A Two Percent Chance of Rain

A Two Percent Chance of Rain

Club Run, Saturday 12th October 2019

Total Distance:97 km/60 miles with 1,122 m of climbing
Riding Time: 3 hours 53 minutes
Average Speed: 24.9km/h
Group Size: 22 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature: 14℃
Weather in a word or two: Better than usual

Ride Profile

Heavy overnight rain passed, but left a rearguard of sporadic, unpredictable, light showers that punctuated the early morning, occasionally sweeping past, before fading quietly away.

I pulled on a showerproof jacket as I left the house and it stayed on my back for most of the ride out. Dropping off the hill, I spotted a couple of cyclists ahead of me as I traversed the valley floor and gave chase. Always a good incentive to pick the pace up, and I caught and passed them as we cut through Blaydon.

Luckily, the stiff headwind that had blown down the Tyne Valley last night and that I had battered myself against on the commute home, seemed to have dissipated. It was just as well, as we were heading straight upriver, to just outside Corbridge for our annual club hill climb up Prospect Hill.

I crossed the river, turned my back on what little wind remained and pushed through to the meeting point arriving in good time.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

OGL turned up, checking we had enough volunteer officials for the event, before driving out to Prospect Hill to set up. Crazy Legs and G-Dawg had once more volunteered as official starters and time-keepers at the bottom of the hill, with Benedict set to provide timings at the top.

Mindful of typical Hill Climb weather (usually very cold and very wet) each had prepared appropriately, with Crazy Legs packing at least two jackets, while G-Dawg was wearing a heavily insulated, quilted winter jacket. Perhaps most sensibly, Benedict had a kit bag stuffed with warm clothing that he gave to OGL to transport to the hill for him.

Before leaving, OGL asked who was actually going to ride the event. Out of the twenty plus riders there, only Rainman stuck his hand up. The rest of us were all wimps, or had tried-and-died once too often on the slopes of Prospect Hill. (One day I might return for a final crack at our Hill Climb but not this year.)

What can I say, Rainman is either brave, or foolish. Or both. Then again he is Dutch, so maybe normal rules don’t apply.

The poor response caused a suitably disgusted OGL to wonder what kind of riders we actually were. Some would argue sensible and sane, but I know that’s a lie, so I’m not sure what the answer should be.

On other fronts, Crazy Legs was eagerly awaiting the publication of this years Tour de France route, primed for an excursion via camper van to the venerable Bourg d’Oisans campsite, to watch the pros take on some iconic Alpine climbs, such as the Alpe d’Huez, Col de la Croix de Fer and the Galibier.

The only hint we had about the route was a rumoured time-trial up the Planche de Belle Filles, or, perhaps if the gravelled section was used Super Planche de Belle Filles.

This, we quickly decided, was far too much of a mouthful for us ignorant and lazy Brits, so it quickly became PDF and Super-PDF – a diminutive that I feel is likely to stick.

I’m not sure whether his plans will need to change, given the subsequent unveiling of a rather unusual Tour route, that seems to deliberately avoid all the traditional, tried and tested big climbs.

With around 24 riders gathered, even if not everyone was riding the hill, we felt we’d be able to at least provide support for our Go-Ride kids, as they hurled themselves upward with mad abandon. I’d even tried downloading a cow bell app to my phone, but had to admit being unimpressed with its desultory, sotto voce, and unremarkably dull clunking. It wouldn’t get used.

With the need to get to the hill as quickly as possible, G-Dawg had us marshalled and ready to go bang on 9:15, although, as he rightly acknowledged, they (literally) “can’t start without us.”


We picked our way out of the city en masse and I’d pushed onto the front alongside G-Dawg as we made the turn toward the river. Just past the corner, Crazy Legs looked back.

“Bloody hell,” he wondered, “Where’s everybody gone.”

Our numbers had essentially halved. Support on the hill was going to be noticeably muted and quite sparse then.

On we went, threading our way through periodic sharp showers and bursts of bright sunlight, angling ever westwards, occasionally flanked with arcing rainbows that seemed to mark out our final destination.



Every time we were lashed with another sharp shower, Crazy Legs gleefully reminded us that the weather forecast promised “only a two percent chance of rain.” It seemed to be a line he was able to trot out on more than half a dozen occasions.

Down into the valley and along the river, G-Dawg found himself over-heating in his padded, quilted jacket and seemed to be looking forward to the odd, cooing rain shower, even as they became less and less frequent.

He checked everyone had the requisite documentation and inoculations, before bravely leading us across the bridge and into wild, savage lands, south of the river … welcome to Mordor, have a nice day.

We were on the final push now, pausing only to carefully skirt a devastating roadkill, an untidy pile of featureless, pink, blancmange like sludge, scraped into mouldering heap in the middle of the road. Try as we might, we were completely unable to discern any trace of features that would give us a clue and help us determine what type of poor creature had contributed its corporeal body to form this unsightly splatter.

Rainman roared off the front for an extended warm-up and by the time we’d reabsorbed him, we were at our destination – by G-Dawgs reckoning we covered around 40kms at a decent clip and in less than an hour and a half.

Perhaps shamed into riding, 7 or 8 of the seniors decided they would give it a go and joined the swarms of happy, excited Go-Ride kids, queuing up to sign on to ride the hill. Even our FNG decided to take part. Will he ever forgive us?

I helped pin on a few numbers, before making my own way up the hill to a junction about halfway up where I could provide some slight vocal encouragement and snap a few photos of the contestants for the group Facebook page.

It was great to see the kids hurling themselves uphill with reckless abandon, sometimes on their own, sometimes with parental outriders providing escort duties.

Cowin’ Bovril volunteered to escort one of the kids, acting in loco parentis and later admitted he’d had a good workout and he struggled to stay ahead of his young charge with the finish line approaching.

