Club Run, Saturday 16th September, 2017
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 111 km / 69 miles with 1,199 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 22 minutes
Average Speed: 25.4 km/h
Group size: 20 riders, 2 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Chilly with showers
The weather has definitely taken what feels like a big and irreversible step toward the autumnal now, so I wasn’t feeling remotely overdressed in a long-sleeved jersey and knee warmers. I wore gloves, but carried a mitts to swap out in the forlorn hope that things might warm up. They never did and the mitts stayed firmly in my pocket throughout the ride.
The ground was soaked by recent rain, but above the sky was only lightly smeared with high clouds, hopefully it would at least be bright and dry, even if on the cold side.
Main topics of conversation at the start
There was a mixture of optimists and pessimists at the meeting point. G-Dawg was firmly invested in the former camp, in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey and insisting there was still time to work on his tan lines. I don’t know about tan lines, but today would eventually prove to be hugely effective for anyone wanting to work on grime-lines.
Others had joined me in wrapping up, even Taffy Steve who rolled up wearing a gilet and arm-warmers, but to be fair he was already sweating like a glass-blowers arse and would start stripping off layers as soon as he stopped. Meanwhile, a clearly undecided Colossus went with the catch-all of a short-sleeved jersey paired with a pair of bib knickers that were …well … I guess, err … interesting in their near translucence.
We saluted the arrival of Richard of Flanders, our route architect and designated ride leader for the week. Crazy Legs was even prompted to climb onto the wall for an inspiring, Dead Poet’s, “Captain! My Captain!” moment.
With Richard of Flanders sporting a cycling-hardman/rouleur beard and following on from the example of a similarly grizzle-jawed G-Dawg, we determined that all ride leaders should henceforth invest in facial hair to add gravitas and identify their authority to the rest of the group. Now next weeks designated leader, Crazy Legs faces a real challenge trying to grow a suitably impressive beard in time.
Fresh from a credible performance at the National Junior Time-trial Championship the Monkey Butler Boy was out with us again as, according to his own words, all his regular Wrecking Crew team-mates “are pussies, who won’t ride if the weather’s bad.”
He’d switched to a winter bike which he’d only had the morning to prep, having been lured out the previous night by the lure of women and wild wassailing. This could, perhaps in polite company, form an adequate excuse for his lamentable attempt at trying to strangle, wrangle and entangle his bars in a mess of new tape, but wasn’t going to wash with us.
On the plus side, the Colossus approved of the choice of tape, gleaming white, with deep perforations that showed a bright red background, but the less than precise winding had produced an irregular hotchpotch of pockets, knots, bulges, bubbles and blisters that made the bars look like they’d been organically grown from seriously malformed coral.
To add insult to injury, the lumpy, white bar tape was held in place by at least three thick and unequal bands of what looked like an entire roll of red electricians tape,strategically placed at various different points to try and hold everything in place.
It was almost impossible to believe, but Red Max confided that this was actually an improvement on the first attempt at bar wrapping that he had been summarily dismissed out of hand.
Route outlined and with two FNG’s to shepherd around, we decided on a single group and twenty lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out.
Richard of Flanders, Red Leader for the day, took to the front alongside Crazy Legs as we set out, leaving the suntrap of the Transport Interchange Centre (aka: a bus station) to find it was actually quite chilly out on the roads. The wind had picked up and was carrying a cold edge, while grey cloud stole across the sky and quickly filled in all the blue bits. It started to look more and more like we were going to have to endure at least one shower, somewhere along the way.
Climbing up through Tranwell and honking away in a massive, knee destroying gear, OGL could only complain bitterly that he used to win races on this road, as he was slowly distanced with a few other strugglers.
Just outside of Mitford a quick stop was called – an opportunity for OGL to question the Colossus’s semi-risqué choice of leg wear.
“You love them, really,” the Colossus replied an opinion that seemed to comprehensively win the argument and, temporarily at least, reduce OGL to silence.
The group split a little further on, OGL leading a few off on a shorter route, while we pressed on to Dyke Neuk, sadly arriving much too early for the annual Leek Show.
