Club Run, Saturday 9th July, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 100 km/62 miles with 914 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 3 hours 54 minutes
Average Speed: 25.5 km/h
Group size: 26 riders, 2 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Overcast, humid
Main topic of conversation at the start:
Arriving bedecked in vintage CSC team kit, I caused Taffy Steve to enquire if I’d been wasting yet more money on cycling frippery and finery. For once I could plead not guilty as the kit had just been recently excavated from the depths of the Old Lycra mountain. I explained it wasn’t new, but very, very old, to which he replied, “Ah! Very old. I should have guessed that, coming from you!” Ouch. I think that might have been payback for last week’s suggestion that he resembled a hulking, grumpy, shockingly profane and disturbingly hirsute Tinkerbell.
The kit was actually a gift from the team to the Pacific Vice President of CSC, who had no interest in cycling, so gave it to his brother, who had no interest in cycling, so he gave it to me. It always makes me smile when I pick it up because it’s clearly marked as being an XL size.
After a much too long absence, Grover emerged to a round of incredulous looks, double-takes and even one or two exploratory prods to see if he was indeed a corporeal entity.
“Is it a miradjee?” Taffy Steve enquired in his best Bugs Bunny/Mel Blanc voice.
“Don’t be an ultra-maroon.” I retorted, before we started arguing, while the FNG’s looked on genuinely perplexed and bewildered:
“It’s duck season!”
“No, it’s rabbit season!”
Oh well, it made us chuckle.
Meanwhile Crazy Legs rolled up sur la Bianchi, a sure sign that the much-cosseted Ribble has somehow re-gained its protected status and is being held back because there is a chance (no matter how slim) that we might encounter some precipitation on the ride.
Crazy Legs confided that he was actually hoping for rain as his shoes were still “too clean and too white” and he hated them. This was an argument I’d only ever encountered once before, from a deeply fashion-conscious, overly-sensitive, pre-teen daughter when I’d asked her why she wouldn’t wear the very new, very expensive Converse Hi-Tops she insisted we buy her.
Taffy Steve pondered whether Bianchi had ever tried to copyright their signature “celeste” blue-green colour, pretty much like Cadbury had tried with the colour purple and Lindt had apparently attempted with rabbits.
Rabbits? Whatever next, trying to copyright the letter “e?” Wh*r* would that l*av* us?”
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
Crazy Legs had to travel all the way from Newcastle to Worcester for his new job, a long and arduous journey, but necessary because the client said they only had one other operating base in the UK he could work from.
“Oh, where’s that then?” Crazy Legs politely enquired on finally arriving in Worcester.
“Err … as in Cobalt Park?”
Cobalt Park … North Shields?”
“Yeah, wherever that is…”
With the execrable, Euro 2016 football somnambulating toward some sort of long-overdue denouement, the only noteworthy revelation seems to be the scrotum stroking, bum crack teasing, finger sniffing antics of German Coach Joachim Löw. Yeugh! It thoroughly delighted Crazy Legs, though.
I was thinking you wouldn’t find a cyclist doing anything like that, when someone mentioned Contador having to change shoes on the fly following his crash and bravely holding his sweaty insoles in his teeth as he plummeted downhill. Yeugh#2! Was this the knock-out blow that finally put paid to El Pistolero’s Tour de France challenge?
For some reason I lost the thread of the conversation and when I returned the group were discussing a female rider who used to train with us, had incredible leg-strength, but couldn’t actually ride in a straight line. She was attributed with prodigious thighs and what I politely suggested we could perhaps describe as “child bearing calves.” Crazy Legs reflected that the enormous thighs might actually be an impediment to childbirth and I couldn’t help think of some imaginary poor baby being extruded between massive quad muscles, like a lump of Play-Doh. Yeugh#3.
Awaking from too little sleep and feeling quite fuzzy around the edges, Saturday morning found me running on vodka vapours following a too-late Friday night out with work colleagues. This was definitely going to be a kill or cure experience.
