggling through a long, drawn-out and slightly troublesome gestation.

In fact, such are some of the complexities of his new BMC Time Machine that he has had to hand it over to OGL for help with some of the ultra-technical bits.

When I queried what the delay was, he reported that OGL is, “Waiting for a bit.”

My brain rattled and shook and clunked while I tried to process this, and when it failed I had to ask for clarification: “When you say he’s waiting for a bit, do you mean he’s waiting for a while … or that he’s waiting for a part?”

For some reason I had this rather churlish and totally unjustified suspicion that OGL might be punishing Rab for giving him such a thankless task, so had decided to agonisingly prolong the wait before he could ride his new toy. But no, apparently he is actually awaiting the arrival of a necessary component.

Crazy Legs arrived suffering a self-inflicted ear-worm as a consequence of spending Friday night at an amateur production of West Side Story, so we were treated to a fine rendition of “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks?

This was, somewhat startlingly a lot more highbrow than his usual endless repository of slightly off-kilter, occasionally tacky, pre-Millennial pop songs.

G-Dawg revealed his deepest, darkest shame – his close encounter with the Monkey Butler Boy last week had resulted in a slightly damaged spoke that he’d felt honour-bound to replace. The only problem was he couldn’t find any 3mm spokes and had to substitute in a 2mm one, which deeply offended his sense of order and tidiness.

He pointed out the exact spoke with an accusatory finger, it’s precise location seared into his memory by sheer mortification. We looked and looked. And then we looked some more, but none of us could actually see which one was the offending spoke, or notice even the slightest variation among any of the spokes in the immediate area.


At the meeting point I was somewhat surprised that only around 22 lads and lasses had gathered before we set out, given the weather I was expecting a much bigger turn out.

Son of G-Dawg joined the party late after, well partying late, enshrouded in a fugue of alcoholic fumes. It was good to see our plan of keeping him hopelessly hungover on Saturday mornings is working so well. Even better when you realise it’s all self-inflicted and we haven’t yet had to have a whip-round to secure him vast quantities of debilitating alcohol.


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The first indication that OGL had something different in mind was when we swung left at the first roundabout. Although quite unusual, this was not unheard of … but this was just the precursor, the appetiser, the hor d’oeuvres for a distinctly different club run.

I slotted in beside the Cow Ranger who informed me he was out for a gentle recovery ride ahead of a block of intense training for some upcoming triathlons. As we passed in front of the airport an all too familiar tinkling noise informed me that I’d jettisoned something else off the bike and I pulled over to let everyone else pass and see what I’d lost now.

Backtracking, I eventually found the bolt that held my camera to its mount had somehow worked loose and fallen away, but luckily the camera had remained in place. I tightened everything up again and gave chase.


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Now what’s dropped off?


There was no sign of our fast-travelling pack at the first junction, where I was faced with a 50/50 choice – left and up the hill or straight on and through the village. I guessed straight on and swept over the roundabout, trying to peer around the cars ahead and catch even the slightest glimpse of a brightly coloured peloton to let me know I was on the right road, but they were nowhere in sight.

Further delayed by traffic lights, I crossed the bridge in Ponteland and took our usual route heading straight over the next roundabout. Just as I exited, the Cow Ranger popped up with a very welcome “they went that-a-way” – pointing in the completely opposite direction, a direction in fact that I don’t recall us ever taking before and one I would never have guessed at without his timely intervention.

I did a quick U-turn, caught up with the Cow Ranger and we combined to give chase. Not only had I made him hang back and provide directions, I was now about to utterly ruin his gentle recovery ride as we started a madcap pursuit that lasted perhaps 3 or 4 miles.

Other than the moment when a car pulled abruptly out of a drive in front of us, our speed never dropped below 20 mph as we hammered along rolling roads, hoping to make the catch before the inevitable junction or split that left us with an insoluble choice, or before my legs burned down to ash and crumbled away.


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We finally tagged onto the back two or three cars that were trailing our mob like a convoy of team service vehicles. Sadly, there were no sticky bottles to be had and drafting through the cars didn’t seem like the wisest thing to do, so we waited until they overtook our group and then we were finally able to latch onto the wheels.

I thanked the Cow Ranger for his directions and inestimable help chasing back-on, in-between gasping for breath and trying to recover. “Yes, it’s surprising how fast we actually travel when we seem to be just pootling along in a group,” he replied laconically.

We had caught on just in time as OGL’s intended route unfolded and proved to be quite novel, encompassing many roads untraveled and some semi-familiar ones we took in the opposite direction to our normal rides. These felt eerily recognisable, but subtly different and I soon had to admit I was completely lost.

We called a pee-stop, but in the absence of the Prof and the Plank and the continuing saga of their duelling bladders, there were no takers.

The group split and the faster, longer, harder mob did a big loop around Middleton Bank, substituting one big climb for several smaller ones that proved possibly even more leg-sapping.


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We regrouped after crossing one major road, where we waited for Son of G-Dawg to determine if he was going down the marginal gains route of reducing weight by losing his stomach contents. Hangover induced nausea (barely) contained we pressed on, slowly closing on the café and ratcheting the speed up accordingly.

As we clattered down toward the Snake Bends I found myself comfortably tucked into the wheels as Son of G-Dawg defied his hangover to sprint off the front and away. I swung out and started to move past a few riders. I wasn’t attacking as such, but the momentum I’d gained surfing the wheels had me travelling faster than everyone else I was slipstreaming. Unsurprisingly this brought a reaction, everyone kicked and I slotted neatly back in to place and rode the wheels to the café without really needing to exert myself.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Captain Black suffered a senior moment when ordering an additional glass of iced-water to go with his coffee and scone. He looked at the numbers on the till display in some confusion and saw them blinking £5.80 at him –considerably more than the £4.20 he expected to spend.

