Club Run, Saturday 14th July, 2018
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 109 km / 68 miles with 1,089 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
Average Speed: 26.1 km/h
Group size: 30 riders, 3 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Hot, hot, hot
Let’s skip a week shall we? The 7th July was another good club run in exceptional and hot weather, but with our Pyrenean misadventures taking up all my inane-wittering bandwidth, it kind of took a backseat.
Who knows, perhaps some day,some completion-obsessed, archivist will uncover this inchoate, hidden gem, tentatively titled “They Swarm” and it will be revealed to the world with huge fanfare* as an unfinished masterpiece to rank alongside Byron’s Don Juan, The Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, or The Other Side of the Wind.
*I’m thinking maybe “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” played on a lone kazoo.
But for now, let’s put it to bed, US TV style…
Previously on Sur La Jante…
The hottest day we’ve had for years, but we didn’t have to worry as the Red Max had a cunning plan – all we had to do was ride harder and faster, he said and it would generate a beneficial cooling breeze…
It was a good route that picked out a section of newly surfaced road to let us ascend to the village of Ryal without having to tackle the infamous Ryal’s themselves. We didn’t realise that the road had actually been resurfaced with loose gravel, which was the perfect size, weight and composition to constantly get jammed under Taffy Steve’s fork crown, so the ascent became an irregular, stop-start sort of affair.
Not all was lost though, as Aether took the opportunity presented by all the mechanicals to successfully forage in the hedgerows for early blackberries. Luckily the Prof wasn’t with us, or we might still be there, taking advantage of all the free stuff.
Then, in the café garden a thousand and one, tiny black beetles fell in love with G-Dawg’s Molteni jersey (well the orange panels on it anyway) and descended upon him like a biblical plague. It was so bad, he ended up stripping down to his bibshorts, just for a bit of relief.
Stripping off all our tops for the ride home in show of mutual support and solidarity, was mooted, but quickly shot down, perhaps by Princess Fiona, although I couldn’t be sure who objected first.
A fully-clothed, return was then completed without incident and I made my way home having covered 113 km with 1,100 metres of climbing.
So, back to the present. Another fine, hot and sunny day was promised and didn’t disappoint. It was so hot in fact that for the first time in living memory I rode without a base layer of any kind and selected my lightest and theoretically coolest of jerseys.
The bridge at Newburn was still closed to cars, and they’ve taken the chance to resurface it. There is still a gaping hole at the north end where it was washed away though, so hopefully it’ll be a bit longer before it’s fully open again.
Despite the heat, the wind was up, keeping things cool, but also providing noticeable resistance whenever I found myself tackling it head on. Nevertheless, I made decent time across and arrived at the meeting place bang on schedule.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
The Garrulous Kid had been traumatised by having to use the Metro during the week, pressed uncomfortably cheek by jowl with the hoi poloi, amidst what he claims was a sustained and unprovoked attack by savage, M&M wielding chavs. They had apparently bombarded his train with the colourful, candy-coated confectionery so ferociously that grown men cowered in their seats and refused to leave the carriages at the station.
Taffy Steve was intrigued and posed the highly critical question we all wanted the answer to, were they hardcore gang-bangers, using peanut M&M’s, or just play-acting kids, wannabe-gangstas, restricting their attack to run-of-the-mill, plain M&M’s?
I think he was positing some kind of escalation in the seriousness of the assault depending upon the type of confectionery being used as ammunition.
This led to an exotic re-imaging of The Untouchables, with Kevin Costner’s Eliott Ness taking instructions from Sean Connery’s old-hand, Jimmy Malone:
“He pullsh a KitKat, you pull a Shnickers bar. He puts one of yoursh in the tuck shop, you put one of hish in the pic ’n’ mix aisle. That’s the Shouth Gosforth way!”
My dad-joke of the week also came from this unlikeliest of sources:
“What time did Sean Connery get to Wimbledon?”
It was so hot, the Garrulous Kid had frozen his bottle overnight, but by the time he reached the meeting point the ice seemed long gone. He picked the bottle up, peered myopically at its contents and gave it a prod with a bony finger.
“All the ice is gone,” he lamented, then, noticing a strange, opaquely white, foreign substance swirling around in the bottom of the bottle … “No, hold on there’s some left at the bottom.”
Goodness knows what he was seeing, but we pointed out that if it was ice, it would be floating – you know, icebergs never drag their feet along the seafloor.
The arrival of long-term absentee, Grover was greeted with a, “Bloody hell, is it that time of the year again?” from Crazy Legs.
“You said that last time,” Grover muttered drolly. Probably true, but it was still funny nonetheless.
It was indeed a day when many of our lesser-spotted luminaries would be tempted out, including the Antipodean Ironman, back from serious injury, the aforementioned Grover and even the Prof, given the day off from his role in a Back Street Boys tribute band, or perhaps lured out by the promise of free fruit just waiting to be picked along all the hedgerows.
Anyway, he would stay with us for, oh, I don’t know, maybe a whole, half an hour, before the collective responsibility of riding in a group began to chafe … and he buggered off without a backward glance.
Add in a smattering of FNG’s and there was about thirty of us altogether and we split into two groups before pushing out. A quick headcount saw the front group outnumbering the second, so I dropped back to the latter and away we went.
The Red Max and Taffy Steve led us from the start and we picked our way through Brunton Lane, where the good weather had encouraged the bushes and hedges into super-abundant, verdant and bucolic over-growth.
“Another couple of weeks of this and there’ll just be a cyclist-shaped hole in a wall of green,” Crazy Legs mused.