I was only moving at half-speed, or perhaps I’m being overly-generous and quarter-speed would be more accurate. I left the house slightly late, taking my occasional alternate route and trading quiet roads for a 5-mile short-cut, managing to arrive with plenty of time to spare.
I was greeted at the meeting point by one FNG enquiring if he was in the right place and I explained he was, but he was at least 15 minutes too early and while our official start-time is listed as 9.00 there’d be no movement until at least 9.15. He just seemed relieved someone else had turned up as he confided he’d actually been hanging around since 8.45.
Picking up a couple more FNG’s, a fairly large group of 26 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out, many threading the needle between two rumbling double-decker buses that suddenly decided to try and blockade our exit with a bit of unnecessary bumper-kissing.
The weather seems to have settled into an all too familiar pattern, grey and overcast, with a feeling that rain could sweep in at any moment – the wind strong enough to be noticeable when not sheltered by fellow cyclists.
We’d just escaped into more rural areas when Son of G-Dawg punctured and we all huddled into a small lay-by while repairs were effected. One of the FNG’s took the opportunity to ask around for a hex key so he could adjust the release tension on his pedals.
“You should be tightening them, not loosening them.” The Prof, err, proffered.
“I don’t think so,” the FNG countered, “At the moment it’s easier and quicker to actually take my shoe off when I need to stop!”
He then crouched down by his bike, muttering the strange mantra, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” as he worked to loosen his pedal binding. The Prof looked on rather befuddled, wondering in his little scientific, engineers-heart what was wrong with plain-old clockwise and anti-clockwise.
Seemingly shaken by this radical, free-form way of thinking, he repeated the mantra aloud to himself, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” paused and then asked in a rather plaintive voice, “So what’s okie-dokie then?”
“Ah,” someone explained “That’s when you’ve done righty-tighty or lefty-loosey just enough.”
As we waited, OGL said that he’d had a clear out and had a load of useless and worn old tools he was going to throw away if anyone wanted them, while looking rather pointedly at the Prof as he made the announcement. Somewhat surprisingly the Prof wasn’t interested, explaining he already had a cache of useless and worn out tools (not that that has ever stopped him picking up other people’s junk before.)
He wasn’t even tempted when OGL offered up a set of files so useless and worn “they couldn’t file paper.”
I suggested there really wasn’t much call to file paper and the Prof quipped, “Especially these days with e-mail.” Ba-boom.
After we’d all finished groaning, Taffy Steve shook his head as he admonished us, “Bring together a bunch of dad’s and sure enough, all you’ll get are dad jokes.”
Someone pointed out that, never mind dads, there were grandads amongst us, but all chatter was silenced when Shoeless revealed he knew a 45-year-old great-grandmother.
Thankfully, Son of G-Dawg had finished his repairs and we were able to mount up and push on again.
I drifted to the back in the company of Taffy Steve discussing university congregations and the strange (in my mind, unforgiveable) fashion for wearing tan brogues with blue suits.
We dropped onto some narrow, rural lanes. I heard the shout of “car up!” and spotted a Porsche Cayenne – distant, but seemingly hurtling toward us. Surprisingly, it then pulled to the side of the road and stopped to allow us to safely pick our way past.
A little further on and a shiny black Mercedes did the same and then a massive BMW 4×4. I swear on the ride home I even saw an Audi driver pull to the side of the road, stop and wave us through, although Carlton assures me this was actually a Toyota. History and personal experience does tend to suggest he was right and I was mistaken.
Of course not all drivers were quite so accommodating and at one junction we found ourselves being charged by a monstrous black pick-up truck, in a manner that was purposefully meant to be intimidating. Arse hat.
Even greater peril was still yet to strike and I rounded one sharp bend to find everyone stopped and stationary around a supine Princess Fiona, who’d come off and was lying amongst the roadside nettles.
From what I can gather she’d been surprised by the sudden appearance of a panicked sheep on the road, braked too sharply and lost her back wheel. At least I think that’s what happened, but there was no sign of the offending ninja-sheep.
