The Keyser Soze Ride

The Keyser Soze Ride

Club Run, Saturday 8th July, 2017             

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,037 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                26. km/h

Group size:                                        28 riders, 1 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


 

8 jul
Ride Profile

The weather forecast had predicted wall-to-wall sunshine, but as I stepped outside I realised the air was still surprisingly chilly and quickly ducked back inside to find and pull on some arm warmers. A quick squirt of WD-40 cleared up an annoying, squeaky cleat and I was off.

The ride across to the meeting point was without incident, until Postman Plod (the miserable sod) clocked me approaching a roundabout at speed and decided his carefully honed-Formula 1 race reactions and uber-powerful van could safely squeeze into the gap. There may well have been … just … enough time and space, perhaps for Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes-Benz, but there certainly wasn’t for Plod and his coughing and spluttering van, especially after his shaky, jerky start, that perhaps only Billy-Ray Cyrus’s lyricist would have approved of.

He lurched out onto the roundabout in a loud squeal of tyres … and immediately stalled. I slalomed round the van, stationary in middle of the road and gave the driver my most censorious head shake, which I’m absolutely certain had precisely zero effect.

The only other thing of note on my journey was a de-badged, souped-up, boy-racer saloon car of rather indeterminate make, that had custom alloys in a deep, glittery purple. Dubious. Probably expensive and worth more than the rest of the car combined, but very dubious.

I met up with the Colossus of Roads approaching the meeting point and we rolled in together.


Main topic of conversation at the meeting point:

The Colossus reported that G-Dawg was still away on holiday, in his element and thoroughly enjoying sitting in cafes in Keswick, watching the world go by. I suggested all he really needed for it to be perfect break was an accompanying bevvy of cyclists to sit around the table and talk bolleaux with him.

G-Dawg is due to return tomorrow in time for the club 25-mile time-trial. The Colossus re-affirmed he had no intention of subjecting himself to such pain and misery, suggesting he has the same aversion to time-trials as root canal treatment.

Talk turned to gyms, with the Colossus impressed he’s somehow managed to avoid paying his gym membership, while somehow retaining access. I declared my own interest in gyms can be placed in pretty much the same category as time-trials and root canal.

OGL had his own tale of the gym – recently having found himself on a static bike next to four professional athletes, who turned out to be Newcastle United footballers. They were also (according to his tale) utterly clueless and totally disorganised.

“Ah, that’ll be their back four then.” Caracol quipped. (Oh, come on, you’d have to pay a host of script-writers a fortune for a killer line like that.)

OGL of course, never shy in coming forward, had to point out exactly what they were doing wrong and ensure they all benefited from an unexpected and unasked for dip in his vast pool of knowledge and experience. Surprisingly, he suggested one or two weren’t particularly receptive to his input …

The Garrulous Kid took me to task for grammatical errors and poor spelling throughout my blerg and wondered if I wasn’t perhaps dyslexic. He suggested my writing is littered with elementary and unforgiveable typo’s, such as spelling maths as maffs and three as free. Shoddy, must do better.

With the designated ride leader, the Hammer unavoidably delayed, Big Dunc manfully stepped up to the breach and determined we should stick to the route that had previously been planned and posted.

OGL interjected with some scaremongering, suggesting any pre-designated group hierarchy, or pre-publicised route would see the ride leader legally responsible and liable for everyone’s well-being, conduct and safe return.

“Ok, then” Big Dunc announced smoothly, “This is the wholly impromptu route we planned earlier.”

 OGL then suggested that, as there were only 20 of us, we didn’t need to split into two groups.

“Huh?” The Colossus observed from his perch on high (atop the wall), “There’s got to be more than 20 of us here.”

“28 at the last headcount,” I confirmed, “Looks like we’re rounding down. Bigly.”


We pushed off, clipped in and rode out, but not before delaying our start slightly to deliberately manufacture several distinct groups on the road, maintaining the gaps until we were well clear of the suburbs and busy roads.