We took over on the front as we took the road up past the Cheese Farm, determined to set a perfectly reasonable pace and make it to the top of the hill without any complaints from behind.
Did we make it?
Well, what do you think?
We then stopped before taking a long loop that would see us heading south and generally slightly downhill to Twizzel, before stomping back up into a headwind. This engendered the first group split, with OGL and Grover deciding the loop was generally pointless.
Crazy Legs admitted the detour didn’t do anyone any favours, but I was happy to add a few more miles along previously uncharted roads and anyway, who could possibly resist a visit to a place called Twizzel at least once in a lifetime? Once is probably enough, though.
As we approached Dyke Neuk, I finally recognised the road and, from there it was a straightforward push through Whalton, then Hartburn and on to Middleton Bank. We stopped regularly to check everyone was ok and see if anyone needed a shorter route to the café, but everyone seemed to be holding up.
As we started to climb Middleton Bank, Andeven whirred rapidly and effortlessly away, showing us mere plodders and amateurs how it should be done. Meanwhile I got stuck twiddling too small a gear, too soon and it took me an age to get on top of it. As the ramps slowly steepened and the gears finally bit, I managed to work my way past the rest of the group and follow Crazy Legs catching onto his rear wheel as we went up and over the top.
Crazy Legs looked back, determined no one else was in sight and indicated he was going to drop back to wait. I decided to press on alone, coaxed the chain onto the big ring and started to pick up the pace.
Around the first corner and into some welcome shade from the trees around Bolam Lake, Benedict stormed up behind, called out, “hop on” and went surging past. I accelerated onto his wheel and we were off.
He took a big, long turn and then I spelled him until I could no longer keep the pace high enough and he accelerated onto the front again, leading us through the dip and curves as we arced through Milestone Woods.
As we hit the bottom of the rollers, I noticed a new set of temporary traffic lights half way up the slope had just turned green. Determined not to be caught by an inopportune red light, I came around Benedict and surged upwards. Benedict said he guessed what I was trying to do, but hesitated a micro-second and just missed latching onto my wheel as I hammered up through the lights and over the first couple of crests.
As I jumped out of the saddle to keep the momentum up to tackle the third and final ramp, I looked back, expecting Benedict to be camped on my six, or thereabouts, but there was a sizeable gap between us. I decided just to press on, expecting he would catch up on final scramble up to the café, but suspect he eased once we made the main road and I rolled in imperiously and surprisingly alone.
“Did you ride the full route?” the Garrulous Kid asked, obviously slightly taken aback by the fact that there was clear air between me and everyone else from the second group. Such a disturbing lack of faith…
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
A Woodland Burial site has opened just down the road from the café and OGL has apparently already been eyeing up a plot for the future, thinking it’ll be an ideal spot from which to come back to haunt us every Saturday.
Crazy Legs revealed he still has his Mum’s ashes under the sink and his Dad’s in the garage and doesn’t quite know what to do with them. I unconscionably suggested the latter might be useful if he ever has an icy drive to contend with one winter. The whole topic cued up a number of stories of people trying to dispose of ashes, only to have them blow back in their faces.
On a slightly less morbid note, initial discussions were made about travelling to take in the Tour of Britain in September, in particular stages 5 and 6. The first is an unusual Team Time Trial up Whinlatter Pass from the easier, western side (five kilometres averaging 4%), followed by the following days stage which tackles the climb twice more, but from the eastern side with averages nearer to 7%.
Taffy Steve sat down opposite me and the creaking bench tilted alarmingly and tipped me into his shoulder. I’m not sure this rickety garden furniture is going to last another season.
We applied some Archimedean physics to our problem, Taffy Steve shuffling closer to the pivot point, while I slid along toward the very end of the bench. That worked better, well, at least until one of us decided to stand up suddenly. It didn’t stop Benedict laughing at us and suggesting it was like watching two mismatched kids trying to work a see-saw.
Meanwhile, Crazy Legs expounded on his new Novichok conspiracy theory, by pointing out the two incident locations, Salisbury and Amesbury were, strangely and coincidentally, almost equidistant from the British Chemical and Bacteriological warfare laboratory at Porton Down. The Novichok poisoning was then, either a leak from the government’s own facility, or its proximity was being used by the Russians to cover up their own nefarious “wet-work.”
Taffy Steve determined we deserved a sneaky third coffee and I readily agreed – after all, it was hot and we needed to stay hydrated.
We then had a chuckle at the Colossus who was sitting at the next table alongside the Garrulous Kid and looking extremely glum and fed up with life. We wondered what could possibly be upsetting him so much …
As we made our way home I caught up with Kermit, who thought he had a new bike sorted, a like-for-like replacement offer from his insurance company, after his Focus Cayo didn’t survive its trip back from the Pyrenees. (Or, to be more accurate, its whirlwind tour around Zurich and sundry other European airports.)
He’d been offered a Giant TCR Advanced which seemed like a great deal to me – then again, I’m not the one who has to ride it.
As we started up Berwick Hill our line attenuated and then fragmented and I had great fun slicing and sliding through the wheels, as I climbed from near the back to the front, dropping in behind leaders Crazy Legs and the Colossus as we crested the top.
On the reverse slope, the pair waved us through and I hit the front with Caracol, keeping the pace high all the way through Dinnington and onto the Mad Mile. The Colossus took over again, for this final stretch, before the remains of our group swept left and I peeled off to start my solo ride home.
I could get used to this fine weather.
YTD Totals: 4,251 km / 2,641 miles with 53,264 metres of climbing