Club Run, Saturday 27th April 2019
My Ride (according to Strava)
|Total Distance:||107 km/67 miles with 1,140 m of climbing|
|Riding Time:||4 hours 3 minutes|
|Average Speed:||26.5 km/h|
|Group Size:||28 riders, 2 FNG’s|
|Weather in a word or two:||Showery|
It was a bit showery as I set out and the forecast suggested more of the same throughout the day, so back to winter jacket and overshoes and, for the ride across at least, the extra protection of my Galibier rain jacket with the off-centre zip. Even if it wasn’t strictly needed to keep me warm and dry, it would at least give Crazy Legs a laugh.
I once again got caught at the level crossing for long minutes, until the slowest train in existence squealed past, belching a trail of filthy black smoke. Bad timing. It’s such a rare delay, but that’s the second time this year already. Still, at least it gave me a Dylanesque ear-worm for the rest of my ride across.
There’s slow, slow train coming up around the bend…
I think I must still have been channelling the slow train as I rolled in to the meeting point in an apparently desultory fashion, bleeding off speed and letting momentum dwindle, as I bumped up and over the kerb and finally coasted to a stop.
“That,” Crazy Legs opined, “Was the most unenthusiastic arrival I’ve ever seen.”
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
If my arrival was subdued, the Garrulous Kids, in direct contrast, was full of exuberance, swooping down the pavement at high speed, before swerving around us and skidding to a stop. He started visibly bouncing up and down, and immediately began to jabber away breathlessly .
“Whoa! Easy, easy! Down boy, down … down,” G-Dawg instructed, leaning on all his hard-earned skills and experience controlling a hyper-active pair of loopy Labradors. It seemed to work.
We were introduced to an FNG, who we then introduced to Szell, who had shaken off his torpid slumbers to return to us from an extended period of deep, deep hibernation.
Crazy Legs suggested that even if the new guy struggled, he would probably find himself in safe, steady company with Szell.
“What you’re saying is, I’m the slowest of the slow?” Szell offered in mock indignation.
“I was trying to compliment you!” Crazy Legs protested.
“Well, I’m not used to being complimented in this group, so naturally it didn’t register.”
Ride leader for the day, G-Dawg, outlined the route, which included another descent into the Tyne Valley, this time via a new, “hidden” road that many of us probably hadn’t used before. I was hoping this wouldn’t turn out like the Brigadoon mystery road Crazy Legs had included a few weeks back (Leeful Weapon). Perhaps this time we’d actually be able to find the turn off?Especially as G-Dawg promised it would bypass the ogre-molar speed-bumps on the Wylam road, that had so forcefully ejected my bottle from its cage on our last passage across them.
There was enough of us gathered to warrant splitting into two groups, but our numbers included a healthy contingent of Grogs, whose inevitable departure for their own, highly-secretive ride, was likely to leave the second group light on numbers. With this in mind we agreed a rendezvous point and general regrouping before the drop down to the river.
OGL meanwhile insisted on reconnoitring the route of the Sloan Trophy, before tomorrows race. “To see if anyone’s moved a junction?” I wondered aloud. Head of Marshals for the event, G-Dawg was planning on driving the route the following morning anyway, so didn’t think it was all that necessary, but it gave us an option for a slower, shorter ride.
I bumped off the kerb and joined the front group, the lights turned green and we were released into the flow of traffic.
I spent the first half of the ride alongside the FNG, a mountain-biker who’d found he quite enjoyed road-riding too. He seemed fairly comfortable with the pace and the novelty of riding in close formation.
We swung away past the airport and it wasn’t long before we found what looked like a narrow, farm track and started to head up it. This apparently was the mystery road. We’d found it. We pulled over and settled in to let the second group catch up, being entertained while we waited by a mad
March April hare, belting from one side of the adjacent field to the other.
The second group weren’t all that far behind and we heard them coming long before they hove into sight, a growing buzz of laughter and chatter. They split at the junction and the smaller part rode up to join us.