As the last riders came past I was joined by Rainman and Buster, both celebrating new best times on the hill. We made our way down to the start line again, where numbers were unpinned and all the shed weight (bottles, pumps, jackets et al) reclaimed.

We then just had to wait for Princess Fiona and Mini Miss to rejoin us. Neither had been seen since they’d finished their efforts up the hill, and had taken OGL’s advice on the best route back down to the start. They eventually appeared from completely the wrong direction, having been who knows where and complaining bitterly that they’d been sold a pup.

We then let Den Hague guide us through the tortuous labyrinth of Corbridge’s one-way traffic system, before we made our way to Valhalla, no, hold on, that’s not right, to Vallum, our cafe of choice for the day.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop

A quick check of phones revealed that Eliud Kipchoge had managed to break the two hour record for the marathon. You can’t help but be impressed by someone running a 100 metres in about 17 seconds and then doing it again and again and again, without pause, 421 more times in a row.

Spry, seemed slightly underwhelmed though, pointing out it wouldn’t be a recognised world record, as this wasn’t an open competition, Kipchoge was led by a pace car and accompanied by a phalanx of pace-setters, with bike riders on hand to hand over fluids as needed.

Kipchoge even had a laser directed at the road in front of him to keep him on pace, something I seem to recall was proposed for the Wiggins’ Hour Record, but the UCI rejected. (I’ve seen Cat#1 wildly chasing the red dot of a laser pointer and can confirm it is the most insidious form of mechanical doping known to man. Or feline.)

Anyway, we suggested that Spry take to Twitter to inform Kipchoge his record was worthless. Having already used this medium to allegedly enrage Elaine Paige fans as well as lambast Philip Deignan for having the temerity to marry Lizzy Armitstead, we reasoned adding one more mortal enemy on social media wouldn’t be too much of a burden.

By the way, can I please ask why long distance runners have taken to wearing arm warmers with a vest? At least Kashoge’s managed to match his to his top, unlike recent shocking efforts from Sir Mo, but nonetheless, it’s not a good look.

Meanwhile, Spry confirmed his single-handed, Go-Pro-armed, vigilante crusade to eradicate bad driving on the mean streets of the nation’s capital was going well – with 17 incidents reported to the police, of which 15 had resulted in cautions being issued. Not exactly crime-fighting worthy of a superhero, but you’ve got to admire his efforts.

As we were leaving, Crazy Legs vowed to hmm, maybe, perhaps, possibly, consider taking part in next years hill climb, before looking at me meaningfully, as if to remind me that as a friend I’d promised to never let him do it, ever again and I had a solemn duty to protect him from himself.


Leaving the cafe, we were soon skirting Whittle Dene Reservoir and, with the time already rapidly approaching when I’d usually be home, I swung off to head back down into the valley to make my way home.

The sky had cleared, it was a bright warm day and I had a good trip back, arriving just in time to catch the last 40kms of Il Lombardia. The Race of the Falling Leaves always signals the end of the pro-cycling season to me, despite whatever nonsense the UCI gets up to in the Far East. It’s a sign that winter is approaching and shiny plastic bikes are soon to be packed away until better weather returns.

Hopefully we’ll have a decent winter and there wont be too many interruptions to our rides. Still, I’m sure the Flat White Club is primed and ready if the conditions get too testing.


YTD Totals: 6,298 km / 3,914 miles with 83,003 metres of climbing

Draft Dodger

Draft Dodger

Club Run, Saturday 4th May, 2019

My ride (According to Strava)


Total Distance:109 km/68 miles with 1,214 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 6 minutes
Average Speed:26.6km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 3 FNG’s
Temperature: 12℃
Weather in a word or two:A chiller

Ride Profile

This is getting a little stale…

Another Saturday, another cloudy, overcast and chilly day. At least it’s not raining, I keep telling myself and anyone who’ll listen, but after one weekend of record setting high temperatures, we’ve now had several extremely cold ones, culminating in record setting lows. So, once again I’m bundled up against the chill and diving down the hill en route to the meeting point.

At least it’s not raining … although I am periodically blasted by billowing cherry blossom, stripped off the trees by the wind and hurled at me like a storm of confetti unleashed by the worlds most over-enthusiastic wedding guest.

Timing is bad again and once more I get stopped at the level crossing, but this time the train is heading up the valley and quickly rumbles past and away.

Over the river and back-tracking, I’m periodically passed by vintage motorbikes and scooters burbling away in the opposite direction. I assume they’re holding some sort of rally, but can’t find anything online to suggest who, what, where or when. A secret vintage biker meet?

Then I’m at the meeting point in good order and in good time. Here we go again …


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

G-Dawg is visibly shaken by the condition of the Garrulous Kid’s chain, black and glistening with evil intent, a thick, grungy coating of sticky black oil and accumulated gunk.

“It’s a black chain,” the Garrulous Kid insists, unconvincingly. No one’s buying.

It’s probably not going to cleaned until his bike needs a major service (considering it’s just had one, that’s probably some time in the future) or, he accidentally wipes it off on his calf for an epic chainring tattoo.

A couple of FNG’s or, to be more precise, an FNG couple, roll up to join us.
Double Dutch! They are adventurers from the Hollow Lands, perhaps drawn here by our sunny weather, gentle rolling hills and the general feeling of compassion and empathy for cyclists exhibited by the average British motorist. Welkom goede Nederlandse mensen.

The club is looking at ways to ease the passage of young riders from our thriving Go-Ride section into the senior ranks – as Big Dunc stated, if we can just bring half a dozen teens into the fold, we’ll be able to reduce the average age on club runs from 49 to, oh at least 48½.