Princess Fiona was slowly helped back to her feet, a bit bloodied, bruised and scraped, but seemingly intact. Meanwhile Shoeless undertook some percussive maintenance on her twisted saddle and slapped her chain back into place.
Suddenly I saw the sheep for the first time, now charging fearlessly down the road between the slalom course of skinny cyclists and plastic bikes. So, not a miradjee then.
Our bleating, woolly friend had obviously wriggled through a hedge and overgrown ditch to escape, collecting a fair bit of greenery along the way. This was entangled, wound and woven throughout its fleece like some organic, ovine ghillie suit. By using this improvised camouflage, it had been able to lie in wait to ambush unsuspecting cyclists, leaping out with a mighty Boo!
Or maybe Baa!
Now it had either overcome its innate fear of cyclists, or something even more terrifying was driving it back through us.
The ground shook as a low rumble became a thunderous roar, and the sheep’s new nemesis appeared; a massive, shiny-yellow, Caterpillar tractor bedecked with white ribbon and driven by a wedding party in pale grey morning suits and pink cravats. I couldn’t see far enough into the cab to confirm it, but suspect there was a plethora of tan brogues on display too.
We all shuffled to the very margins of the road to allow the behemoth to squeeze past, filling most of the lane and bending back branches on either side, while its occupants smiling benignly down on us from their lofty perch.
We then had to push even further back to allow a second and then a third identical tractor to rumble past. Landed gentry wedding, Northumberland-style.
At our split only OGL and Grover left us for the shortest route to the café. Meanwhile the rest waited before embarking on a longer, harder, faster route. And waited. And waited.
Finally, Crazy Legs demanded some action and called, “Ride ‘em out!” prompting the two of us to belt out a ragged, off-kilter, off-key, call-and-response rendition of Rawhide –unhindered by the fact neither one of us actually know the words. Or should be allowed to sing in public.
We dragged our way up to Dyke Neuk and swung off to head even further North, splitting the group and waving off the even longer, faster, harder group before we started to loop back.
Our group now included Shoeless, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, Taffy Steve a couple of others and tagging on the back Red Max, the Monkey Butler boy and Szell, as we set course for Szell’s nemesis, Middleton Bank.
I rolled to the front as we approached the hill and started up, climbing out of the saddle and accelerating as we hit the steepest ramp. Sitting down again, I tried to keep the pace at a reasonable level as I sensed someone climbing up on my inside.
I did a quick double-take, but my eyes weren’t lying – it was Taffy Steve, pulling everyone else up the climb with him as if he’d suddenly found some climbing legs. Well, he has been seen lurking around a darkened crossroad bargaining with a shady character.
We drove over the top and sat up to wait for everyone to regroup and because Crazy Legs was feeling particularly benevolent to Szell that day, I do mean everyone. All reformed and back together, Taffy Steve gave me the old UCI timekeeper countdown on his right hand, waved me down an imaginary start-ramp and we started to build up speed.
The pair of us did around 5km on the front trying to drive the pace ever higher, until we rattled down through Milestone Woods and Shoeless, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Szell burned off the front. Being overtaken by Szell was unthinkable, so as he died on the first slope I drove us past him, up and over the rollers. Onto the final drag I sat up and watched Taffy Steve nip around me while I did a basking shark impersonation and tried to find a little more air for my screeching lungs.
On the return home we were stopped at some temporary traffic lights, when a small kid on a fat-tyred, nondescript, MTB swooped out of a junction and pulled up in the middle of the bunch. As the light turned amber, he sprinted away, through us and the roadworks in an attack so audacious he earned a massive cheer and huge encouragement.
We caught him faltering on the sharp climb up to Dinnington, where Taffy Steve planted a huge hand on his back and drove him, rocket-propelled up the slope and over the top. He might never climb that hill faster in his entire life – and I’ve never seen a grin so wide.
A good run, the perfect hangover antidote and we finally managed a summer ride without getting soaked. Upwards and onwards.
YTD Totals: 3,975 km / 2,470 miles with 39,203 metres of climbing