Club Run, Saturday 10th March, 2018
My Ride (according to Strava)
|Total Distance:||87 km/54 miles with 446 m of climbing|
|Riding Time:||3 hours 49 minutes|
|Group Size:||7 riders, no FNG’s|
|Weather in a word or two:||Hmm, wintry?|
It lashed down on Friday night and I awoke to find the rain still drumming impatient fingers on the roof and windows. It was going to be one of those days, but, at least it had one positive – it made the consternation of prevarication much less of an issue. Today, as soon as I peered blearily out of the rain streaked window, I knew exactly which bike I’d be riding.
I had a completely unmemorable, uneventful ride across to the meeting point. Later, when our group suddenly found itself battering into a ferocious headwind, G-Dawg was prompted to ask what the ride across had been like and I couldn’t even recall the weather being memorably good or bad. It just was.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
Jimmy Mac ‘fessed up to unfairly denigrating his Garmin, after switching it to “Super Power Saver” mode last week and then complaining that, rather than doing anything fancy, it had simply shut itself down. Hours after our ride it started beeping indignantly at him and he discovered it hadn’t actually turned itself off, had recorded his entire ride, was still working tirelessly away, only now was finally running out of power.
“Everyone knows Super Power Saver mode just turns off the user display,” Taffy Steve interjected, “Or, at least they would if they ever bothered to read the fucken’ manual.”
“Typical bloody surgeon, it’s just as well you’ve got nurses to keep you on the straight and narrow,” he continued.
“To be fair,” your average human-heart doesn’t usually come with an instruction manual,” I argued, leaping to the defence of our poor, beleaguered clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon …
Then I remembered this was the same clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon who didn’t realise you had to actually screw the end of a pump hose onto the valve before attempting to inflate your tyre (Radiation Vibe) …
Maybe Taffy Steve had a point.
G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid seemed quite pleased with their OGL-baiting on Berwick Hill last week, with G-Dawg earning Nostradamus-for-the-day honours for not only predicting the ensuing explosion on Facebook, but getting the timing spot-on.
“It was that last drop of red wine that was the trigger, it made him do it,” the Red Max suggested, “He was managing to hold it together, until the wine ran out.”
At that point OGL appeared, immediately and somewhat predictably, but this time entirely justifiably proclaiming, “Shorts! Madness!” as he spotted the Garrulous Kid’s bare legs. Trust me, this really, really wasn’t a day for shorts and it wasn’t even close. In fact the Garrulous Kid looked generally under-dressed and would spend all day looking cold and miserable, with legs like two raw slabs of corned beef.
His excuse was he’d ripped his pants. I don’t know in which of his numerous tumbles this occurred, but I can’t recall them being so badly tattered that they wouldn’t provide at least some cover from the elements.
OGL then roundly condemned and cast out all the heretics for their godless bikes. Wait!, sorry, no, for their guard-less bikes – only a few of us had switched back to winter steeds. It had, for example, proved an almost impossible task for Taffy Steve, who simply couldn’t face a return to the thrice-cursed winter-bike, even if it meant his titanium love-child had to suffer as a consequence.
The worst offender by far though, was the Monkey Butler Boy, who would be taking the club ride entirely on his TT bike. The frame had recently been acquired from Crazy Legs and he’d only just build it up, so naturally had to ride it, no matter how inappropriate it was for any club run, even without taking the weather into consideration.
I watched in amusement as Jimmy Mac’s Garrulous-Kid-filters got clogged and then, suddenly gave way under the constant, unending aural assault from the be-shorted one. Slowly, slowly, his head sank in abject surrender, until he was banging it off his crossbar to try and make the pain recede.
Luckily, G-Dawg interrupted with our route briefing for the day and we were soon pushing out onto the roads for some temporary relief.
I dropped in alongside the Ticker as we set out, ticker-less today as he’d gone for the winter-bike option with the near silent freewheel. We agreed that finding someone with mudguards to follow was going to be a bit of an uncomfortable lottery.
We also agreed it was much colder than the temperature suggested and he was, or at least his ears were, ruing his choice of a cotton casquette instead of a thermal cap.
It was incredibly busy at the end of Brunton Lane and we were splintered into several groups as we escaped the junction in one’s and two’s. We reformed and I found myself next to Crazy Legs as we passed through Dinnington.
He was pleased to have rid himself of his TT-bike, which he described as being as comfortable as sitting astride the narrow edge of a piece of 2 x 4 and with all the cornering characteristics of a three-legged, bull elephant on ice-skates.
He was, he declared “much happier with a strap-on.”
I think he mean’t clip-on tri-bars.
For time-trials, obviously.
A bit further on and I caught up with the Red Max for the full tale about how the Monkey Butler Boy ended up riding a TT bike on a club run. I learned that, despite knowing his good, summer bike was undergoing a full service, the Monkey Butler Boy had apparently stripped his winter bike of parts in order to build up the time-trial bike, like a voracious vulture picking a carcass clean. As a result, the TT-bike was the only one he currently had in a ride-able condition.
“He even stripped out the headset bearings of his old bike,” the Red Max told me, caught somewhere between condemning the asinine stupidity of the act and admiring its resourcefulness.
“Even worse though,” he continued, “he’s in big, big trouble with the Mothership. Those are her good wheels that he’s taken.”
“Well, it’s not as if she’s going to need them in this weather. Will she even know?”
“Oh yes,” the Red Max replied with an evil grin, “I made sure to tell her.”
“Anyway, at least his bike’s ready for his first time-trial. When is it, by the way?”
“Oh, not for five or six weeks yet …”
A bit later on and I found myself on the front with Jimmy Mac, just as we rolled past Den Hague, who had followed our route in reverse in order to meet up with us somewhere along the way.