“How much is the water?”  He asked in a strangled voice.

“It’s free.”

“But, but, how much are you charging for the coffee and scone now?” He asked, pointing accusingly at the LCD numbers still blinking furiously on the till and starting to get a little exasperated.

“£2.40 for the coffee, £1.80 for the scone.”

“Huh?” He responded, now gesturing vaguely at the till display in confusion.

“You gave me a £10 note…” the waitress patiently prompted, waiting for the penny to drop.

You could hear the cogs whirring and catch the faint smell of burning as Captain Black ran through a series of not too exacting mental calculations: £2.40 for coffee plus £1.80 for the scone plus £0.00 for the water, that makes, oh let me see … £4.20! And I gave her £10.00, so £10.00 minus £4.20 …

“Oh!”

Outside in the garden we tried to calculate just how much money the café made from our patronage, with OGL airily suggesting a figure in excess of £50,000 a year. My own version of whirring cogs and faint burning suggested less than £20,000 is probably a more accurate, but still not inconsiderable sum – perhaps adequate compensation for our unceasing chatter, occasional smothering of the fireplace in kit that smells as bad as a wet dog and the odd random waterlogged seat cushion.

And of course we’re not the only group of cyclists that regularly visit the café.

(Assumes an average of 25 cyclists per visit on every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year – it may be higher in summer, but will definitely be less in winter –spending £7.50 per head. Or 25 cyclist’s x 2 days’ x 52 weeks’ x £7.50 spend = £19,500).

Someone suggested a loyalty card, but Crazy Legs dismissed the idea as he could foresee it involving the collection of at least 50 stamps. So then – one single free cup a year or perhaps even less frequently? Nah.

Thoughts then turned to how we could ever trust a figure like the proven liar and epitome of boorish, public-schoolboy buffoonery, Boris Johnson with the post of Foreign Secretary and expect him to forge relations with the rest of the world given his unerring propensity to casually insult other people and insert his size 11 shoes into his always uselessly-flapping maw.

Discussion turned to our American cousins’ desperate Hobson’s Choice – Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton and how the world appeared to be sleep-walking toward disaster. Crazy Legs however was quick to remind us that we all thought the world was going to end when Ronald Reagan was elected and somehow we managed to survive, so perhaps there’s hope yet.


The ride home found Crazy Legs pondering if the recently announced Undertones 4oth Anniversary Tour would feature Feargal Sharkey (sadly not) – which in turn led to an impromptu “Jimmy, Jimmy” duet as we climbed Berwick Hill.

Perhaps spurred on by the ragged rhythms of our punkish nostalgia, or more possibly in an attempt to deprive us of the oxygen required to keep singing, the pace picked up until OGL was complaining that he’d “raced up here at a slower speed” than we were churning out. Not that he ever, ever, in a billion-gazillion years, ever exaggerates.


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Crazy Legs declared it another great ride and who am I to disagree, as we split for home and I cruised through the Mad Mile and away. I passed one of those stick-thin, hard-as-teak, old cyclists cruising along on a vintage steel bike and exchanged the obligatory, UCI approved universal greeting: “How do?”

Spotting my Viner jersey, he started to quiz me about its provenance, obviously mistaking me for one of those Johnny-come-lately, young whipper-snappers who doesn’t appreciate the heritage of great cycling brands and needs forcibly re-educating, like the youngster who saw my Holdsworth Stelvio and asked what kind of name that was for a bike. I think I managed to convince him I wasn’t just an effete poseur and thankfully he let me go without further admonishment.

For the second time in the past fortnight I was passed climbing the Heinous Hill by someone on an e-bike (see: Electraglide in Beige – although this time it was more a case of  Electraglide in Hi-Viz.)

I told the old feller atop it that now I knew I was doing something wrong and he suggested I might be looking at my own future. Not yet though and not today. Today I couldn’t see any of the four horsemen astride the e-bike and I wasn’t on my ratbag mountain bike either, or carrying a heavy backpack.

So, despite having 70 miles in the legs already, I dug in and increased the tempo. Then, trying to keep a perfectly expressionless face and breathe easily, I caught up to, passed and dropped the damn e-bike. Ouch, it hurt, but I got there.


YTD Totals: 4,293 km / 2,668 miles with 42,402 metres of climbing

Club Run, Saturday 16th July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   113 km/70 miles with 1,001 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                   26.2 km/h

Group size:                                           27 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      22°C

Weather in a word or two:              Bright ‘n’ blowy


Ride Profile

Ride Profile

The Ride:

For some peculiar reason I was awake and up 25 minutes before my alarm sounded. Perhaps it was the anticipation brought about by the bright blue vault of sky, promising a seemingly ultra-rare break with recent tradition – a Saturday free of rain.

Despite being up early I was actually late leaving the house as I bumbled about aimlessly. My usual timing checkpoint is at 8.42 mile into the ride, which I typically pass at around 8:42. Today however it was pushing 8:48 when I passed this mark, perhaps a consequence of the strong blustery wind that was already proving troublesome, with stretches of debilitating headwind interspersed with occasional sneaky crosswind-ambushes that kept blowing me off line.