To be able to do this though, British Cycling insist we have fully trained Ride Leaders (there’s a BC course for that) and said ride leaders have to have First Aid certification (and there’s no BC course for that).

“Don’t you have First Aid training already?” OGL enquires of Big Dunc,

“Technically, only in the event of oil rig evacuation, or an oil fire.”

“Well, that could prove useful,” G-Dawg muttered, once again looking askance at the Garrulous Kid’s oil clogged chain.

I complained to Big Dunc about the weather.

Ever phlegmatic, he shrugged, “At least we’re not in Yorkshire.”

He was, of course referring to the horrendous weather at the Tour de of Yorkshire, where extreme cold, high winds, hail and freezing rain have been battering the riders to such an extent that some of the women’s teams admitted to attacking just to stay warm.

We’re all watching, hoping for a glimpse of “old” boy and ex-clubmate beZ, riding for Ribble Pro Cycling and being paid to rub shoulders with the likes of Chris Froome and Greg van Anorak Avermaet. We can’t in any way claim to have been instrumental in guiding beZ from junior, to club-rider, to hardened pro-racer, but at least we didn’t irreparably break him along the way. Perhaps there’s hope for our Go-Ride youngsters after all?

Aether outlined the route for the day, including his signature Twizzel Twist, an odd phallic-shaped diversion, 5km down to the village and then 5km straight back out again on a parallel road. Captain Black speculated that Aether had been attempting some clever Strava art with his route planning, but had almost immediately lost interest when it proved too difficult.

A rendezvous point was agreed at Dyke Neuk and away we went.


I joined the first group, chatting with Andeven and Captain Black, before dropping in alongside a relative FNG who seemed keen to get more involved with the club. I learned I was in the company of another Dutch refugee, which if the pair from this morning stick around would mean that, along with Rainman, we would have four in the club. I’m not completely certain, but I’m sure that violates several UCI protocols.

We took the Twizzel Twist, dropping down at high speed with several of the group pushing away off the front. The FNG gave chase and nearly over-cooked it on a tight bend, braking furiously, unclipping and dabbing a foot down. G-Dawg swore he saw a trail of sparks where cleat kissed tarmac, then the FNG swung wide, off the road and through the grass verge, before correcting and powering on. Hey! Our very own Dutch Corner … and it almost gave me a Dutch Coronary.



Up toward the Gubeon, we called a halt for a pee, but the conditions were neither amenable, or luxurious enough for the Garrulous Kid, who crossed the road, squeezed through a fence and tried to pick his way into the woods for some privacy and a chance to commune with nature in splendid isolation.

We tracked his progress through the swaying of foliage, snapping of branches, a series of random grunts and the occasional startled exclamation.

“I’ve stepped on a fawn!” he announced at one point, but I very much doubt there were any deer within a thousand yards of his decidedly unstealthy bushcraft.

Captain Black wondered if the Garrulous Kid was recording his off-road adventures via his smartwatch.

“He’ll have a small Strava segment,” he declared, “And it will be small in this weather.” Ba-boom!

Finally, all fell silent amongst the trees.

“Ok, let’s go,” G-Dawg announced immediately.

“I’m here!” the Garrulous Kid announced, popping up suddenly beside the fence. Damn, that was quick. Missed opportunity.

Dropping down from Meldon, I swung wide and just let the bike run, new wheels picking up momentum quickly as I shot past everyone and onto the front. We swung left and started the climb up to Dyke Neuk and, as quickly as I’d hit the front, I drifted back, as everyone raced to be first to the top. We were stopping to regroup there anyway, so I was in no great hurry and followed at a more relaxed pace.

The Garrulous Kid had lots of queries about saddles with grooves and odd shaped protrusions. G-Dawg encouraged him to get a saddle with strategically placed cut-outs, suggesting he could then dangle his testicles through them and, whenever he was going too fast on the front, someone could grab one and give a little squeeze. Alternatively, if he was going too slow someone could “reach across and give him a little tickle” of encouragement.

Ahem. Yes, well … Hmm … maybe we’re not quite ready to include Go-Ride youngsters in our club runs just yet.

Luckily the second group arrived before the conversation had a chance to take an even more disturbing direction. Unsurprisingly, no one wanted an extended ride up the hated drag to Rothley crossroads and we all stuck to the original plan, but split into two groups.

I dropped back into the second group alongside G-Dawg and Captain Black and we set out for a run at the cafe via Middleton Bank. As we took the turn for the climb, we found ourselves being followed by a massive tractor hauling a large slurry tank. We were in full cry now though, speeding downhill toward the foot of the climb, so there was no way the tractor could get past here, or on the narrow ascent, so it would have to crawl up the hill behind us.

Zip Five took a flyer off the front, but I waited until the steepest part of the climb before slipping out from behind G-Dawg and giving chase, pulling Captain Black along with me as we passed everyone. We pushed over the top with a decent gap and then slowed to regroup.

As the road straightened to run past Bolam Lake, the tractor finally rumbled past, but to be honest it wasn’t travelling that much faster than we were, so we never lost sight of it.

On the front with Captain Black, we started to wind up the pace and were soon humming as we swept through Milestone Woods to the foot of the rollers, where … as foolish tradition dictates … I attacked. There wasn’t the usual out of the saddle flailing, I just stomped on the pedals a bit harder and managed to open a decent gap.

By the time we hit the second ramp, I’m usually a spent force weak legged, gasping and flapping like a fish out of water, but today the legs seemed pretty good, so I kept going.

I caught the tractor, just before the final bump and dropped in behind it as we started the descent to the final drag up to the cafe. It proved perfect for a sustained bout of illegal drafting and I tucked in tight behind the bouncing slurry tank, hoping the driver wouldn’t brake suddenly, or the tank start leaking its noxious contents over the road.

