Goose Cuts Loose

Goose Cuts Loose

Club Run, Saturday 23rd March 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:113 km/70 miles with 1,279 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 20 minutes
Average Speed:26.0km/h
Group Size:28 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 11℃
Weather in a word or two:Picture perfect?

Ride Profile

With special thanks for an assist and full naming rights to Mr. Steve Britton


More schizophrenic weather to confuse and bemuse the best of us, but this time veering as wildly as the Garrulous Kid in a sprint, all the way across onto the positive side of the ledger.

It was dry and bright, if still a little chilly and with a distinct raw edge to the wind. Still, it was deemed good enough to break out the Holdsworth, despite a route plan by Richard of Flanders that was issued with the warning that one leg would be down a farmyard track and good bikes were to be used at the riders peril.

Some level of fitness seems to be slowly returning too and I was looking forward to completing a relatively long ride, in relatively benign conditions.

The journey across to the meeting point was without incident, or note and I joined the already formed nucleus of what would turn into well-attended club run.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I found Crazy Legs in the middle of discussing some of the finer functions on his turbo, “… and the blinking lights change from blue to red when your putting out more than 350 watts.”

I cocked a quizzical eyebrow at him.

“Or, at least that’s what I’ve read, anyway…”

The Garrulous Kid scorched in down the pavement, swerved violently to the right and came to a shuddering halt beside the grit bin.

“Just as well that wasn’t a turn to the left,” Taffy Steve told him, “or you’d have been in that bin headfirst.”

G-Dawg brought up the near sprint disaster from last Saturday, reciting the Garrulous Kids words back to him with a special emphasis on the last part, “Well, that’s what happens when you hit your knee off your bike, as you do?

“As you do?” he repeated with incredulity, “I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t routinely knee my bike.”

He threw it open to the floor, but nobody else seemed to think kneeing your own bike was routine and should be an expected outcome of sprinting.

G-Dawg then reported back on the Bullocksteads sports development meeting he’d attended with OGL, reporting at one point the Chair had politely asked OGL to pipe down to give other people a chance to have a say.

“Well, did he?” some innocent asked the inevitable question.

“Well, yes, for about 5 minutes, anyway.”

Apparently one of our favoured routes out of the city was closed due to building works and others were clogged with construction traffic, mud and debris. Taking this into account, Richard of Flanders went around canvassing opinion and trying to build a consensus around one or other of the alternatives. In this he proved about as successful as Theresa May negotiating an acceptable Brexit deal. He finally realised the futility of his task, threw his hands up in exasperation and simply told us which route to take. Benevolent dictatorship, I tell you, it’s the way forward.

Richard of Flanders, often referred to as ROFL in my post-ride notes, which I find amusing, not ROFL amusing, but still chucklesome (sorry I digress) then leapt up onto the wall and described the route for the day, detailing every village, every burgh, every hamlet, every ville, settlement, outpost and commune we would pass by, through, or around.

It was a very extensive list and I didn’t know that half the places he mentioned actually exist (assuming they actually do).

“Then,” he continued, finally drawing breath, “Crazy Legs will entertain us in the cafe with some jokes, before the usual route back.”

“Can you repeat that, with just the highlights?” some wag asked.

Crazy Legs glanced at his watch as Richard started up again, “By the time he’s finished it’ll almost be time to head back home,” he quipped.

“Hey! Save it for the cafe,” I told him.

We split into two groups and then, there was just time for the Garrulous Kid to eye-up Plumose Pappus speculatively.

“Have you lost weight?” he demanded.

Whatever answer Plumose Pappus gave was lost in a fusillade of cleats clipping into pedals, like pistol shots from a drive-by shooting and we were out and onto the open roads.


I slotted in alongside Ovis for the first part of the ride out, checking he was carrying his usual brick of malt loaf and chatting about this, that and t’other.

After a couple of switches on the front, we were being led by the Garrulous Kid and the even younger Jake the Snake, the Young Dormanator, off the leash as his dad, Carlton was away in the Lakes. After a stint of manful work on the front, Jake the Snake started to falter as the road began to climb, so I slipped past to relieve him at the head of affairs and found myself alongside the Garrulous Kid.

Here I learned that the Garrulous Kid now fancies himself as a bit of a fastman and apparently has developed a new sprinting style, with his whole body hunched over his front wheel and nose inches from his tyre. Hmm, I think we need to revise the exclusion zone and allow him much more than the regulatory 2 metres now.