I picked the pace up a little and all the traffic lights were kind, so I made the meeting point only a couple of minutes later than usual.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

A couple of riders started bonding, cooing and billing over their perfectly matched, exquisitely expensive and identical Storck Scenaro’s, even going as far as lining them up side by side to compare length and girth. “Great, just what we need,” Taffy Steve proclaimed, “A couple of Storckers!”

The Red Max had eschewed his favourite colours to pair a green, orange and white jersey with red and black shorts in an all-out, kaleidoscopic assault on unprotected retinas. Taffy Steve suggested if he tried wearing that sort of thing in Italy he would be run off the streets.

He then turned his critical attention to a contradictory Crazy Legs who was wearing a smart Bianchi celeste jersey … but riding his pampered and cossetted Ribble. The Bianchi itself had been confined to the garage for this week – the sure sign that ancient soothsayers and weather-watchers everywhere eagerly awaited, so they could declare with the utmost conviction that there was absolutely, positively zero chance of any rain today.

Taffy Steve then had one of those: “You say Bian-shee, I say Bian-kee” moments, before decrying the idiosyncrasies of modern languages and wondering why they didn’t just name themselves Biankee to save us all confusion.

“That’s rich, coming from someone who hails from a place where Llandudno, Pontypridd or even Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch are deemed acceptable names.” The Red Max countered.

(And yes, of course I had to Google Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch)

Taffy Steve argued that, just like Polish(?) at least Welsh was completely logical and consistent in its formation and application of letters – even if it did result in unpronounceable names – unlike English with its “kneed” and “need” and “knead” or words like “set” and “run” with hundreds upon hundreds of different meanings.


Around 27 lads and lasses were clustered around at the meeting point enjoying the promise of a day in the sun and more importantly staying dry as well. At exactly 9:15 Garmin time, Crazy legs and Taffy Steve decreed it was time to go and started to very deliberately clip in.

This was the cue for OGL to confront Crazy Legs and insist he didn’t immediately jump onto the front and ramp the pace up above 15 mph. This admonishment seemed to set a fire burning in Red Max, who was so keen to get on the front he raked his pedal through my spokes as he spun around, before enthusiastically bounding off to head the peloton. Luckily there was no damage done, but it was perhaps a precursor to the rest of the ride.

After the first roundabout a rider I didn’t recognise drifted to the side of the road and stopped. Apparently there’d been a clash with another rider and he had snapped a spoke. One guy dropped back to see what the problem was, while the rest of us chased on to let everyone know what was happening behind.

We turned off the main road, slowed and started again, then slowed and stopped. And started again and then stopped and then there was a lot of shouting and angry gesticulating between the Red Max and OGL, the perfect accompaniment to our staccato, stop-start dance.


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We finally determined that the loss of a spoke had been terminal and the rider had turned for home, so we pushed on and tried to regain some sort of order.

A few miles further on and G-Dawg was swooping over to the other side of the road to stop and check his wheel after another inadvertent clash of riders. This had seen his spokes completely chop the end off the Monkey Butler Boy’s quick release skewer, an aero-spoke sheering effortlessly through the hard plastic nut at the opposite end to the lever.  Somewhat amazingly there was no damage to G-Dawgs wheel and more importantly and somewhat miraculously, neither rider had come to grief.

A brief stop to quickly check everything and everyone was actually okay and off we went again. I was drifting near the back, riding along with Crazy Legs as we admired the light whistling noise Moscas’s carbon rims made every time he applied the brakes.

Another stop to regroup gave Mad Max and OGL an unedifying chance to exhume and resume their earlier fiery exchange, which seemed to be about stopping and starting and hand signals and (somewhat ironically) clear communication.


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As we reached the split point, OGL then rode off on his own without waiting to form an amblers group, perhaps in a fit of pique, or perhaps just wanting to enjoy some splendid isolation and the good weather.

An impromptu amblers group did finally get itself formed up and rolled away, while the longer, harder, faster group started to make their way toward the Quarry Climb and the final dash for the café.

The route was lumpy, the pace was high and the wind was still providing a little extra encumbrance. I found myself slowly drifting back through the group on the climbs with strangely hollow legs and no great desire to push too hard.

I started the approach to the Quarry Climb at the back and soon found myself having to circumnavigate the not inconsiderable impediment of a flailing and failing BFG, who had seemingly reached his limit. As someone later mentioned at the café he only seems to have two modes of operation, full-on or flaccid, and he was definitely in the latter mode now.

Crazy Legs had dropped back to escort the ailing leviathan, who was emitting weird warbling distress signals, like a mournful whale song and was slumping in the saddle as if he’d been holed below the waterline.

Crazy Legs declared they had now formed the “gruppetto” and we should just press on without them, but a gap had opened up to the front group and was quickly growing.


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Someone volunteered to relieve Crazy Legs of his pilot fish role and he eagerly skipped across to the leading group, bridging the gap with ease. I didn’t have the heart or the legs to follow, so just settled into my own rhythm with Taffy Steve, Captain Black tagging along behind and suffering through his own man-flu induced hell.

The main group reached the top of the Quarry climb as I hit the bottom and they turned left to loop around and start the long run down to the café with the wind at their backs. I slowed as I reached the top, checked Taffy Steve saw where I was going and swung right instead of left.

The right hand route to the cafe seems to be harder, with more climbing and more stop-start junctions, but it’s undoubtedly shorter and quicker and the road surface is much better.

The two of us worked together to keep the pace going through a series of leg-sapping rises, junctions and sharp corners. Nevertheless, I was surprised when we were spat out onto the front groups route, to find we were not only ahead of them, but they were nowhere in sight.