With the tractor travelling at a good clip, I was confident my mechanical assistance was going to make me hard to catch – and so it proved. I eased over the last section of road and let the tractor pull away, before swooping through the final junction, just behind the back-markers from the first group.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Space was at a premium in the cafe, where a shrieking coterie of middle-aged women had commandeered the big round table in the centre of the floor and were pressed in great number all around it. It looked like perhaps the most civilised (second? third?) hen party, ever. But maybe not.

A few of us squeezed onto a table alongside an octogenarian couple trying to enjoy a peaceful lunch. Sorry, citizens, we had no choice.

I caught up with Taffy Steve, who’d been riding with the Distaff Double Dutch and been teaching her new words to ease her assimilation into the clubs culture.

Having already covered off “knacker” and “minging” he was wondering what else she might need. I suggested “worky ticket” but (rather oddly) Taffy Steve didn’t think she’d have much need for such a pejorative term amongst our serried, serene and cultured ranks. “Paggered” the always erudite Biden Fecht suggested, a word I think he’s taken a bit of a shine to. So paggered it was.

Halfway through our stay, the octogenarian gent pointed over his wife’s shoulder and declared, “there’s a girly party going on over there.”

Andeven looked at me and mouthed “girly party?” and I only just managed not to burst out laughing. Luckily, he distracted me with descriptions of Spry’s new, all white Trek Madone. This, he suggested made his Colnago look astonishingly dated in a side by side comparison, but, he reasoned that, much like pet dogs, bikes have a tendency to grow to suit their owners. Or, perhaps owners grow to resemble their bikes …

Still. the ultimate, thousand dollar question remained – would the shiny, new Trek encourage a return of the white shorts?


We left the cafe and I found the Red Max, resplendent in a smart new winter top. He said he’d only just got it for his birthday and hadn’t thought he’d get a chance to wear it until at least October. It really was that cold. Later, Taffy Steve would echo the same sentiments when he asked if I ever thought I’d be wearing overshoes in May.

As we were about to leave, we found out Distaff Double Dutch had a flat. Most of the group pressed on for home, while half a dozen or so of us hung back to help.

Well, I say help, we actually huddled round the side of the cafe, out of the wind and called out criticism and helpful suggestions in equal measure from this surprisingly sheltered space.

Back out onto the roads, I had a chat with Distaff Double Dutch and learned she’s on a research contract at the University, so here for at least 3 years. Meanwhile, Dude Double Dutch was on the front, riding alongside the Red Max and the speed kept incrementally notching upwards.

Odd that?

“Is there a Dutch term for half-wheeling?” I wondered, hoping to contribute something to Taffy Steve’s cultural-exchange programme.

Sadly, there isn’t, but, when I described the phenomena, she instantly recognised exactly what I was talking about. She agreed that Dude Double Dutch was a fine proponent of the art, and yes, that’s exactly what he was doing at the moment, aided and abetted by that arch half-wheeler himself, the Red Max.

I sprinted forward and got them knock it off, well for a while at least.

We had a decently fast run back from there and I even had enough zip left in the legs to burst past everyone as we drove to the end of the Mad Mile. A quick slingshot round the roundabout and I was off and heading home, quite absurdly pleased with myself.


YTD Totals: 2,913 km / 1,810 miles with 38,425 metres of climbing

Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm

Club Run & Hill Climb, Saturday 13th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  105 km / 65 miles with 536 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 28 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                        8 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Delugional New word alert! 


 

Hill Climn
Ride Profile -(with obligatory Garmin in the rain brain fart)


Friday through to Saturday and Storm Callum was having its wicked way with the British Isles, causing mass disruption, extensive flooding and even loss of life. For the North East of England it meant rain and lots of it, incessant, unrelenting, unremitting and seemingly immovable.

Oddly though, the temperatures remained relatively mild, which gave life to this rather alarming forecast from the BBC, suggesting not only persistent, heavy rain across the entire day, but also the real risk of thunderstorms…


hill climb weather


The forecast appeared just minutes before I set out to begin my journey across to the meeting point for the club run … and not just any old club run, either, but our annual festival of self-flagellation, the Hill Climb.

This is traditionally a last hurrah for carbon summer bikes, before bad weather, rain, wind, ice, mud, frost and salted roads force a swap to something heavier, more sturdy, more easily replaceable and (unless you’re a complete madman and misanthrope) preferably with mudguards.

The horrendous weather then was at direct odds with the aim of selecting the lightest bike possible to hurl uphill in a very unequal battle with gravity. As I opened the backdoor and looked at the rain teeming down, up popped a Messenger feed from Jimmy Mac: “I have never been as confused over which bike to take out….”

I had no such worries, having decided a few weeks ago I wouldn’t do the hill climb this year, feeling a distinct lack of anything approaching “form” that had me toiling on even the most innocuous rides. I’d spent last Sunday engaged in a changing of the guard, putting away Reg and the single-speed and breaking the winter bike out of storage and prepping it for just this kind of day. 13.5 kilos of slab-sided, cold aluminium and steel, the Pug (Peugeot) shrugs at the rain and positively hates good weather.

It was gloomy enough for me to switch on some lights before hissing down the hill and starting to pick my way across to the meeting point. Having swapped bikes around, I’d only remembered at the last moment my pump was still in the tool tub in the Holdsworth’s bottle-cage and I’d grabbed a spare as I ran out the door.

Now approaching the river and 3 or 4 mile into my ride, I realised I’d also forgotten any tyre levers. I weighed up the option of turning around, but I wouldn’t have time to do that and still get to the meeting point on time. I decided to risk it, working through everything I was carrying and determining that, in extremis, I could probably use my house keys as impromptu tyre levers in the event of a puncture.