He’s also found a new cycling hero, Super Mario, Cipo, Il Re Leone, the Lion King himself, Mario the Magnificent, Mario Cipollini.

I must admit I’m failing to see any resemblance between the brash, pompous, colourful, swashbuckling, controversial, flamboyant, smooth, super-fast, successful, always superbly turned out, stylish Italian and our young tyro, well, other than the fact that neither is perhaps as good as they think they are and they’ve both managed to collect an impressive array of nicknames.

I like to think I have a decent imagination, but when I think of the Garrulous Kid sprinting, I can’t say I’m even remotely reminded of Mario Cipollini …

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, though?

Now, that I can see…

I was so distracted by the Garrulous Kids revelations that I failed to notice a large pothole in the road and ran both wheels straight through it. Ooph! Behind me and following in my tracks about half a dozen other riders followed suit. Oops. Sorry guys.

Luckily nothing seemed damaged and we pushed on, finally reaching the turn for the Quarry, where we pulled over to wait for the second group, before splitting into several different rides.



As we waited, I caught up with the Colossus, one of the few still on his winter bike, which surprised me as he’ll typically chance a bike change in conditions I would consider marginal. He revealed though that it was only a logistical hiccup that kept him off the good bike today.

“Anyway,” he determined, “when the clocks go back next week it’s a bit of a watershed moment. After that, the default will be good bike unless the weather turns really bad.” Seems about right.

Perhaps the lack of summer bike encouraged the Colossus to head up the Quarry for a shorter ride to the cafe, along with others including G-Dawg, Ovis, Crazy Legs and the Garrulous Kid.

The rest of us were due to go plummeting down the Ryals before climbing back up toward the cafe, using various different routes. I turned around and tagged along for the longer ride.

A few people seemed intent on attacking the Ryal’s, but I was determined not to pedal if I didn’t have to, so tucked in low and just let gravity have its wicked way with me. I took advantage of a lack of cars and unimpeded views straight down the road, swinging wide across the centre line and running down the outside of our flying mob. I always enjoy this descent, and managed to top out at about 65 kph before sitting up and freewheeling as we started to coalesce into different groups at the bottom.

I like the climb up through Hallington almost as much as the descent, but Taffy Steve hates it and wanted to take in a longer loop around the reservoir instead, so that’s what we did.

As we started to clamber upwards again, Goose and Biden Fecht romped away off the front and I drifted back toward Taffy Steve, thinking there was just the four of us on this longer route, until more and more riders appeared and joined on.

I then found myself riding alongside the Ticker. “It’ll be good to get out of the wind,” he confessed.

“When are you thinking that’ll be?” I wondered, “mid-May?”

We reached a junction and regrouped before pushing on again. The route started to climb and once more Goose pushed off the front and opened up a sizable gap.”

“He’s flying today.”

Taffy Steve felt this probably had to do with him having pushed and pulled and grunted and gurned his way around all the winter club runs on his massive touring bike, the steel-behemoth, a.k.a. the panzerkampfwagen. Now with his svelte, carbon summer bike under him he must have felt unleashed and that riding was almost embarrassingly easy.

I pushed along on the front with Plumose Pappus and we caught up with Goose on Humiliation Hill. We crested the top and took a right toward Capheaton, pausing briefly to collect our group together again.

The road across the top here is fast, rolling and good fun, so we kicked up the pace and strung everyone out. As we worked toward the summit of one long rise, Plumose Pappus suggested he was just about on the limit. Goose wasn’t though and went romping on ahead and we couldn’t close him down until we approached the crossroads at the end.

Once more we stopped to regroup and determine what everyone wanted to do. Straight across, the road followed the planned route down to a farm track, while to the right, our usual way, led down toward the Snake Bends and then on to the cafe.

I think a few braved the farm track and reported it was a good option, but, with the hint of cake and coffee in my nostrils, I was happy to take the more direct run in.

We had one last climb to break things up a little, the short but steep Brandywell Bank, so I tried to select the biggest gear I thought I could keep churning over as my momentum died a horrible death … and attacked at the bottom.

It almost went to plan, but the gear was just a shade too big and I had to dig in and grind the final few metres. Still, I made it over the crest at the head of affairs and, without pausing, or checking to see who was with me, started hammering away down toward the Snake Bends.