Taffy Steve led us through the Snake Bends and then tried to give me a lead out for the last burst to the café, but when he pulled over I could barely find the speed to get past him. We still managed to roll into the café well before the rest arrived, a fabulous piece of queue-gazumping.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The welcome change of commentary team on the ITV4 Tour de France coverage has finally rid us of the tired, tiresome and increasingly error-prone Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen and seemed to meet with universal approval.

The only real drawback now is the frequency of the ad breaks, exacerbated by the same ads being shown over and over on a limited and very heavy rotation.

Particularly irksome were the trashy Škoda ads bookending each break, especially one that shows a guy riding past a mountain backdrop – his helmet strap is twisted and it really offends me. (Apologies in advance if you hadn’t noticed this and the ad now becomes even more annoying.)

As Taffy Steve pronounced, “Bloody hell, Škoda – I’ve already bought the car, can’t I be excused the ads?”

Crazy Legs admired G-Dawgs new, fluffy yellow mitts and suggested that as he looked back to fully catch and appreciate the subtle whistling of brake pads engaging with Moscas’s carbon wheels, he liked to imagine the mitts were two small chicks, chirping loudly and dancing happily across the top of G-Dawg’s handlebars.

Someone suggested yellow gloves were more suited to my worst foppish excesses. Son of G-Dawg meanwhile decided that the best way of ensuring ensure each rider was fully-coordinated was to swap clothes around at the start of a ride, so we could match kit to bike. Anyone left looking … well like the Red Max today, would then be sent home in disgrace, or made to ride on their own.

Talk of Tour de France crashes led to enquiries about how our own injured phenom, zeB was recovering following his attempt to trace a racing-line through a tree – apparently with the sole intent of seeing just how easy it would be to destroy a scapula.

It was suggested he’d had to wait several hours for an ambulance and Andeven (who knows about this sort of thing) suggested it was the consequence of over-stretched emergency services being abused by people using up valuable resources when they only have a headache, a spelk in their finger or are just too lazy to get off their fat asses and make their own way to an accident and emergency centre.

Taffy Steve’s simple and elegant solution was to give all the idiotic malingerers and time-wasters Chinese burns and then send them to wait for a couple of hours in the entirely fictional Chinese Burns Department. Works for me.

There was of course lots of discussion about a certain ungainly Mr. Froome and the rather unedifying happenings on Mont Ventoux.

We agreed that the only suitable accompaniment for Froome, pedalling furiously on an undersized Mavic bike would be the March of the Clowns. Meanwhile someone wondered why the neutral service bikes weren’t fitted with mountain bike dropper seatposts, so you could have some control of sizing on the fly.

This brought up the potential of a small rider clipping in and then inadvertently hitting the button to release the hydraulic seatpost, only to give himself a hefty kick up the backside and be flipped over the handlebars. Well, it all adds to the spectacle.

The Monkey Butler Boy swung past and showed us how he’d managed to get into that ridiculous descending tuck a la Chris Froome, crouched precariously over the top tube and how he’d subsequently become stuck with his ass caught under his saddle and really had a struggle to free himself.  So – an ever so slightly more aerodynamic and maybe faster, but a stupidly uncomfortable descending style, that looks utterly ridiculous and is frighteningly unsafe. Hmm, think I’ll pass.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs suggested he actually felt sorry for Ritchie Porte … Well, there had to be one, I guess.


The trip back passed without incident, but I swung off the Mad Mile for my solo ride home directly into a headwind that dogged me all the way down to the river. Here and for the last 3 or 4 miles I now had a tailwind and it pushed me along at a decent pace to the foot of Heinous Hill for one last, big climb.

I arrived home to find I’d actually caught the sun and had tan-lines that didn’t disappear under the liberal application of soap and water. Now that’s more like it, British summer-time.


YTD Totals: 4,127 km / 2,564 miles with 40,732 metres of climbing

Dragging my tired and sorry ass  up the Heinous Hill on my commute home yesterday, I was effortlessly overtaken by a middle-aged woman on an e-bike – a sort of electraglide in beige.

“Hey!” I shouted, “That’s cheating.”

“You still have to pedal.” She laughed. I would have joined in, but I was much too short of breath.

It transpired she had asthma and couldn’t ride a normal bike, but the e-bike was ideal for her and allowed her to zip up the worst climbs without even breaking sweat.

I have to say being passed by an e-bike is a lot more pleasant and a lot less stressful than jockeying for road space with any other kind of motorised vehicle.  If an e-bike is suitable for an asthmatic, middle-aged woman on a fairly arduous climb, then it seems like just about anyone could use one, just about anywhere.

Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if even just a tiny fraction of car journeys were made by e-bike instead?

I’ve seen the future and it looks electric – even if it means being shamed by grannies who can climb like a super-charged Lance.


 

Club Run, Saturday 9th July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   100 km/62 miles with 914 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           3 hours 54 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.5 km/h

Group size:                                           26 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                      20°C

Weather in a word or two:              Overcast, humid

 Main topic of conversation at the start:

Arriving bedecked in vintage CSC team kit, I caused Taffy Steve to enquire if I’d been wasting yet more money on cycling frippery and finery. For once I could plead not guilty as the kit had just been recently excavated from the depths of the Old Lycra mountain.  I explained it wasn’t new, but very, very old, to which he replied, “Ah! Very old. I should have guessed that, coming from you!” Ouch. I think that might have been payback for last week’s suggestion that he resembled a hulking, grumpy, shockingly profane and disturbingly hirsute Tinkerbell.

