Club Run, Saturday 24th March, 2018
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 112 km / 70 miles with 1,126 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 25 minutes
Average Speed: 25.4 km/h
Group size: 24 riders, 0 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Perfect
Club Run, Saturday 24th March, 2018
Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for the extreme irritability and restlessness that takes place when a person is stuck in confined quarters for an extended period.
Carbon fever, on the other hand, is an idiomatic term for the extreme irritability and restlessness that takes place when a person is confined to riding their winter bike for an extended period.
The only known cure for the latter is to break out your best bike and try to burn off the fever by doing something slightly spontaneous, unplanned and out of character…
The giant swinging pendulum that seems to invent the British weather on a whim, promised us a weekend composed of a few, fine and completely still Spring days, as if trying to make up for the horror of last week’s snow, hail and gales.
That was enough for me to hint at the possibility of a “carbon weekend” as soon as Richard of Flanders posted up the route for the run on Saturday. ‘Bout bloody time, too.Still, I drew the line at G-Dawgs suggestion of shorts. Unlike him, I actually have nerve endings in my legs.
So, Friday night saw me lifting Reg from his cotton-wool cocoon to prep for the next day, still, after all this time, startled at the difference in weight between modest-carbon Holdsworth and workhorse-aluminium Peugeot.
A smattering of rain showers early Saturday failed to dissuade me from my choice and I carried the bike down the front steps, swung a leg over the frame, pushed off, clipped in … and immediately found myself riding with a big, stupid grin plastered across my face.
Everything about the bike seems crisper, cleaner, smoother and more comfortable. My foot appeared to be drawn magnetically to the pedal and the cleat engaged with a sharp, positive click. I barely touch the brakes and they immediately bite and slow me and the chain rolls smoothly and noiselessly up and down the cassette as I change gear.
I was instantly in a good mood that nothing was going to shake, not the close pass at high speed while arrowing down the Heinous Hill, not being caught at every single traffic light along my route and not even the raucous gaggle of Canada Geese that lined the road around Shibdon Pond and honked derisively as I rode past.
It was as smooth and enjoyable ride across to the meeting point as I can recall.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
True to his word, G-Dawg was in shorts and his new, super-bling, Sidi slippers that he’d received for a significant birthday, but only managed to wear once in since last November.
The shoes were in a startling shade of what the Garrulous Kid might describe as illuminous yellow. Even better, G-Dawg had somehow managed to find a pair of socks that were the exact same shade, showing that the time between receiving the shoes and actually wearing them hadn’t been totally wasted.
Talk of Nibali’s imperious Milan-San Remo win, led to discussion about the Yates-twins, with OGL reporting that 58kg-when-soaking-wet (including the towel) Simon Yates-twin felt he needed to lose a few kilos for the Giro!
Prompted perhaps by something in Cycling Weekly, we wondered if in fact there was only one Yates–twin and, depending on how he was feeling, he preferred being called Simon Yates-twin, or Adam Yates-twin. We decided it would be even better if the Yates-twins were in reality identical quads, so you could change rider as easily as changing your bottle. The advantages are so obvious I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Sky have a cloning programme in development.
Analysis of the Monkey Butler Boy’s bike reached a consensus that his slammed handlebars left a dangerously prominent and potentially emasculating stack above his stem.
Little Benny Franklin once opined that three things are inevitable in life: the weather, death, and taxes. I would like to add to this the certainty that, whenever handlebars and stems are mentioned in polite conversation, OGL will resurrect the hoary old tale of ripping his scrotum open when crashing at a track meet.
He did nothing to disprove my thesis now, “Did I ever tell you about the time I ripped my scrotum open, crashing at a track meet?” he asked, to everyone’s great surprise.
“Yes,” Crazy Legs replied flatly, but very, very distinctly.
OGL paused, blinked once slowly and then nevertheless launched into recounting the gory details of how he once ripped his scrotum open when crashing at a track meet.
To wake us from the resulting stupor, our New Glorious Leader, Richard of Flanders, leapt athletically onto the wall to demand our attention while he outlined the route for the day in precise detail.
