Club Run, 11th July, 2015
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 113km/70 miles with 1,045 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 19 minutes
Group size: 29 riders at the start. 1 FNG.
Weather in a word or two: Good.
Main topic of conversation at the start: The BFG was out on his wooden rims again and gave us a brief description of his intensive wheel care regime which includes liberal applications of linseed oil using the fresh fleece of a newly slaughtered lamb, an act that can only be conducted after dancing naked around the shed counter-clockwise three times when Mars is in the ascendant. Lovely though they look, I can’t help thinking there’s a reason wooden rims haven’t really caught on.
BFG insisted the linseed oil burns off under braking, producing a lovely aromatic scent. Hmm, well I suppose it could explain the strange odour that wafts around in his wake.
OGL turned up in fabulously baggy shorts on a Mountain Bike that (according to him) wasn’t actually a Mountain Bike. We disowned him anyway, just out of principle. Apparently he was off to some club function so wouldn’t be joining us on the ride. Oh yes, we were off the leash…
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Apparently orange socks are now the de rigueur match with our club jerseys and have helped our racers gain something of an, ahem, “bad ass” reputation. As a dyed in the wool traditionalist and all-round curmudgeon I’m of course horrified that anyone would even consider wearing anything other than white socks, so yet another trend is (thankfully in this case) almost certain to pass me by.
The Prof, who had proudly managed to control in his insistent urinary urges for once, related how he felt ostracised from the club for having the audacity to turn up wearing white shoes, but unless he was talking about a period pre-1980 when white shoes were a rarity and the sign of a spiv, I think he must have simply misunderstood. Maybe it had more to do with his bike? Or him?
There then followed a seemingly endless litany of all the recent racing crashes, with consequences both painful and eye-wateringly expensive. The conclusion from this seemed to be if you’re going to race don’t use your best bike!
With a complete free rein we agreed to head off and tackle a somewhat longer, hillier ride across a route we hadn’t travelled for well over a year, enjoying the most of our temporary freedom and some surprisingly good weather. I shouldn’t be surprised, it is July after all, but I couldn’t help feeling profoundly lucky.
Route decided and under the joint leadership of Crazy Legs and G-Dawg we pushed off, clipped in and set out. Most of us even managed to avoid getting lured into the Great North Road Cyclemaze, which continues to mutate and become ever more dangerous and baffling to the unwary with each passing week.
The pace was good, the weather better and the ride very convivial as we pushed out into the countryside, whirring along in a surprisingly ordered bunch.
As we dropped down into the Wansbeck valley I was riding along chatting with Crazy Legs when our ears were assaulted by the unmistakable sound of bagpipes droning lustily from a house in the middle of nowhere. (Mind you, if you are going to play the bagpipes it probably makes sense to first find a house in the middle of nowhere.)
Once we were assured the Scottish Nationalist Party hadn’t resurrected the Border Reivers and had managed to calm the nationalistic proclivities and dancing hearts of our adopted Scottish brethren, we were able to push on. They’d caused enough excitement for the day anyway, simply by having one of their number unveil possibly the whitest legs that have ever existed this side of an over-worked albino wool fuller with vitiligo.
The next, very abrupt right-hand turn robbed us of all momentum and dumped us at the bottom of what is colourfully (if rather fancifully) described on Strava as the Mur de Mitford, a short, brutal climb, that begins immediately after the turn and will always catch out the unwary. Remembering my own travails with the hill which include rounding the corner in the big ring and having to grind up in agonisingly slow-motion with my knees threatening to explode in a welter of blood and gristle, as well as one time pulling my cleats clean out of the pedals and collapsing in a whimpering heap at the side of the road, I dropped onto the inner ring in anticipation.
As soon as we hit the climb the surprised, the less prepared and the usual gravity-hating pluggers began to lose momentum and wallow across the road in disorder. Crazy Legs darted up the outside and as I tried to follow I was pressed into the gutter by the wobblers and my rear wheel began to slip furiously on the dead leaves, collected gravel and other detritus there. Remembering the first law of cartoon physics (gravity doesn’t work until you look down) I refused to acknowledge there was a problem, and after what seemed an agonisingly drawn out moment of teetering on the brink, the tyre finally bit and I was catapulted unsteadily out of the pack to chase Crazy Legs and G-Dawg over the crest.
A long drive into the wind was followed by more climbing as we dragged ourselves through the Trench and then up and along to Rothley Crossroads. As the road tipped down on the run up to Middleton Bank I started to drift towards the back of the group to pace myself up the steeper bottom ramps of the climb. Clearing these I clicked down and started picking up the pace, passing other riders as the incline eased, I built momentum as I closed on G-Dawg toward the top.
A small group reformed after the climb and started the long chase to try and reel in a few flyers. I sat on the front and pulled until the inevitable Forlorn Hope attack from the Red Max whistled past and the pursuit strung everyone out.
I used the rolling climb out from Milestone Wood to close the gap and pull level with the leaders as the Red Max faded, but in a rare show of strength Bandana was up there, obviously feeling frisky and sensibly not giving up any wheels for me to slot in. For a while I rode along hanging out and exposed to the wind before easing up and drifting back to drop in behind Goose as we rounded the corner onto the last series of climbs to the café.
With Cowin’ Bovril dying horribly ahead of us I let Goose pull me around him, and then shamelessly mugged him on the last rise in time to see the distant final sprint with Crazy Legs claiming a rare victory over G-Dawg.
Tired, dripping with sweat and strangely euphoric we bundled breathlessly into the café en masse. Captain Black was then accosted by a grey-haired shrew who complained that we were far too happy, too loud, much too healthy and had rudely interrupted her exquisitely civilised little tea party. Seriously? What a miserable old harridan. Needless to say the Captain just shrugged and didn’t feel any great need to pass the message on, or do anything to dampen our high spirits. It’s probably just as well as we’d only have got louder.
Somehow we ended up with greater numbers coming back from the café than had set out, and as the front group forced the pace and split the group apart I hung back for a more restrained ride until my turn-off, when I struck out alone for home.
Until next week…
YTD Totals: 3,518km/ 2,186 miles with 39,024 metres of climbing.