The kit was actually a gift from the team to the Pacific Vice President of CSC, who had no interest in cycling, so gave it to his brother, who had no interest in cycling, so he gave it to me. It always makes me smile when I pick it up because it’s clearly marked as being an XL size.

After a much too long absence, Grover emerged to a round of incredulous looks, double-takes and even one or two exploratory prods to see if he was indeed a corporeal entity.

“Is it a miradjee?” Taffy Steve enquired in his best Bugs Bunny/Mel Blanc voice.

“Don’t be an ultra-maroon.” I retorted, before we started arguing, while the FNG’s looked on genuinely perplexed and bewildered:

“It’s duck season!”

“No, it’s rabbit season!”

“Duck season.”

“Rabbit season”

Oh well, it made us chuckle.

Meanwhile Crazy Legs rolled up sur la Bianchi, a sure sign that the much-cosseted Ribble has somehow re-gained its protected status and is being held back because there is a chance (no matter how slim) that we might encounter some precipitation on the ride.

Crazy Legs confided that he was actually hoping for rain as his shoes were still “too clean and too white” and he hated them. This was an argument I’d only ever encountered once before, from a deeply fashion-conscious, overly-sensitive, pre-teen daughter when I’d asked her why she wouldn’t wear the very new, very expensive Converse Hi-Tops she insisted we buy her.

Taffy Steve pondered whether Bianchi had ever tried to copyright their signature “celeste” blue-green colour, pretty much like Cadbury had tried with the colour purple and Lindt had apparently attempted with rabbits.

Rabbits? Whatever next, trying to copyright the letter “e?” Wh*r* would that l*av* us?”

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Crazy Legs had to travel all the way from Newcastle to Worcester for his new job, a long and arduous journey, but necessary because the client said they only had one other operating base in the UK he could work from.

“Oh, where’s that then?” Crazy Legs politely enquired on finally arriving in Worcester.

“Cobalt.”

“Err … as in Cobalt Park?”

“Yes.”

Cobalt Park … North Shields?”

“Yeah, wherever that is…”

Oh, dear.

With the execrable, Euro 2016 football somnambulating toward some sort of long-overdue denouement, the only noteworthy revelation seems to be the scrotum stroking, bum crack teasing, finger sniffing antics of German Coach Joachim Löw. Yeugh! It thoroughly delighted Crazy Legs, though.

I was thinking you wouldn’t find a cyclist doing anything like that, when someone mentioned Contador having to change shoes on the fly following his crash and bravely holding his sweaty insoles in his teeth as he plummeted downhill. Yeugh#2! Was this the knock-out blow that finally put paid to El Pistolero’s Tour de France challenge?

For some reason I lost the thread of the conversation and when I returned the group were discussing a female rider who used to train with us, had incredible leg-strength, but couldn’t actually ride in a straight line. She was attributed with prodigious thighs and what I politely suggested we could perhaps describe as “child bearing calves.” Crazy Legs reflected that the enormous thighs might actually be an impediment to childbirth and I couldn’t help think of some imaginary poor baby being extruded between massive quad muscles, like a lump of Play-Doh. Yeugh#3.


 

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Ride Profile


The Waffle:

Awaking from too little sleep and feeling quite fuzzy around the edges, Saturday morning found me running on vodka vapours following a too-late Friday night out with work colleagues. This was definitely going to be a kill or cure experience.

I was only moving at half-speed, or perhaps I’m being overly-generous and quarter-speed would be more accurate. I left the house slightly late, taking my occasional alternate route and trading quiet roads for a 5-mile short-cut, managing to arrive with plenty of time to spare.

I was greeted at the meeting point by one FNG enquiring if he was in the right place and I explained he was, but he was at least 15 minutes too early and while our official start-time is listed as 9.00 there’d be no movement until at least 9.15.  He just seemed relieved someone else had turned up as he confided he’d actually been hanging around since 8.45.

Picking up a couple more FNG’s, a fairly large group of 26 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out, many threading the needle between two rumbling double-decker buses that suddenly decided to try and blockade our exit with a bit of unnecessary bumper-kissing.


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The weather seems to have settled into an all too familiar pattern, grey and overcast, with a feeling that rain could sweep in at any moment – the wind strong enough to be noticeable when not sheltered by fellow cyclists.

We’d just escaped into more rural areas when Son of G-Dawg punctured and we all huddled into a small lay-by while repairs were effected. One of the FNG’s took the opportunity to ask around for a hex key so he could adjust the release tension on his pedals.

“You should be tightening them, not loosening them.” The Prof, err, proffered.

“I don’t think so,” the FNG countered, “At the moment it’s easier and quicker to actually take my shoe off when I need to stop!”

He then crouched down by his bike, muttering the strange mantra, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” as he worked to loosen his pedal binding. The Prof looked on rather befuddled, wondering in his little scientific, engineers-heart what was wrong with plain-old clockwise and anti-clockwise.

Seemingly shaken by this radical, free-form way of thinking, he repeated the mantra aloud to himself, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” paused and then asked in a rather plaintive voice, “So what’s okie-dokie then?”

“Ah,” someone explained “That’s when you’ve done righty-tighty or lefty-loosey just enough.”

As we waited, OGL said that he’d had a clear out and had a load of useless and worn old tools he was going to throw away if anyone wanted them, while looking rather pointedly at the Prof as he made the announcement. Somewhat surprisingly the Prof wasn’t interested, explaining he already had a cache of useless and worn out tools (not that that has ever stopped him picking up other people’s junk before.)

He wasn’t even tempted when OGL offered up a set of files so useless and worn “they couldn’t file paper.”