We decided this was probably how middle-aged blokes spent their free time before the invention of the bicycle – just a different excuse to meet up and talk a load of old bolleaux, with the topic du jour perhaps being the best proportions of ingredients for a good mulch, rather than gear ratios.
Taffy Steve was pressed to take one of the display leeks and proudly wear his national emblem for the rest of the ride, but politely declined and we pushed on.
I was on the front with G-Dawg as we approached another cut-off point with the option to take a left for the shorter route through Hartburn, or head straight up to Rothley Crossroads.
“Straight on, or left?” I asked G-Dawg.
“Dunno. Straight on, or left?” G-Dawg called out to the group behind.
Hmm, this wasn’t helping.
Luckily though the Red Leader was to hand. Richard of Flanders cruised up, emphatically declared we were going straight on and led from the front onto the first of the dragging climbs up to the crossroads.
I don’t think anyone likes this route which grinds upwards, never really a full bore, out of the saddle climb, more a long chugging drive that slowly saps your strength. Horrible. It’s perhaps why we use this route so infrequently.
The Red Leader caught up with me on the descent and started to draw parallels between the Colossus’s semi-risqué attire and Kim Kardasian trying much too hard to project a lovable, sexy and playful minx. Luckily none of the images were making it through my inappropriate material filter.
On to Middleton Bank and I was climbing in formation with G-Dawg and Crazy Legs. We got about halfway up the climb when Crazy Legs observed it had all gone quiet behind. He looked back and realised it had indeed gone quiet, simply because there was no one following in the wheels behind. We rolled over the top and slowed to let everyone regroup.
Pressing onto the cafe we ran directly into a sharp and intense shower that soon had the roads awash and wheels spraying out an arc of cold water. Taffy Steve swooped to the front and put in a big dig and the pace suddenly shot up.
I was riding behind one of the FNG’s and he let the wheel in front go, perhaps not appreciating just how quickly the speed would build, perhaps not realising the gravitas of the cafe sprint, perhaps because it’s madness riding 5cm’s behind a stranger in a downpour, or perhaps simply to escape the pressure jet of water kicked up by G-Dawgs wheels that kept slapping him in the eyes.
Whatever the reason, a gap yawned open between him and the front trio of Taffy Steve, G-Dawg and Crazy Legs. The Colussus recognised the danger and darted across, while I hesitated a bit too long, finally came around the FNG and tried to close the gap more slowly and steadily.
Big mistake. 5 metres soon became 15 metres … and then 50 metres … and then 50 metres rapidly became simply impossible.
I plugged away, chasse patate in no-mans-land, managing to close and almost get within striking distance as we went up and over the rollers … but then the road tilted down and the front group were gone, away and out of sight.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
Empowered by his status as Red Leader, Richard of Flanders mused about where all the club fees went and what they were being used for. The truth is, nobody knows.
G-Dawg revealed the club used to have a treasurer, apparently our expat who’s stuck out in Las Vegas. As G-Dawg dryly concluded, “A club treasurer, with access to all our funds, bored and stuck in Las Vegas, the gambling capitol of the world. What could possibly go wrong?”
Before an intriguing and highly colourful tale had a chance to unfold however, G-Dawg also recalled our erstwhile treasurer had been asked to hand over the club books to Mrs. OGL quite some time ago … and they’ve never been seen since.
Taffy Steve wanted any money the club might have sloshing around to be spent on developing the kids – coaching, equipment, facilities – whatever they need. This seemed reasonable and I suggested even increasing the fees beyond the paltry £10 per year and everyone seemed happy to do this, if it was being used effectively and transparently. Hey, if you’re gonna dream, dream big!
Then the Garrulous Kid wandered past, miming sealed lips after the table opposite had promised him £1 if he could keep silent for 10 minutes. Suddenly, we all realised there was something much more compelling we could spend the club fees on, and where any increase would be worth every penny.
Discussion turned to Szell’s disappearing act last week and the idea that I couldn’t conceive of him being in the front group after all the climbing. Taffy Steve however has a theory that its because Szell has decided he doesn’t need to ape and appease OGL and has dared change his bike set-up. He’s now switched from a “classic” 53-chain-ring to a compact, and is actually climbing much better and on a par with everyone else.
