Club Run, Saturday 2nd July, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 115 km / 71 miles with 1,058 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 32 minutes
Average Speed: 25.3 km/h
Group size: 29 riders, 2 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Rain, wind, sun
Main topic of conversation at the start:
At the meeting point I found Son of G-Dawg, sitting on the wall, alone and palely loitering, badly hungover and recently returned from a shamelessly inactive week’s holiday. He also complained of a suspected broken finger as a consequence of wrestling with North Atlantic waves. And losing.
Given this backdrop he wasn’t particularly looking forward to the ride, but concluded cheerfully that since “it only hurts when braking, changing gear or trying to grip the handlebars” he’d probably be all right.
To make matters worse, it was now G-Dawgs turn to be away on holiday, so Son of G-Dawg would have to pay his own way in the café. He’d brought along some money, but confessed he wasn’t quite sure how you made it to work and what you did with it.
I was quite surprised that G-Dawg actually took holidays, but suspect it’s more likely he’s just being stripped down to the bare components for a thorough cleaning before being assembled again.
Taffy Steve appeared, glinting and sparkling in the sharp sunlight and I queried if he’d had a recent close encounter with greeting cards, thinking he’d perhaps tried to sneak “yet another” birthday in under the radar. Apparently though he was simply suffering from a prank attack, when a “family friend” tipped a large tub of glitter over his head.
Several days later and he still trailed a glittering tail of dandruff in his wake, like Haley’s Comet skimming across the Earth’s atmosphere, or perhaps a hulking, grumpy, shockingly profane and disturbingly hirsute Tinkerbell.
Anyone with young children who have a passion for crafts and card making will know the insidious and truly evil nature of glitter, it’s almost impossible to eradicate once it’s got a foothold in your home, where it suddenly acquires the adhesive qualities of mutant barnacles in a sea of superglue. Taffy Steve is already plotting revenge, which perhaps involves the pranksters dog. I recommend selective shaving.
As it was the first day of the month our youngsters were allowed out on parole for a spin on the open roads. Taffy Steve looked across to where they were all gathering and wondered if they knew something we didn’t. They’d all gone way beyond simple rain jackets and were wearing clothing he thought Noah himself would have approved of. He then started chuckling to himself as he recalled how his young son had flummoxed theologians everywhere by demanding to know how the Ark had managed to carry all the freshwater fish.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
Goose was found bemoaning the fact that despite being a fine figure of a man and logging hundreds of bike miles, his ceiling of 200 watts of energy output is barely enough to power a light bulb. This sobering thought lead to a general discussion about just how physically unremarkable the human species actually is and how we ever came to rule the roost.
Theories about our superiority seemed to come down to the blind luck of being born with opposable thumbs and big heads, but there were of course alternative claims for the top seat at the table. Naturally dolphins headed the list – as smart as humans and thoroughly hedonistic and carefree – clever enough to spend all their time playing around and enjoying themselves rather than angst-ridden worrying about the meaning of life.
Taffy Steve put in a surprisingly strong claim for octopuses (not octopi as already discussed: Italian Mobster Shoots a Lobster) – the most intelligent of all the cephalopods, with unparalleled tactile dexterity, but apparently held back by a lack of depth perception (and no great desire to build machines to kill fellow cephalopods.)
We then had a good chuckle about Oleg Tinkov suggesting his team have the “Number One and Number Two cyclists in the world today” and that they were going to “kick Team Sky’s ass at the Tour de France”. Oh Oleg, you’re such a clown and I’m not going to remotely miss you. I think Mark Twain might actually have been referring to Mr. Tinkov when he wrote, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt”
(I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in thinking Alberto Contador is a spent force in the Tour de France – even before his self-destruction through crashes on Stage 1 and 2. If our clubs fantasy TdF league serves as a quick straw poll amongst cyclists, we have 14 entrants, 9 riders per team and not one single person has bothered selecting Contador. Mind you, none of us picked Cav either and look how that’s turning out.)
I’ll give Tinkov this much respect though, he does actually seem to have made his money legitimately. I have deeply unsettling concerns about billionaire’s who screw over their country and their countrymen and then fritter away millions on vanity sports projects while poverty reigns supreme at home. It’s one of the reason’s I’m hoping such a seemingly class act as Nibali is not going to be tempted by Bahrain blood money.
Goose seems to have taken a liking to green tea which I found surprising, as I was there when he’d first tried it and declared it all “a bit peely-wally”. He deflected our scorn by stating that it had become de rigueur in his household, where his wife drinks it, his daughters drink it, his dog drinks it and even his teenage son drinks it.
We had to tell him to stop and listen to himself. A moments self-reflection and he realised where he was going wrong, both as a father and a human being in general. He vowed to go home, slap some sense into his son, make him drink a double-espresso in double-quick time and tell him to MTFU!
Sneaky Pete sneaked in just to wave goodbye, before slipping quietly away and sneaking off on his own. His departure seemingly summoned a swathe of dark pewter clouds that roiled across the sky, releasing a sudden and stinging burst of rain. As if in sympathy all the lights in the café flickered and died.
The toilets, devoid of any windows and natural light now became like the Black Hole of Calcutta and we ended up having to cart mobiles in there with us to light our way – albeit with a very strict ban on selfies.
I was just about to volunteer Goose to step up to the dynamo and give up all of his 200 watts of usable power when the lights came back to life. The rain eased for a moment and in that brief, already closing window of semi-dryness, we scrambled out and away to see how far we could get before the heavens opened again.