I suggested there really wasn’t much call to file paper and the Prof quipped, “Especially these days with e-mail.” Ba-boom.

After we’d all finished groaning, Taffy Steve shook his head as he admonished us, “Bring together a bunch of dad’s and sure enough, all you’ll get are dad jokes.”

Someone pointed out that, never mind dads, there were grandads amongst us, but all chatter was silenced when Shoeless revealed he knew a 45-year-old great-grandmother.

Thankfully, Son of G-Dawg had finished his repairs and we were able to mount up and push on again.


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I drifted to the back in the company of Taffy Steve discussing university congregations and the strange (in my mind, unforgiveable) fashion for wearing tan brogues with blue suits.

We dropped onto some narrow, rural lanes. I heard the shout of “car up!” and spotted a Porsche Cayenne – distant, but seemingly hurtling toward us. Surprisingly, it then pulled to the side of the road and stopped to allow us to safely pick our way past.

A little further on and a shiny black Mercedes did the same and then a massive BMW 4×4. I swear on the ride home I even saw an Audi driver pull to the side of the road, stop and wave us through, although Carlton assures me this was actually a Toyota. History and personal experience does tend to suggest he was right and I was mistaken.

Of course not all drivers were quite so accommodating and at one junction we found ourselves being charged by a monstrous black pick-up truck, in a manner that was purposefully meant to be intimidating. Arse hat.

Even greater peril was still yet to strike and I rounded one sharp bend to find everyone stopped and stationary around a supine Princess Fiona, who’d come off and was lying amongst the roadside nettles.

From what I can gather she’d been surprised by the sudden appearance of a panicked sheep on the road, braked too sharply and lost her back wheel. At least I think that’s what happened, but there was no sign of the offending ninja-sheep.

Princess Fiona was slowly helped back to her feet, a bit bloodied, bruised and scraped, but seemingly intact. Meanwhile Shoeless undertook some percussive maintenance on her twisted saddle and slapped her chain back into place.

Suddenly I saw the sheep for the first time, now charging fearlessly down the road between the slalom course of skinny cyclists and plastic bikes. So, not a miradjee then.

Our bleating, woolly friend had obviously wriggled through a hedge and overgrown ditch to escape, collecting a fair bit of greenery along the way.  This was entangled, wound and woven throughout its fleece like some organic, ovine ghillie suit. By using this improvised camouflage, it had been able to lie in wait to ambush unsuspecting cyclists, leaping out with a mighty Boo!

Or maybe Baa!

Now it had either overcome its innate fear of cyclists, or something even more terrifying was driving it back through us.

The ground shook as a low rumble became a thunderous roar, and the sheep’s new nemesis appeared; a massive, shiny-yellow, Caterpillar tractor bedecked with white ribbon and driven by a wedding party in pale grey morning suits and pink cravats. I couldn’t see far enough into the cab to confirm it, but suspect there was a plethora of tan brogues on display too.

We all shuffled to the very margins of the road to allow the behemoth to squeeze past, filling most of the lane and bending back branches on either side, while its occupants smiling benignly down on us from their lofty perch.

We then had to push even further back to allow a second and then a third identical tractor to rumble past. Landed gentry wedding, Northumberland-style.

At our split only OGL and Grover left us for the shortest route to the café. Meanwhile the rest waited before embarking on a longer, harder, faster route. And waited. And waited.


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Finally, Crazy Legs demanded some action and called, “Ride ‘em out!” prompting the two of us to belt out a ragged, off-kilter, off-key, call-and-response rendition of Rawhide –unhindered by the fact neither one of us actually know the words. Or should be allowed to sing in public.

We dragged our way up to Dyke Neuk and swung off to head even further North, splitting the group and waving off the even longer, faster, harder group before we started to loop back.

Our group now included Shoeless, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, Taffy Steve a couple of others and tagging on the back Red Max, the Monkey Butler boy and Szell, as we set course for Szell’s nemesis, Middleton Bank.

I rolled to the front as we approached the hill and started up, climbing out of the saddle and accelerating as we hit the steepest ramp. Sitting down again, I tried to keep the pace at a reasonable level as I sensed someone climbing up on my inside.

I did a quick double-take, but my eyes weren’t lying – it was Taffy Steve, pulling everyone else up the climb with him as if he’d suddenly found some climbing legs. Well, he has been seen lurking around a darkened crossroad bargaining with a shady character.

We drove over the top and sat up to wait for everyone to regroup and because Crazy Legs was feeling particularly benevolent to Szell that day, I do mean everyone. All reformed and back together, Taffy Steve gave me the old UCI timekeeper countdown on his right hand, waved me down an imaginary start-ramp and we started to build up speed.

The pair of us did around 5km on the front trying to drive the pace ever higher, until we rattled down through Milestone Woods and Shoeless, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Szell burned off the front. Being overtaken by Szell was unthinkable, so as he died on the first slope I drove us past him, up and over the rollers. Onto the final drag I sat up and watched Taffy Steve nip around me while I did a basking shark impersonation and tried to find a little more air for my screeching lungs.

On the return home we were stopped at some temporary traffic lights, when a small kid on a fat-tyred, nondescript, MTB swooped out of a junction and pulled up in the middle of the bunch. As the light turned amber, he sprinted away, through us and the roadworks in an attack so audacious he earned a massive cheer and huge encouragement.

We caught him faltering on the sharp climb up to Dinnington, where Taffy Steve planted a huge hand on his back and drove him, rocket-propelled up the slope and over the top. He might never climb that hill faster in his entire life – and I’ve never seen a grin so wide.