By the time we past the Cheese Farm, we were all together again. A bit further on and we cleverly stopped for a further regrouping, sprawled across the middle of a road junction (I’ve still no idea why) with seemingly no regard for other road users. From there we plunged downhill, before braking, almost to a standstill, for a sharp left turn that deposited us at the bottom of the Mur de Mitford.

On the uphill drag the order got all mixed up and I found myself riding alongside a girl I didn’t recognise. She told me she’d been out with the club on a couple of Sunday runs, but this was her first on a Saturday.

Originally from San Francisco, she’d been brought to the far more exotic environs of North East England on a temporary work assignment and had brought her bike with her. This was a particularly smart, vintage, steel Moser in blue and chrome and called “Peggy”. It was also a bit of a family heirloom, as it was the bike her mother had used when she had first started riding and had been in the family since new. How cool is that?

I noticed another rider I didn’t recognise, abruptly pull over to the side of the road.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“Just a puncture.”

“Puncture!” I instantly shouted, to let everyone know and stop.

“Oh, I’m not with your group.”

Ah! Infiltrator. Oh, bugger. Sorry, guys.


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At Netherwitton, we stopped to split the group, with most heading up the Trench, while I followed a handful of others on the longer route up Ritton Bank and the Rothley Lakes climb. Faced with his nemesis of the Trench, a climb he’d been complaining about miles in advance, Sneaky Pete immediately sneaked away to get a bit of a head start on everyone else, while I turned around and tagged onto the back of the group for the longer ride.

Heading up Ritton Bank, a cry of “Ease up!” floated up from the back, which was rather unfortunate as it immediately set Kermit off singing, “Ease up, Mother Brown, Ease up, Mother Brown.” Really, there’s no need for that.

We stopped at the top to regroup and pressed on, hitting the long, dragging climb up toward Rothley Crossroads, where the group splintered and it was every man for himself. Half way up the climb my Garmin beeped indignantly at me – I’d done 45 miles already and were still some miles out from the café, this was going to be a long one.

I hung around at the back, making sure we left no one behind, but needn’t have worried too much as everyone waited at the crossroads to regroup anyway.

Off again, I stayed with the front runners as we hit Middleton Bank, just so I could test my climbing legs. They were surprisingly still good and I romped up fairly easily (by my standards anyway) before pulling over to wait for our stragglers.

Others pushed on, while some waited with me, so we had a fairly tight group of half a dozen or so picking up speed as we made the run toward the café. As we swooped through Milestone Woods, Aether braked for a lorry turning on the opposite side of the road and I swept passed and attacked the rollers hard, managing to open up a sizable gap on everyone else.

Dropping down the other side, Taffy Steve led the chase behind, while I freewheeled as much as possible to try and save my legs for the final climb. I rounded the corner and dug in hard, but I was caught by Biden Fecht on the last ramp and we rolled into the café together.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café queue, I found myself discussing plausible deniability with Taffy Steve (I don’t recall why) when he injected a few lines of the Usual Suspects into the dialogue. This gave him pause and he then mused, “There’s someone in the club nicknamed The Kaiser, isn’t there?”

I affirmed there was indeed.

“You know who it is don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“You probably call him something else, though.”

“Yes. True.”

“Ok, but don’t tell me, it seems fitting that I don’t know who Keyser Soze is.”

Sneaky Pete appeared to prove he isn’t quite as sneaky as he should be. In the absence of her regular man-servant, Captain Black, he had somehow been coerced into collecting Princess Fiona’s coffee refills and he was now wandering around carrying her dainty, little cup aloft like a trophy. Charging it with coffee and milk, he checked to ensure it was an acceptable colour and he would be granted the royal seal of approval, before returning with his prize.

I suggested about 10cc of milk would be about right …

Out in the garden we were plagued by swarms of tiny black flies that seemed particularly enamoured with the colour yellow. The relevant bits of Reg soon became flecked with a mass of shiny black carapaces and one or two of the critters infiltrated my cake. They neither improved or detracted from the flavour, but perhaps the added protein was beneficial.

The Garrulous Kid appeared out of nowhere to challenge Caracol, “You’re from Baff aren’t you, or is it Barf?”