Rain was to provide the bookend weather conditions for this ride, the morning version being a light, all-pervasive drizzle that seemed to sift endlessly from a grey and overcast sky. It didn’t feel particularly cold though, so shorts, jersey, arm warmers and a rain jacket looked like being everything that was required.
I had a remarkably uneventful and unmemorable ride to the meeting place, where we began to congregate, joined by 2 or 3 FNG’s but no Crazy Legs or G-Dawg and a very conspicuously absent OGL. I was frankly amazed, not simply because of OGL’s no-show, but rather by the fact he hadn’t broadcast it in advance to all and sundry (and anyone else in between).
Without or usual leaders and planners, the Prof took control and barked out the intended route. Around 30 lads and lasses then pushed off, clipped in and rode out.
The Red Max was riding without the Monkey Butler Boy who had suddenly realised his mocks were almost upon him and had stayed home to revise, although rumour has it that the start of the Tour de France may have stalled academic progress. (Allegedly).
Off the leash, Max immediately stuck his nose on the front and started pushing the pace, burning off a succession of riding partners as he battered away into a relatively strong wind. We were achieving an average speed of around 30 kph before the first whimpering gasps of dissent were heard and Max finally eased, swung out and dropped back down the line, job done.
The group split just past the reservoir and I sat at the back over the series of sharp climbs that followed. As we approached the Quarry Climb, Mad Colin whipped the front half of us into a loose paceline and the speed began to build.
Up the Quarry Climb we went, splintering the group to pieces. The front group swung left, while a few of the back-markers took the slightly shorter route and turned right at the top of the climb.
Our shaky, improvised paceline had fallen apart on the hill where it quickly became every man (or woman) for themselves. With no sign of being able to get it working again, Mad Colin simply rode to the front and began to slowly wind up the pace. I dived across onto his rear wheel and tried to cling on for the ride, watching, strangely mesmerised as his chain began to rise like a breaking wave and then roll down his cassette in a series of agonisingly slow gear changes, each one bringing a corresponding increase in raw power and speed. Bloody hell! Just how many gears did his bike have?
And what the hell was I thinking, anyway? This was Mad Colin, who almost set a record time in the RAAM – Race Across America, the man who pushes FNG’s up hills faster than I can climb them, who used to be a sparring partner of Russ and Dean Downing and whose idea of a good breakfast is porridge mixed with energy gels! I was only ceding something like a 20 year and 20-pound advantage to him.
On the horribly rough surface down to the Snake Bends he had all the advantages of Roger de Vlaeminck’s prototypical Paris-Roubaix rider, being “built like a small horse” and managing to power over the uneven surface. Meanwhile, I was already at maximum revs and being jostled and bounced around like a golf ball in a tumble drier, holding the bars in a death grip and reluctant to risk moving my hands even fractionally in order to change gear.
I don’t know how long I held onto the tiger’s tail, it was probably no longer than a mile, but felt like five, as my leg bones slowly turned to heating elements that scorched into my muscles and ragged breathing gave way to agonised gasping.
One more click of the gear lever, one more clunk of a chain shifting down, one more turn of the screw and the gap between our wheels slowly and silently opened out like a flower blooming to greet the sun.
And then I was gone, jettisoned like the ballast from a balloon which saw Mad Colin soaring away.
Rab Dee jumped around me to try and get on terms, while I simply tried to hold the speed I’d stolen and keep going. The Prof, one of our young tyro’s and an FNG were the next to pass me in a futile chase of the front-runners, but while they initially opened up a gap it soon settled at around 10 metres and then refused to go either up or down.
Ahead the side road spat out Taffy Steve and Goose from their short-cut. I swooped around the latter and gave mad chase to the former, finally getting just about on terms with him and the FNG just before we swept around the Snake Bends and hit the main drag up to the café.
We’d not left the café long when the rain returned, washing over us in a reprise of last week’s awful conditions. Riding alongside Red Max he pointed out the Prof’s backside was beginning to foam like a rabid dog, as his shorts soaked through and the wet pad squelched horribly up and down on the saddle. Hey! It’s frothy, man!
Max complained he was getting too much, err… salty spume in his face and pulled out for a quick overtake. I hung back chuckling to myself that perhaps the Prof was the only one of us who could foam incoherently at both the mouth and posterior.
In no time at all the group split and we hit the Mad Mile, I chased down the front-runners and enjoyed a slingshot around the roundabout as I set off for home alone.
The return ride was interrupted by intermittent heavy rain showers and several stops to haul on or off my rain jacket. I also tried tracing a new route on the cycle paths along the river, but it was all a bit too Strada Bianca for my liking, so I’ll stick to the roads in future.
I returned home to once again find my socks had turned a decidedly unpleasant shade of grey and the super-sharp road grime tan-lines were once again prominent. My socks from the previous week still haven’t recovered and I’m not sure they ever will. This pair could well be going the same way.
I’m slowly beginning to understand why some cyclists wear black socks, but it’s just not an option for an old, dyed in the wool, traditionalist curmudgeon. I’ve tried and they just make me feel louche and dirty. I even tried yellow, black and red socks to match the rest of my kit a few weeks back, but even then I knew that subconsciously it was all wrong.
Perhaps I just need some of that super-foaming detergent the Prof uses so I can restore my socks to their whiter-then-white condition?
YTD Totals: 3,797 km / 2,359 miles with 37,309 metres of climbing