I clunked my chain down the cassette and powered on. My first goal was still to be leading as we topped the slight rise before, finally, the road starts to dip. It’s not noticeable enough to call a climb, it just feels like one when your already dangerously close to your max.

I made it and as the road started to drop down the other side, clunked the chain down a few more cogs and took up position in the middle of the road, riding the white lines where the surface wasn’t quite as broken up and roughened.

Goal number two was now to still be leading as we passed the final junction and the descent started to level off. I made it unchallenged and kept going, hammering toward a puddle which filled the entirety of the inside lane.

I heard a warning shout from those behind which I interpreted as car back, but I swung wide, into the opposite lane anyway and held my line until I was past the water, before carving back toward the left.

This elicited a startled yelp from Biden Fecht, who I nearly put into the hedge as he was charging unseen up my inside. He was momentarily distracted and hesitated, as Plumose Pappuss jumped away on the other side of me, with Archie Miedes glued on his wheel.

Biden Fecht tried to give chase, but his moment of hesitation proved decisive and he soon sat up. Up ahead and despite extended spells on the front, Plumose Pappuss seemed to have the measure of his challenger in the final sprint.

The Flying Goose caught us at the busy junction through the Snake Bends and then it was back on pace, all the way to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Princess Fiona joined us at the table and expounded the virtues of an Open Water Swimming holiday, hopping from island to island, in Croatia.

This was too much for Taffy Steve, already deeply suspicious of anyone choosing to have a holiday that included physical hurt, ridiculous amounts of exercise and excess amounts of discomfort. He can’t for example get his head around our cycling sojourn’s into the Alps or Pyrenees, especially when we have somewhere nice and flat like the Netherlands practically on our doorstep. An open water swimming holiday somehow seemed especially mad.

The absent Carlton was mentioned as someone who has sometimes been known to tour the Alps by bike.

“He’s a mentalist too,” Taffy Steve concluded.

“I think they prefer the term psychiatrist these days,” I suggested.

“That’s going in the blerg, isn’t it?” Buster suggested.

(Well, I would hate to disappoint).

Talk turned to the Garrulous Kid with Taffy Steve claiming he was a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside a Castelli jacket. As evidence, he cited last week when the Garrulous Kid was unnecessarily ripping everyone’s legs off in a small group and then, this week, totally wimping out and going for the shorter ride.

“He’s like a woman,” Taffy Steve concluded, “I don’t understand them and I don’t understand him at all.”

Next to me, Princess Fiona bristled and sprang to the defence of women everywhere.

Opposite, Zardoz mimed digging a hole, while nonchalantly whistling Bernard Cribbens’ Hole in the Ground:

“There I was, a-digging this hole
A hole in the ground, so big and sort of round it was …”

“I’m just saying, I live with four women and they’re all bat-shit crazy.” Taffy Steve lined each one up in turn and gave us chapter and verse about their individual idiosyncrasies, complaining it was bad enough they were all bat-shit crazy, but even worse, there was no consistency and they were all bat-shit crazy in different and unfathomable ways.

Zardoz was still digging. Still whistling.

“There was I, digging it deep
It was flat at at the bottom and the sides were steep.”

“I hope you don’t talk to them like that,” Princess Fiona admonished.

“Oh, I’m forever telling then they’re all fucking crazy,” Taffy Steve assured her.

He was taken to task for using the F-bomb so cavalierly, while Taffy Steve defended his word choice as adding colour, inflection and punctuation, besides which, he argued it was almost affectionate in its deployment.

“You wouldn’t talk to your daughters like that, would you?” Princess Fiona asked me.

“Well, no,” I affirmed, “but they’d probably use much worse language to me.”

“Well, if my son used such language … I’d … I’d call him out for disrespecting me.”

“Ooph!,” Taffy Steve drew back in alarm, “It’s a bit early to be deploying the D-bomb!” Like going from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1 with none of the stages in-between.

Thankfully a change in topic was in the offing, as Princess Fiona turned to Plumose Pappus.

“Have you lost weight?” she demanded.


As we were leaving the cafe, Zardoz started asking me if I’d lost weight. I couldn’t lie, told him it was all down to the whalebone cycling corset and left it at that.

I caught up with Plumosue Pappus, who admitted to being a little nonplussed that everyone thought he’d lost weight, when he patently hasn’t any to lose and considers himself to have the appetite of your average student, i.e. voracious and perpetually unsatisfied.

