Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Club Run, Saturday 8th June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                       118 km / 73 miles with 1,023 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                               4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                      27.3 km/h

Group size:                              24 riders, 1 semi-FNG

Temperature:                         17°C

Weather in a word or two:    Temperate


 

YSSUG
Ride Profile – (with Friday’s commute thrown in for good measure)

Another chilly start to the day, my ride across to the meeting point was wholly unremarkable, except for miles and miles of road south of the river that were lined with yellow traffic cones. Because I’m quick off the mark, I was able to guess that there was obviously some event or other taking place.

If I’d realised it was the 9th June, I might just have made the connection and understood the significance, still, even without this hint, I somehow managed to correctly guess that all the activity was somehow related to the Blaydon Race, although I also thought (incorrectly) it was scheduled for Sunday.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Jimmy Mac was already at the meeting point, showing off a huge patch of road rash on his calf that looked like someone had blasted a muddy football off his leg. He’d been involved in a mass pile-up during the Tour Of Cambridgeshire Chrono + Gran Fondo and, considering the circumstances, escaped relatively unscathed.

The same can’t be said for his Storck bike, Zipp wheels, Assos shorts or Specialized shoes, all of which were well and truly written off, although he appeared remarkably chipper about the whole thing, I think if I’d travelled 200 odd mile and sustained losses of maybe £2-3,000 or more, I’d still be crying and cursing the cycling gods.

Still, here he was, bright and early, out on his winter bike sans mudguards and ready to lead the ride. Perhaps his general insouciance can be attributed to the fact he took out a massive new insurance policy on the Storck just the day before he left for the event?

While posting up today’s intended route of Facebook, Jimmy Mac had jokingly referenced the Velominati Rule#5, which had inadvertently triggered a (somewhat predictable) bad tempered, off-kilter, nonsensical tirade from OGL.

This was so completely inarticulate, we wondered if it was a cry for help from someone suffering a stroke while actually furiously bashing at a keyboard. We even tried to identify the precise point in his messages when the blood flow was suddenly cut off from the brain, but it could have been at any one of a dozen points.

A worried G-Dawg had immediately queried if OGL was quite ok and whether this incoherence was due to predictive text or excessive wine, while Radman concluded it was obviously predictive wine. Still, OGL had the perfect comeback, invoking the deeply mysterious, startling succinct, cutting and insightful reply of “2.”

No, I don’t know either…

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs related that he’d been tempted to buy some new socks when he saw Castelli Corsa Rosso – 6 socks for £8.00 on Wiggle. His keen brain quickly worked out that this was just £2.66 per pair of socks, an absolute bargain for such quality kit and too good a chance to miss.

On receiving just a single pair of socks with his order, he quickly checked the webpage before succumbing to an apoplectic e-mail rant. There he learned he could not only buy Corsa Rosso – 6 socks, but also Corsa Rosso –9 socks, or even Corsa Rosso 13 socks, all named for the length of the cuff and completely unrelated to how many items you get per pack.

To add insult to injury, he didn’t even get any free Haribo with his lone pair of socks.

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day, which included a few roads we hadn’t ventured down for quite some time and a few more we’d be travelling down rather than up, or vice-versa. Included in the middle was a, still novel, descent down Middleton Bank.

Mention of a road up through Molesden caused much head-scratching from Goose. With a deeply furrowed brow, he conveyed his confusion with a simple, “Huh?”

“Where the mad farm dog is,” someone volunteered.

“Ah!” the veil parted, “The mad farm dog.” He knew exactly where we meant now.

Jimmy Mac had us split into two groups, I dropped into the front group and away we went.


More by evolution than conscious design, the front group is starting to be characterised by a faster pace and today was no different. It’s an arrangement the consensus of regular riders seem to have been working toward for some time, but we really need to start making it more explicit – anyone suffering a jour sans, or not quite on their game is naturally going to be more comfortable in the second group.

How much faster is the first group? Well, in the first 30kms or so, on a route I’ve ridden dozens of times in the past 5 or 6 years, I netted twenty-two Strava PR’s, five 2nd fastest and two 3rd fastest times across a stretch of 37 segments.

It reached a peak on Bell’s Hill when I followed the Colossus and Ovis up at such a breathless pace, that I had to rein them in at the top after they’d blown the group apart. It was so fast, that Ovis, once again intent on fuelling his ride with an entire malt loaf, didn’t even get the opportunity to pluck it out and unwrap it, let alone eat the damn thing. He was so busy riding hard, it stood out, proudly outlined, a square, brick-sized lump in his pocket, weighing him down like a solid lead ingot.


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We started to slowly shed riders as we progressed. The Garrulous Kid was the first to go, rather inexplicably declaring he didn’t much “like the road” we were travelling on. I’m not certain what particular arrangement of tarmac, slope, gravel, pots and bordering foliage he took exception to – it looked no different to what had gone before, what was yet to come and pretty much the exact same of what could be found around every single corner, no matter which route was chosen.

Then, after hammering down Middleton Bank, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy took a sharp left for a shorter run to the café, while later, Benedict and Caracol (and maybe one or two others) pushed on for a longer ride.

Somewhere along the way we lost an FNG who wasn’t really an FNG, but had apparently been riding with the club off and on for the past 10 years. (I’m guessing more off than on as I didn’t recognise him).

By the time we had locked-in and started the long burn toward the café, there were just six of us left. I hit the front on the short, sharp climb of Brandywell Bank and pushed as fast as I could, as far as I could down toward the Snake Bends. As the road finally levelled and then started a long gradual dip down, everyone roared past and I dug in, gave chase and just about managed to hang on the coattails as we swept through the bends and out onto the main road to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The main conversation point at the café was best way to gauge the volumetric capacity of the human mouth. The Red Max asserted that the correct and only unit of measurement was the Twix-biscuit and his record was 12 Twix-biscuits, entirely complete, whole and undamaged.

Given Crazy Legs’ number confusion with socks, the Colossus was undertsndably keen to understand if this was 12 individual Twix fingers, or 12 standard Twix packs and therefore 24 individual biscuits – (the former), while I queried if they were fun-sized fingers or full-sized – (the latter, obviously).

Someone suggested the number of sideways inserted Mars bars might provide a better measure, while from a professional, medical perspective, Jimmy Mac recommended using a liquid, such as ale, or coffee. He then cautioned that if things went wrong the autopsy might prove challenging – explaining how the subject drowned in a mouthful of beer would be difficult enough, even before considering what implications could be drawn from a Mars bar lodged horizontally in the throat.

OGL’s absence was briefly queried and we were reminded that the last time he hadn’t turned up for a ride, he was miffed that no one had bothered to check whether he was actually all right. No one volunteered in this instance either, nor would have if any other regular failed to turn up for a particular club run. Yes, we’re a mean, selfish and self-centred lot.


And then, we were off, for a fairly fast-paced, generally uneventful ride for home.

I split from the group and made my way across the river, hitting Blaydon at just about the same time as some kind of family fun run was finishing. Luckily, this was just a prelude to the main event, the Blaydon Race, which was still an hour or two away from starting, so at least I didn’t have to share the road with 4,000 or so rabid-runners as I pushed on for home.


YTD Totals: 3,297 km / 2,049 miles with 38,651 metres of climbing

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Power Drain

Power Drain

Club Run, Saturday 2nd June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  118 km / 73 miles with 1,023 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                27.3 km/h

Group size:                                         30 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    23°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and cool


 

pd
Ride Profile

Here we go again, tipping down the Heinous Hill under dull skies. It was warm, muggy and sticky, with the incipient potential for a heavy, clearing downpour at any time. If we were lucky, we’d avoid it, if not, I suspected we’d be getting very, very wet. As it was a light shower was already an intermittent companion, fading in and out as I turned off down toward the river.

I couldn’t help feeling unprepared, strangely listless throughout three days of commuting, I think I was suffering not so much un jour sans as une semaine sans. I’d also accidently left my Garmin on overnight so, like me, it was in danger of running low on power.

Briefly delayed at the level crossing by the passage of a squealing, clackety and rackety local train lumbering slowly eastwards down the Tyne Valley, I found the bridge still closed to vehicles and once more threaded my way across on the footpath. Suits me – from a purely selfish perspective, I hope they take an absolute age to repair it.

Swinging right, the sun was now directly in front of me as I pushed on, only discernible as a small fuzzy patch of slightly brighter, white-gold in a blanket of grey.  Although nearly every traffic light seemed against me, I was making decent time and was soon at the meeting point. Even better, the light, misting showers seemed to have run their course.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Much to the delight of all, but especially the Monkey Butler Boy, the Garrulous Kid inadvertently referred to his quick release skewers as tyre levers. We then wondered if perhaps there was an opportunity for quick release skewers to double up as actual tyre levers, although Crazy Legs idea of somehow using the levers on some kind of retractable wire, while they stayed in situ, through the hub, seemed a little too clever.

Crazy Legs meanwhile tried to convince the Garrulous Kid that, despite all evidence to the contrary, his new 25mm tyres meant he could balance his Bianchi so perfectly it would stand upright, without support. His first attempt, with the bars leaning lightly against my hand, was quickly spotted, as was the next attempt where he poised a supportive foot expertly under the pedals.

Crazy Legs nodded at the Garrulous Kid, before acknowledging, “He’s not as daft as he looks.”

“I’m not fick, you know,” the Garrulous Kid affirmed, before perching himself awkwardly on the wall, folded over like a gut-shot spider and barely supporting his bike with fully out-stretched fingertips. When questioned, he was adamant that it was a perfectly natural and fantastically comfortable pose and not at all as odd and graceless as it looked to everyone else. It would have been much cooler if he’d somehow managed to casually balance his bike upright and been able to push back and relax in his seat without having to hold it in position.

Meanwhile, OGL had arrived and hinted mysteriously at “big, big names” signing up for the National Time –Trial. I immediately wondered if Eritrean, Dimension-Data rider, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier Werkilul had perhaps applied for British Citizenship. Surely one of the biggest names in pro-cycling at the moment …

I never did find out though, as surprisingly and for once, OGL was actually keeping his own counsel, so we’ll just have to wait for the inevitable, predictable unveiling of Alex Dowsett, Steve Cummings, Geraint Thomas and … and … well, that’s about it in terms of the big, big name, British TT’ers I can think of. I’m taking it as a given that Chris Froome, not seen on British Shores since a brief cameo at the 2016 Ride London Classic, will continue to shun his own national championships.