As the two groups coalesced, Carlton was disappointed to find Szell had chosen to ride the shorter route with OGL. Carlton was doing that thing all cyclists do, assessing the group, noting who was strong and, much more importantly, tagging those who you think might be slower than you. The worst and most deflating experience is when you realise you are the weakest link and it’s going to be a long, hard day. I think in Szell’s absence, Carlton felt he’d lost an important safety blanket.
We pushed on climbing up the track toward the crest, where we were caught behind 3 short, plump horses with 3 short, plump riders, a sort of rolling, roly-poly, road block. The ladies found a place to pull over and cheerfully waved us through. Bad timing …
Suddenly, as we started down, the narrow lane became over crowded, two cars travelling in opposite directions, squeezed into the hedgerows to try and inch past each other, while ahead of them a stream of traffic was building up at the junction from the main road, waiting for the track to clear. Behind us, the horse riders resumed their stately progress as the plug in the bottle, while in between, a long ribbon of freewheeling cyclists, pulled into single-file and tried to thread their way through the chaos.
“It’s complete anarchy,” the Colossus announced gleefully. Who’d have thought a few bikes and riders could cause such confusion.
We finally extricated ourselves and dropped down into the Tyne Valley. True to his word, G-Dawg had found a route that avoided the ogre-molars and it was smooth sailing.
Just before we took the riverside path we stopped for a pee break. The Garrulous Kid declared both he and his bike were perfectly and fully coordinated in shades of black, grey and white, before pulling back his sleeve to ostentatiously wave a sleek, black smartwatch in everyone’s face.
“Even my watch matches,” he proclaimed happily.
“So, a new watch then?” G-Dawg enquired casually. How on earth did he guess?
The Garrulous Kid then wandered happily away into a field to commune with nature and irrigate the landscape, before managing to return with a wad of indeterminate, green-grey crap wrapped around one shoe. It definitely wasn’t colour co-ordinated. As we watched, half in horror, half in amusement, he tried prising it off with a twig and succeeded only in flicking it all over his bike.
“You know, I often think think a club run could never provide enough material to sustain a weekly blerg, but I’m constantly being proved wrong.” Taffy Steve observed dryly.
On we went, starting the long climb out of the valley, where I found myself riding alongside Crazy Legs, who seems to be on the road to recovery. The A69 proved wildly busy and we had to hustle and bustle across in ones and twos. Mini Miss and Princess Fiona, scuttling close behind me, earned the ire of one particular arse-hat RIM who lean’t on his horn overlong and probably unnecessarily. I found myself visually asking him to complete a very short countdown with me, from two to one.
We decided to split into faster and slower groups for the run in to the cafe, with Crazy Legs encouraging the FNG to at least try the faster group, knowing he had the safety net of the second group to drop back too if things proved too hard. After a bit of prevarication, I nudged through the crowd and dropped onto Goose’s backwheel as he started to follow the leaders too.
Ahead of us Den Haag, Caracol, Benedict, Andeven and the Garrulous Kid had a sizeable gap and formed a tight knot as they pushed on without pausing, or looking back. For some reason, I thought the climb was going to be much longer and harder than it was and we’d have plenty of time to bridge across before the road levelled.
I was wrong though and we didn’t. Much sooner than anticipated the lead group crossed the crest of the slope and accelerated away. I gave chase alongside Goose, passing the slowing FNG who dropped back to be re-absorbed into the second group.
Uh-oh, I’d just lost the only potential safety blanket I had and now I was that weakest link. Or, at least I would be if we ever made it across to the others – that wasn’t a given as they weren’t hanging round.
I traded long pulls on the front with Goose, as we took turns spearheading a mad chase that was just one long, hard grind across exposed, rolling and heavy roads. 5 kilometres later, just as the front group slowed slightly to swing off the Military Road, we finally caught up.
I thought I would have a chance to rest and recover in the wheels, but the pressure immediately went on again and a gap started to open between the front three and the rest. I pushed through and worked hard to close the move down, but that was me more or less done and from that point I was just waiting for the inevitable coup de grâce.
I managed to hang on as we swept through and climbed out of Matfen, but then the group started to splinter apart under pressure from the front. Caracol and Den Haag rode away, towing the Garrulous Kid behind them, Goose and Benedict formed a chase pair that I vainly tried to follow, while Andeven dropped off the back, probably to give himself a challenge before reeling everyone back in on the hills.