Back with his parents for his postgraduate study, he’s intent on eating double his own body weight every day and recounted being caught by his mum making two sandwiches. She thought it was sweet he’d taken time to make a packed lunch for her and he didn’t have the heart to tell her that they were actually both for him.

He also said he was younger brother was much taller, broader and heavier. In fact, suspiciously taller, broader and heavier, to such an extent that Plumose Pappus wonders if his brother is perhaps a cuckoo, or has been adopted.

I don’t like casting aspersions, but did have to query if perhaps it was Plumose Pappus who was the cuckoo…

Anyway, he concluded that the reason people thought he’d lost weight was the switch from bulky winter jackets to thinner, more form fitting summer gear. He then decided that whatever it is fashionista’s tell their acolytes to wear in order to appear slimmer, he’s going to wear the exact opposite. So, I look forward to a range of dazzling, multi-patterned cycling shorts, chunky shoes and light coloured jersey’s with multiple horizontal bands!

There was the usual split on Berwick Hill, Plumose Pappus escaped up the outside to join the front-runners, but I was content to tag along at the back.

Toward Dinnington though, we picked up Caracol who’d dropped out of the front group for a pee. Over the airport, I hit the front of the group and accelerated, pulling him clear. He then took over to pull me through the Mad Mile at pace and catapult me on my way home.

Good ride, good route, good banter, decent weather and another 70-miler tucked away. Thing’s are looking up.


YTD Totals: 1,860 km / 1,0156 miles with 25,338 metres of climbing

Advertisements

What’s in a Name?


Sitting in the café and discussing cycling heroes, Crazy Legs said his all-time favourite sprinter was the Tashkent Terror himself, one Djamolidine Abdoujaparov. While I’m sure a lot of the appeal had to do with Abdou’s blazing speed, his ferocious, erratic and kamikaze bike handling and spectacular crashes, I couldn’t help thinking that his name probably played a part too.

Would Djamolidine Abdoujaprov have been quite so popular had he been simply Igor Petrov?

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov.  DJAH-MOLLA-DEEN AB-DOO-JAP-AROFF. You could tell just by the way Crazy Legs savoured each and every syllable and let the name roll off his tongue that he found the sound pleasing. He was even more delighted when Richard of Flanders asked what was his full name was again and he had one more excuse to deeply intone:

“Abdoujaparov, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov”

Oh, come on, admit it, it’s so much better than stale, old clichéd: Bond, James Bond

We then had a chat about the rather more unfortunate Bauke Mollema – who we agreed also had a great name, but for all the wrong reasons. In Scotland and throughout the North East to bowk has an unpleasant meaning and association – defined by Urban Dictionary as – bowk: To puke, hurl, or chunder, especially after excessive intake of alcohol, curry, chocolate cake or all three.

So, Puker Mollema then. Oh dear.

This set me to thinking how much of my own, initial allure to cycling’s was tied into the exotic, unusual sounding names of the riders of the day, Joop Zoetemelk, Giovanni Battaglin, Francesco Moser …

And we can’t of course forget Lucien Van Impe – literally Lucien from the village of Impe, a small and otherwise boring and unremarkable town in East Flanders. This sounded not only exotic to me, but also seemed especially fitting for the mercurial, puckish grimpeur who would “bedevil” some of his great rivals in the mountains during Grand Tours.

The fact that writers could craft Sun-style, headline-worthy puns to match, was just an added bonus – the most memorable from the era being, of course: Van Impudence.

While the foreign and exotic sounding names of the continental riders had an attraction for cycling waifs and strays on Tyneside, we also used to wonder what the continental fans would make of our seemingly mundane, Anglicised monickers.

For example, the local hero around this time was Joe Waugh – multiple National Hill Climb Champion, winner of the Mountains Classification and 2nd overall in the Milk Race, two time Olympian and a National Time-Trial Champion to boot.

Toshi San and I would often amuse ourselves trying to imagine the conniptions his name might give to Eastern Bloc announcers when he lined up to start in the Peace Race:

“Lay-dees and jentleman, from Great Britaniya … Jowee Waah-ooghah!”

We could perhaps forgive those in continental Europe struggling with the pronunciation of Waugh, but what about the rest of the English speaking world?

As a native of the North East, Joe Waugh was, fiercely and rightly, Joe Woff to us, not Joe Worr as the softy southerners would have it. Still it wasn’t until I started trying to figure out Australian Batsmen Steve Waugh’s nickname that I realised something was truly amiss. Tugga? Tugga Woff? What’s all that about then?