I tried to settle this issue once and for all, by applying impeccable (and therefore dubious) Sur La Jante logic, “Look, you never hear that Jesus rode into Bethlehem on his arse, do you, so why would it be pronounced Barth.”

“Ok,” The Garrulous Kid was back on track now, “Is Baff not near London?”

“Your right, Bath is – not near London.” Caracol replied dryly and perhaps a bit too cryptically for the Kid.

We next learned the Garrulous Kid had never heard of the Beach Boys, that “Good Vibrations” sounds weird and dodgy and that all the Beatles songs are rubbish. I’m pleased we’ve got that cleared up.

I did later find out that, before my arrival the Garrulous Kid was extolling his love of wrestling, which I rank alongside his other inexplicable and slavish devotion to things I loathe, such as Gordon Ramsay, The Hangover series of films, Bear Grylls Celebratory Island, Porsche’s, BMW drivers and the Young Conservative Party. It wouldn’t surprise me if he liked golf and tennis too, but I digress.

Intent on tripping him up, OGL challenged the Garrulous Kid to prove he was a true aficionado of the “sport” and tell everyone Big Daddy’s real name.

“Oh, you mean Shirley Crabtree?” The Garrulous Kid replied, without skipping a beat.

An obviously narked and momentarily speechless (no small feat in itself) OGL then countered with a demand to know Robert Millar’s new name, but was quickly shouted down by everyone for being unfair. After all, and to the best of my knowledge, neither Robert Millar or Philippa York have ever been particularly renowned in wrestling circles.


On the return home I spent some time with Caracol and we concluded that Fabio Aru had all the characteristics of a young, awkward, amiable and lolloping Labrador. Caracol conjured up a delightful picture of Aru in the Astana team car, sitting in the front seat, head out of the window and tongue lolling in the airstream.

It’s a heavy burden to bear, but I think the lolloping Aru and the often aggressive and cerebral, Romain Bardet might just be our best chance to keep Le Tour interesting in the face of Chris Froome, Sky dominance and the devastation of the sprint contenders.

On the last run before the split, Taffy Steve was asking what I had in store for the rest of the day. I have a fairly set routine on a Saturday afternoon that involves tackling the family ironing while watching cycling, or failing that a TV box set or two, Breaking Bad, Penny Dreadful, Black Sails, The Wire, or something similar. I told him today it would be me, the ironing board, the family laundry and the Tour de France Stage 8 from Dole to Station des Rousses.

He wondered if I ironed any quicker when the action hots up in the cycling – but sadly not, in fact the reverse is generally the case, which is why I’ve petitioned the UCI to ensure only long, boring sprint stages, or individual time-trials are held on a Saturday. Taffy Steve recalled an aunt who used to knit through rugby matches and said every 5 metre scrum heralded a staccato flurry of needle clacking and a sudden surge in woolly jumper production.

And then we were done for another week and I was turning off for home and my appointment with the ironing board.


YTD Totals: 4,294 km / 2,668 miles with 50,396 metres of climbing

Tricolore, Tricolore


The last time Astana had an Italian champion in their ranks, a certain Vincenzo Nibali, they made a right pigs ear of his jersey and were rightly criticised for a horribly muted, understated, almost disrespectful design that did nothing to celebrate their riders outstanding achievement.


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Great to see that this time they’ve done Fabio Aru proud with his stunning jersey that he showed off to great effect with a hugely impressive attack on La Planche des Belles Filles to take victory on Stage 5 of the Tour de France – an attack that was fittingly reminiscent of how he actually won the national title.

National champions jerseys are some of the most iconic in cycling and the wearer should be instantly recognisable. The Italian one is right up there with the Belgian and French ones in terms of class and style and deserves to be seen in its full glory.

Chapeau Fabio and chapeau Astana


 

TWOCing ‘copters and the consternation of choice …

Club Run, 4th July, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     100km/62 miles with 831 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             3 hours 58 minutes

Group size:                                           22 including the kids. No FNG’s.

Weather in a word or two:             Meh.

Main topic of conversation at the start: I was disappointed to learn that the Newcastle Chilli Festival wasn’t a chance for all the chilli growers in the North East to exhibit their prize winning peppers and compete against each other for “Best in Class”. Apparently it’s nowhere close to being quite as dull as a modern take on the traditional Leek Show.

