Blowin’ in the wind, Marmite bashing and bonking badly …

Club Run – Weekend of 6th to 7th of June, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     117.4km/72.9 miles with 1,251 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4 hours 39 minutes

Group size:                                           23 cyclists at the start. 1 FNG

Weather in a word or two:               Blowing a hooley.

Main topic of conversation at the start: Ed Milliband’s laughable tablet of stone, the “Ed Stone” and where it might be now? David Cameron’s equally pompous and patently nonsensical pledge to enshrine his election promises in law. (Obviously not a waste of time, money and effort because we simply don’t have enough stupid laws already.)

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: It was alleged that both elephants and horses can only swim in a straight line, which led to the supposition that if you pushed either into the North Sea they wouldn’t stop until they hit Denmark. This was followed by a claim that hippopotamuses don’t float because they have heavy feet! Finally if you spread a thin layer of Marmite onto a hard surface and bash it enough times with a spoon it will turn white. Someone even had a technical term to describe the phenomena, but that was way out of my league.

Disclaimer: I have no idea if any of the above is true. Oh, except for the Marmite thing, because on a very slow news day one of us has actually tried it.

Ride Profile
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

The wind was blowing so hard this morning that, although I left at the normal time, I was at the rendezvous a full 15 minutes before the scheduled meet up.  You will realise by now if you know cyclists, or you’ve had the misfortune to read any of this blog, that 15 minutes before the start is a good half an hour too early. Of course the same wind that had propelled me to a handful of Strava PB’s on my way to the meeting point was the same one that was going to be in my face (and forecast to increase in severity) on my lonesome way home.

22 brave lads and 1 lass* pushed off, clipped in and set out full tilt into a hooley.

*The ever cheerful Libby on a farewell tour, as this is her last ride with the club. She leaves us for the far more civilized climes and the much flatter topography of Cambridge and (eek!) first time employment.

Back on a thankfully silent Reg – with the LBS having disassembled, cleaned and reassembled the bottom bracket only to finally discover (after a great deal of trial and error) that the creaking was in the fork crown. Strange stuff this carbon! – I lurked shamefully at the back and tried to find shelter wherever I could.

The Red Max had gone off with the juniors to personally supervise the final touches of casting the monkey-butler, slave-boy, Red Max Jnr. in his father’s image and ensuring the necessary attack parameters were correctly input so he’ll chase and bring down other cyclists, random cars and lost causes like a rabid hunting dog.

With the juniors taking a different route, at a different pace (i.e. generally faster than us) we were left without Max’s legendary wind-breaking propensities (make of that what you will).  Crazy Legs and Son of G-Dawg set the early pace, then Taffy Steve and the FNG took over for their stint of battling manfully with the elements.

It seemed to be that anyone taking a turn on the front was likely to burn out and bonk such was the severity of the headwinds. The first one down was the FNG who fell further and further behind on the first series of sharp climbs we hit after splitting the group. Crazy Legs and a few others dropped into escort mode to guide him home while we pushed on. Feeling pretty good, I scampered up the Quarry climb only to look down and realise I’d climbed it in the big ring. Once I’d recovered from the shock, I found I was with the front group as the pace got wound higher and higher.

A pheasant attack at a white-knuckle 35mph plus almost caused a stack, as the bird burst from the side of the road and whirred, clattered and clawed its way skywards inches from the lead riders face. I’m used to male pheasants and their poorly-timed, kamikaze chicken-runs in front of cars, never thought the female of the species was as stupid, and could be attracted to cyclists like a wobbly and feathered, heat-seeking missile. Guess we’re going to have to add them to the list of the hazardous wildlife we sometimes encounter; along with dogs, cats, deer, squirrel, sheep, horses, geese, and Tri-athletes. (Only kidding, everyone knows the squirrels aren’t a hazard).

Birdstrike! An unexpected hazard lying in wait for the unwary cyclist.
Birdstrike! An unexpected hazard lying in wait for the unwary cyclist.

When Son of G-Dawg went for the final push, I stayed with him and rolled in a close 4th with plenty left in the tank. “A very moderate success for most, a major achievement for me”, I intoned in my own head like some cut-price Neil Armstrong. Little was I to know that the sternest test of the day was yet to come.

With the café pretty full and British Summer Time still being officially “on” we felt obliged to sit outside – all except one shameful turncoat who declared it was too chilly and will be ostracized and stricken from the records forthwith.

Luckily I decided to use the inside of my helmet as an impromptu tray, dropped my cake inside it, grasped my coffee mug firmly and headed out. The wind whipping around the corner had stolen half my coffee and super-chilled the rest before I’d even sat down. The next rider out was even more unfortunate, with cake, coffee, helmet, change and a wallet all loaded up on the regulation tray. The wind snatched at the tray, which flapped and cracked like a loose spinnaker in a gale. By some miracle he managed to save about a third of a cup of coffee, but everything else was forcefully jettisoned and flew off into the bushes.

Flying coffee! An even more unexpected cycling hazard.
Flying coffee! An even more unexpected cycling hazard.

Having salvaged all we could, we were huddled protectively around a circle of trays swimming with a good proportion of our drinks, clutching half empty mugs of cold coffee. Then the FNG strode manfully out to show us his passable impersonation of the Last Air Bender, making his coffee leap forcefully out of his mug, twist impossibly in the air and shower down all over him. I suspect he’ll not make the record books though, as the attempt looked heavily wind-assisted.

Now came the hardest test of the day as we struggled back to the café for refills in relays. I had to develop a very odd backward shuffle-dance, while trying to balance 2 cups of coffee, shield the contents with my hunched over body and moonwalk backwards in slippery cleats. Still, it was worth it!

For some reason OGL wanted to loop the group north of the airport on the return leg, so a handful of us broke off and took our usual route to the south.  Once I turned off for home I was then able to wave nonchalantly at the second group through gritted teeth as our paths crossed, with them whipping past me courtesy of a strong tailwind while I started my 5 mile up-hill climb to the river into the same damn wind.

Until next week …

YTD Totals: 2,636km/ 1,539 miles with 28,936metres of climbing.

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