At this point I realised most of the rest of the world were simply incapable of properly pronouncing the name Waugh.

Still, even though perhaps we should have known better, we held the BBC to higher standards. It was unforgiveable then when Joe had a very brief 30 seconds of fame and was interviewed by regular Grandstand sports presenter Frank Bough.

Confusingly, Frank Bough’s name was always, religiously pronounced as Boff, which was kind of ridiculous in its own right and sets him right up there with Puker Bauke Mollema in my mind

(Again, from the Urban Dictionary – boff:  A term to describe quick sexual intercourse which includes the man not taking off his pants and a lot of dry humping.)

To have him refer to Joe as Joe Worr then, was, to us youngsters back in Tyneside an insult and an outrage and we were all willing Joe to answer, “Well, Mr Bore, the race was…”

Sadly, Joe was far too much of a gentleman to correct Mr. Bore. Or, maybe he accepted his name being mangled in this way as preferable to being known as Jowee Waa-ooghah?

Even today the tradition continues and there are riders that have an extra cachet simply because their name sounds interesting, weird, exotic or strangely melodious, for example I give you:

Gatis Smukalis

Wilco Kelderman

Sasha Modolo

Fabio Felline

Thibout Pinot

You’ll note I don’t include Tejay Van Garderen in this, although he has a suitably Flemish “hard-man” surname … but Tejay? T.J.? Really?

Anyway, I was reminded of my delight in unusual names during Stage 7 of the Giro, from Castroviillari to Alberobello. The highlight of the stage? An early break which featured both Giuseppe Fonzi and Simone Ponsi.

Fonzi and Ponsi working seamlessly together. It made my day. Well, to be fair it was an otherwise uneventful stage.


 

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Club Run, Saturday 16th April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  101 km / 63 miles with 973 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.7 km/h

Group size:                                         14 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    8°C

Weather in a word or two:          Sleet, snow, sun, showers, wind and hail

Main topics of conversation at the start:

I informed Crazy Legs that, completely out of character, OGL had actually been at the meeting point when I rolled up bang on 9.00 o’clock.

“So, finally kicked you out has she?” Crazy Legs enquired, but apparently this wasn’t the case.  OGL then began a long, rolling ramble to relate the entirety of his morning conversation with Mrs. OGL in all its infinite detail. Eyes quickly glazing over, Crazy Legs suggested there was a kind of sublime, zen-like perfection in one word answers and innocently enquired if OGL agreed.

The local, Tour of the Reservoir starts today, which I guess explains the truly shitty weather. I actually think it’s stipulated in the rule book that the race will be cancelled if it’s not at least lashing down with rain and blowing a gale, or if the temperature ever dares nudge toward double figures.

This video by Darrell Varley(complete with obligatory hailstones on the grass!) gives an idea of just how bleak the racing was this Saturday. A few of our mob were planning a trip to watch the finish of the race tomorrow, when hopefully the things will have improved (although it’s hard to see how they could get any worse.)

An FNG joined us astride a very nice, brand new, Dura Ace equipped Pinarello Dogma with deep section carbon wheels. He said he was a Sky employee and had won the bike in a competition. Nice work if you can get it.

OGL conducted a quick smuguard count, only 4 out of 14, but one of these included the Pinarello and we all agreed this was just wrong on so many levels it didn’t count. There was a definite feeling that fitting guards to a Dogma was like harnessing a thoroughbred to the plough.

In a complete revolution and startling transition the Prof had temporarily eschewed his small-wheeled velocipede for the Frankenbike. This had been freshly resurrected (yet again) in his secret lair/laboratory/workshop and transformed with a coat of light absorbing, matt black paint. The only splash of colour was provided by one single, bright red brake cable outer (he’d obviously been unable to beg, borrow, find or steal sufficient black cabling) and a large, candy pink rubber band holding his Garmin onto some kind of gimcrack mount fabricated out of who knows what.

There was naturally a great deal of surprise, if not shock by this transformation, although OGL’s suggestion that it could perhaps herald the emergence of a beautiful swan seemed a bit wide of the mark: you know the saying, if it looks like an ugly duck, waddles like an ugly duck and quacks like an ugly duck, then in all probability you know exactly what it’s going to be?