Changing fashions and technologies led to a discussion about e-bikes, with many looking forward to extending their club riding careers with a little motorised assistance. G-Dawg was the only one with first-hand experience of an e-bike and was all for them.
Somewhat predictably, OGL had declared if anyone ever saw him on an e-bike, they should just put a pellet in his ear. I assume he was inviting people to administer the coup de grace by capping him in the head, but perhaps it was also a veiled reference to Hamlet and he meant a pellet of poison? Well, if we can reference Walt Whitman, why not a bit of Shakespeare too?
Anyway, now all he has to do is determine if the pellet with the poison is in the flagon with the dragon, or the chalice from the palace, all the while remembering that the vessel with the pestle holds the brew that is true. Oops, hold on, that’s NOT Shakespeare is it?
We set off for home and had only just left the main road for the country lanes, when the Prof came bustling and barging past, declaring it was too cold for riding at a pace that everyone could manage. All hell broke loose as he shot off the front, the speed was kicked up and people tried to close him down. Everything was a bit frantic until the ascent of Berwick Hill restored some natural measure of order, although by then we could have lost a fair few, floundering off the back.
Up through Dinnington and on we went until, up ahead through the misting rain, we saw flashing lights and slowed to find a cluster of cyclists at the side of the road. There’d been a touch of wheels in one of the groups that had left the cafe early and Kipper and Laurelan had gone down hard. The flashing lights were from a paramedics car that had just happened to be passing and stopped to lend assistance.
Laurelan seemed mostly intact, but she’d taken a bad bang to the head, while Kipper had a deep gash on his knee that gaped horribly wide, leering insanely whenever he bent the limb. Both luckless riders were carted off to A&E, while Red Max made arrangements to take their bikes home.
X-rays would later reveal that Kipper had the worst of it, a broken kneecap that required surgery and will unfortunately keep him off the bike for a good while. Hope he recovers swiftly. The Red Max later confirmed that Kipper’s bike was safe, largely intact and behaving itself in his shed.
We pressed on as the rain finally began to ease and I was hopeful if it stopped I might be able to dry out before I reached home. We flew through the Mad Mile and then I was swinging off and away on my own.
On the final leg down toward the river, a small hatchback pulled away from the right-hand kerb and swung across in front of me. I braked, swerved out of its path and then slipped behind it, making sure I was right in the centre of the back bumper and hopefully looming large in the rear-view mirror, an attempt to give the obviously myopic driver at least an even chance to see my exaggerated, censorious headshake.
For once it even seemed to work, perhaps too well, as the car slowed and came to a halt several yards away from the next junction, forcing me to stop too. Oops. The driver’s door opened and a beefy leg was planted on the ground. This was then followed by another, equally as beefy leg, as a seriously large, bull-necked, shaven-headed bloke levered himself out of the driver’s seat. Oh-oh.
I was now expecting the worst – a foul-mouthed tirade? The threat of physical violence? One of those swivel-eyed, lunatic, “cyclists don’t pay road tax so deserve to be run off the road” pronouncements?
“Sorry mate, I didn’t see you there …” the bloke announced, almost meekly.
I was utterly shocked and just about managed to blurt out, “Oh! Ok, no harm done.”
Don’t get me wrong, I think SMIDSY (sorry mate, I didn’t see you) is horrible, far too common attempted mitigation for bad driving that excuses nothing and has probably been used as justification in some shocking circumstances. Even so, it was kind of refreshing to find a driver who’s willing to own up to his mistakes and apologise for them. I’ll take that any day as an alternative to ignoring mistakes and bad driving, or pretending it never happened, that someone else is in the wrong and sailing blithely on.
As I crossed the river, a rain squall settled overhead, but I was almost home so didn’t stop to pull on a jacket, arriving back at my front door again, somewhat damp around the edges.
The knee had more or less behaved itself all day, although I was hobbling a little on Sunday. I think its getting better – just in time for the club hill climb. Hmm, perhaps I need to injure it again…
YTD Totals: 5,523 km / 3,432 miles with 62,933 metres of climbing