His “lend me your ears” speech provided a nice counterpoint to the “et tu, Brute?” moment he almost faced a few weeks ago, when we decided he was a despot in-the-making and considered pre-emptive coup d’etat, cutting the head off the snake, before it grew fully into its power.
Sadly, whatever gravitas he hoped to bring to proceedings was somewhat lost by the cheeky, tantalising flashes of pink flesh that would be occasionally peep through the ripped up knees of his tights.
Fatally, he then concluded a thorough, comprehensive briefing of route details with a call for “any questions?”
Slowly, hesitatingly, G-Dawg raised a mitt … “Err … did you have to pay extra for the ripped knees, or did you borrow those tights from a fashion-conscious teenage girl?”
9.15 and we formed up and started to roll out.
At this point OGL began muttering darkly about how the club was “disintegrating” around him, based largely I think, on the absence of any of the Grogs from our ranks today and a modest turn out of only two dozen! Apparently, OGL suggests the Grogs no longer want to ride with us because we go too fast at the start and they’re having difficulty free-loading at the back.*
[*My interpretation, not his – in 5 years riding with the club I’ve only ever seen a Grog on the front and leading a club run on one, single occasion and I’m pretty certain that was a mistake.]
I find it odd that OGL tolerates this inner-group, let alone measures the health of our club based on their participation. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that they have their own jersey, Facebook page, meeting points, hierarchy, rides, events, overseas trips, social gatherings et al.
Before knowing better, I wrote about them as “a dark and secretive cabal within the club … that has its own, special club jersey, which can only be won through a dark ritual involving the sacrifice of small, furry animals and communing with the drunken ghost of Henri Desgrange.”
I continued, “They often silently and mysteriously slip away from the club run to do their own thing, only to reappear sitting relaxed and unruffled in the café, long before anyone else gets there. They communicate through a series of arcane hand signals and a high-pitched chirruping that can drive dogs insane, but is generally inaudible to human ears.”
Now, I realise my first impressions were largely correct, although I haven’t yet solved the biggest mystery, why they want to remain part of the club at all?
Still, even OGL’s ranting and railing and a-bitching and kvetching and complaining, wasn’t going to derail me from my good mood today.
Things were going well and I’d just dropped in alongside Buster for a quick catch-up, when he declared, “Shit! puncture.”
We rolled to a stop in someone’s driveway while repairs were effected, spirits high and happily chattering amongst ourselves. I’ve no idea if the house owner ever noticed they had a gaggle of twenty plus, lycra clad lunatics clustered in their drive. Perhaps they hid hoping we’d get bored and move on soon enough?
Which, to be fair we did, pushing along without further incident to Stamfordham, where the Garrulous Kid rode off on his own, to continue his utterly bizarre fixation and thoroughly unhealthy obsession with the Ryals.
From there, the rest of us pushed onwards across the Military Road, past the reservoir, before stopping to split the group. To the delight of Crazy Legs, Richard of Flanders took up a position of easy authority, at the focal point of our group, with all of his seeming-acolytes arrayed before him.
From here, he explained the options for different routes and groups and we split, with a few taking the slightly shorter, slightly less bumpy, slightly more direct route to the café.
The rest of us pressed on, up through the Stelling climb, up Newton Hall and Kip Hill, before turning left and then first right, onto a narrow farm track that would take us around the plantations.
A slight mix up when the leaders zigged instead of zagged and I found myself leading, with everyone happy to hang back to see if I could find a safe route through the numerous puddles without disappearing into an enormous pothole.
The track spat us out, back onto the main road just outside Matfen and I was joined on the front by G-Dawg as we rolled toward the Quarry at a steady 17-18 mph.
The bright day had brought out dozens of small groups of cyclists who whizzed past with a wave and a shout.
“It’s busy out here,” I remarked at one point, “Yet, we didn’t see anyone else last week.”
“Yeah,” G-Dawg seem to consider the conundrum seriously, “I can’t imagine why?”
We led everyone up the Quarry climb, before the group swung right and I dropped back through the ranks, while the pace started to tick upwards.