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

OGL mentioned Dan McLay’s incredible slalom-style sprint to win the Gran Prix de Denain (here) where he surfed effortlessly through gaps that didn’t seem to exist before bursting over the line with perfect timing – equal parts luck, indomitable bravery and unbelievable skill.

Crazy Legs was reminded of the photo that showed the perfect inverted V of Nacer Bouhani and Michael Matthews leaning their bikes over at incredible angle during their top speed clash amongst the barriers on Paris Nice Stage 2. How that one didn’t ended in disaster I’ll never know.


WATSON_00004522-002-630x421


This led to the almost inevitable reminiscing about Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, what a name, what a rider… what crashes. Crazy Legs related how his brother idolised the “Tashkent Terror” and how they’d made the trip to the 1992 Tour of Britain just to see him.  Spotted sitting dressed in full team kit in the back of a Carrera car with the doors wide open, our two intrepid fans tentatively approached and asked, “Are you Abdoujaparov?” To which all they received was a very blunt and very emphatic, “Nyet.”

This, Crazy Legs admonished OGL, was how you effectively master the one-word answer and put it to brutal and effective use to shut down any chance of further communication.

OGL trotted out a hoary old tale about someone ordering a custom built frame that he wanted to be the exact same colour as his … err… gentleman’s helmet shall we say. We argued that this would surely vary by individual, and matching with a Pantone reference swatch would be a difficult and unenviable task. I could only imagine someone going into their local B&Q store, walking up to the Paint Mixing counter, slapping their “junk” down (as I believe the youth of today call it) and suggesting they, “Match that!”

News of Phil-Gil’s pre-Amstel Gold altercation with a motorist in which he sustained a broken finger had led to suggestions he’d used a pepper spray that he carries when out on a training ride. I know motorists in our country can be unreasonable, but I’ve never felt the need to carry a concealed weapon. We did wonder about what damage you could do using a CO2 canister as a weapon of last resort.

OGL then retold the tale of a legendary local cyclist having an altercation with a driver on the Tyne Bridge, reaching through the open window to remove the keys from the ignition and casually flipping them over the side and into the river some 85 feet below, before pedalling calmly away. I like to think there is perhaps a small grain of truth in these stories, but like tribal folklore they’ve become somewhat embellished and exaggerated over the years and countless re-tellings. You can decide for yourself how much of this tale is true, or if you’re a Social Anthropologist, perhaps you’ve just found the subject for your next thesis.

OGL was also replete with all the latest scurrilous club gossip that we all seem completely ignorant of, or perhaps more accurately are luckily impermeable to. He described one of the girl’s changing personal circumstances, which didn’t seem to have made even the smallest, slightest ripple on our collective conscience. As Taffy Steve concluded the news was largely unimportant and irrelevant to us: “It’s not as if she’s bought a new set of wheels or anything.”


profile 16 april
Ride Profile


The Waffle:

Yet again cold rain was falling from grey, overcast skies as I pushed off, clipped in and rolled downhill. Is this really what they had in mind when they promised me global warming? We’re into April already and I’m still waiting for the transition to spring weather.

On the first corner bright patches of rainbow-hued diesel were blooming ominously across the wet tarmac like malevolent flowers and I slowed and inched gingerly between them, before hitting the straight and letting gravity pull me down.

Unusually the roads were quite busy with serious looking cyclists and I passed around 7 on my way to the meeting point, all of them heading in the opposite direction. This had me wondering if they knew something I didn’t, but I pressed on regardless.

Pausing only long enough to view the utter chaos caused by ever expanding roadworks where the High Street becomes the Great North Road, I indulged in a bit of alleyway rat-running in the narrow spaces between the endless lines of double-parked cars that horribly crowd all the streets in this area. It can’t be much fun to be a kid growing up here.

Arriving at the meeting point I was amazed to find OGL already there and waiting and other riders started to arrive in dribs and drabs until around 14 brave lads and lasses were grouped together ready to ride.

As an indication of how bad the weather was, the G-Dawg collective had received special dispensation to ride their winter bikes, no doubt having completed the blood sacrifice of several chickens, goats, all the family pets and perhaps even a blood relative to the Great and Ancient Bicycle Tree in order to receive its blessing. Despite the extreme conditions, G-Dawg still insisted on wearing shorts though, if only to demonstrate his utter disdain for the weather.