With the Tour de France starting and already concerns about the Astana team, it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to le dopage in the peloton. I recounted Michel Pollentier’s legendary failed dope test at l’Alpe d’Huez – when he was told the good news was his sample was clean, but the bad news was that he was pregnant. Always worth a chuckle.

A quick discussion concluded that probably 99% of bike frames were made in Taiwan. A quick check of bikes found some are quite open about this, with “Made in Taiwan” proudly stencilled on the frame, others played with weasel-words, declaring things like; “designed in Germany,” but leaving the actual provenance of manufacture reassuringly vague.

“They’re all made in the same factory in Taiwan!” is the kind of argument OGL all too regularly screeches to disparage just about anything that doesn’t come from his own shop. Then again, where would you prefer your bike was manufactured – in an ultra-modern, high volume, hyper-controlled, computerised factory in the Far East, or in a back-street workshop in Rotherhide by some surly, anonymous, chain-smoking British bloke called Dave, with a CSE in Woodwork, home-made tattoos and an on-going battle with last night’s hangover? Just a thought.

“What kind of bike’s that anyway?” One of the youngsters then asked, with a vague nod of his head in the general direction of, well just about everyone. I did a quick double-take, looking all around in bewilderment as I tried to spot some stealthy, un-badged, über-bike. Finally it dawned on me he meant Reg. I’m not usually so slow on the uptake, but was rather puzzled by the question as my bike has “Holdsworth” emblazoned on it in big, bold, gaudy letters in at least a dozen places. We finally realised he simply hadn’t heard of Holdsworth, or their venerated and rich heritage within British Cycling. #Sigh# The youth of today.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: OGL gleefully recounted several methods for beating dope tests, the majority of which seemed to involve shoving something up your anal canal. Curiously he wasn’t forthcoming about his own personal history with doping control. He then recounted Michel Pollentier’s legendary failed dope test at l’Alpe d’Huez -when he was told the good news was his sample was clean, but the bad news was … yeah, ok, you’ve got it.

We discussed the potential for holding a race along the route of one of OGL’s magical mystery tours: down farm tracks, through gates and across cattle grids, while carefully negotiating flocks of sheep, herds of cows and their assorted effluvia. On paper the tactical nuances sounded compelling, with the breakaway hurrying to get through and close a gate before the peloton arrives. Much like fighting for position on the pavé, everyone would have to scramble to ensure they weren’t the last through and be held responsible for stopping and closing the gate behind them.

G-Dawg then recounted how he once bunny-hopped a cattle grid on his fixie, but foolishly forgot to pedal in mid-air, enduring a turbo-charged kick up the backside on landing.


ride 4 july
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

The forecasts all predicted heavy, thundery rain in the early morning, followed by increasing brightness that would finally morph into all-round fabulous summer weather. Yeah, right.

Sure enough I woke to a heavy downpour that sounded like an army of clog wearing ants vigorously enacting River Dance across our roof, and found myself almost paralysed by the consternation of choice: the decision between winter bike with mudguards or best bike was bad enough without having to consider all the clothing options for what promised to be a very changeable day. Having just “blinged up” Reg with new wheels and tyres however I was anxious to give them a whirl no matter what the conditions, so style won out over sense. (When was it ever a fair contest?)

I then eventually settled on arm warmers and waterproof jacket (bizarrely often referred to as a racing cape in cycling parlance, as if we’re all wannabe-super heroes), over my usual jersey and shorts, mistakenly leaving behind a pair of waterproof overshoes so by the time I’d reached the rendezvous point my once pristine, white socks were a very grimy shade of grey and I was in danger of developing a bad case of trench foot.

I arrived to find a smattering of winter bikes in amongst all the high gloss carbon, and a wide range of different clothing choices that reflected the same levels of indecision and uncertainty that I had felt.