As the road levelled and straightened, the Big Yin attacked from the back and opened up a sizeable lead. The Red Max and Taffy Steve followed, powering across the gap, but it was too early and I assured Biden Fecht we’d catch them easily as the road started to climb toward the crossroads. Sure enough, the move was soon reeled back in and the pace wound up even more.
[The Red Max would later complain that the problem with his attack wasn’t that it was too early and from too far out, but in fact much, much too late and too close to home!]
Now, as we hurtled toward the crossroads, Rab Dee cruised up the outside of our group and I latched onto his wheel and followed. As I slid past G-Dawg, I declared things had turned “feisty” … and then the carbon fever bit. I catapulted myself off Rab Dee’s wheel and attacked off the front as we started to grind up the slope, quickly finding myself in clear air.
Approaching the crossroads at speed, I slowed as little as I dared, head on a swivel, frantically scanning for traffic, left and right. I hoped I’d read things right and the road really was clear in both directions, as I darted across and tried to pick up the pace again.
A good handful of seconds later, I heard the shouts of “clear!” behind me and guessed I had a reasonably decent gap. I knew I wasn’t going to be contesting the sprint, but I thought I could probably discomfort, or perhaps even eliminate some of the heavy-weight “puncheurs.”
I drove on, suppressing an urge to cackle like the Red Max in full flight, while the road dipped down again. I slowed to take the corners at a sensible pace, not wanting to wipe out in front of everyone.
As the road straightened and dropped toward the next junction a shadow suddenly appeared under my bottom bracket and I knew I’d been caught. I slid to the left, Crazy Legs powered past and I dropped onto his wheel, guessing everyone else was strung out in close attendance behind.
We slowed for the next junction and then tried to pick up the pace again, swinging left, with just two more climbs to go before the junction for the run down to the Snake Bends.
These are not real climbs, not a Cipressa, or a Kemmelberg, nor a Mur de Huy, just a gentle stiffening of the gradient, probably nothing over a 5% for a couple of hundred metres, but the effect when you’re already red-lining and in oxygen debt can be just as devastating.
Halfway up the first slope Crazy Legs seemed to lose momentum, so I rounded him and attacked again, managing to make it half way up the final rise before I was overtaken. I dropped into place at the back of the first group through the junction, latching onto the Monkey Butler Boy’s wheel and thoroughly satisfied with my efforts.
As we accelerated again, I found the Monkey Butler Boy didn’t have the legs, the gears, or the inclination to give chase and, as the front group pulled away, I hesitated a bit too long before accelerating past. As we hammered down toward the Snake Bends, Zardoz eased up alongside – puffed out his cheeks exaggeratedly and then slipped away again.
Through the bends, across the junction and I cruised down the road to the café more or less alone, but quite happy. What a blast.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
The weather was good enough for us to decamp to the café garden to enjoy some surprisingly warm sunshine. The Monkey Butler Boy fiddled with his phone and declared, “It’s 5°!”
“The only thing that’s 5° is this table top,” Caracol corrected him, while deftly pocketing some small change that threatened to roll off the angled surface. Caracol had the right of it – the temperature was well into double figures and it was very pleasant.
Crazy Legs took me to task for not calling out that the crossroad were clear as I attacked through them, forcing the chasers to slow and look, rather than chase me down at full bore. Unrepentant, I argued no one was there to shout for me, I was clear at the time and I needed any advantage I could possibly eke out.
G-Dawg seemed to accept my argument and even suggested I should have called out an imaginary “car left!” to slow the pursuit further. Clever. Sneaky, but clever.
It was around this time that we realised we seemed to have lost Richard of Flanders somewhere out on the road and Buster set off to back-track to see if he’d run into trouble somewhere.
We tried to remember when we’d last seen our NGL. The Red Max recalled a kamikaze-style overtaking of Richard on one of the sharp corners on our run in, and our logical reaction was to wonder if the Red Max had put him in a ditch, or eased him through a hedge, but there was no evidence to support this.
The Garrulous Kid then bounced past, heading off early because he had an appointment in the “hair studio” for a fresh trim and besides, he had to get home to prepare for a “crihical finkin’” test.