Luckily this theory was never actually put to the test.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

What a sad, sorry and small, wet and bedraggled group I found, huddling out of the downpour in the bowels of the multi-storey car park and chatting with OGL, who was about to drive up to the start of the hill climb to get things set up.

A (less than) magnificent 7 included our official start team of Crazy Legs and G-Dawg, those of us too cowardly, or too sensible to ride the hill and just three actual competitors, the Garrulous Kid, the Colossus and Jimmy Mac.

We determined that with so few contestants, we could just call the results now and didn’t need to actually venture out into the rain. We even had a contestant in each category, so not only would everyone “podium” for the overall, but they’d also be a guaranteed category winner. Final placings could be determined with a quick game of rock-paper-scissors, and then we could all ride to a warm, dry café and be done with the whole, horrible exercise until next year. Perfect.

Then Buster rolled up, intent on competing too … and he ruined it for everyone.

News had filtered back that triathlon-virgin, Princess Fiona, had successfully completed the Barcelona Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess event, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride and then a full 26 mile marathon. A fantastic achievement, although not wholly unexpected and all done in a highly respectable time of just over 12 hours. It’s good that she’ll have a target time to beat next time!

We hung around as long as possible, before submitting to the inevitable and making a move to head out into the all-enveloping deluge.

“Don’t worry, it’s eased to just a downpour now,” OGL reassured us cheerily, before climbing into the warm, dry cab of his car and driving off.

Ugh. Oh well, here we go then …


It was bad out on the roads, even protected by a rain jacket, on top of a windproof jacket, over a long-sleeved baselayer and arm warmers, complete with leg warmers and winter boots, gloves and full length mudguards front and rear.

Our would-be competitors, to a man shivered in shorts and were soaked by rain and road spray in equal measure, the only consolation they had was that at least it wasn’t all that cold, otherwise it would have been a truly miserable ride out.

Wracked by indecision, Jimmy Mac had finally resorted to a round of eenie-meenie-miney-mo, before choosing not to ride his all-singing, all-dancing, all-carbon, uber-stealth machine, but an older, slightly less-posh Specialized, complete with clip-on mudguards.

Riding behind him, it didn’t take me long to realise that while the mudguards were doing an admirable job of keeping his posterior dry, they were somehow focussing a concentrated and fierce jet of dirty water directly into my face.

While this was going on, confusingly and inexplicably, the Garrulous Kid’s mudguard-less bike was somehow producing no cast-off spray whatsoever. Odd.

Meanwhile, Buster seemed in two minds about actually riding the event, especially after I told him I would be sitting this one out, so he didn’t have the safety net of at least one person he could comfortably beat. (He did finally do it and managed a cracking time to boot.)

I swapped bike preparation tales with Taffy Steve, vehement hill-climb denier and unapologetically sat astride his ponderous, thrice-cursed winter bike, as good as an excuse as any for not even looking at Prospect Hill, let alone trying to race up it.

Despite carefully cleaning and stowing the winter bike last spring, he reported one of the brake calipers had refused to release and needed emergency remedial work. For my own part, the rear mech on the Peugeot had seized and had needed some coaxing back to life.

We finally arrived at the hill climb course to find our numbers bolstered by a whole host of kids from our Go-Ride section, bright, cheerful and chatty and seemingly looking forward to their ordeal.

In all 23 brave, brave souls would hurl themselves up the hill, including the four condemned we’d escorted to their fate, Ion, who’d ridden up on his own and Kermit, who’d sensibly travelled there by car.

The competitors signed on and I helped Buster pin his number onto his back. There was no escape now. He then realised he couldn’t get his chain onto the big sprocket and enlisted OGL’s help, at the expense of having his wheel bearings roundly and roughly condemned. It’s the price you have to pay.

Ion was wearing strange, waterproof, baggy, knee-length shorts that he insisted were the next big thing. Hmm, I’m not so sure. He wondered aloud if there were any “gamers” present who might steal his title.

I thought he was asking for tips, and gave him my sage advice – “don’t bother”- before suggesting the only gamer was him, having signed up to another club to support his racing ambitions. He now has dual-club membership, much to the (very obvious) and (completely irrational) disgust of OGL.

With final preparations underway and the first rider already off and tackling the climb, I started to ride up the hill to seek out a good vantage point. I found myself following the second rider off, one of the young, Go-Ride girls, and I saw first-hand that this hill was a real and imposing test for some of the youngsters, as she struggled mightily just to keep the pedals turning over on the first and steepest ramps.

About a third of the way up, I stopped at a junction and joined an Irish Dad waiting to support his son’s ride, thinking I could do a bit of traffic control as well as cheer on the riders winching themselves up the slope.

It was great watching some of the young kids tackling the climb, all different shapes, ages, sizes and abilities, some on mountain bikes, some with a parental outrider as escort, some struggling mightily, but refusing to give in and others zipping up, apparently without a care in the world.

One or two were so unaffected by their efforts they had the breath to thank me for cheering them on!


IMG_0392
The future is bright…


Ion went storming up, followed by his only serious contender, junior European triathlon championship winner, Dan-Di who I felt looked more ragged and not as fast. So it was to prove, with Ion pipping Dan-Di to the win, but by only a handful of seconds, proving that appearances can be deceptive.

Irish Dad cheered his son through and set off walking to the top of the hill to meet him at the finish, while I took up the role of impromptu event photographer, achieving several impressive and impromptu close-ups of my own thumb.

As I watched one of the tiny girls struggle slowly upwards, weaving from side to side and with her dad as an outrider, a car approached from behind me, aiming to head down the hill, straight into the riders hauling their way up.