G-Dawg stepped up to outline the ride for the day, which would see us trail down through Corbridge, before climbing back out via Aydon Road, a Strava 4th Category climb and a relatively new route for us. We were ready for the off, but OGL declared we were still two minutes away from official Garmin Muppet Time. (When did he become so time-conscious?)

We took this as an opportunity to organise our 30, or so into two separate groups. Once again, I hung back a little before divining that, yet again, the first group was outnumbered, before I dropped off the kerb and joined the back of their line. For once we achieved an almost, but not quite 50/50 split as we pushed off, clipped in and rode away.


The Colossus and Garrulous Kid punched out on the front and the speed started to build almost from the off. I suggested to G-Dawg that simple self-preservation was driving the Colossus to push the pace, perhaps desperate to quickly reach the velocity where wind noise would cancel out the idle chatter of his riding companion.

Once the first pair had done their stint and swung off the front, Kermit, Rainman, Biden Fecht and Caracol all lined up to take over and together they conspired to keep the pace high as we pushed on. I’ve no idea what particular demons were driving their frenetic pace, but in a 20km stretch of 11 Strava segments, I netted nine PR’s and a pair of 2nd fastest times, over fairly well-travelled roads.

Phew!

We made it to Whittledene Reservoir in what must have been a remarkably fast time and hunkered down to wait for the second group. Some took the opportunity to refuel, while others doffed helmets and removed base layers in an attempt to cool off. Although the sun was still well shrouded, the day was muggy and uncomfortably sticky and humid.

The second group reached us after maybe five or so minutes waiting and G-Dawg indicated this was the first opportunity to turn off for a shorter ride. Only OGL, needing to be back in his shop early, took the more direct route to the café, everyone else seeming game for the hills to come and leaving a huge bunch to swarm into Corbridge and terrorise the locals.

Off we went, soon spread out by some sharp climbing and then descending the narrow lanes through Newton and into the Tyne Valley, a steep hill we more usually find ourselves grovelling up.

We were confined to a narrow strip either side of a thick line of dusty, yellow grit and gravel running down the centre of the lane and occasionally prey to snagging jerseys, or skin on the hedges, thorns and thistles that encroached from the banks on either side. Still, after countless cries of “pots!” throughout most of our ride, it was somewhat refreshing to hear Biden Fecht’s warning shout of “flowers!” instead.

A nostalgic Rainman suggested the tracks reminded him of lanes back home in Holland – I’m not sure he heard when I asked if they were all shit, too.

Hemmed in by gravel on one side and the rampant foliage on the others, a few of the riders were trying to pick their way down carefully and much too slowly for the Red Max. He let his wheels run and started sweeping past people, so I dropped into his wake and followed, weaving our way around the slower descenders and occasionally having to surf across the gravel centreline in a crunch of gravel and puff of dust.

We ducked through Brockbushes farm shop and café – home to several uncomfortable encounters with surly staff who seem to have an inherent dislike of cyclists, or maybe just customers in general. After being made to feel about as welcome as a hedgehog in a sleeping bag, we’ve taken our post-Hill Climb patronage (and money) elsewhere in recent times, so there was no chance we’d be stopping today.

We cut through the road tunnel (for once heading in the right direction and with the flow of traffic) to much whooping and hollering in its echo chamber confines, before being spat out on the road leading down into Corbridge.


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Our best-laid plans were nearly led astray by a closed road sign in the town centre, but G-Dawg wasn’t to be denied and resolutely drove us through the traffic cones and almost immediately onto the climb.

We’d be heading uphill for the next 6 kilometres or so, but the testing, climb proper was a 1.6 km stretch at a 6% average and a maximum of 13%.

Caracol charged away and Kermit gave chase. I nudged onto the front with Goose and tried to set a steady and comfortable pace, even as others kept jumping past and into the gap, Benedict, Biden Fecht, Rainman and Spry all individually racing by, stretching out their legs in pursuit.

There were maybe half a dozen of us, forging upwards in a small knot behind the frontrunners and then everyone else strung out and scattered down the road in a long, long tail behind. G-Dawg called for a stop to regroup at the top and I whirred away toward this still distant point as the slope began to ease.

The riders out front weren’t stopping and had long gone by the time we’d gathered everyone together and set out again, sweeping through Matfen and up the Quarry. The group splintered apart again at this point and I took to the front as we approached the crossroads and tried to drive the pace as high as I could, through the last few bumps and up to the junction that put us on the road down to the Snake Bends.

A small group burst away to contest the sprint and I latched onto the wheels again as we rolled through the Snake Bends, onto the main road and up to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We’d only just gathered coffees and cakes and taken our seats in the garden, when a quite remarkable scene unfolded –  a big bloke rolled through the car park, down onto the grass, braked sharply, stepped off his bike and … in a royal hissy-fit … hurled it petulantly to the ground and stomped away.

Recognising the rider as a fellow Ribble Rouser™ – Crazy Legs visibly blanched at the treatment being meted out to the twin brother of his own, highly pampered velocipede. Suffice to say, if it had been there, Crazy Legs’ much-cossetted Ribble would probably have needed crisis counselling after witnessing such an abhorrent behaviour. Luckily, today he was out on the street-brawling Bianchi and it just shrugged in a nonchalant, Italian, seen-it-all-before kind of way.

The stroppy bike throw had been performed with such vigour that the rider’s sun specs flew from his helmet as he stalked off.  The Colossus retrieved them and followed to hand them back, reporting he barley received a grunt of acknowledgement, let alone any thanks. Someone, apparently, was in a really, really, bad mood.

Meanwhile, we learned that Mini Miss had found herself having to cope with the shitty hand dealt her in the second group.

Literally.

It was so bad Crazy Legs felt compelled to enquire if she’d inadvertently “done a LeMond?” – while we all sombrely acknowledged the dangerous stuff that our fellow riders tyres could pick off the roads and flick our way.

Crazy Legs gave us a reprise of the debate he’d started with the Hammer on what sounded like a fun-filled Bank Holiday Monday amble, when they’d tried to determine who was better, the Beatles, or the Human League. This had seemingly ended prematurely when Old Grey Whistle Test presenter, “Whispering” Bob Harris got confused with first Rolf Harris and then, even more improbably, Arthur “Bomber” Harris.

Still, the debate was not wholly without merit as it lead to the rather dubious invention of a new, fun-filled game for all the family  – “Paedo, or Predator?” This is a sort of variant of Snog, Marry, Avoid (or FMK, if you will) – but only involving celebrities accused of sexual deviances…

Yes, well … Moving swiftly on.

As we were packing to leave, Zardoz excused himself, saying he was going to stay back to chat with some of his Venerable Wrecking Crew of Gentlemen Cyclists, who’d arrived in our wake. He admitted he couldn’t miss the opportunity for more lively banter, along the lines of: “For over 40 years you’ve been wheel-sucking back there and you haven’t come around me yet.”


We set out for home and were pounding up Berwick Hill, when my Garmin let out an apologetic little beep and the screen flashed up the dread words: Battery Low.

This last happened to me half way up the Col du Télégraphe, but this time I wouldn’t have a fellow rider to loan me their files. I was now engaged in a race against the clock to see how much of my ride I could record before it was prematurely cut short and stopped being committed to Strava (and we all know if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen).

A larger group than usual entered the Mad Mile as the others turned off and G-Dawg was so engrossed chatting with Carlton that he didn’t respond when the Colossus jumped away to claim first shower. Sensing a lack of competition, the Colossus sat up, just as I decided he was having it far too easy.  So, I attacked, carried the speed I’d built through the roundabout as I swept away from the others and launched myself away to start my solo drive for home.

After one brief hold up at a Metro crossing, the lights were with me the rest of the way, although I was travelling faster than the cars as I dropped down to the river and had to slow a little. I then started to time-trial along the valley floor. A thudding up and over the ramp on the bridge, a drop off the kerb, slalom through the traffic cones and I was now heading east again and closing on home.

Just before the short, but unforgivably steep ramp up from the river, my Garmin flickered and died. I had about 2 or 3 miles left to go and was on track for the longest ride of the year, but it wasn’t to be. This was where my ride officially ended.

I eased off and rolled the rest of the way home.


YTD Totals: 3,297 km / 2,049 miles with 38,651 metres of climbing

The Effin’ Ibex Ride

The Effin’ Ibex Ride

Club Run, Saturday 26th May, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                       114 km / 71 miles with 1,229 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                               4 hours 21 minutes

Average Speed:                      26.1 km/h

Group size:                              25 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                         20°C

Weather in a word or two:    Warm and cool


 

ibex
Ride Profile

WARNING: Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

A cool start to the day made arm warmers very much de rigueur as I dropped down the hill and started to push along the valley floor toward an uncertain river crossing. I don’t know if my encounters with burst pipes last week were a precursor to a systematic collapse of the entire system, but a major water main at Newburn had burst spectacularly, flooded the roads, inundated several cars and washed out much of the bridge surface.

The bridge over the Tyne was closed to cars for the foreseeable future, but the Internet informed me it was still open to pedestrians. I was hoping this was the case and a man and a bike might be able to squeeze over, otherwise I face a long backtrack and would probably have to race to make the meeting point on time.

All the Road Closed signs down to the bridge weren’t especially promising, but at least it kept the cars away, which was an added bonus. The second bonus was that the traffic lights on the approach to the bridge had been turned off, so at least I didn’t have to wait before attempting to make it across.

I threaded through a gap in the traffic cones and out onto the span itself. The road surface didn’t look damaged, but the far end was completely sealed off and I guessed this was where the water main had burst. There was however a wooden ramp built atop the footpath, so I stopped, unclipped and lifted my bike over the kerb and clopped my way up and down the ramp.

Another cyclist had followed my lead and I turned to him to suggest the lack of cars on the bridge actually made this one of the more pleasant crossings, despite having to stop and haul the bike on and off the footpath.

The north bank successfully reached, the rest of my ride to the meeting point was plain sailing.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Conversation at the meeting point was dominated by Chris Froome’s Lazarus act on Stage 19 of the Giro, where his long-range break on the Colle delle Finestre combined with the implosion of Simon Yates turned both the GC and formbook completely on its head.

The overwhelming reaction seemed to be one of incredulity and doubt verging on downright disbelief, or occasionally completely by-passing the doubt and heading straight to disbelief.  

