Club Run, Saturday 7th May, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 121 km / 75 miles with 1,1094 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 42 minutes
Average Speed: 25.6 km/h
Group size: 32 riders, 1 FNG
Weather in a word or two: Overcast, dry
Main topics of conversation at the start:
Crazy Legs arrived astride his much beloved and cosseted Ribble – a sign more reassuring than even a pinky-promise from 100 of the world’s leading climatologists and weather forecasters that there was absolutely zero chance of any precipitation on our ride today. (He would however be caught getting off and carrying his bike gingerly around the few puddles that still lingered in the shadier parts of the lanes.)
He’d just returned from a brief sojourn on the south coast of Spain, declaring the trip absolutely fabulous and the cycling fantastic, but claimed the big, big mountain climbs (3,000 metres plus) in the Sierra Nevada had utterly destroyed him. He said it was an awful, dreadful, hateful, horrible, anguishing and humbling experience … and he couldn’t wait to go back.
He then turned his ire on the public poll to name the new, £200 million British Antarctic Survey ship where the people’s choice, “Boaty MacBoatface” handily won the online vote with over 124,000 supporters.
In this instance however the “voice of the people” had been inexplicably ignored and the ship has been named after Sir David Attenborough. In protest Crazy Legs declared his beloved and cosseted Ribble would now be known as Bikey MacBikeface. No doubt he’ll be lending his support to the petition which has just started to persuade David Attenborough to change his name to Boaty MacBoatface in recompense.
Taffy Steve was pleased to note that for the first time in weeks the “hard core of utter idiots” who’d ridden right the way through the winter with him, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, The Red Max and me were re-united. If possible his grin spread even wider when he was reminded OGL was away on the club training camp in Majorca and we’d once again be off the leash.
G-Dawg had just formulated and gained consensus for a proposed route on some less travelled roads when Szell appeared, shaking off his winter torpor for a first club run of 2016. This is quite early for him actually, it’s still May and he’s only missed a quarter of the year.
His sudden and unexpected appearance gave us pause as ideally we needed a route that included Middleton Bank so we could practice our Szell Game – drop him on the climb, re-group over the top, then wait and wait and wait until he’d just … nearly … almost … made it back and then accelerate smartly away. Small? Petty? Childish? Yes, yes, yes, but great fun nonetheless.
As it was we decided to stick to the original plan which would take us in a big, clockwise loop around the Ryals to climb up past the radio mast at Beukley Farm before some demon descending down the A68, a sharp right turn and then more climbing to get us back up to a road that would eventually lead to the café.
Hopefully G-Dawg wouldn’t need his inner ring, although I’ve been led to understand it’s no longer in pristine, like-new condition after last week when, contrary to my earlier understanding, it was actually used in anger for the first time.
I’m only comfortable writing this as I have sworn affidavits from two independent witnesses who saw G-Dawg climbing on the inner ring last week, although I have yet to confirm rumours that he paid someone else to actually make the shift for him so his hands could remain unsullied.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
We had pushed two tables together and it seemed to attract cyclists like a magnet pulls in iron filings as we attempted to see just how many chairs we could squeeze around it. We were soon sitting pressed together almost two deep, the table surface all but invisible under a mound of cups and cakes and plates and trays and cutlery and helmets.
Crazy Legs, channelling the inner maturity and sophisticated wit that makes him a (self-proclaimed) Cards Against Humanity demon, nodded across at another group in the far corner where Goose, Captain Black and a one or two others were spread out and luxuriating in a wide empty table and acres of space and explained their relative isolation by declaring, “That’s the stinky table.”
The noise of our incessant chattering, punctuated by giggling and guffaws drew the ire of other café patrons, in particular an elderly couple sitting adjacent, the woman wearing the kind of expression usually reserved for someone being forced to wash down mouthfuls of sauerkraut with long draughts of apple cider vinegar. I had to resist the urge to lean across and tell her it could be worse, she could be sitting next to the stinky table.