I waved the car to a stop and was relieved when they seemed patient, good-natured and happy to wait, hanging well back from the junction. The girl and dad passed, but Jimmy Mac was in sight and chasing hard after her. I held the car a few more moments to let him past, then waved it on with a big thumbs up. A patient, considerate and amicable driver? What’s the world coming to?

We were into a straight run of seniors now, the Colossus guffawing as I gave him my best Zardoz impersonation, complete with inspirational lying: “You’re catching them!” and “Come on, only one more corner!”

Next up was Buster, complaining loudly that his legs were already shot and his entire ride was a disaster. (They weren’t. It wasn’t).

Kermit whipped through, game-face on and concentrating hard and then it was our last man, the Garrulous Kid, who went past grinning beatifically, as if he was actually enjoying the moment and had entered a transcendent state of grace!

As the last rider disappeared around the bend, I picked my way to the bottom of the hill to find our starting team, G-Dawg and Crazy Legs, chilled through and visibly shivering. Taffy Steve took Crazy Legs off to find a café and pour hot drinks into him, while I waited for the others to coalesce, so we could hand back various bits of “deadweight” they’d jettisoned into our care.

Buster arrived looking like he’d aged 10 years in 10 minutes, perhaps a lesser version of what Crazy Legs sees in my face after the hill climb, when he’s wont to compare me to a wasted, grey-faced, shambling zombie, or John Major – whichever of them you find the most disturbing. (It’s close, but for me John Major just about shades it.)

We then followed G-Dawg to the chosen café – this year thankfully without the extended guided (de)tour around the entire outer suburbs of Corbridge.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A new café means a new choice of cakes and my eye was immediately drawn to a massive slab of Lemon Meringue pie – which turned out to be so big that Crazy Legs felt the need to take a photo of it, giving me flashbacks to almost every family meal out, where my daughters seem compelled to photograph each and every dish that’s put in front of them and woe betide anyone who takes a mouthful before the perfect picture has been composed. I’m simply too old to understand any of this malarkey and, you know what … I don’t care.

The lemon meringue pie was good, but I realised, when I was about halfway through, it was much, much too big for a single person to manage. I finished it anyway and I somehow tucked the last morsel away without initiating a Mr. Creosote moment – sheesh, and those fellers thought the hill climb was hard!

(I chuckled, but was largely unsurprised to later find that the Strava segment leading up to the café was titled Lemon Meringue Pie, Please, in tribute to this monstrosity.)

Talk turned to the clubs Annual Christmas Dinner and awards ceremony, with Crazy Legs happy to point out that since Ion won both our time-trial and hill climb events, OGL would have to acknowledge the “turncoats” achievements through ferociously clenched teeth. I proposed we added to OGL’s chagrin by going for the full sweep of awards and nominating Ion for the most improved rider award too.

Crazy Legs then related a train journey he’d recently made where he’d been royally entertained by a random encounter with a really, really weird fellow traveller. (Trust me, if a regular member of a cycling club describes someone else as really weird, then that person’s weirdness must be truly off the charts.)

Apparently, this particular fellow traveller didn’t get off to a good start when she declared she was a whale aficionado, but challenged to name her favourite, could only come up with an Orca. This, clever fellow that he is, Crazy Legs knew wasn’t actually a whale at all, just a very big, very angry dolphin on steroids.

She then revealed her pièce de résistance though, an odd affection and perverse interest in container ships, which she’d travel far and wide to look at. And just container ships mind you, not all ships, nor merchant ships in general. Not tankers, nor freighters, or ferries, not reefers, or ro-ro’s … just container ships. Apparently, it had something to do with how the containers all align when fully loaded.

Isn’t the world a many splendoured thing?


We left the café to find the rain was actually starting to ease and off we went. “Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac started the mantra a few miles in, soaked through and looking forward to finally finishing the ride and getting in a hot shower.

“Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac repeated yet again and he was partially rewarded when G-Dawg finally acknowledged, “Just one more hill to go.” Well, for some anyway. Everyone slowed to take a sharp left, but my path led straight on and as the road dropped away downhill before starting to climb again, I waved everyone else off and kicked on.

The rain had stopped and the hedgerows seemed alive with chattering birds celebrating, or maybe just idly commentating on the astonishing amounts of rain that had fallen in the past 6 hours.

The rain had stopped, but a troubling wind had sprung up in its place and I watched as a crow hung in the air, beating its wings slowly and ponderously, going precisely nowhere, before giving up, dipping a wing and sliding away to one side.

Oh well, it wasn’t like I was in a rush to avoid any bad weather …


YTD Totals: 5,956 km / 3,701 miles with 71,525 metres of climbing

Gategate

Gategate

Club Run, Saturday 23rd September, 2017            

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  109 km / 68 miles with 1,133 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 22 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         21 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


23 sept
Ride Profile


The Ride:

Following on from the original Watergate scandal we’ve all had to endure a ton of utterly dumb, lazy, banal and wholly unoriginal journalistic misappropriations of the -gate suffix, you know, Contragate, Deflategate, Pizzagate, Squidgygate, et al, etc. etc. ad nauseam. So, ladies and gentleman, proving I can be just as dumb, lazy, banal and as frighteningly unoriginal as a paid, professional journalist – (was there ever any doubt?) – I hereby give you the scandal that is … Gategate.

Who’d have thought we’d be heading for such controversy on an innocuous Saturday morning that was warmer than last week and by all accounts would be a lot drier too. As I dropped downhill, the sky over the valley was striated like a layer cake, dark landscape, a band of clear air and a high altitude cap of cloudy grey, seemingly providing a layer of insulation to keep the temperature high.