A good run, the perfect hangover antidote and we finally managed a summer ride without getting soaked. Upwards and onwards.


YTD Totals: 3,975 km / 2,470 miles with 39,203 metres of climbing

Club Run, Saturday 2nd July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  115 km / 71 miles with 1,058 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 32 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.3 km/h

Group size:                                         29 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    16°C

Weather in a word or two:          Rain, wind, sun

Main topic of conversation at the start:

At the meeting point I found Son of G-Dawg, sitting on the wall, alone and palely loitering, badly hungover and recently returned from a shamelessly inactive week’s holiday. He also complained of a suspected broken finger as a consequence of wrestling with North Atlantic waves. And losing.

Given this backdrop he wasn’t particularly looking forward to the ride, but concluded cheerfully that since “it only hurts when braking, changing gear or trying to grip the handlebars” he’d probably be all right.

To make matters worse, it was now G-Dawgs turn to be away on holiday, so Son of G-Dawg would have to pay his own way in the café. He’d brought along some money, but confessed he wasn’t quite sure how you made it to work and what you did with it.

I was quite surprised that G-Dawg actually took holidays, but suspect it’s more likely he’s just being stripped down to the bare components for a thorough cleaning before being assembled again.

Taffy Steve appeared, glinting and sparkling in the sharp sunlight and I queried if he’d had a recent close encounter with greeting cards, thinking he’d perhaps tried to sneak “yet another” birthday in under the radar. Apparently though he was simply suffering from a prank attack, when a “family friend” tipped a large tub of glitter over his head.

Several days later and he still trailed a glittering tail of dandruff in his wake, like Haley’s Comet skimming across the Earth’s atmosphere, or perhaps a hulking, grumpy, shockingly profane and disturbingly hirsute Tinkerbell.

Anyone with young children who have a passion for crafts and card making will know the insidious and truly evil nature of glitter, it’s almost impossible to eradicate once it’s got a foothold in your home, where it suddenly acquires the adhesive qualities of mutant barnacles in a sea of superglue. Taffy Steve is already plotting revenge, which perhaps involves the pranksters dog. I recommend selective shaving.

As it was the first day of the month our youngsters were allowed out on parole for a spin on the open roads. Taffy Steve looked across to where they were all gathering and wondered if they knew something we didn’t. They’d all gone way beyond simple rain jackets and were wearing clothing he thought Noah himself would have approved of. He then started chuckling to himself as he recalled how his young son had flummoxed theologians everywhere by demanding to know how the Ark had managed to carry all the freshwater fish.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Goose was found bemoaning the fact that despite being a fine figure of a man and logging hundreds of bike miles, his ceiling of 200 watts of energy output is barely enough to power a light bulb. This sobering thought lead to a general discussion about just how physically unremarkable the human species actually is and how we ever came to rule the roost.

Theories about our superiority seemed to come down to the blind luck of being born with opposable thumbs and big heads, but there were of course alternative claims for the top seat at the table. Naturally dolphins headed the list – as smart as humans and thoroughly hedonistic and carefree – clever enough to spend all their time playing around and enjoying themselves rather than angst-ridden worrying about the meaning of life.

Taffy Steve put in a surprisingly strong claim for octopuses (not octopi as already discussed: Italian Mobster Shoots a Lobster)  – the most intelligent of all the cephalopods, with unparalleled tactile dexterity, but apparently held back by a lack of depth perception (and no great desire to build machines to kill fellow cephalopods.)

We then had a good chuckle about Oleg Tinkov suggesting his team have the “Number One and Number Two cyclists in the world today” and that they were going to “kick Team Sky’s ass at the Tour de France”. Oh Oleg, you’re such a clown and I’m not going to remotely miss you.  I think Mark Twain might actually have been referring to Mr. Tinkov when he wrote, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt”

(I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in thinking Alberto Contador is a spent force in the Tour de France – even before his self-destruction through crashes on Stage 1 and 2. If our clubs fantasy TdF league serves as a quick straw poll amongst cyclists, we have 14 entrants, 9 riders per team and not one single person has bothered selecting Contador. Mind you, none of us picked Cav either and look how that’s turning out.)

I’ll give Tinkov this much respect though, he does actually seem to have made his money legitimately. I have deeply unsettling concerns about billionaire’s who screw over their country and their countrymen and then fritter away millions on vanity sports projects while poverty reigns supreme at home. It’s one of the reason’s I’m hoping such a seemingly class act as Nibali is not going to be tempted by Bahrain blood money.

Goose seems to have taken a liking to green tea which I found surprising, as I was there when he’d first tried it and declared it all “a bit peely-wally”. He deflected our scorn by stating that it had become de rigueur in his household, where his wife drinks it, his daughters drink it, his dog drinks it and even his teenage son drinks it.

We had to tell him to stop and listen to himself. A moments self-reflection and he realised where he was going wrong, both as a father and a human being in general. He vowed to go home, slap some sense into his son, make him drink a double-espresso in double-quick time and tell him to MTFU!

Sneaky Pete sneaked in just to wave goodbye, before slipping quietly away and sneaking off on his own. His departure seemingly summoned a swathe of dark pewter clouds that roiled across the sky, releasing a sudden and stinging burst of rain. As if in sympathy all the lights in the café flickered and died.

The toilets, devoid of any windows and natural light now became like the Black Hole of Calcutta and we ended up having to cart mobiles in there with us to light our way – albeit with a very strict ban on selfies.

I was just about to volunteer Goose to step up to the dynamo and give up all of his 200 watts of usable power when the lights came back to life. The rain eased for a moment and in that brief, already closing window of semi-dryness, we scrambled out and away to see how far we could get before the heavens opened again.