And then we actually managed to make it worse after all as one of the girls kicked a tray she’d leaned up and out of the way. It slid down the wall with a prolonged, rattling, rumbling scrape and then cracked down onto the floor with a noise like a pistol shot. Oops.
I now suggested “Duchess Suck-Lemon” actually needed to suck on a lemon to improve her disposition and help her face un-pucker just by the tiniest of margins. Sadly, my observation prompted a rambling discourse from Crazy Legs about all the lemon groves he’d recently ridden through on his Spanish venture, where apparently all the lemons looked so perfect that he began to think they were artificial.
On stopping near one plantation he’d found a lemon on the ground and had opened it up just to check it was natural, only to start wondering if maybe the fallen lemon was a plant to convince gullible tourists that all the others were real. I can only attribute this level of paranoia to to the high altitude, oxygen deprivation and the sensory overload from exposure to warm sunshine following a winter of unmitigated bleakness in northern England.
He then foolishly told me he’d started watching fantastic Scandi-TV thriller, The Bridge and received both barrels of my enthusiastic acclaim for all the odd European TV shows that tend to appear without any great fanfare on BBC4 or E4 – The Killing, Borgen, Spiral, The Returned, Deutschland 83, The Cordon, Blue Eyes et al.
At one point I caught up with the Prof who’d dropped off the back of the group when his rear wheel started to disastrously unravel. We thought we’d seen the last of him and he would be calling for a taxi home, but his running repairs had been successful and he’d made it to the café.
He started to give me a long and very convoluted description of exactly what had gone wrong, something about axles and cones, bearings, cassettes, freewheels and quick release skewers, retaining nuts, tolerances and not having tightened everything up sufficiently. “Ah,” I suggested simply trying to cut through the all technical obfuscation, “You bodged it.”
Crazy Legs and G-Dawg had been out riding with the Wednesday Crazy Gang and they had revealed Szell used to ride with them back in the day and his nickname then was “The Driller.” Perfect.
Saturday turned out to be somewhat disappointingly cold after what had been a very pleasant week, with decent weather and prolonged sunshine. Still, while the sky was a monotonous and uniform shade of dingy grey and there was no chance of even a sliver of direct sunlight, it was dry and relatively calm. Good enough.
I found it still chilly enough for light, long-fingered gloves, but my legs did get their first airing of the year and I was able to show off my new, very, very shiny, very, very plasticky and very, very red Chinese shoes.
En route to the meeting point I was stopped at a level crossing to let a train rumble slowly past, but caught the lights on the bridge just right to skip across on the tail of the rest of the traffic. Swings and roundabouts – or lights and crossings?
A brief stop to irrigate some foliage found me rolling up to the meeting point with G-Dawg and Son, where we eventually numbered just over 30 lads and lasses, including a healthy contingent of our kids who always take to the roads on the first Saturday of every month.
We agreed to G-Dawg’s hastily improvised but unerringly good route, pushed off, clipped in and rode out. I found myself alongside Szell who told me he hadn’t been out for an age as he was currently playing in two covers bands and was finding it difficult to find any free time between (and I quote) “the music, the hoes and the blow.” I assume he was being ironic, but you just never know.
He was keen to know where we were going to and whether a slower group was likely to form, already planning for a quick escape. He then knowingly asked if we would be taking in his own personal bete noire, Middleton Bank – just so we could enjoy his suffering, suggesting he possessed a degree of self-awareness that I would never have attributed him with.
As we passed through one sleepy little village, Szell proclaimed how much he liked Genghis Khan’s quote about the greatest happiness being, “to scatter your enemy and drive him before you. To see his cities reduced to ashes. To see those who love him shrouded and in tears. And to gather to your bosom his wives and daughters.”
“You don’t mess with Genghis Kahn!” he opined, loud enough for Crazy Legs to overhear and bark with delight, before commenting that you can find the strangest conversations buried in the heart of the bunch.
Szell drifted backwards after a few hills and I found myself riding along beside Taffy Steve, until we all had to single out and navigate around a large, very wide and very yellow bus. The driver stopped to let us through and called out something like, “Whey aye! gann on man, canny lad, a’ll keep yez al warkin!”