I have to admit I’m no fan of Chris Froome, largely because I’m far too shallow to overlook his execrable, wholly ungainly style on a bike. I’ve no idea if he’s a clean rider and even though I don’t like the idea of him riding while under investigation I recognise his right to do so. I will say this though, his “miracle” ride in the Giro was utterly, utterly brilliant … for sending the Internet trolls into complete, frothing-at-the-mouth, unhinged, melt-down frenzy. For this alone, I salute him.

It also produced some memorable quotes from Kiwi George Bennett, who, when informed of Froome’s exploits, offered up “Bullshit!” and then proclaimed, “He did a Landis. Jesus!”

He would later row back his comments a little by suggesting, “I didn’t say that Froomey went out and railed a load of gear and came back and won the stage … I’m just saying he made a bigger comeback than Easter Sunday!”

Our other main reaction from this whole questionable affair was that Mitchelton-Scott had badly fumbled their game plan. They should have called up Adam Yates to body swap for his brother as soon as his charge started to falter on the upper slopes to Praternevoso.

The Red Max brought news of the Monkey Butler Boy’s latest racing exploits from a local criterium, where he’d apparently been, in contention until disappearing from the spectators view into the last corner. There had then be an elongated,  interminable wait during which the race was won and everyone else crossed the finish line, before the Monkey Butler Boy had finally emerged wearing the biggest, shit-eating grin known to man and declaring “I’ve still got a bike!”

Barged aside by another hard-charging rider, the Monkey Butler Boy had lost control and careered off the course and over a grass verge, where, much to his relief, he’d managed to recover without crashing and trashing his brand new bike.

The Colossus wanted to know if the Monkey Butler Boy had learned the fine art of twisting and contorting his body to put it in harm’s way between bike and road, sacrificing skin and bone to protect vulnerable carbon.

News from OGL was that he’d completed an epic 90-mile solo ride along the proposed Cyclone route last Sunday, into a fantastically strong block headwind that strangely, defied meteorological science and dogged him both out and back again. No news yet on whether he managed to successfully grapple with that instrument of Satan that people call Strava, or when conditions will be challenging enough for him to attempt the 106-mile version.

Meanwhile, the Garrulous Kid was in full, inquisitive mode, eyes darting left and right, in and around the bikes gathered around him, as his brain clicked and whirred and his mouth spat a series of largely unrelated questions.

“Have you found a use for that recess in your stem, yet?” he enquired of the Colossus.

“Perhaps you could keep pound coins stacked in it?” he decided.

“And then carry a small plunger to pull them out with?” the Colossus asked, but he needn’t have bothered, the Garrulous Kid had already turned his attention to the BFG.

“Why have you got a tyre in your bottle cage?”

The BFG patiently explained it was a tub.

“Will it not fit in your back pocket?”

The BFG handed him the tub, explained what it was and how it was too big to fit comfortably in his pocket.

He then started to explain about having to glue them onto the rims, when luckily we were saved from 1,001 other questions as Crazy Legs stepped up to outline the route for the day.

Yet again, numbers were sufficient to split into two groups and, yet again, the first group off was the smaller of the two. I weighed the options and joined the front group, along with 10 others as we set out.


Hooting and cheering from across the road highlighted Richard of Flanders, booted and suited and waving wildly as he headed in the opposite direction on a Mobike. Hmm, must have an interview with his bank manager to seek a loan for a new bike, or perhaps they’ve finally caught him and he’s due in court?

We set off at what seemed a high pace and maintained this by constant rotation of the front two. Alongside Ovis, I was doing my turn at the pointy end as we pushed through Mitford. Crossing the narrow stone bridge, we had just started to climb up toward the junction, when the BFG came roaring past in a sudden burst of energy.

He slowed and hesitated at the junction ahead of us.

“Right, right, go right,” we shouted.

“What?”

“Right!”

“Right?” the BFG questioned uncertainly.

“Yes, right,” we confirmed.

“Oh.”

As we started heading downhill, I think it finally dawned on the BFG where we were heading. A sharp, momentum-killing, left hand turn dropped us at the bottom of the Mur de Mitford and up we went.

Still recovering from his earlier burst, The BFG disappeared backwards, while I fought with a slipping rear tyre on the damp and greasy surface.

“I think I’ve just wasted a couple of good pedal strokes,” G-Dawg confirmed, acknowledging the same issue. I eased the pressure on the pedals, got the skipping, slipping tyre under control and began to pick my way upwards at a more careful pace.

Regrouping over the top, we took a seldom travelled route up Harelaw Hill, which was to provide our highest point of the day. As we crested the top, Biden Fecht glanced across to his left.

“Is that a fucking ibex?” he wondered aloud. I think the altitude may have been getting to him.

We determined it was just a goat with a bad haircut and overgrown horns and tried to reassure him.

“Hmm, there could have been a zebra there, too,” Biden Fecht concluded somewhat enigmatically.

After this moment of madness, we carelessly frittered away all our hard-earned altitude for a swooping, whooping descent down the other side, before our road started heading upwards again, through the Coldlaw climb, which runs parallel and provides an alternative to the Trench.


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At the top G-Dawg wondered if that was better or worse than the Trench and I think the consensus it was no harder, no easier and both were hateful.

I was at the back, chatting with Zardoz as we approached Middleton Bank and as the first slopes bit I dropped the chain off the big ring. There was a loud crack, a crash and the gentle tinkle of discarded metal bouncing along the ground.

I stopped pedalling immediately, convinced the back end of my bike had suddenly disintegrated. I looked back and could see nothing amiss and nothing left lying in the road. As my freewheeling speed began to die, I tentatively pushed the pedals around once. The chain bit and propelled me forward a little. I tried again. Still no problem. Odd. I picked up the pace and gave chase up the hill. Everything seemed to be working as it should.

I closed on the group ahead, but was still well detached as we crested the top. The front group pressed on without easing and I was cast adrift, outnumbered and battling into a headwind. I gave chase, but it was futile and the gap only grew the closer we got to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Zardoz enquired about my gear-changing travails on Middleton Bank. He too had heard the distinctive sound of metal striking tarmac, but reassured me he often carried a pocketful of bolts and random bits of metal, which he discarded behind other riders to make them hesitate while he attacked.

I believed him.

The Garrulous Kid bounced up.

“We had two punctures!” he announced.

“So what, we saw a fucking ibex!” I countered.

“Well, to be fair, there was only one of them,” Biden Fecht quipped.

The Garrulous Kid looked from me to Biden Fecht and back again, understandably bemused and wondering what the hell we were on about.

Crazy Legs wandered by to declare he hated “that Chris fucking Froome” even before the rider’s implausible resurrection, which now looked set to scupper the lead Crazy Legs had carefully built up in the clubs Velogames Fantasy Cycling League (Giro edition).  

He was somewhat cheered when I told him his league position was safe, as not one of our number had actually bothered to pick Froome.  Crazy Legs felt this wasn’t a reflection on the Froomes chances of winning the Giro, but rather confirmation that everyone else shared his view and they’d rather lose than have any association, no matter how indirect, with the Sky rider.

I thought I might have sneaked an improbable, come from behind league win at the last, but Thibaut Pinot’s sudden implosion on the penultimate stage scuppered that. Rather surprisingly then, Crazy Legs held on for a win built largely on the performance of the indomitable, but somewhat comical, Domenico Pozzovivo.

The Garrulous Kid was in distress because his unrequited love interest (according to Taffy Steve and the Red Max – and who could doubt their veracity) – an older, ginger-haired, upper sixth former, was now finished her A-levels and had left school.

“Well, you know, you’re kind of ginger, too,” the Garrulous Kid mused, nodding at the Colossus.

“Woah, are you coming onto me, now?” the Colossus demanded, not quite knowing where this conversation was going and keen to head it off anyway.

Zardoz then declared the girl behind the counter secretly loved him. A love so secret apparently, that even she doesn’t realise yet.  He determined he could prove this by securing everyone at the table one of the samples of rhubarb and ginger scone currently being offered.

“Anyway, if I had a tray I’d get everyone a refill too …” he declared, rising and then quickly stepping back as half a dozen trays instantly appeared and were wordlessly brandished in his direction.

True to his word, Zardoz returned with both coffee refills and enough scone samples to go around. The verdict? Well the verdict was that there wasn’t enough ginger in the scone … oh, that? Well, I think we decided Zardoz probably bought the samples for cold, hard cash, rather than relying on his innate charm and puppy-dog eyes to schmooze them out of the café staff. In our eyes, their deep, abiding devotion to him still appears unproven.


We had a fast run back, forced a breakaway selection on Berwick Hill, hammered through Dinnington, and caught and passed OGL through the potholes again. I clung to the wheels through the Mad Mile and was catapulted through the roundabout to start my ride for home.

I caught another cyclist/TT’er at the lights down Union Hall  and we both dropped into the left-hand lane and started to pass inside all the cars queued in the middle lane to turn right.

Without signalling, obviously without looking, one of the driver’s suddenly decided he was in the wrong lane, or the traffic was moving too slowly for him and swung wildly out into our lane. He missed the TT’er by a hairs breadth, while I swerved away. I caught the other rider on the downhill run to the river.

“I thought he had you there,” I confessed.

“Yeah, you get used to that,” he replied, seemingly unperturbed. I’m not sure he realised just how close he’d been to being collected on the cars bumper, my reaction would have been slightly less phlegmatic.

Through the defunct lights out onto the bridge, I took to the footpath, saw that it was completely empty and rode up the ramp. It then served as a sort of impromptu time-trial start gate, I rolled off the end to an imaginary “3-2-1, Go” and struck out for home.


YTD Totals: 3,122 km / 1,939 miles with 36,814 metres of climbing

 

Sol y Solero

Sol y Solero

Club Run, Saturday 19th May, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                        4 hours 20 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.8 km/h

Group size:                                       34 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   23°C

Weather in a word or two:          Muy agradable


 

SYS
Road Profile

Saturday again and everything was looking good. It had been so cold during a couple of early morning commutes that I’d been forced back into wearing gloves, but the temperatures were creeping up as we approached the weekend. The arm warmers were still a necessary accessory, but I felt safe in discarding the windproof jacket as I took to the roads.

A pipe had burst at the top of the Heinous Hill and water was bubbling up around a manhole cover in the middle of the road. I rode downstream, getting a somewhat uncomfortable early shower for my efforts. I would like to say that it was refreshing and woke me up, but all it did was make the descent a little chillier.

