Club Run, Saturday 2nd April, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 102 km/63 miles with 495 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 4 minutes
Average Speed: 25.0 km/h
Group size: 25 riders
Weather in a word or two: Dreich
Main topic of conversation at the start:
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the BFG was convinced that summer had arrived and was here to stay and so had undertaken the first ritual leg shaving of the year. He stood there showing off his bare calves to Aveline and me, turning them this way and that so even the wan, weak sunlight bounced glaringly off the parchment pale skin and highlighted all the nicks and cuts he’d inadvertently carved into himself – it looked like he’d shaved using a cheese-grater.
Horrifyingly, he then rolled back his knee warmers to show that the shaving stopped at the tops of his calves, creating a look not too dissimilar to a hairy-kneed bactrian camel. I guess he’d felt impelled not to shave any further to avoid passing out from the accumulated blood loss. Death by a thousand cuts?
The Prof turned up wearing a pair of bright orange, Council issue, rubberised builder’s gloves. After first suggesting he’d picked them up from the nearby salt bin where some workman had misplaced them while gritting the roads, G-Dawg then asked the most pertinent questions of the day:
“So, are you going to be emptying all the bins on the way around?”
Son of G-Dawg was looking decidedly under the weather, having over-indulged in a late night drinking session, the kind often (and invariably falsely) described around these parts as “going for a swift half.”
The BFG confessed that he was a frequent user of the dishwasher to clean his bike parts, but admitted he had to get up really early on a morning and sneak the parts through on the quick wash/eco cycle in order for his dirty secrets not to be discovered by Mrs. BFG.
He also suggested oven cleaner was a great way of keeping his chains spotlessly clean…
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
More cleaning reminiscing ensued, with both G-Dawg and OGL extolling the forgotten virtues of Duraglit for polishing wheel hubs and spokes. I was always a Brasso and newsprint boy myself – an odd combination that somehow seemed to work and is apparently also useful for polishing straight razors, if you’re crazy enough to own and use one. I certainly feel these are extremely dangerous implements that the BFG would be best to carefully avoid, despite his fondness for the old way of doing things.
Carlton attributed the growth in the popularity of cycling in Colombia to the fact that drug lords had used a small portion of their ill-gotten fortunes to build velodromes. Taffy Steve suggested they were already doing the drugs, so it was a completely logical next step to embrace cycling as well – the two seemed to fit together so perfectly, hand in glove.
[A little after the moment digging did in fact reveal that notorious drug lord and gangster Pablo Escobar was an early version of the dodgy cycling patron with the kind of dangerous persona that Oleg Tinkov probably has wet dreams about owning. Pablo’s brother Roberto Escobar was a professional cyclist, national champion and team coach, so there were obviously strong links between the cartels and cycling.]
Taffy Steve recommended “Breaking the Chain,” Willy Voet’s book about the Festina affair. The hapless Voet was the team soigneur caught by the police with a car loaded down with enough drugs to fuel the entire Russian Olympic programme for the next 30 years. He was then ordered by his team to claim they were all just for personal use. To cap it all Voet’s was actually banned from driving at the time. Ooph!
Conversation turned to other sports and their own doping problems with BFG expressing some bewilderment that Maria Sharapova had admitted illegal drug use. Slowly it dawned on him that the last press-conference she’d given was actually her admission of wrong-doing, despite the fact that all he’d heard was a slightly accented Eastern European female whispering, “Aren’t I pretty? Yes, I’m pretty. I’m so pretty.” He now realises that this repetitious mantra was just his own thoughts swirling aimlessly around in his head and he really must start to pay more attention.
Taffy Steve snorted in derision that Sharapova earns so much more money than Serena Williams, despite being clearly outclassed in terms of both talent and achievements, but perhaps the BFG’s unintended thrall explains why this is.
A decidedly ill-looking Son of G-Dawg stared down a can of Coke for a while, before deciding to push off home early and try to recover. I suggested a weekly collection to provide him with beer money every Friday night as a way we could perhaps beat him in the café sprint more regularly. It seems a small price to pay.
Unless we were to find him curled up asleep under a hedge somewhere on the way back it was fairly obvious he was going to make it home long before G-Dawg and enjoy all the advantages of the first bath.
We suggested G-Dawg shouldn’t hang around too long as he’d be getting second use of the bathwater and it might be cold if he wasn’t quick. We then wondered if he might only get third use of the bathwater if Son of G-Dawg was being particularly diligent and decided to give his bike a quick rinse too.
It was grey overcast and damp from the outset and by the time 25 riders pushed off, clipped in and rode out, the rain was misting down quite heavily and was destined to continue falling throughout the entire duration of the ride.
I slotted in alongside a fellow rider who’d ridden with us pretty much throughout the entire winter, no matter how horrible the weather – and who I realised I had never spoken to and knew nothing about. This wasn’t going to change today either as we progressed in what I like to think of as companionable silence – although he probably thinks I’m just aloof, arrogant and unsociable.