The kids were out too for their monthly ride on the roads, including The Red Max and Monkey Butler, fresh from conquering the Cyclone. The Monkey Butler was complaining vigorously that his brake blocks were catching and to illustrate the point lifted up his front wheel and gave it a quick spin. It managed about a quarter of a slow-motion revolution before stuttering to a stop. Red Max tried to convince him such small impediments were character building and it would help him grow stronger, but finally relented to peer pressure and adjusted the brakes.

The Prof then declared he was ready to ride and already in need of a wee stop! With that as impetus 12 brave lads (no lasses) and a handful of kids pushed off, clipped in and set out into warm humid air and an all pervading drizzle.

With the choice of either shipping the jacket and getting soaked from the outside-in, or keeping it on, boiling and getting soaked from the inside-out, I went with the latter and stowed the waterproof.

Needless to say there was no right choice as the weather swung from utterly minging to barely passable and back again and we were constantly riding through an unrelenting, muggy and misty drizzle.

We once agian endured the dangers and depredations of the Great North Road Cyclemaze, emerging victorious (if bemused) like an all-conquering Theseus who’s a bit slow on the uptake. We split from the kids who went their own merry way shortly afterwards and we became a rather compact Dirty Dozen.

In between him calling for more wee stops than a dog with an irritable bladder in an ice-field full of lampposts, I fell into a rather bizarre philosophical conversation with the Prof about whether the Samurai Bushido code was actually a religion, if Catholicism was founded on guilt, all Protestants were unhappy and how you knew when you’d actually learned something. [???]. I’m still bewildered.


If The Prof. had his way there'd be a lot more of this.
If The Prof. had his way there’d be a lot more of this.

With such a small group we didn’t split as usual, although beZ flew off early to top-off his ride with another 100 miles or so. I was having one of those days where the pedals were floating round seemingly of their own volition and quickly romped to the top of the Quarry Climb.

As we pushed on toward the café though my rear cassette started to sound like a bag of ball-bearings in a tumble drier. At this point I vaguely recalled tightening the locking ring on the cassette by hand with the intention of taking the tool to it before slapping the new wheels onto the bike. I had then completely forgotten to do this and over the course of the ride the whole thing had worked itself loose. Oops. Idiot.


Medre! Some imbecile has forgotten to tighten the locking ring.
Merde! Some imbecile has forgotten to tighten the locking ring.

I dropped away from the lead group, more embarrassed by the awful jangling clatter than suffering any serious mechanical impediment, and so missed Taffy Steve claiming second place in the race to the café, only beaten by all-round Racing Snake and Pierre Rolland lookalike, Spry.

Finally, sometime in that jingle-jangle morning, I rolled into the café suitably sur la jante.

The guy who rode the Cyclone on a Raleigh Chopper pulled in as I was jury rigging my cassette with the edge of a multi-tool, hoping it would suffice to get me home with some semblance of quietude. I had a chat with him and he moaned that the rain had forced him to leave the Chopper in the garage, explaining that the stainless steel wheel rims make braking a bit of a lottery in the wet!

Once I split from the club on the way home I found I was being stalked by a Police helicopter that seemed to parallel my route. This always gives me a sense of trepidation as over-active imagination thinks they’re pursuing some TWOCing bastard in a stolen hot-hatch who isn’t going to see a skinny bloke on a plastic bike as much of an impediment to his escape.

Luckily our paths didn’t cross and they buzzed away as I turned for the climb up Heinous Hill and home. Finally, as I rounded the last hairpin the sun burst out in full, glorious splendour, the beautiful summer’s day the forecast had promised. Ah well, only 4 hours too late.

Until next week…


YTD Totals: 3,346km/ 2,079 miles with 37,158 metres of climbing.


[Footnote: as the superb* “Alpe d’Huez: The Story of Pro Cycling’s Greatest Climb” by Peter Cossins and many other sources make clear, the story of Pollentier’s failed dope test is completely apocryphal and totally untrue. He was actually caught trying to use some Byzantine apparatus to deliver a clean sample of urine from a bulb under his arm and was eventually left to produce his own, much tainted sample au naturel.]

[* Footnote to the footnote: I have to admit to total bias as the book’s centrepiece is the battle between Joop Zoetemelk and fabulous Lucien van Impe during the latter’s glorious Tour win in 1976.]