At the roundabout in Blaydon there was yet more water washing across the tarmac, although this time I couldn’t determine its source. Again, I was liberally and unpleasantly sprayed and chilled, but the road was soon climbing and fighting the slope warmed me up again.

The factory digital readout I passed said 24°C already and once again, I questioned how accurately it had been calibrated. It was however undeniably pleasant out, the traffic was relatively light and I passed numerous other cyclists as I made my way across to the meeting point. With the good weather and a certain over-blown event in Windsor to try and avoid, I suspected it was going to be a well-attended ride.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Caracol arrived on a new bike, a Parlee frame that he’d built up from scratch. The only problem was, something around the back end was constantly rattling and it was driving him too distraction.

“Too much oil on the chain,” Crazy Legs suggested knowingly, he thought a bit more, “Or, maybe too little oil on the chain.”

A few people had a good look and a poke around, but the source of the annoying rattle remained elusive.

OGL was looking for volunteers willing to ride the 106 mile Cyclone Route and generate a Strava file for him. Although he’s very much a Strava-denier, British Cycling have requested the files, so he doesn’t seem to have a choice. He seemed blissfully unaware that you can plot a route without actually having to ride it and, as a result, he’s intent on setting out early on Sunday morning for a 6-hour plus excursion to plot the 90-miler himself.

I suggested that if he did need to physically record the ride, he could do it a lot quicker and easier in a car, but he just looked at me blankly, so I left him to it.

I’m no Strava-superfan, but it definitely beats colouring-in the little 10-mile blocks on a mileage chart pulled from Cycling Weekly and pinned to the bumpy supaglypta in my bedroom in the “good old days” (i.e. when everything was … well, all a bit crap, really). I always started out with good intentions, but don’t think I ever fully completed one of those charts across a full year.

As suspected a combination of good weather and a desire to avoid a sadly unavoidable, turgid, bombastic and anachronistic event happening about 300 miles away, drew out a bumper group of over 30 cyclists, who, it just so happened, appeared to be exclusively male.

Jimmy Mac took to the pulpit-wall to outline the route for the day. As threatened, it included a rare ascent of the Ryals, perhaps as a sop to the Garrulous Kid (who has probably ridden up them more times in the past 4 months than I have in my lifetime) – or perhaps because Jimmy Mac was feeling underutilised and unappreciated at work and wanted to drum up a few more vascular surgeries. Then again, perhaps he’s just a sadist of the highest order.

(We have asked the Garrulous Kid why he has such an affinity to the Ryals, which are a short, violent and not especially enjoyable climb and learned that “they’re fun” and “good training.” Good training for what I’m not quite sure, other than riding up and down the Ryals. We expected him to show a high degree of expertise when we finally got there.)

Our group included Big Dunc in a new, riotously colourful, Bardiani CSF jersey, which we all felt would make a decent, exotic substitute for our own remarkably unloved club jersey. OGL studiously ignored it.

The good weather had even drawn out Famous Seans, a triathlete who, even by triathlete standards, is a bit different and resolutely marches to the beat of his own drum. As usual, he expressed his individuality by wearing very long, knee length socks and short-shorts – he was probably exposing as much flesh as everyone else, it was just framed a little higher.

The plan was to split into two groups and I hung back to try and assess just how well we managed this simple-sounding, but seldom successful task. Miracle of miracles, for once the front group actually looked slightly smaller than the one behind, so I tagged onto the back of it and away we went.


Heading out along Brunton Lane, we passed a high-speed Captain Black heading in the opposite direction, having forsaken his clubmates for a solo run and evidently intent on getting home in time to watch the Royal Wedding.

Through Ponteland, buzzed and flipped off by a motorist overtaking at high speed, Richard of Flanders fully embraced his, Grey Pilgrim/Gandalf persona, chasing down the car at some traffic lights before intoning, “You cannot pass!” to its clearly Balrog occupants.

He tried reasoning with them and even went as far as gesturing to the Garrulous Kid and explaining we were riding with youngsters and such driving was decidedly anti-social, if not downright dangerous. For his part, the Garrulous Kid tried to duck down and look younger than his years. It didn’t work, but I’m not sure it would have made any difference anyway.

Through the town and we picked up a waiting Cowin’ Bovril, who’d used the pre-published route to intercept us without having to ride to the meeting point. He rode with us for a while, before I confirmed his mates were riding in the second group and he dropped back to join them.

We set a fairly brisk pace, covering much of the route that will be used for the National Road Championship in July and noting just how bad the road surface is in places, gravel-strewn, potholed and broken up. So bad, in fact that on the downhill from Hallington and travelling just behind me, Famous Seans hit a pothole with a yelp and pulled over.

As we turned onto the main road leading to the Ryals, I told Jimmy Mac about the possible mechanical and the call went out for everyone to wait at the top of the hill to regroup and assess the damage.

I slowed as the slope loomed ahead and found Crazy Legs cruising along, suffering from a self-confessed jour sans. He gestured at the Ryals and told the Garrulous Kid that this is what he’d been waiting for and to go and get on with it. The Garrulous Kid raced away and I followed at a more considered pace, running my chain up the block as the first and steepest ramp started to bite.

Ahead of me, the Garrulous Kid began thrashing and flailing his way upwards, all jutting elbows and a too-busy style, like Fabio Aru trying to simultaneously shake off a cloud of flies while keeping both hands gripped firmly on the bars. He spearheaded a small knot including Keel and the Rainman as they clawed their way, slowly up into the sky.


Untitlsysed 2


Cresting the first ramp, I changed down, accelerated toward the second, slightly easier slope and started climbing out of the saddle. Then, in super-slow-motion, I started to winch back those ahead of me. I swung across into the opposite lane and eased past a flagging and weaving Keel, then passed the Rainman, before tracking back to the left to draw alongside the Garrulous Kid as the slope finally started to level out

Digging in, a re-invigorated Rainman found the impetus to latch onto my wheel as I passed and I pulled him over the crest. As the gradient lessened, he accelerated away and I dropped in behind for a fast tow up to the village.

Regrouping, we learned that Famous Seans had jarred his tri-bars loose, but was good to continue, so we pressed on toward the Quarry.

“I’m gonna put you in the shade!” Biden Fecht declared as he eased out in front of me, blocking the sun. I told him I’d always consider myself as riding in his shadow.

Away up the Quarry we went, swinging right at the top this time to avoid any chance of a repeat of last week’s double-puncture disaster. The pace increased and I took whatever opportunities I could to move up the outside, before slotting into fourth place with just Jimmy Mac, the Colossus and Caracol in front.

I wanted to put in a little dig on the rises up to the final junction, but approaching traffic kept me confined to the left hand lane. At the junction itself, a call of “bike left” made me hesitate and look twice and a small gap opened in front of me as we turned onto the road down toward the Snake Bends. I worked to close it, even as the Colossus and Caracol put clear air between themselves and Jimmy Mac as they fought out the final sprint.

Slowly, painfully, I closed on Jimmy Mac’s rear wheel, until I reached a point when I thought, you know, if I really shred my legs, burst my heart, trash my lungs and inflict horrible injury on myself, I might just be able to squeeze ahead of him … but, was it even worth trying?

Well, of course it was …


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We arrived to find the café almost completely empty, but the garden already half full. It was good timing, as by the time everyone else had piled in, the café would still be empty, but the queue would extend out the door and the garden would be ringed in a perimeter of bikes, sometimes two or three machines deep. Much to the disgust of the Monkey Butler Boy he even found that someone had dared to carefully lean their bike up against his brand new machine. For one moment I thought he might cry.

Caracol was still perturbed by his mysterious rattle and had decided that when he got home he’d try swapping out different parts to try and locate the errant component. He started a litany of things he could consider changing over:

“Wheels … cassette … derailleur … pedals, even though I know it’s not the pedals … brakes …saddle …”

“The frame?” someone suggested helpfully.

A late arriving Red Max press-ganged the Monkey Butler Boy into getting him a Coke and a cake and a coffee, and Caracol offered up his mug for a refill too; “While you’re there.” It all seemed simple enough and reluctantly the Monkey Butler Boy dragged himself off to join the queue.

5 minutes later and he was back, Caracol’s still empty coffee mug swinging loosely in his hand.

“What did you want again?” he asked the Red Max.

“A Coke and a cake and a coffee.”

“Oh, yeah. Got it” Off he went to join the back of the queue again.

I took a few mugs in for a refill and found the Monkey Butler Boy about a third of the way through the queue. I relieved him of Caracol’s mug, thinking it would ease some of the pressure on the Red Max’s terribly complex order. If pressed, I would swear the Monkey Butler Boy was standing there mumbling too himself, “err … a Coke and cake and a coffee … a Coke a cake and a coffee …”

Sometime later, the Monkey Butler Boy returned triumphantly. With a Coke and a cake…

Meanwhile, the Garrulous Kid had appeared, pointed to a teeny-tiny graze on his elbow and informed us that he’d punctured and not only punctured, but fallen off too. I’m still not sure if the two actions were in any way related. Close questioning was no help in revealing how, or when, or where these events occurred, but we may just have been distracted by the concept of the Garrulous Kid successfully sorting out his own puncture.

Slow Drinker wandered past and Crazy Legs wished him a happy birthday for the day before. Crazy Legs then spotted that he too seemed to have been in the wars, as the Slow Drinkers legs were marred with grazes.

“Oh, have you come off?” Crazy Legs wondered.

“No, no, they’re just carpet burns,” Slow Drinker replied cryptically, before wandering away.

Must have been one hell of a birthday party…

The Monkey Butler Boy confessed he’d almost been late this morning as he’d been cornered in the bike shed by his arch nemesis a wasp. Luckily, he’d somehow managed to batter his way out of this dire predicament by using a spare pair of wheels as an improvised, giant fly-swatter. I thought such undaunted bravery deserved a mention.

He also revealed his dad had told him if he shaved off his incipient, bum-fluff moustache, it would grow back thicker, stronger and much manlier. Two months on and with a completely bare upper lip, he’s still waiting.

The Garrulous Kid had family commitments and had to leave early. This coincided with OGL’s departure for a ride back “at his own pace.” It looked like they’d have the opportunity to ride together…

“I don’t know which one to pity the most,” I confessed to the Colossus.

He reassured me not to worry, they’d probably ride the whole way back separated by about 10 yards and in stoic silence.


When it was out turn to leave, we got split into two groups by traffic and as we left the main road for quieter lanes, I decided to try and bridge across to the front group. I made good progress at first, but they weren’t hanging around and as I drew closer I found myself battering head-on into a stiff breeze that had blown up out of nowhere.