It was warm enough to make me think the combination of long-sleeved base layer and windproof jacket was overkill – and it wasn’t long before the gloves came off, literally and metaphorically.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve organised and promoted a faster, longer “training ride” which leaves the meeting point early to avoid confusion with the regular club run. This week’s run had been planned and was being led by Benedict and I was at the meeting point early enough to see the group gradually coalesce before they set off.

“Remember”, Benedict told me, tapping the side of his nose with a long digit “You didn’t see us and we weren’t here.”

“I am Spartacus,” the Prof offered, “You can be Spartacus too,” he told the Red Max, inviting him to join the training ride revolution.

“Err, no thanks,” Red Max explained, “It doesn’t end well for Spartacus. I’ve read the book …”

“Seen the film …” I added

“And got the T-shirt,” the Prof concluded.

Then, with the pistol shot report of cleats clicking into pedals, the whirr of high-speed wheels and a mighty, “Hi-ho, Silver!” (ok, I may have made that last bit up) they were gone. Almost as if they’d never been there…

As one group leader departed, another emerged: Crazy Legs sporting one of the sleekest, most luxurious and magnificent Van Dyke beards anyone could hope to grow in just seven days, ably fulfilling last week’s directive that the ride leader needed to be be-whiskered to signal his status to the rest of the group.

After studying Crazy Legs carefully for a minute or two, the ever-astute Garrulous Kid made a shock revelation. “That’s not a real beard,” he declared, somewhat hesitantly and we all stepped back in amazement, wondering how we’d been so easily duped.

Crazy Legs coughed up and spat out a fake hairball, before outlining our route for the day, which as a novelty and in preparation for the club hill climb, would see us reverse a familiar route in order to ride up the Ryals.

He got the tacit agreement that OGL would lead a shorter ride, avoiding the Ryals altogether, something OGL seemed more than keen to do as he appeared to be suffering from an immense hangover.

The Garrulous Kid himself keeps threatening to devise, post-up and lead a ride, if only he can overcome the twin barriers of growing facial hair and over-coming his disdain for Facebook, which “is rubbish” that “nobody ever uses.”

Knowing his aversion to cornering, G-Dawg wondered what sort of route the Garrulous Kid would devise, suggesting perhaps, “25 miles, straight up the A1 and then back again.”

I felt that he favoured right turns more than left, so perhaps just a big loop heading out east, then turning north, then swinging to the west before turning south and heading back to the start. We await actual further development with interest.

At the appointed time, Crazy Legs carefully peeled-off and pocketed his beard before he ingested anymore, or it became basted in sweat and spit, blew off his face and slapped some unfortunate rider behind like a wet kipper.

By removing his beard he at least earned the approval of ex old-school pro Walter Planckaert, the boss of professional cycling team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, who has taken the unusual step of banning beards – and not just in the men’s team.

He defended his decision in the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad by insisting the ban was in order to maintain “the elegance of cycling”. I have to admit, I’m kind of sympathetic to his views – must be an age thing.

Anyhoo, the Planckaert-approved, now clean-shaven Crazy Legs then clipped in, pushed off and led us all out. A quick wave to Richard of Flanders heading in the opposite direction to coach the Go-Ride youngsters and we were soon out and onto the open roads.


Things seemed to be going smoothly until we passed through Ponteland and took a left onto country lanes. It wasn’t long before a fusillade of censorious shouting erupted from the back of the pack, the upshot apparently being that we needed to ease up on the pace.

More over-the-top shouting, screaming and swearing followed, as apparently we were still going too fast. Hmm, someone wasn’t happy back there. One minute Ovis was commenting on what an unusually good road surface we were riding over, the next, instead of enjoying it, we were soft-pedalling, and freewheeling along while being aurally lambasted for who knows what.

Yet more totally incoherent and unnecessary shouting had Taffy Steve demanding to know “what the fuck all the shouting was about?” and could he please have a simple, understandable and legible instruction about what we were doing.

Calls from behind seemed to suggest there was a dire need to stop and not knowing what was happening, if we’d had a puncture, a mechanical or some other issue, I called for the halt. At a convenient entrance to a field, the front of the group pulled to the side of the road and tried to find out what was happening behind.

It transpired the frantic, over-the-top ear-bashing was because OGL wanted a pee stop, but now apparently we’d stopped at “the wrong fuggen’ gate” that wasn’t our “usual fuggen’ pee stop”. He rode past us and off down the lane in a fit of pique.

Those who needed to pee had a pee – at the wrong fuggen’ gate – and we then re-assembled the group and pressed on. A bit further on we passed the right fuggen’ gate that was our “usual” fuggen pee stop. Here all the die-hard traditionalists and ultra-conservatives amongst us had the opportunity to uphold the moral order and do things properly and with great dignity … despite the fact that a large white Range Rover was parked up in this field and they had an audience of perhaps less than delighted onlookers.

No matter what, Crazy Legs was determined to keep the whole group together, so he had us slow and soft-pedal until everyone was finally back on.


beardon reardon


We pushed on and I found myself in conversation with Cowin’ Bovril, missing for the past month or so because he’d been off working in France. We were chatting unconcernedly away, slowing as we approached a junction, when with a loud bang I put my front wheel through a large pothole in the road that I didn’t notice until I’d ridden through it.

We pulled around the corner and Cowin’ Bovril cast a critical eye over my tyre and suggested a pinch puncture. We stopped and I prodded the offending rubber with a thumb, just to confirm it was definitely going squishy.

The tube was repaired in short order, with OGL lending his super-strong hands and pincer like grip to rolling the tyre back onto the rim. A quick workout with my pump soon had the tyre inflated enough to get me around (as usual a rather paltry 50 psi when I checked with the track pump at home) and then we were off again.