Jimmy Mac invited him onto the front, he politely declined and then we turned a corner and ran slap-bang into a ferocious headwind and it became a hard grind. I’d done about 5 mile or so on the front, when Taffy Steve took pity on a tired old man and took over for me as we approached the village of Stamfordham.
The group started to split into various rides at this point and I followed the main group.
I drifted back to check on the Ticker.
“How are the ears holding up?”
“I can’t actually feel them anymore.”
“Well, that’s good, I guess?”
“I guess. But the only reason I know they’re still attached is that my glasses haven’t fallen off my face yet.”
We pushed on and as we approached Whittle Dene reservoir, I was laying bets with the Ticker about how many hardy fishermen we would find camped out on its banks in defiance of the overcast skies, howling wind and bone-chilling cold.
We were both wrong. There weren’t any. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. The weather really must have been terrible.
“Bloody hell, there’s white horses on the water,” the Ticker announced. Sure enough, the surface of our usually placid inland reservoir was wrinkled with foam-capped waves chasing each other to the shore.
A traditional stop just past the reservoir found others taking a foreshortened route to the cafe, the Colossus and Garrulous Kid amongst their number. The latter was probably driven there by intense cold, while I think the former was sent on ahead to secure a seat by the fire and ensure the ham and egg pie that sustains G-Dawg was ready and waiting for him when he arrived.
Our route became increasingly bumpy as we made our way up through the plantations, through Matfen and out to the Quarry. At some point Aether found himself on the front and in the wind for maybe the third or fourth time that day. By the the time we made the Quarry turn his legs were gone and he was trailing off the back.
We regrouped at the top, but it was going to be a fast run to the cafe and we’d be scattered again soon enough. I managed to hang with the front group up to the final junction before the Snake Bends, but was jettisoned at that point and so have no idea what happened in the all-important sprint.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
I found myself behind Caracol in the cafe queue, as he carefully weighed up the cakes with an appraising, keen eye. He wasn’t trying to decide which one (or two) cakes he was going to have, he’d already made his choice, now he was trying to ascertain which individual slice was the biggest.
His choices made, he placed his order along with the precise grid co-ordinates to let his server identify and corral his chosen slice. Aether wondered if anyone ever specified the smallest slice, Caracol just looked at him blankly, completely failing to entertain the thought that such insanity could exist in the world.
The three of us found a seat in the conservatory and settled in to enjoy our chosen goodies. Aether sliced into a cherry scone and prised out the sole half a cherry from the middle. There was actual cherry in the scone, so the name was technically accurate, but I can’t help thinking Aether felt short-changed.
I was questioned about not having the camera with me today and admitted the case was still bolted to my other bike and I would be relying on stock images from my club run archive this week.
I assured them I would have absolutely no problem finding a suitably bleak, windswept, wet and wintry image. They make up about three quarters of all the pictures.
Caracol suggested that cycling ranked in the top 10 of sports people like to watch, but conversely, was also in the top 10 of sports people couldn’t watch because they were boring and inexplicable.
I felt one of the issues was that riders are largely anonymous behind dark glasses and helmets, so it was hard to know who you were watching at times, something the sport never seems to have addressed successfully.
We did determine certain riders were instantly recognisable by their style or characteristics. Very tall, or very small riders seem to have a serious advantage, think Ilnur Zakarin and Nairo Quintana, while Aether suggested he could spot the flat-backed Wiggins from a mile away, or Contador bouncing on his pedals as he attacked uphill.
“Froome,” Caracol suggested and I anticipated a line about the ungainly lack of style, head down, jutting elbows, massive clown- feet whirring away …
“He’s the one running up the side of the road looking for a bike.”
Now I think about it, there are quite a few you can pick out from a crowd (or bunch) – Dan Martin’s pecking chicken for example, or Steven Kruijswick’s coat-hanger shoulders, Fabio Aru’s mad, mad flailing and Pierre “Roger” Latour’s manful wrestling with his bike. Still, they’re quite few and far between. Perhaps it’s time for dossard’s with names on?
The wind had had a seriously affected our ride speed so much that we’d arrived at the cafe late and were soon having to pack up and go, or face getting back late. I gulped down the remains of my coffee re-fill and headed out to face the weather again.
“I’ve really, really had enough of this now,” Jimmy Mac announced plaintively, as a particularly fierce gust of wind threatened to lift the bike out of his hands. “I just want it to end.”
We discussed his options.
It didn’t take long, there weren’t all that many.
He could either M.T.F.U. and get on with it, or retreat back into the warm, safe sanctuary of the cafe and phone home for the family “voiture-balai”.
But, I emphasised, without a serious, genuine medical emergency, or an unfixable mechanical issue, such wimping out was guaranteed to earn him an unwanted reputation and possibly a new derogatory nickname too.
At that point I thought he was going to try kicking the spokes out of his front wheel to fake an unfixable mechanical issue, but he finally resigned himself to his fate, swung a leg over the bike, and got ready to ride.
Sitting there, head down and obviously not happy, I could only think of one way to raise his spirits and motivate him. “I know, ” I announced, “I’ll get the Garrulous Kid to ride alongside you, that’ll cheer you up.”
Well, that got him going again.
Approaching Kirkley Hall and still running late, I decided it wasn’t worth delaying my solo battle with the wind and left the group to cut off a corner and loop up over the airport.
It was as bad as I expected, especially the grind up past the golf course, where I ticked over 65 miles on what would turn out to be the first 70 miler of the year. Then I crested the top of the hill.
Down in the valley the clouds had been torn to shreds and were being harried, hustled and bustled rapidly downstream. Once I got across the river, I’d have the wind at my back for a welcome fast run to the bottom of the Heinous Hill.
I just had to get there.
YTD Totals: 1,512 km / 939 miles with 20,404 metres of climbing