I was just deciding whether to sit up, or give it one last effort to avoid an embarrassing stint of chasse-patate, when the Monkey Butler Boy announced from behind that he’d decided to come across too. He took the lead, I dropped onto his wheel and with added impetus quickly closed the gap to the front group.

Here I had time to learn from the Red Max that last week,  I had correctly identified the Monkey Butler Boy as a virulent, sock-length fascist, before the group started shedding riders as we each took our own route home.

Despite the nagging headwind, the sky was bright and clear and it was still  uncommonly hot. For perhaps the first time this year, I noticed a clammy feeling of sweat forming behind my knees as I pushed the pedals round. The water, from who knows where, was still washing across the road in Blaydon, but this time I welcomed the cooling, impromptu shower thrown up by my tyres.

Sadly, the effect didn’t last long and I was soon heading uphill and hot and bothered.

Finally I stepped across the kitchen threshold, over-heated and gasping from climbing the Heinous Hill. Here, with impeccable timing Mrs. Sur la Jante pressed a Solero ice cream into my sweaty hand. Now that’s what I call service.


YTD Totals: 2,952 km / 1,834 miles with 34,562 metres of climbing

Farcical – The Movie

Farcical – The Movie

Club Run, Saturday 5th May, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 113 km / 70 miles with 1,077 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 21 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.0 km/h

Group size:                                        21 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Chilly


farcicl
Ride Profile

Farcical … or Far Cycle – A Very British Farce*

(A script in development and purely speculative fiction)

*Farcenoun – a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterisation and ludicrously improbable situations.


Cast:

The Subject: Sur La Jante

The Lone Dissenting Voice: Captain Kamikaze

The Fly: A fly

Jolly Man: A random passing civilian

Captain Kamikaze: The Lone Dissenting Voice

The Gang: Various riders from the largest cycling club in the region. (Allegedly.)


A black screen.

The silence is broken by the slow beeping of an electronic alarm and an image slowly coalesces of a flailing arm that bashes wildly at a bedside table, 2-3-4 times, until it finally manages to hit the off-button and silence the horribly intrusive noise.

The camera pulls back and, accompanied by much moaning, groaning and muttering, The Subject slowly peels back the covers and stumbles out of bed. Blinking in the still dim light, The Subject runs a hand through ridiculously unkempt, dishevelled hair that’s standing straight up at attention. He rubs at gritty eyes and yawns loudly.

Cut.


In a narrow kitchen, The Subject prepares an uninspiring but hopefully fortifying breakfast of porridge and a muddy espresso, while trying to ignore the two hungry felines giving him the evil eye and demanding he drop everything to placate them with a sacrificial offering of food.

Finally, their evil cat gazes start to shrivel his soul and The Subject succumbs to the pressure, opening a pouch of some foul smelling cat food at arm’s length and trying not to gag as he disgorges the contents into two bowls that he quickly lays at the feet of his masters.

Cut.


The Subject is now wrestling with a fantastical costume that could (perhaps justifiably) be characterised as being a couple of sizes too small for comfort. A t-shirt, with more holes than substance, goes under a pair of long, form fitting shorts with bizarre straps that go over the shoulders. It looks like the kind of lederhosen a cheesy, 60’s TV-superhero might have worn. Alpenhorn Man, anyone?

The subject pulls on a pair of socks that he hopes are neither too long, nor too short. They are unashamedly bright and white.

Strange black, sausage-skin type tubes are then stretched up and over spindly, pipe-cleaner arms, like opera gloves without any fingers, before another, possibly even tighter, t-shirt is pulled over The Subjects head and inched and tugged and twisted down and around his torso.

This latest t-shirt has 3 odd pockets sewn into the back and The Subject starts loading these up. In the left hand pocket goes a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar. In the middle pocket goes a small camera and a bundled-up, incredibly creased, bright orange jacket is stuffed on top of this. In the right hand pocket goes a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool.

Once completed, The Subject decides he needs to visit the toilet. Out of the left hand pocket, he retrieves a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar and sets them aside. Out of the right hand pocket, he pulls a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool and sets them aside. He decides the camera in the middle pocket is probably safe, plugged in place by the orange jacket.

He inches, tugs and twists the top t-shirt up and pulls it over his head and is already slipping the strange lederhosen straps down, off his shoulders as he opens the toilet door.

Flashback: an earlier time and an earlier natural urge, The Subject is dressed in a similar manner as he enters the toilet, but the rear pockets are still bulging with “stuff”. He grasps the collar of his top at the back and tugs and twists and pulls it over his head. As it starts to slide down his arms, his mobile phone flies out of his left hand pocket and describes a slow, lazy arc through the air, a trajectory so perfect that Tom Daly would have spontaneously cheered … Plop! Straight down the toilet bowl without touching the sides.

Cut.


The Subject emerges from the toilet and goes through the ritual of wrestling on his top t-shirt and loading up the individual pockets once again. In the left hand pocket goes a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar. In the right hand pocket goes a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool…

He sighs.

He goes outside, still in his stockinged feet and pulls a bike from the shed. It’s an alarming, eye-watering riot of vile red, poisonous black and bilious yellow. The bike is loaded up with a tool tub, water bottle and computer and our subject returns inside.

“It’s a bit chilly out there,” he tells one of the cats. The cat stares back with mute indifference.

“I know you care really,” he suggests unconvincingly.

The cat yawns and wanders off.

The Subject pulls a pair of ruby red slippers from a cupboard, drags them on and twists a clicking dial on each, until the cheese-wires that serve as laces tighten enough to cut off blood supply to his toes. He backs them off a little. He fishes the orange jacket from his back pocket and slips this on for good measure, adding an extra layer of insulation. Good to go.

Cut.


The Scene: A little while later at a grandly named Transport Interchange Centre, that actually resembles a very ordinary, run-of-the-mill bus station. A low wall at the back of a wide pavement separates the bus concourse from a multi-storey car park. Seated on this wall waiting, is the tall, gangly figure of the Garrulous Kid dressed all in black.

G-Dawg and the Colossus roll up on their bikes. The latter is wearing a Le Col jersey in a bright shade of orange, while the former sports a Molteni retro jersey that, through time, evolved from an unloved navy blue and brown to orange and black. G-Dawg’s is the more modern, much more tasteful orange and black version.

Trailing behind, our Subject arrives and pulls up alongside the pair.

“Huh, you’re all in orange?” (There’s really no fooling the Garrulous Kid, or his keen observational skills.)

“It’s Orange Day, didn’t you get the message?” G-Dawg asks.

“Yes, orange is the new black,” The Subject attests.

Even the Garrulous Kid doesn’t fall for this one though, especially as other riders start turning up and there’s no further incidence of orange.

The Subject determines things have probably warmed up just about enough, so ships and stows the orange jacket.

Slowly, more cyclists arrive and form up around the group, until the pavement is all but blocked by skinny blokes with plastic bikes.

“I thought there would have been more out today,” G-Dawg surmises, even as the headcount tops 20.

The Subject reminds him there’s a few up doing the Wooler Wheel and one or two facing the brutal Fred Whitton Challenge tomorrow too.

The Subject then falls into conversation with the newly arrived Big Friendly Giant.

The Subject: “So you survived last week and now you’re back for more?”

BFG: “Yeah, and I might make it all the way around, this time. But I’ll not be stopping at the café …”

The Subject steps back, aghast.

The Subject: [tremulously] “What … no cake?”

BFG: “I have to be back to do some gardening. Feed and tend the lawns and all that.”

The Subject: “Ah, is this the new obsession?”

BFG: [unashamedly] “Yes!”

The Subject: “So, it’s replaced your earlier obsession for building bikes from rare, exotic and wholly unsuitable materials?”

BFG: “Yes. The trouble is though, Nature is always changing and evolving and nothing ever stays perfect for very long.”

The Subject: “Very true, that’s life – things are always changing.”

BFG: “Yeah, but it can actually become a bit of an issue for someone with acute OCD and a need for perfection …”

Cut.


The Scene: Out on the road. The weather is bright, but cold and a group of 20+ riders are travelling 2 abreast down rough country roads in a very rural landscape.

Untitled 2

Above all the general chatter and good humour, a disassociated voice can be heard complaining long and bitterly about the speed the group is travelling. Everyone else seems happy and comfortable, talking away, enjoying the ride and not breathing too heavily – even Szell, just recently awoken from winter hibernation seems at ease.

“It’s not a bloody race,” the Lone Dissenting Voice proclaims.

“If you want to race, put a number on your back,” the Lone Dissenting Voice continues.

“Is this the bloody toady France or something?” the Lone Dissenting Voice queries, to everyone and no one. Well, to be fair, actually no one – they’ve all stopped listening.

Slow fade …


The Scene: The group has stopped at a junction with a choice of turning right for a shorter route to the café , or left for a longer harder route. G-Dawg is busy outlining the different options that everyone can take.

Lone Dissenting Voice: “Well, I’m going this way, the speed today has been just bloody farcical. Farcical!”

The Lone Dissenting Voice takes the right hand turn in protest – a protest somewhat spoiled by the fact that it’s the route the Lone Dissenting Voice always takes…no matter what.

Lone Dissenting Voice: [a final parting shot] “If you want to race, put a bloody number on your back.”

“That’s it, we’re all wearing numbers next week,” someone announces.

Cut.


The Scene: Out on the road, the groups numbers are somewhat diminished, all the climbing is done and they’re riding at a high speed, pulling everyone out into a single long line.

Someone attacks off the front. The Subject follows a wheel through as another rider moves to respond.

The attacker is brought back.

The Subject attacks.

The Subject is caught.

The road rises a little.

The Subject attacks again.

The Subject is caught.

Cut to an aerial shot, showing a long straight road. Head-on and still a little distant a group of riders can be seen, approaching fast and in single file. Having been caught again, The Subject is now sitting second wheel.

The camera pulls back slightly revealing this view is actually one being contemplated by a large, black fly of an indeterminate species. The fly performs a lazy barrel roll, drops down and heads buzzing toward the approaching riders.

The road rises, ever so slightly.

The Subject pulls out from the wheels.

The Subject attacks again.

Briefly, the view shifts to the fly’s perspective and CGI special effects are applied. The view becomes heavily stylised, a multi-faceted picture of bikes and riders through the eyes of the fly.

It focuses on the group approaching.