I was feeling somewhat below par with a low key headache that had been hanging around for a couple of days and seemed to pulse more strongly now I’d confined my head in a helmet, provoking a distinct feeling of queasiness. It was all a bit like suffering from a hangover with none of the benefits of over-indulgence the night before.

By contrast Goose was properly and professionally hungover, looking pale and tired and he would spend most of the ride hanging gamely off the back, somehow managing to drag himself around behind everyone else. It was not perhaps a hangover cure he would recommend or be in a hurry to repeat.


NOVATEK CAMERA


I bounced around a bit as we set out, chatting to Taffy Steve, OGL and both FNG’s. One of these I’d been expecting,  he’d recently moved house and left a club my work colleague Mr. T. rides with.  Now we had the chance to lure him away from the civilising light and let him embrace his dark side.

A sudden dip and climb out of a sharp valley had me swerving around the Prof, who’d pulled up to reclaim his Garmin after, in his own words, “the mount suddenly shattered.” I uncharitably translated this to the perhaps more accurate, “my elastic band broke” and then was delighted to learn at the café that the device wasn’t held on by an actual, fit-for-purpose, regular, store-bought elastic band, but rather a strip of bright pink rubber the Prof had “constructed” from a cast off Marigold glove.

At the split I then watched a post-micturition Prof, more familiar with  just stepping over his small-wheeled velocipede, struggling with the unfamiliarity of how to climb gracefully back onto his grown-up’s bike. I suggested to Taffy Steve we might have to start carrying a mounting block just to help him out.


NOVATEK CAMERA


OGL surprisingly had no takers for the amblers group and everyone else was soon grinding up the climb to Dyke Neuk. At the junction a few of us had to quickly abort a right-hand turn as a vintage car swooped too fast around the bend ahead. A few miles further on and two dozen more encounters with vintage jalopy’s heralded the fact that we were riding through the middle of the 8th Flying Scotsman Classic Car Endurance Rally.

Many of the vintage car drivers returned our cheery waves, some sneered at us with disdain while we giggled at their stupid helmets (no doubt they were giggling at ours too) – and I’m pretty certain a good few of them never even saw us as they thrashed along, peering myopically through their immeasurably small and restrictive windshields perched at the back of massively long, massively tall bonnets.

They did however provide an interesting photo opportunity as they passed one of our backmarkers, purely by accident the grime and muck on the camera case conspiring to give the photo a faded, old fashioned, epic feel, like some post-war Tour shot half way up a mountain. I liked it anyway.


NOVATEK CAMERA


The Pinarello FNG was really struggling now and we had to slow and wait several times, producing a strange sort of stop-start sprint. Proof, if any were needed, that it’s not about the bike.

As we pounded up the last slope I’d managed to manoeuvre myself from last place into 4th behind G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg and a rampaging Captain Black, only to be royally mugged by Taffy Steve on the very last ramp as I faded. The bugger makes a habit of doing that to me and seems to take a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction from it too.

As we left the café G-Dawg could be seen looking out for the Pinarello Police he was convinced were going to turn up with bolt cutters to unceremoniously snip and strip the mudguards from the Dogma, if not take the bike into protective custody for its own safety.


NOVATEK CAMERA


I found the pain in my lungs and legs following the sprint to the café seemed to have driven away the niggling headache and enjoyed the return home, feeling quite chipper.

Descending Berwick Hill we were treated to a loud horn fusillade as an overtaking RIM gave vent to his anger at being delayed by all of 5 seconds and I couldn’t help but laugh as, to a man and in perfect unison every single one of us gave the driver our biggest, cheesiest and most cheerful wave.

Splitting from the group I found the approach to the last roundabout before the Heinous Hill uncharacteristically snarled up with traffic.  I slotted into the queue behind a car proudly displaying the bright red badge of Audax UK – the long distance cyclists’ association, and as we crept forward by increments I had the chance for a brief chat with the driver.

He thought I looked particularly vulnerable stuck in the middle of all the traffic and was looking for a way to help me across the roundabout, but as we both finally agreed, things are what they are and there wasn’t a lot either of us could do about it.

Roundabouts and traffic safely negotiated, I thought Mother Nature had saved the final insult for last, as a hail shower accompanied me all the way up the hill. The cruellest twist however was kept for Sunday which dawned, cold but bright, dry and cloudless from horizon to horizon. Maybe next week will be better?


YTD Totals: 2,055 km / 1,277 miles with 19,089 metres of climbing