Club Run, Saturday 19th September, 2015
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 118 km/73 miles with 1,083 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 26 minutes
Group size: 28 cyclists at the start. 3 FNG’s.
Weather in a word or two: Practically perfect.
Main topic of conversation at the start: Whether wearing clothing emblazoned with the Campagnolo logo should only technically be allowed if accompanied by a complete change of groupset to match.
The shocking, eye-wateringly and prohibitively expensive cost of tickets for the Rugby World Cup, even just to see the minor nations where you’re unlikely to recognise a single player. A stark contrast to the Tour of Britain where you could see, meet and mingle with some of the World’s top cyclists for free. To be fair to the RFU, their concession policy does allow kids to get in for only £15 … once the accompanying adult has forked over £150 for a ticket.
The Great North Road Cycle Maze and Death Trap™ continues to prove fantastically divisive. A photo of our Sunday morning club run studiously avoiding its perils was one of several snapped by ever vigilant, eternally law-abiding RIMs, no doubt using completely legal, dashboard and hands-free mounts on their mobile phones. The “incriminating” photos quickly found their way onto a Faecesbook page, where they started an all too predictable flame war, which rapidly grew in vitriol. The whole argument was neatly summed up in one of the most mature, astute, devastatingly logical and proportionate responses I’ve ever had the pleasure to read: “Well, if they’re going to ride in the road, I’m going to drive on the pavement.” Sigh.
Elsewhere, a local motorcyclist group also condemned the GNRCM&DT™ to the local press and the story was picked up by the RCUK website, where the comments section found even cyclists bitching amongst themselves, though without the same degree of creative swearing, searing insight and deep reflection the more general public had brought to the debate. I’ve got the feeling this one’s going to run and run…
The 6½ minutes of sheer hell, commonly known as our club hill climb (chrono-escalade if you want to be suitably pretentious) is looming large. Is it too late to file excuses? I noticed a handful of regulars have already reported conflicts with hastily arranged events elsewhere.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: As expected, the wasps were out in force and anyone having jam with their mid-ride scones or tea-cakes was universally shunned like a leper and exiled to a remote table in the corner. They should be grateful we didn’t take it as far as Son of G-Dawg’s suggestion of smearing them with jam and setting them loose as some sort of wasp decoy.
The fallout (seepage?) from last week’s rain-sodden, “godless ride” continues: Crazy Legs and I both agreed there had to be a better way of staying dry on both the inside and out. His solution was a new 2½ layer, foul weather jacket, though none of us could quite comprehend what half a layer might look like. I had to go one better of course, and went for the triple-layer Galibier Mistral jacket. I’m guessing both are indisputably and impressively waterproof, the acid test is how breathable they are. I’ll report back when I know more.
We were also chastised because some of the more incontinent “godless” amongst us had soaked through the seats at the café last week. It seems the pads of their shorts acted like giant sponges throughout the ride, sucking up a veritable flood of rainwater and road spray, which was duly squeezed out when they slumped their tired bodies down to enjoy hard-earned coffee and cakes.
Now on rainy days black bin bags to sit on will be issued to one and all, not just those who request them. There was some wild speculation that if things didn’t then improve there would be no choice but call for Bottom Inspectors a la the fantastically juvenile, but intermittently hilarious Viz comic. Heaven help the waitress who draws the short straw and gets such a truly thankless task.
Halfway through our stay one of the potential Bottom Inspectors came outside to look for used mugs to take away and wash as they were running short. Our table couldn’t provide any, but Carlton and Richard of Flanders conspired to helpfully load her tray down with a teetering, super-Jenga construct of used plates, dirty cutlery, glasses, saucers, milk jugs, teapots and empty cans – everything in fact except a single one of the needed and requested mugs.
Great, now they probably think we’re incredibly obtuse, as well as hell bent on sabotaging all their seating.
The contrast with last week’s deluge couldn’t have been more marked, as Saturday morning dawned with faultless, clear and pure blue skies vaulting from horizon to horizon. This was the kind of day one of my friends would typically refer to as having a “Battle of Britain sky”, lacking only the contrails of a lone Spitfire or Hurricane to complete the suitably cinematic image.