“Nice of him to stop, but I haven’t got a clue what he was saying.” Taffy Steve said as we regrouped and pressed on, chatting about the irrepressible Mario Cipollini and his ever so slightly inflated ego.
We started to climb on a road that wound up into the hills and turned into a somewhat rough, single lane farm track, becoming strung out in a long line as we crept slowly up toward a summit dominated by a massive radio tower. The surface was in a poor state and there was lots of pointing and an increasing number of hazard call-outs:
Sneaky Pete suggested the Belgians might have the cobbled classics, the Italians Strada Bianca, but we were the only ones to get Strada Merda!
We then passed a pothole so deep that G-Dawg suggested that if you fell in you would have to ride around the bottom, like a wall of death to build up enough speed to attain an escape velocity and get out the other side.
We were soon crawling past the radio mast and up to the junction with the A68 before stopping to regroup. We now had a fantastic, long and fast drop off the top, then a sharp right turn and more climbing to replace the altitude we’d just thrown away so carelessly.
Yet more climbing led us to a new junction where we again regrouped with some of the youngsters and Szell hurting and well off the back. It was here that we heard about the Prof’s wheel disintegrating, but the word came up not to wait and just press on.
The Red Max said he would take the youngsters off on a shorter route to the café while everyone else continued. Szell, perhaps sensing an end to his needless suffering decided to tag along too and then Sneaky Pete sneaked away with the group as well. What the sadistic Max had failed to mention however was his chosen, shorter route actually included an ascent of the rather fearsome Ryals. Oh dear.
We continued with yet more climbing until we finally reached roads I began to recognise and the pace started to creep up. Soon there was a split and a compact bunch of us were driving toward the café at high speed, buzzing like a swarm of angry bees on the rampage.
As the road levelled and straightened, Son of G-Dawg surged around everyone and opened up a clear gap. I rounded G-Dawg and pulled everyone along for a while, then Captain Black powered through and carried everyone past me in turn, so I slotted back into the end of the line. Son of G-Dawg had sat up by now, job done as Captain Black swept past and into the Snake Bends.
We flew over the junction and set out straight up the main road, my least favoured option, keeping the pace incredibly high. Once more I latched onto G-Dawgs rear wheel and let him drag me to the café.
I’m beginning to think G-Dawg’s rear wheel as my ultimate safety blanket, but he must be sick seeing me there every time he turns round – like having an unwelcome stalker always two steps behind you everywhere you go. I must ween myself off this and find some other target for my now very well perfected wheel-sucking chicanery.
On the way home I had time to chat with Captain Black and we laid tentative plans to tackle the new, 90 mile Cyclone route. Sneaky Pete and Taffy Steve had also suggested it was their favoured option, so we should be able to pull a small group together for it.
We also had a chat about the Giro and the surprise performance of ex-Ski jumper Primož Roglič. We wondered how he descended and whether we’d see him stand up on the pedals and lean forward with his hands clasped behind his back. I seem to remember some tale of Bernard Hinault experimenting with a bizarre Superman descending pose, but this could be even more spectacular.
I also had words with Carlton who noticed how relatively calm and ordered the ride had been, even without the strident exclamations of the absent OGL and we had a brief chat about whether the club needed to start thinking about succession planning for when the old feller finally hangs up his cleats.
As regular readers may know, OGL is our de facto Road Captain, Club President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Chairman, Secretary, Event Organiser, Social and Welfare Officer, Patron, Club Committee, Route Finder, Web Controller, Archivist, Photographer, Social Media Gatekeeper, Weatherman, Chief Recruiter and Club Ambassador, so it’s not a case of simply nominating the next man up.
As the group split and I entered the Mad Mile I passed Szell, sitting in the middle of the group and still plugging gamely away having survived a rather torrid first run of the year. I waved him off with a cheery “Next week?” and then pressed on for home.
A long, lumpy ride, but a great run and the weather is finally starting to turn good. Things are looking up.
YTD Totals: 2,567 km / 1,595 miles with 24,253 metres of climbing