I drifted slowly toward the back of the group just to keep an eye on any strugglers or stragglers and had a grandstand view as a car sped toward us, the driver rather deliberately ignoring Zardoz’s frantic signals for it to slow down. As the car zipped past, much too fast and much too close, Zardoz reached out and deftly twanged his wing mirror in rebuke. A mixture of shock, disbelief and outrage warred for dominance on the drivers face, as he finally slowed to try and work out what had just happened and if his precious car had been damaged. Arse hat.

The group split with OGL leading a splinter cell of on a wander, I guess just about anywhere as long as it avoided the Ryals, while the rest of us took to roads which were familiar, but we were now doing in reverse order.

We picked our way up through Hallington on the narrow, tree-shaded lane, carefully slaloming around pots and gravel and tussocks of grass, ruts and leaves and twigs, rattling down the final incline to the junction. From here we swung left, straight onto the heavy, grippy and draggy rises that presage the Ryals proper, draining any speed you want to carry onto the climb and draining your legs of any zip.

I think part of the reason the Ryals are seen as such a difficult climb is how they look as you approach, seeming to rise up like a wall and lour over you from a distance. Still, they’re relatively short, about 1.5km with an average gradient of about 5%. Get over the first and hardest ramp, where the gradient maxes out at about 19% and then there’s a short, flattish respite before you tackle the longer, but easier second ramp.

I did my best to roll up to the base of the climb, starting to pass a few flaggers, before the slope bit and I eased out of the saddle and worked my way upwards. Not surprisingly the climb is a lot easier without the 70 odd miles or so that precede them on the Cyclone route. I managed a personal best that might be difficult to better the next time I tackle the climb, which will invariably be during the next Cyclone.

We partially regrouped over the top and rolled down toward the Quarry Climb, giving the back markers a chance to re-join. I stomped up the Quarry and swung right, everyone following except the Garrulous Kid who went left, probably so he could try and beat himself in the sprint.

I slowed to wait, but a group of Jimmy Mac, Ovis and the Red Max darted away and began the race to the café, G-Dawg accelerated to reel them in and I dropped onto his wheel. The Colussus shot past us onto the front group, while G-Dawg closed the gap in a more measured fashion.

Crazy Legs caught the group as we swept through junctions and around sweeping bends, slowly building the speed. On the approach to the Snake Bends, G-Dawg, The Colossus and Jimmy Mac burned off the front, while I sparred with Ovis for the minor placings.

We regrouped for the final run to the café and arrived with perfect timing that rewarded us with no queues.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In a discussion of dogs and beaches, Taffy Steve said his vet felt they were a hazard to any good pet’s health, apparently as they’re a breeding ground for all sorts of canine nasties. The Red Max certainly knew about beach hazards and recounted how his daughter’s hybrid-pedigree was washed out to sea and appeared to be struggling. He’d flatly refused to even contemplate going in to try and rescue the pooch, but reassured her there was at least a 50-50 chance it would survive.

Luckily for him a large wave picked it up and flung it onto the sand and the dog lived to fight another day.  I think he said it was a sprocker spaniel, but I don’t really do pedigree dogs, so may be mistaken. Taffy Steve though did suggest the double-dose of loopy you get from inter-breeding between two pedigrees, probably produced the perfect dog for Red Max’s household – a highly-strung, schizoid, hyperactive and excitable animal that will chase anything that moves.

Meanwhile, G-Dawg confided the problem with taking his dogs onto the beach was they seemed to delight in crapping in the sea, making recovery and bagging operations somewhat problematic.

OGL has suggested that despite club membership growing, ride numbers are falling. This isn’t the impression I have, so I offered to count back on the numbers I’ve recorded in this blerg for the past 3 years or so and see if this was actually the case.

Taffy Steve was disgusted when Crazy Legs and I enthusiastically conjured up as much management speak as possible in an ensuing discussion about the spreadsheets and interactive charts we could adopt to present back empirical evidence, that would give a holistic and overarching picture of performance thresholds and the intrinsic peripatetic synergies of ride numbers and allow us to drill-down to a much more granular level of detail. Or something …

Discussion of Crazy Legs’ universally appreciated route for the day led to a discussion about the route through Hallington, which is used by the pros during the Beaumont Trophy. We wondered how they coped with pots and gravel and tussocks of grass, ruts and leaves and twigs, while going at full bore – especially when G-Dawg confirmed he’d marshalled at that point before and the riders were often massed and charging, six deep across the road rather than picking their way carefully and in single-file. Scary stuff.

The Garrulous Kid showed he’s beginning to morph into a twisted OGL mini-me and has started to parrot some of Our Glorious Leaders more lurid tales. This is dispiriting not only because they’re second hand, but because we’ve all heard them countless times already and from the original source. Still, perhaps this is how tribal myths and legends develop and in 10,000 years our ancestors will be regaling themselves with tales of this bright OGL demi-god, his epic odyssey around the wildlands of Albion and his fearless feats of prowess. Perhaps not, though.

The Monkey Butler Boy turned up to ride back with us having been with his club for a photoshoot. What?

He engaged in rather desultory conversation with us while he waited, occasionally stroking and caressing his saddle. Luckily we left before things could develop any further.


The ride back was swift and largely uneventful, the most interesting thing that happened was being assaulted by a boom-box, disco-car – blacked out windows, fancy alloy wheels, bulbous body-kit and fat exhaust – the full works. Too loud man, it’s shrill … piercing!

I’m on record as stating that whenever you notice one of these monstrously loud, music-pounding cars you can never recognise what song they’re actually playing. Today however was the exception, blasting loud, proud and unafraid from this car was Rod Stewart’s Baby Jane.  Now that’s what I call street cred.


YTD Totals: 5,633 km / 3,432 miles with 64,066 metres of climbing