Nevertheless, the air still had a real bite to it as I rode out early for the meeting point, and the long descent down the Heinous Hill had the cold wind dragging tears from my eyes and chilling my fingers. Thankfully things soon warmed up and before too long the arm warmers were dispensed with.
At the meeting point a competent looking and enthusiastic Irish FNG turned up, bang on 9 o’clock. We had to explain that the 9 o’clock start time listed on the website was technically accurate, but actually represented a fantastically fluid and elastic concept of time that meant we would, of course, be leaving at around 9:15. He looked at us as if we were all ever so slightly mad, but seemed to accept our general tardiness with good grace, if a slightly furrowed brow. He’ll probably try and find a more punctual group to ride with next week.
Not surprisingly the perfect weather brought out a good sized bunch of lads and lasses to supplement the ranks of last week’s hard-core Rain Dogs, and despite missing a few students, it was a large complement of 28 that pushed off, clipped in and rode out en masse.
The first distraction of note came somewhere out in the wilds, where we swept past a big directional sign pointing to a wedding, but all we could see was a big tractor rolling round and round in circles in a somewhat overgrown and otherwise empty meadow. I guess that’s a rural wedding Northumbrian style?
The Prof spent a great deal of time and energy playing mother-hen to a couple of the FNG’s, who he recognised as exiled flatlanders of some ilk, which might explain his affinity for their struggles. They just couldn’t seem to get the hang of even the gentlest of slopes and slipped inexorably backwards whenever the road rose up. I’m guessing his efforts weren’t all in vain, as I’m fairly certain they at least made it as far as the coffee stop, although they may still yet be struggling to get home.
The usual stop and group split saw Taffy Steve sidling shamelessly away with the amblers on a direct heading straight to the café. Although he proclaimed some excuse about family commitments and having to be home early, he didn’t have the requisite signed note in triplicate. The consensus was that after winning the sprint last week he had decided to retire while still at the peak of his game, a little like Alberto Contador, but obviously far more successful and with much greater kudos.
A big bunch of us pressed on, before our middle group split away from the Racing Snakes. At the bottom of Middleton Bank I drifted to the back until the slope began to bite and the initial surge died. As a gap developed I pushed up the outside to latch onto the small leading group and let it pull me upwards and away.
Over the top we regrouped as Szell wasn’t around, so the strict Szell Game rules weren’t in play. Shoeless then hit the front and started piling on the pressure, and the pace was so fast that even the Red Max’s Forlorn Hope attack never materialised. He stayed firmly planted three back on G-Dawg’s wheel as we were all strung out while I tucked in behind him.
As we swept up the final hill G-Dawg kicked past Shoeless and Max slid back. On the limit, I held on for as long as possible before pulling over and watching Son of G-Dawg surge across the gap. He went straight over the top, sweeping past G-Dawg on one side, as Shoeless dived down the other to snatch second.
With the sprint done and dusted, there was only time for Ovis to briefly flirt with death and destruction show some sublime traffic filtering skills that scared the crap out of me, before we were rolling to a stop and some well earned cake.
As we were packing up to leave the café Crazy Legs floated the idea of an extended, longer and shockingly novel, alternative route home to Red Max, rightly reasoning that if anyone was daft enough to agree it would be Max, and his participation might “encourager les autres.”
With this being perhaps the last hurrah of summer and much too fine a day to waste, around eight daring and extreme radicals swept left on leaving the café, while everyone else turned to the right. The first few miles were into a hard headwind and everyone took a turn pulling as we slowly built up to a cracking, leg-burning pace and rode with remarkable (well, for us) discipline and organisation.
It was interesting to travel the roads back to the Quarry in the opposite direction to the way we usually do, and realise just how much it actually climbs. This isn’t really noticeable charging the other way down to the café, where the favourable incline no doubt fuels our mad capering and pushes us toward dangerously terminal velocities.
Despite the extended ride we quickly ticked off the miles until reaching a point where I had the chance of taking a slightly shorter way back. As the group thundered around a sharp left turn I got slingshot out of the back, like some forlorn probe on a deep-space mission to parts unknown, and set fair for home. Yet another great ride. Thanks fellas.
YTD Totals: 4,679 km/ 2,907 miles with 53,134 metres of climbing.