To be honest I’m not a great initiator of talk when in the bunch, which I guess is quite surprising given how verbose and florid my writing is – I’ll readily admit to a writing style that never uses three words when thirteen will do.
After a prolonged spell we rotated and my silent partner slipped back, perhaps to find more amenable company, while I found myself next to OGL. Quiet, contemplative riding wasn’t an option anymore, but all I needed to do was drop the small change of a conversational gambit into his Wurlitzer mind, it would click and whirr and feedback to me astonishing or outlandish tales, facts, opinions, conjecture, speculation, exaggeration and information.
In a short space of time we’d covered Cath Wiggins’s drinking habits and exercise regimen, disk brakes in the peloton, the demise of neutral service vehicles, haircuts, Van Nichols bikes, 12 speed gears, Hope hubs, the latest Di2 advances and his plans for a new bike.
Our (or should I say his) discourse was interrupted when Aveline punctured and warned she would need help as her tyres were a bit of a bugger to work on and off. True enough, even with OGL’s pincer like claws and well-honed skills, repairs seemed to take an inordinate amount of time, although I was too far away to see what the exact problem was, a few of us having wandered away to irrigate the verges.
Standing by the side of the road getting progressively colder and wetter, the conversation turned to this very blog, with Taffy Steve warning that it was almost impossible to identify riders from their nicknames without an extensive knowledge of cheesy 80’s popular culture and rather obscure and eccentric etymology. We then left Ovis to ponder exactly where his moniker came from.
As we were finally about to get underway again, Laurelan swung past to inform us that OGL had condemned her bike as a certain death-trap, something she took quite phlegmatically, if not with a certain degree of pride. (Her Strava entries are always cleverly titled and this one bore the legend: “Mine’s a death trap, what’s yours?”)
When pressed as to what made her bike quite so lethal, apparently it was poorly wrapped tape, slipping gears and ill-fitting bar end plugs. Ooph!
We were starting to home in on the café now and the pace was noticeably quicker. A quick double-take showed me OGL poised on the outside near the front and I briefly wondered if he was winding up for an attack to show us all how it’s done.
Taffy Steve then cruised up to zeB, verbally challenged his manhood and everything suddenly kicked off. The two of them jumped away and the pace of everyone leaped up a notch as they accelerated to close the gap.
I found myself surfing the wheels, jumping from one to another and at one point latched onto G-Dawg and waited for him to tow me effortlessly across as he closed the gap. I waited too long before realising that with an ailing Son of G-Dawg he wasn’t all that interested this week. Finally swinging around him just as Andeven surged past, I latched onto this wheel and he took me up to and past the BFG before braking for the Snake Bends.
We carefully threaded our way through the bends, across the junction and out onto the main road. To me the race is done at this point, so I dropped onto the BFG’s wheel for a while until we caught Taffy Steve and I eased off as Captain Black thundered past on the outside.
“Did you have to challenge beZ quite so directly?” I asked Taffy Steve and should have anticipated the reply that was accompanied by a purely evil grin, “Fuck yeah!”
On the way back from the café I rode chatting with Carlton and then the BFG, who told me how an old boss used to condemn poor work with a shake of the head and a single explosive, “Ooph!”
He said he’d been caught using the phrase unconsciously and quite audibly whenever he was confronted by something or someone that particularly attracted his derision, such as one of the more inappropriately dressed denizens of Newcastle on a “big night out.”
Mrs. BFG was convinced that sooner or later he was going to be overheard and attract some undue physical disagreement. In fact, she suggested he’d only avoided it so far because of his imposing size.
Nevertheless, I had to admit an instant attraction to such a succinct, meaningful and useful expression, differing only from the BFG in how it should be written down– he prefers a particularly Anglo-Saxon version: “Oof!” while I like a more Gallic: “Ooph!”
On the way home a number of Garmin’s gave up the ghost, finding the weather too much, this included Carlton’s which died a slow death as power ran out. My own continued to work, but produced a rather odd profile which included what looked like a traverse down a vertical cliff face after around 65km.
As it is I can’t be wholly sure of how accurately it was recording climbing metres, but they were sufficiently low to confirm we’d done far less than normal. Perhaps that would explain how I could effortlessly sit behind the BFG and G-Dawg as they surged through the Mad Mile, using their speed to slingshot round the mini-roundabout and head for home alone.
3 Strava solo PR’s on the way back also suggested the ride had been easier than normal and I had an unusual surfeit of energy left. I was even pleasantly surprised to find on one segment, West Denton Way, I’d posted the 10th fastest time. Ever. Ooph!
Still going strong up Heinous Hill I crested the last ramp, not to cheering crowds, but the sibilant hiss of escaping air. My front tyre was flat by the time I’d carried the bike up the front steps, still I guess if I have to have a puncture I can’t think of a better time and place for it.
YTD Totals: 1,880 km / 1,168 miles with 17,307 metres of climbing