And zooms in… to focus on the attacking lead rider.

And zooms in…to focus on the face of the attacking lead rider

And zooms in… to focus on that riders gaping mouth, through which he’s trying to draw enough oxygen to fuel his thrashing legs, pounding heart and gasping lungs.

The black maw of the fully open mouth looms and draws the fly in …

Blackness engulfs the fly.

The camera pulls back to focus on The Subject again. He’s coughing, spluttering and trying not to gag on a sudden obstruction that’s rattling and vibrating in his throat.

The Subject’s done, he’s caught and blinking away the tears in his eyes, he drops back. Back past Jimmy Mac, past the Big Yin, past Keel, past G-Dawg, before finding a space and slotting in on the wheel of the Colossus.

He follows. Hanging on. Still at high speed.

There are two very distinct, very loud cracks as G-Dawg smashes through a pothole no one had the wit to point out.

G-Dawg: “Ooph!”

Centimetres from his rear wheel, the Colossus twitches to one side and bangs across the shallower edges of the hole, avoiding the worst. The Subject quickly yaws away to one side and manages to miss the hole completely.

It all happens in an instant. The group presses on, seemingly having sustained no damage, until G-Dawg realises he’s blown out both tyres and they’re rapidly deflating. He comes to a rumbling stop.

The Colossus continues, charges across the gap, past a slow riding, Lone Dissenting Voice (who has just emerged from a side-road) and to the front of the group. The Colossus contests the sprint, then calmly turns around and goes back to help G-Dawg with his double puncture.

Meanwhile, The Subject rolls through on the back of the group and makes his way to the café.

Cut.


Scene: In the café. The Subject is standing in the queue loading his tray up with coffee and cake. The Lone Dissenting Voice stands behind him, waiting to be served. A rather jolly, corpulent civilian approaches and addresses the Lone Dissenting Voice.

Jolly Man: “Well, well, well it’s Captain Kamikaze.”

The Subject tries to suppress his grin, the Lone Dissenting Voice studiously tries to ignore the Jolly Man.

Jolly Man: [unperturbed by the silent treatment and in no way deterred, continues] “Hello Captain Kamikaze, thrown yourself under any 40-ton artics recently?”

The Subject scurries off, before he bursts into laughter…

Cut.


Scene: In the garden at the café. Two of the benches have been pulled together in a line and are overrun with cyclists. The Subject is sitting at one end, talking with Jimmy Mac and Rab Dee about the Giro d’Italia. At the other end sits the Big Yin and the Garrulous Kid.

Rab Dee: “I’m looking forward to a lazy afternoon watching the Giro and listening to Sean Kelly’s commentary about turds and trees.”

Jimmy Mac: “Reminds me of the story of how Billy Twelvetrees was always called 36 by his Irish team mates.”

The Subject was just about to add that Yates’ commentary has never been the same since Ulrika Greenedge became Mitchelton Scott, when the Lone Dissenting Voice a.k.a. Captain Kamikaze, plonks himself down opposite the Big Yin.

Lone Dissenting Voice: “The speed today was shocking.”

The Big Yin: [feigning innocence] “Yeah, It was a bit slow wasn’t it?”

Lone Dissenting Voice: [utterly devoid of humour] “It’s ridiculous, the Saturday runs were set up 50 years ago as a social ride.”

The Big Yin: [reasonably] “Well, yeah, that was then. It’s different now and things change naturally over time, they evolve and …”

Lone Dissenting Voice: “No! No they bloody don’t! Not over time!”

The Subject: “Err … eh?”

Lone Dissenting Voice: “The pace of the Saturday rides is stupid. It’s why we’ve had a 50% drop in club membership. It’s why some of the old stalwarts don’t ride with us anymore. It’s why numbers on Saturday rides are falling.”

The Subject: [sotto voce, shaking his head] “No. No. No and no.”

Luckily, the group are distracted, when the Garrulous Kid spots Rab Dee’s espresso cup.

Garrulous Kid: “Hey, that’s a tiny cup!”

Garrulous Kid: [bending down to look under the table] “Is there a midget here?”

Slow fade.


The Scene: Still the café garden. The cyclists are packing up to leave, minus the Lone Dissenting Voice who left early in order to “ride home at a sensible speed.”

Szell weighs up an order card left lying on one of the tables so the servers can identify who has ordered what.

Szell: “Isn’t this the kind of number we could put on our backs?”

He proposes sticking it to the back of the Lone Dissenting Voice’s jersey and starts looking for some glue, or tape.

Szell: “I know, jam. That’ll work.”

Luckily, the group makes to leave before Szell can put his plan into practice.

Cut.


The Scene: Returning home in high spirits, the group are powering along with the Garrulous Kid and The Subject on the front, chattering away and laughing. As they approach the final climb, up to Dinnington, Taffy Steve accelerates up behind the Garrulous Kid.

Taffy Steve: [chanting] “Old fat bloke coming for you, Old fat bloke gonna catch you…”

With a girly-shriek, the Garrulous Kid accelerates away.

Over the top, he sees the Lone Dissenting Voice, labouring along on his own.

He sweeps past.

Seconds later, everyone else sweeps past too.

Lone Dissenting Voice: [grumpily, as he disappears out the back] “I could hear you lot coming a bloody mile away.”

G-Dawg: “We’ll all have our names entered into the little black book now.”

The Subject: “Yep, it’s a club run, it’s not an excuse for us to be out enjoying ourselves.”

Fade to credits.

The End.

All options available[Still!]


YTD Totals: 2,780 km / 1,571 miles with 32,346 metres of climbing

Merde! Mitford

Merde! Mitford

Club Run, Saturday 5th May, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                               121 km / 75 miles with 1,195 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                       4 hours 37 minutes

Average Speed:                               26.2 km/h

Group size:                                      28 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                  22°C

Weather in a word or two:         Glorious


 

MDM
Ride Profile

A week – a long time in politics, is seemingly an aeon in terms of British weather, which might explain how things suddenly changed from last weeks biting chill, too H-o-t (with a capital H). Hot enough indeed for G-Dawg to send out a diktat via Facebook declaring “shorts only” for the weekend. Well, obviously not just shorts, that would be unseemly, but you get the idea.

I was assured it was going to be a fantastic day, but nonetheless, it was cold early in the morning and I was happy I’d thought to pull on a pair of arm warmers. Still, the sky was a cloudless, sparkling blue and the sun was throwing sharp shadows ahead of my front wheel – it was just a matter of time before the temperature picked up. In fact the digital readout on a factory unit said 23 C. Yeah, right, a bit premature I think, but still …

It was a thoroughly pleasant amble across the river, the hedgerows and verges studded with bright blossoming tulips and daffodils and the trees laden down with pale blossom that the breeze would tug off the branches so I could occasionally progress like I was riding through a soft, warm blizzard.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

If last week everyone complained of the cold, this week everyone mentioned the heat, as we enjoyed the best spell of weather so far this year and were headed toward the warmest May Bank Holiday weekend for years.

A supremely hot Jimmy Mac arrived, fat beats of sweat already rolling down his face. First blaming his all black Castelli jersey for absorbing too much heat, he then suggested that perhaps his sunscreen was providing an unwelcome layer of insulation. “Huh,” I had to ask, “What are you using for sun cream, goose fat?”

It was so hot, that Szell took G-Dawg’s “shorts only” diktat to heart and stripped off his jersey. Ooph! Luckily, he was just intent on removing his base layer and pulled his jersey back on before too many grannies swooned, or the police arrived to cart him away for indecent exposure.

Indeed, it was so hot that Crazy Legs had coerced the much-cosseted Ribble out its cotton wool nest for the first action of the year – as good a guarantee that we were going to see no rain as money can buy.

Someone had abandoned a Mobike nearby and we circled it warily, trying to decide exactly what kind of strange, exotic beast it was and determine if it was at all dangerous. G-Dawg, quite the bravest amongst us, approached tentatively, gave it a quick prod and, when it didn’t react, picked it up and weighed it appraisingly. “It might be all right downhill,” he mused, but obviously not this particular one, which had been abandoned with only one crank and had a raw, empty spindle where the other should have been. You can break them, then.

The outbreak of shorts threw an unkindly spotlight on personal sock choice, with the obvious Goldilocks dilemma of not too long, not too short, just the right length. The Monkey Butler Boy proved to be the de facto leader of the fashion police and a sock fascist par excellence. He declared the socks sported by the Colossus were too short, but not as bad as those that the Garrulous Kid was wearing – a sort of girly, trainer-sock monstrosity that barely covered his malleolus.

Still, as G-Dawg reminded us, this was a massive upgrade on the Garrulous Kid’s previous choice, a pair of hairy, woolly, baggy, shapeless, sloppy things of an indeterminate grey-green colour that used to pool around his ankles like two detached elephant scrotums.

Ovis arrived for a last training bout before he embarks on the Fred Whitton Challenge. He was suitably provisioned a long day in the saddle, with an entire family-size malt loaf stuffed like a building brick in his jersey pocket. Enough for 16 individual servings, he would fuel his entire ride by systematically gnawing his way through this sticky mess and took a moment before we rolled out  to start the process off.

The long absent BFG tried to casually sneak up and merge in, but, like the elephant in the room, his looming presence was obvious to all. I wondered where he’d been for the past few months and he suggested he’d just been hiding in the house all this time.

Then, G-Dawg outlined the route and we split into two groups that wouldn’t see each other again until the café. I dropped into the second group, was led out by the Red Max and away we went.


As we pushed on toward the Dinnington lunar landscape, a lone cyclist, appropriately attired in a Soloist jersey, whirred past. I watched and waited, counting down. It wasn’t long and sure enough, before I’d finished ticking off the fingers of one hand, the Red Max’s targeting radar locked-on and there was a not-so-subtle increase in the pace at the front.

“It’s a club run, not a bloody race!” OGL complained, but all to no avail as Max’s seek and destroy mode was now fully engaged and the pace was ramping up. A few minutes later and if the Soloist had turned around he would have found a madly cackling Red Max encamped on his rear wheel, with the rest of us closing steadily in.

The Soloist got a call on his mobile and slowed to take it mid-ride, suddenly finding himself engulfed by riders spilling past on either side, and then he was spat out the back and we were out onto clear roads again.