I plugged away on my own, trying to keep Goose and Benedict in sight, but it was a losing battle. I managed to close the gap whenever the road ramped up, but then it almost immediately stretched out again when it levelled. I was tired and running on fumes now, still working hard, but conscious of losing any shape or form, with my shoulders starting to roll more than Bauke Mollema on an Alpine climb.
Andeven zipped past on the Quarry climb and then he too became only a fleeting figure, to be occasionally glimpsed as a prelude to disappearing completely.
By dint of being completely alone, I once more found myself leading the drive up to the crossroads in my group of one, so at least I kept that streak going. Then I was onto the last leg, skating through the Snake Bends and happy to find the main-road traffic free for my final push to the cafe.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
I joined a table with Goose and the Garrulous Kid, where we were later joined by Buster and the FNG. University accommodation became a topic du jour, with horror stories of harvesting mushrooms in bathrooms, or waking to find your sheets latticed with silvery slug trails.
As well as the standard agglomeration of empty bottles, Goose recalled the kitchen in his university flat was frequently characterised by a towering, unstable, ziggurat of dirty bowls, plates, cups and mugs, as nothing was ever washed until there was absolutely no alternative.
Meanwhile, Buster remembered settling into his halls, adding the piece de resistance, his beloved Jim Morrison poster to the wall and, job done, relaxing to read the NME guide to student living, where point #1 was never trust anyone with a Jim Morrison poster.
(My own mantra, which I hold to be true to this very day, is never trust anyone in baggy jeans.)
With the Garrulous Kid once more flashing his smartwatch, Goose mentioned how a recent study had found many were horribly inaccurate. Researchers had tested 118 devices using a treadmill to simulate running a marathon and relying on the trackers to measure out the requisite 26.2 miles.
It found that the least reliable was the Garmin Vivosmart 4, which had the poor researcher running 37 miles before it finally declared he’d completed his marathon distance. The Samsung Gear S2 wasn’t a whole lot better (36 miles) while the Xiaomi Amazfit Bip demanded 32 miles out of its tester.
Based on these test results, my fitness tracker of choice would be the Huawei Watch 2 Sport, The best, if you will of all bad timings. This demanded its tester run only 18.9 miles before declaring they had successfully completed a marathon distance – and in record time too!
A busy road on leaving the cafe saw me nipping out between our front group and another approaching bunch of cyclists. As we turned off the main road and all the groups appeared to coalesce behind me, I found myself riding alongside the Colossus.
“Looks like we may have some interlopers ….” I observed, conscious that a group had now closed on my back wheel and knowing the next bunch on the road had been another club.
I briefly tuned in to the babble of conversation behind me, “… although, that one sounds almost exactly like Crazy Legs.” I glanced back. It was indeed the man himself and not some long lost twin or strangely twisted impersonator.
I never saw the other group of cyclists again and have still no idea if they took a different road, stopped so we could regroup, or if we just barged them unceremoniously out of the way.
As we cut through Ogle the Garrulous Kid could no longer contain his rampant enthusiasm and flailed away off the front, to cries from Taffy Steve of “Ride Forrest, Ride!”
I seemed to have recovered from being the whipping boy of the fast group so pushed onto the front alongside Caracol as we started climbing Berwick Hill, picking up and subsuming the Garrulous Kid into our numbers as we sped over the top and started down the other side. We were still on the front through Dinnington, as we powered towards some temporary traffic lights, just as they started to change.
“Stop!” I said .
“Go!” Caracol called at the same instant.
Ah, fuck it! Go … go…
We ducked through the lights, pulling G-Dawg and Crazy Legs with us, but stranding everyone else on the other side.
“That,” Crazy Legs sarcastically complimented me, “Was the most decisive bit of ride leadership I’ve seen in a long time.”
What can I say. It was just bad timing.
“They’ll be waiting there a long while,” G-Dawg affirmed, “And they’ll never catch back on.”
“Well, look on the bright side, Crazy Legs told him,” At least you won’t have to race to have first use of the shower today.”
YTD Totals: 2,746 km / 1,706 miles with 36,410 metres of climbing