 


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Ride Profile


The Waffle:

Rain was to provide the bookend weather conditions for this ride, the morning version being a light, all-pervasive drizzle that seemed to sift endlessly from a grey and overcast sky. It didn’t feel particularly cold though, so shorts, jersey, arm warmers and a rain jacket looked like being everything that was required.

I had a remarkably uneventful and unmemorable ride to the meeting place, where we began to congregate, joined by 2 or 3 FNG’s but no Crazy Legs or G-Dawg and a very conspicuously absent OGL. I was frankly amazed, not simply because of OGL’s no-show, but rather by the fact he hadn’t broadcast it in advance to all and sundry (and anyone else in between).

Without or usual leaders and planners, the Prof took control and barked out the intended route. Around 30 lads and lasses then pushed off, clipped in and rode out.

The Red Max was riding without the Monkey Butler Boy who had suddenly realised his mocks were almost upon him and had stayed home to revise, although rumour has it that the start of the Tour de France may have stalled academic progress. (Allegedly).

Off the leash, Max immediately stuck his nose on the front and started pushing the pace, burning off a succession of riding partners as he battered away into a relatively strong wind. We were achieving an average speed of around 30 kph before the first whimpering gasps of dissent were heard and Max finally eased, swung out and dropped back down the line, job done.


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The group split just past the reservoir and I sat at the back over the series of sharp climbs that followed. As we approached the Quarry Climb, Mad Colin whipped the front half of us into a loose paceline and the speed began to build.

Up the Quarry Climb we went, splintering the group to pieces. The front group swung left, while a few of the back-markers took the slightly shorter route and turned right at the top of the climb.


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Our shaky, improvised paceline had fallen apart on the hill where it quickly became every man (or woman) for themselves. With no sign of being able to get it working again, Mad Colin simply rode to the front and began to slowly wind up the pace. I dived across onto his rear wheel and tried to cling on for the ride, watching, strangely mesmerised as his chain began to rise like a breaking wave and then roll down his cassette in a series of agonisingly slow gear changes, each one bringing a corresponding increase in raw power and speed. Bloody hell! Just how many gears did his bike have?

And what the hell was I thinking, anyway? This was Mad Colin, who almost set a record time in the RAAM – Race Across America, the man who pushes FNG’s up hills faster than I can climb them, who used to be a sparring partner of Russ and Dean Downing and whose idea of a good breakfast is porridge mixed with energy gels! I was only ceding something like a 20 year and 20-pound advantage to him.


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On the horribly rough surface down to the Snake Bends he had all the advantages of Roger de Vlaeminck’s prototypical Paris-Roubaix rider, being “built like a small horse” and managing to power over the uneven surface. Meanwhile, I was already at maximum revs and being jostled and bounced around like a golf ball in a tumble drier, holding the bars in a death grip and reluctant to risk moving my hands even fractionally in order to change gear.

I don’t know how long I held onto the tiger’s tail, it was probably no longer than a mile, but felt like five, as my leg bones slowly turned to heating elements that scorched into my muscles and ragged breathing gave way to agonised gasping.

One more click of the gear lever, one more clunk of a chain shifting down, one more turn of the screw and the gap between our wheels slowly and silently opened out like a flower blooming to greet the sun.

And then I was gone, jettisoned like the ballast from a balloon which saw Mad Colin soaring away.


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Rab Dee jumped around me to try and get on terms, while I simply tried to hold the speed I’d stolen and keep going. The Prof, one of our young tyro’s and an FNG were the next to pass me in a futile chase of the front-runners, but while they initially opened up a gap it soon settled at around 10 metres and then refused to go either up or down.

Ahead the side road spat out Taffy Steve and Goose from their short-cut. I swooped around the latter and gave mad chase to the former, finally getting just about on terms with him and the FNG just before we swept around the Snake Bends and hit the main drag up to the café.

We’d not left the café long when the rain returned, washing over us in a reprise of last week’s awful conditions. Riding alongside Red Max he pointed out the Prof’s backside was beginning to foam like a rabid dog, as his shorts soaked through and the wet pad squelched horribly up and down on the saddle. Hey! It’s frothy, man!


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Max complained he was getting too much, err… salty spume in his face and pulled out for a quick overtake. I hung back chuckling to myself that perhaps the Prof was the only one of us who could foam incoherently at both the mouth and posterior.

In no time at all the group split and we hit the Mad Mile, I chased down the front-runners and enjoyed a slingshot around the roundabout as I set off for home alone.

The return ride was interrupted by intermittent heavy rain showers and several stops to haul on or off my rain jacket. I also tried tracing a new route on the cycle paths along the river, but it was all a bit too Strada Bianca for my liking, so I’ll stick to the roads in future.

I returned home to once again find my socks had turned a decidedly unpleasant shade of grey and the super-sharp road grime tan-lines were once again prominent. My socks from the previous week still haven’t recovered and I’m not sure they ever will. This pair could well be going the same way.

I’m slowly beginning to understand why some cyclists wear black socks, but it’s just not an option for an old, dyed in the wool, traditionalist curmudgeon. I’ve tried and they just make me feel louche and dirty. I even tried yellow, black and red socks to match the rest of my kit a few weeks back, but even then I knew that subconsciously it was all wrong.

Perhaps I just need some of that super-foaming detergent the Prof uses so I can restore my socks to their whiter-then-white condition?


YTD Totals: 3,797 km / 2,359 miles with 37,309 metres of climbing