I had a brief chat with the BFG, who, rather glassy-eyed and with a pronounced catch in his voice, admitted he’d actually missed us during his long absence. I didn’t know whether to be touched, or annoyed at how surprised he was by his own shock revelation. He also revealed he was wary of riding in a group in case he caused a crash. We determined that with the Prof also absent, rehearsing with his Back Street Boys tribute band, the potential for chaos within the bunch was already markedly reduced, but it wasn’t sufficient and the BFG soon turned away for a much less stressful solo ride.


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Up past the Cheese Farm and the Slow Drinker went to stretch his legs up Bell’s Hill, so I followed, to more vocal discontent from the rear ranks. We paused at the top, but no one had been dropped and no one was struggling, so we shrugged and pressed on.

Nodding at Ovis, resplendent in his customary, bright blue and yellow Rochdale Tri top, Taffy Steve decided it would be good if everyone turned up at the meeting point in the distinctive kit, which would probably cause OGL’s head to explode.

Simply by dint of its omniscience, I’ve concluded that the Rochdale Tri stuff is either virtually indestructible, or Ovis owns an awful lot of it – potentially enough to kit out the entire club …

A long, low convertible Cadillac cruised past in a flare of shiny chrome, cuing up a quick burst of Brand New Cadillac. Any ride when I get to tunelessly belt out a Clash song has to be considered a good ride in my book. Balls to ya, Big Daddy…

A bit further on and I got to substitute the warning of “pots” for “pheasant” as one of the dopey birds darted across the road. Up through Tranwell and the King of the Grogs shipped his chain so we pulled over to wait, giving Ovis the chance to renew his slavering assault on his malt loaf while we waited. Then we were off again, before a rather unremarkable ascent of the Mur de Mitford.

We stretched things out down the road to Netherwitton, before a sharp left dropped us at the bottom of the Trench. The Red Max called for a general regrouping at the top, then waved us through to tackle the climb at our own pace. Benedict and the Slow Drinker seemed to have their climbing legs on, so I followed in their wheels as we pushed upwards and onwards.

Stopping at the top, I had a quick chat with Captain Black and we agreed that as hard as the climb up the Trench was, it least it was preferable to last week’s drag up to Rothley Crossroads, or Rothley Bloody Crossroads as it momentarily seemed to have been renamed.

We were called back to the main group, where we found Ovis busy chomping down on his malt loaf brick, while Taffy Steve revealed that, because it was such a nice day, they’d decided to split, with a group detouring from the planned route for a longer ride to take in Middleton Bank … via Rothley Bloody Crossroads.

Naturally, having declared our loathing for this particular route just minutes earlier, I found myself tagging along with Captain Black, just for that slight masochistic frisson of grinding up to the Bloody Crossroads yet again.

Fuelled on pure malt loaf, Ovis set a fast pace and tugged everyone along, before regrouping at the top, where Benedict and Andeven went off in search of even more miles, while the rest of us pushed on to Scots Gap and then Middleton Bank.

At the foot of the bank, Ovis darted away. Working around a flailing Szell and standing out of the saddle, I gave chase and closed him down on the steepest ramps, before plonking down and pushing onto the front as the gradient lessened.

A partial regrouping over the top, and a small group of us pressed on for the café. With abundant malt loaf resources left to burn, Ovis kept pushing the speed up and up, with real intent, so I finally gave up matching his pace and slipped onto his rear wheel and followed. We were soon all lined-out and rattling along, behind what Carlton would later dub the Rochdale Express.

Ovis kept looking back, perhaps hoping he’d shed the leeches that hung off his back wheel like particularly stubborn and bloody-minded remora hitching a ride on a great shark, but no matter how hard he pushed he couldn’t dislodge us.

Swooping through the Milestone Woods, I attacked off the front as we hit the base of the rollers. In hindsight, this was probably a mistake, I couldn’t force a gap big enough before the road levelled and dipped down again and it put the hurt into my legs. Still I kept going, around the next corner and onto the final climb where the first pursuers, Ovis and Goose finally wrestled their way past.

I dropped into their slipstream until the very last ramp saw their momentum ebb slightly, then I ground my way around them and onto the front one final time.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A quick survey of the goods on display and both Goose and I zeroed in the lone, very last piece of Bakewell tart as being the premium source of extreme goodness and cycling-specific, calorific content. We could have fought for it, we could have engaged in a quick round or rock-paper-scissors, or, by dint of sneaking into the queue first, I could have trumped his “finders-keepers” declaration with a pre-emptive order, but being a gentleman I conceded and went for the ginger flapjack instead.

Conferring later, I gave the flapjack a 7.5 out of 10, whereas Goose declared the Bakewell tart was a solid 10. I’ll never know if he was deliberately exaggerating its appeal, but I’ll know better next time.

We found a table outside and were quickly joined by the Monkey Butler Boy, who left another group, not drawn to our scintillating company so much as fleeing the wasps that hovered around it. He seems to have an irrational fear of the little blighters, even though we discovered he’d never been stung.

Goose suggested he needed to grasp the nettle (so to speak) and get stung in order to realise it wasn’t that big an issue – or at least find out if he was prone to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The Monkey Butler Boy … err … politely demurred.

With such glorious weather, talk turned to the potential for weekend barbecue’s, a Great British obsession, whenever there’s even the barest hint of decent weather. Apparently, my utter dislike for the process of either conjuring up, or devouring, burnt and crusty carbonised meat with a cold and raw interior, marks me out as being an effete loser and much less than a proper man.

Speaking of effete practices, the Garrulous Kid revealed he had to be home on time for his mum to take him to his exclusive, elite, city centre hair salon for an appointment with his personal stylist. He (well, she to be fair) must pay an awful lot of money for his haircut, that looks no different from what everyone else gets from their local barber. Mind you, I’m no expert and have always believed my dad’s edict that there’s only 2 weeks between a bad haircut and a good one.

The Garrulous Kid then volunteered the reason he didn’t just go to the barbers like a normal bloke, was that he didn’t like having his hair cut by machine, which is interesting as I’ve never seen an android barber and would like to give one a try. Perhaps the conversation would be a little more illuminating than the standard fare of “busy at work?” or, “off anywhere nice on holiday?” Then again, perhaps I’m just choosing the wrong barber and need to find one like the Red Max’s who’ll gladly entertain customers, young and old, with his ambitions to be a porn star.

I learned that both Captain Black and Goose are toying with the idea of new frames, having seemingly reached the conclusion after multiple years of riding that their current bikes are the wrong size. Now they just have to find a means of smuggling newly acquired bike parts past the intense scrutiny of domestic security.


As we pulled out the car park, Taffy Steve indicated to turn left, as a group of us were taking an alternate way home via Whalton, rather than routing via Ogle. As usual, I was easily led astray and found myself tagging along as we set a fairly fast pace for home. The route didn’t seem particularly longer, shorter, easier or harder, but it made a pleasant change. It was so novel in fact, that I found myself travelling down roads I’d only ever traversed in the opposite direction.

As we hit the Mad Mile, the Colossus charged away and I gave chase, tagging on as we rode up to a busy roundabout and slowed almost to a halt to let it clear. The Colossus swung left and I made to push straight over, but found myself straining to turn over a massive gear, just as a car emerged from its off-road hiding place to my right.

I gave a sustained, comedic “Eek!” and got a sudden burst of adrenaline that let me kick the pedals round with a little more power as I recovered from my near stall. Luckily, the car slowed and I was able to grind my way to safety.

The rest of my ride home passed without incident on roads that were surprisingly quiet and traffic free. Perhaps everyone had decided to stay home and enjoy the weather rather than crowding out the shops, or perhaps they were all distracted, firing up the barbies in their back gardens.

So, the Mur de Mitford, the Trench, Rothley Bloody Crossroads, Middleton Bank and the Heinous Hill all in one ride. What was that about mad dogs, Englishmen and the midday sun?


YTD Totals: 2,529 km / 1,571 miles with 29,149 metres of climbing

 

The Carrot Coupé Haiku

The Carrot Coupé Haiku

Club Run, Saturday 28th April, 2018        

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  112 km / 69 miles with 1,151 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.7 km/h

Group size:                                       24 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   12°C

Weather in a word or two:          “Chilly as damn”*

* North East regional news reporter Gerry Jackson.


 

cchaiku
Ride Profile

By heck, it was cold first thing Saturday morning – cold enough that the long sleeve windproof jacket, knee warmers and long-fingered gloves didn’t feel quite enough. I was hoping that things were going to warm up and the sun break out a little later, but it didn’t look promising. Overhead the sky wore a dour, flat cap of grey, unbroken and seemingly immoveable cloud.

I made it to the meeting point in good time, in good order and with no encounters of any note – a very boring (which is also to say very welcome) ride across.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Almost everyone who piled up mentioned how cold it was, including a late arriving OGL who’d turned back for his thermal gilet and Crazy Legs who declared he was pleased he’d worn his hybrid gloves (part electric/part petrol, I assume). Even the usually stoic G-Dawg, who had declared several weeks ago that it was now shorts weather and there could be no going back, was feeling the cold and cursing the fact he was a prisoner of his own convictions.

Still, if proof were needed that winter was behind us, Goose arrived having traded-in the steel behemoth for something a little more sprightly in carbon. “Where’s the butcher’s bike?” a somewhat disappointed Crazy Legs wanted to know.

Goose had not only switched to his good bike, but assured us that he’d thoroughly cleaned it in preparation. He actually meant he’d run a wet-wipe around the frame just this morning, before venturing out on it. OGL ran his finger under the front brake caliper and, to much censorious head shaking, it came back all black and grungy.

And then, the final nail was banged into winters coffin, as Szell rolled up for his first ride of the year to massive applause and cheering. His timing was utterly impeccable, as the route planned by Crazy Legs naturally included his bête noire, an ascent of Middleton Bank, the first time we’d been up it in a few weeks.

“I’ll be flying by August,” Szell assured me. Hmm, so only 4 months of griping, bitching and whining to put up with then?

Crazy Legs talked us through the planned route and, as our numbers built up and passed beyond twenty, he determined we’d split into two groups for the first part of the ride, with different route options planned following a Dyke Neuk rendezvous.

G-Dawg was co-opted to lead the first group, with Crazy Legs dropping to the second, where he could legitimately “potter around” while looking after a couple of FNG’s. Although there was absolutely no debate, Crazy Legs felt the need to defend his statement that you could potter around in cycling terms, an intense argument he seemed to be having mainly with himself.

9:15 Garmin Muppet Time and I dropped off the kerb and made to ride off with the front group. A look back and quick headcount showed we really are useless at dividing into two equal sized bunches. A brief chat and, with the tacit agreement of Taffy Steve we pulled over and waited to join the second group and even the numbers out a little.