Holding the National Timetrial Championship on local roads raised the possibility of actually seeing Chris Froome riding in the UK, for perhaps only the fifth or sixth time in his entire career. Crazy Legs is ready with his salbutamol inhaler, just in case.
“It’s odd,” Zardoz observed, “I read all 200 plus pages of his book, The Climb. There’s a lot of detail in there, but he never once mentions asthma.”
“Is it not Sir Chris Froome, now anyway?” the Monkey Butler Boy interjected.
No, we assured him, he’s not been knighted.
“So, how come it’s Sir Bradley Wiggins and yet he’s only ever won the one poxy Tour de France?” an affronted Monkey Butler Boy demanded to know.
While the Red Max smacked his head in disbelief, someone gently reminded the Monkey Butler Boy of the numerous Olympic and World medals that clutter up the sideboard in the Wiggins family household. I could have pointed out that knighting anyone for sporting achievements and before they’ve officially retired, seems a rather fatuous thing to do, but that’s an argument for another day.
Talk moved on to gold chains and led us to wonder if an actual chain made of gold was feasible. (We suspect not). I briefly tuned out and returned to the conversation to hear talk of someone’s fully-blinged up bike, “complete with shifters on the downtube.”
“Shifters on the Downtube?” I pondered, “That’s a great name for a band.”
It was quickly co-opted as a line into a re-worked “Shaking All Over” but sadly (or perhaps, thankfully) a suitable second line completely eluded us.
Then I remembered something, “Hey, did we ever find out what happened to Richard?”
Crazy Legs excused our lack of concern, claiming we were cyclists so understandably, very easily distracted by coffee and cake. Buster reported that he had seen no sign of Richard when he back-tracked, then someone else recalled he had house-pests staying, so may have gone home without calling in the café. Once again though we became distracted by the call for coffee refills and we never did determine what had happened to our erstwhile leader.
Back out onto the road, we were accompanied by a spirited rendition of Perfect Day from the newly formed, Crazy Legs and Biden Fecht: Cycling Barbershop Duet©. They would have been a trio, but the Garrulous Kid declined their invitation to join, claiming barbershop’s are much too common for his more-refined and somewhat effete tastes.
Musical accompaniment aside, things were progressing well until we hit the small, sleepy hamlet of Ogle, when Buster punctured again. Out of spares, he invited us to continue, while he found the hole in his tube and patched it up. Taffy Steve and a few others that needed to get back pressed on, but the rest of us were happy to wait by the side of the road in the sunshine, chatting away idly, while helpfully critiquing the ongoing repair operation.
The Monkey Butler Boy dug into his back pocket and offered up a spare tube.
“Is that a Giant tube?” Buster asked accusingly.
I thought we were going to have some sort of political standoff, with Buster refusing the tube, revealing himself as a die-hard opponent of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer on ethical, or perhaps even aesthetic grounds.
“Err …yeah,” The Monkey Butler Boy responded uncertainly.
“Ah, great, I’ve got some of them at home. I’ll bring you a replacement next week.”
Confrontation avoided, they got on with swapping out the tubes. Meanwhile the rest of us started to speculatively eye-up the cottage we had stopped outside. It looked empty and up for sale and we pondered how good it would be to live there during the winter, smugly dropping off the club run on the way back from the café and waving the rest of the group into the cold and freezing rain to slog the rest of the way back.
Still feeling relatively sprightly, I felt I was able to provide G-Dawg and the Colossus a better than usual lead-out into the Mad Mile, before they launched their attacks to see who could win the race for home and first use of the shower.
I was then swinging off and away to complete my own ride back. Already happy, the icing on the cake was finding my descent down to the river had been completely re-surfaced and was smooth and slick and fast.
Now if they could only sort out the other 69 miles of my route …
Over the bridge, I was caught by an Ee-Em-Cee rider and we had a quick chat before he charged away. We both agreed that it had indeed been a perfect day.
YTD Totals: 1,707 km / 1,061 miles with 19,908 metres of climbing