Group one left and, after a couple of minutes we tucked onto the front of a (still) smaller, group two and led them out.


“Did you drop back because you realised you’d find much more refined company in this group?” Sneaky Pete enquired, and we assured him this had indeed been our prime, no, in fact our only motivation in waiting back.

Meanwhile, I started chatting with Taffy Steve about a myriad of different things, but including: the film we will both now always refer to as Four: Ragnarok, how all the tri-athletes we know are just a little bit, well, different and his genocidal intent for Cockneys.

As we pressed on, we tried, somewhat in vain, to decipher the odd calls that kept floating up from behind us. “Karrup” was quite obviously a bastardised form of “car up” but, badly translated through my ears and then filtered through Crazy Legs, it became “carrot.” I’ve no idea yet of the origins of the “haiku” command, or the instruction to “coupé”  – but I acknowledged each one earnestly.


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After 5 miles on the front Taffy Steve decided that we’d done our fair share, which had in fact been 5 miles more than he’d ever intended. We swung away and Sneaky Pete and Crazy Legs pushed through to lead, which gave me a grandstand view of Sneaky Pete’s unequal battle with his leg warmers. These kept sneaking down his legs, so he continuously had to adjust and tug them back into place.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t particularly mind looking like Nora Batty, wrinkled stockings and all, or even begrudge us the daring, tantalising glimpses of bare flesh he kept flashing, but I’m pretty sure he was bothered by the intense cold that attacked any sliver of bare flesh that you dared leave exposed.

Having (barely) survived my tuneless rendition of “Anything Goes,” we hit a short patch of smooth, new tarmac through Tranwell Woods. This was such a shock that it actually elicited a spontaneous cheer, which predictably turned to boos and hisses when it gave out a short 30 or 40 metres later and dumped us back onto the usual rough, broken up and grotty road surface.

Still, moves are obviously afoot to provide some small degree of road maintenance, even if that chiefly involves spray painting “illuminous” rings around the worst potholes. At least it makes them a little easier to spot.

As we pushed on toward Dyke Neuk, a sign warned us of the danger of floods up ahead. Rounding the corner we found the barest trickle of water, barely moistening the tarmac as it threaded its way across the road. Still, it was enough for Crazy Legs to seize upon and declare this as proof positive that conditions were still much too extreme and he’d been right not to expose the much-cosseted Ribble to them.

As promised we found the first group encamped and waiting for us at Dyke Neuk, where alternative routes and splits were discussed and agreed on. Crazy Legs volunteered to continue his pottering in the company of the newbies, while I found myself tagging onto the main group on the long, much hated drag up to Rothley Crossroads.

As the climb stiffened, Kermit, Caracol and the Cow Ranger darted away off the front and, as they left, the speed of the rest of us dropped to a reluctant dawdle. As we began to bunch up, with no one keen on leading, I pushed through onto the front. Goose swung in beside me and we began to pick the pace up again, although with no real hope, or intent of pulling back the front-runners.

Climbing comfortably on the front, Goose declared his carbon fibre steed was certainly lighter and climbed faster than the steel behemoth, but he really missed the all-round comfort of the butcher’s bike. Still, he recognised he would need to get used to carbon again in time for June.  Last year Crazy Legs had staged a re-enactment of Hannibal crossing the Alps, in which, along with Captain Black and Goose, we served as passable stand-ins for a troupe of heavy and slow-witted pachyderm.

This June, the Crazy Legs Expeditionary Force is heading into the French Pyrenees and last year’s successful chevauchée has encouraged others to sign up too. Rather worryingly, this includes two of the current attackers, Kermit, a sub-60 kilo bundle of nervous energy who is built to float up hills and Caracol, whose name is the complete antithesis of his riding style. “They’ll just have to wait for us at the top of the mountains,” Goose concluded phlegmatically.

At the crossroads, we paused to regroup before heading straight over for a less-travelled route to Middleton Bank. I found myself following Benedict and Andeven and when I looked behind found that only Zardoz was with us and we’d opened up a sizeable gap on everyone else.

Andeven, or the King of the Haute Route, as the Cow Ranger calls him, led uphill at a pace he thought was comfortable, but was in fact right on the limit for everyone else. I realised I was now in for a red-lined, extended “sprint” to the café covering 20 kilometres instead of the usual 5!

At one point Zardoz rode up alongside me, puffed out his cheeks dramatically and gave me one of those patented, WTF-stares he reserves for moments when he’s seriously wondering if the entire world has gone utterly insane. He paused slightly to consider whether we should wait for everyone else to regroup and … bang … he was gone … he lost 20 or 30 metres and we had a gap that he couldn’t close with any amount of chasing.

Andeven increased the pressure and simply rode away from us – and I now found myself chasing Benedict and repeatedly yo-yoing off and then back onto his wheel. Bizarrely and counter-intuitively, I seemed best able to hang on when the road was climbing. I looked up at the distant Andeven and declared to Benedict that he’d gone, even as we managed to close slightly up the next hill.

With desperate times calling for desperate measures, Benedict calculated that we might make up a sneaky 30 seconds or so, if we dropped down to Wallington, instead routing through Scots Gap on the approach to Middleton Bank. We took the teeth-rattling descent to Paine’s Bridge as fast as we dared, before a hard left and a dash along the banks of the River Wansbeck. I swapped turns on the front with Benedict, pushing as hard as I could, but, as we reached the junction I had to declare I was pretty much cooked.

We were spat out at the bottom of Middleton Bank, with the road empty in all directions, leading Benedict to declare his ruse had either worked perfectly … or failed miserably. Half way up the climb he had his answer, as Andeven caught us from behind and pushed past. Benedict tagged on and I struggled after them both.

They eased over the top and I caught up, sitting at the back as they pulled for the café and trying to recover as much as possible. Over the rollers we went, down to one last descent before the final drag up to the café. Here, I nudged onto the front and led us in en masse.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I found the Prof’s better half in the café queue, where we were both intrigued by the sudden arrival of what looked like fresh-from-the-oven, sizzling and aromatic, savoury muffins or soufflés. Through careful questioning of the staff, we learned these were in fact mini-quiche’s, but as I concluded before we both ordered up the lemon and almond slice, “they look great, but they’re not cake!”

At the table, I declared that I felt I’d fully earned my cake this week, but was somewhat surprised to find Benedict with nothing more than a cup of coffee as a reward for all his hard chasing. He explained that he found exercise actually suppressed his appetite. I confessed to being the complete opposite and find when I get home from a ride I’m like a Grizzly emerging from a long and hard hibernation and nothing in the kitchen cupboards is safe as I try and eat my own weight in food.

Andeven decried the impossibility of finding Campagnolo replacement parts and mused that it was no wonder even Italian bikes come with Shimano equipment as standard these days. He did report finding some Campagnolo replacement brake blocks, somewhat oddly from German online retailer Rose. Not only were these horribly expensive at just shy of £30, but they’d apparently arrived royally nestled in a mountain of packaging, within something the size of a shoe box.

Someone explained the standardisation of packaging leads to economies of scale and ease of transport, but even so, receiving a pair of earrings from Amazon in an over-sized box, big enough for a homeless person to sleep in, still seems utterly bizarre and wasteful to me.

G-Dawg did an unlikely recreation of Biden Fecht and Captain Blacks coffee tsunami, spilling his mug across the table, while I dived out of the way. “You didn’t get it on your new shoes, did you,” G-Dawg enquired whilst apologising and mopping up. We considered what might have happened if it had been the Monkey Butler Boy sitting in my place, with his bright-white, new sneaks threatened under a deluge of coffee. By consensus, we agreed this probably would have made his head explode.

G-Dawg was eyeing up a mid-week trip to take in the Tour de of Yorkshire and had identified one or two opportunities where he’d be able to watch the race briefly whizz past, but wasn’t particularly impressed by a route that kept it much further south than previous editions.

“Is it not on the telly?” Zardoz enquired.

“Yeah, ITV4 will show the whole thing live. It’s probably a better way to see it, really,” G-Dawg replied. “Are you going to watch?”

“Oh, I’ll probably turn the TV on, watch them whizz past and turn it off again,” Zardoz replied innocently.

Talk turned to marathon runners and how even the best of them converted to “steady-away” cyclists, but couldn’t seem to cope with the rapid increases in effort caused by a steep hill or sudden change of pace. This led to a discussion about Scot marathon runner Callum Hawkins at the Commonwealth Games, who had just over a mile left to run and a lead of two minutes when he started to wobble, run in big, looping arcs and bounce off the road furniture like a pinball … before dramatically collapsing.

I wondered if he’d been so delirious and out of it if he’d demanded “put me back on my bike” while we concluded that although he didn’t officially finish the marathon, he’d probably ran further than anyone else in his zig-zagging distress.


We left Taffy Steve, Crazy legs and Sneaky Pete in the café, somewhat behind following their pottering ride and enjoying a break before the attendant potter home. Still, it was a large group that turned out onto the road and started the return.

I hung around at the back until we hit  Berwick Hill. “Let’s keep it together,” OGL shouted, but he should have saved his breath as the front of the group, almost on cue, accelerated smoothly away. I knocked it down a gear and spun up the outside in pursuit, dragging Caracol, Captain Black and a few others with me as we bridged across.

We kept the pace high the rest of the way, surprisingly netting me a new best time up the climb to Dinnington. As we entered the Mad Mile, I was sat behind the Colossus, who was slightly adrift of the lead group containing G-Dawg and at serious risk of losing the race for home and first use of the shower. Even worse, a car had inveigled its way into the gap between us and the leaders.

Undeterred, the Colossus accelerated up behind the car and I hung on to his wheel while he used its slipstream to pace his pursuit across to where the others were being driven along by the Cow Ranger. The car overtook everyone and shot away and I dropped back, too far away to see if the Colossus managed to take the sprint, but at least his traffic surfing had brought him back into contention.

I swung off for home fairly happy with my fitness and form on the ride, but as I reached the bottom of the Heinous Hill I found my legs now completely and utterly empty. Oh well, the sun had finally broken through and it was actually a quite pleasant, if still cool day. I dropped the chain onto the granny ring and slowly started to spin my way upwards, proving beyond any doubt that Crazy Legs was right and it is eminently possible to potter while on a bike.


YTD Totals: 2,352 km / 1,461 miles with 27,098 metres of climbing