Nevermore

Nevermore

Club Run, Saturday 1st June, 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:114 km/71 miles with 1,223 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 20 minutes
Average Speed:26.4km/h
Group Size:35 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 17℃
Weather in a word or two:Cool and cloudy

Ride Profile

The weather was about the same as last week, grey overcast, relatively chilly, but dry. An arm warmer kind of day. I hoped somewhere along the line I would be tempted to get rid of them, but it never happened.

I tracked and caught a fellow rider on my way to cross the river, resplendent in a bright red jersey with a big Isle of Man triskelion blazoned across the back.

“Are you lost?” I enquired when I caught up and passed him.

He looked at me blankly.

“You’re a long way from home,” I explained.

“Aah, the jersey. Hah, no,” his answer was delivered in pure Geordie, convincing me I was talking to a native and not some poor lost Manxman who needed directions.

The river was high, wide, flat, grey and fairly featureless, with not a boat in sight. Looked like the rowing clubs were off competing for the day and the crossing was quiet.

I clambered out the valley on the other side of the river and pushed through to the meeting point to join the slowly assembling crowd of chancer’s, wastrel’s and ne’er-do-well’s. (Or in other words, all the usual suspects.)


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I pulled up, clambered off and found a perch on the wall alongside the Monkey Butler Boy. He was smugly pleased with his brand new Kask helmet, bought to replace the one he’d used as an emergency brake during a recent crash. I was then in prime place when his acolyte, the Money Priest, rolled in and approached.

There was no excited jabbering this week, just a silent, rather uncomfortable and over-long pause as the Monkey Priest stood face to face with the Monkey Butler Boy, faces scant inches apart, as they stared deeply and lovingly into each other’s eyes.

I didn’t want to break this beautiful moment, this rare meeting of minds and young hearts, but this was quite uncomfortable and I found myself coughing apologetically…

I was just about to suggest they “get a room,” when the Monkey Priest broke the spell.

“New sunglasses then?”

“Oh, aye.”

“Let’s have a look …”

There was then a discussion about their new club jersey. Apparently, the Monkey Priest was wearing one and the Monkey Butler Boy wasn’t. I’m pleased they told me this, otherwise I would never have known.

They both agreed the new jersey was much, much better than the old one. I did a double-take.

And then another.

And again, slower and more considered.

Nope, they both looked absolutely identical to me. I had to ask.

“What’s different?”

“What’s different?” the Monkey Butler Boy shook his head in despair at my distinct lack of acuity.

He pointed to one out of half a dozen sponsor names encapsulated in half inch squares that ran in a line across his chest.

“Le Col have replaced this sponsor,” he said, and then, as if this alone wasn’t a momentous, earth-shattering change in its own right, he pointed to another tiny sponsor name on his sleeve. “And they’ve changed too…”

Ah, so the kind of blatantly obvious difference you would expect in a fiendishly difficult “spot the difference” picture quiz. Now I get it.

While the Monkey Priest’s near identical jersey was “clearly superior,” his shorts were an entirely different matter. He too seems to have conspired to crash recently and had ripped a hole in the front of his shorts. (The front?)

He had a cunning plan though, they would be meeting up with their coach a little later and he’d be bringing a new pair of shorts for the Monkey Priest to change into.

“On the fly?” the Hammer asked.

“Well, I bet Alberto Contador could do that,” I reasoned, having once watched him change shoes mid-race, without stopping, or even slowing.

We then wondered if the coach would just hold the shorts up for the Monkey Priest to snatch as he rode past, “like a musette in the feed-zone” the Hammer suggested.

Sadly, the actual plan was much more prosaic, but probably a lot safer. The Monkey Priest had earmarked some bushes he could retire to in order to protect his modesty while performing his costume change.

Crazy Legs rolled up on his much cossetted Ribble, which we all took to be a sign from the gods that we would have no rain on the ride. He said he’d read two forecasts, one promising a dry day with sunny intervals, the other overcast with intermittent showers. He’d only dared to share the first of these with his recalcitrant Ribble.

Just like last week, we were graced with a load of old hands and intermittent irregulars, including what I think might have been a first outing of the year for Grover and Famous Sean’s. Our numbers slowly built up to top 30 again.

There was an enlightened discussion about cable rub, but no one could answer how brake cables managed to move, seemingly of their own volition, to so deftly avoid the protective patch you’ve carefully applied to the frame, even though it’s exactly where the paint was first abraded.

I was messing about with my camera, so missed the front group leaving, but was more than happy to tag onto the always slightly less frenetic second group, as we clipped in, pushed off and rode out.


I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete, just behind Crazy Legs and Ovis, as they led us out of the ‘burbs and into the countryside. I took over on the front with Sneaky Pete for the push through Ponteland and down to Limestone Lane, before swinging over for Taffy Steve and Carlton to pull through. All seemed to be going smoothly and everyone seemed content.

The front pair then ceded to OGL and whoever’s ear he was intent on bending at the time and we started to push up a slight incline. Almost immediately Grover was struggling and became detached. Crazy Legs drifted back to check on him and reported that Grover was more than happy to ride in his own company and at his own pace and didn’t want to hold anyone up.

Crazy Legs admired the, quiet dignity, stoicism and the self-awareness necessary to realise when your own lack of ability or fitness was an impediment to the rest of the group. Rather uncharitably, I suggested Grover was like an old bull-elephant, quietly slipping away from the rest of the herd to seek out the elephant’s graveyard.

We pressed on, until another change in the front saw Radman and Mini Miss taking over. Almost immediately OGL was blustering and growling about the pace. “I’m breathing out me arse, here!” was, I believe, the precise aphorism deployed – a term I’ve never quite understood, I mean, I get the general sentiment, but … eh? … what?

(Taffy Steve would later, rather naughtily, contend that OGL spends so much time talking out his arse, that breathing out of it should be second nature by now. Ouch.)

The grumbling continued.

“But you’re the only one whose been dropping people,” Crazy Legs innocently informed OGL, while I rode behind them, snorting with suppressed laughter.

We reached the top of the Quarry (yes, I know, the top!) and paused to regroup. OGL claimed infirmity from a bad chest infection and made straight for the cafe, while the rest of us dropped down (yes, I know, down!) the Quarry Climb.

We passed another club grinding up the Quarry and looking miserable, as we harnessed gravity to its full effect and zipped down past them. I know which direction is the easiest.

At the junction at the bottom of the Quarry we paused again, while Crazy Legs outlined route options.

“Left is the shorter ride, which is shorter and right is … err, a longer ride that’s … err … longer,” Crazy Legs concluded lamely, before adding, “Oh and right goes down the Ryals.”

“Which way are you going? I don’t want to be left on my own,” Mini Miss asked me.

“Rye-urhls!” I groaned in my best guttural, Neanderthal-zombie-meets-Frankenstein-monster voice.

“Rye-urhls!”

“Rye-urhls! ”

Double-Dutch Distaff eyed me warily, no doubt wondering what had set the lunatic off and what kind of gibberish he was bellowing. It didn’t put her off though. The Red Max lead a contingent left for a shorter loop to the cafe, while the rest of us swung right for a gleeful swoop down the Ryals.

Reaching the crest, I kicked onto the front, tucked in and plunged, four minutes of unbridled fun as I recorded my fastest time yet for the descent, hitting over 74 kph, or 20 meters per second, on the double-dip down. (That’s 46 mph if you want it in retard units.) Crazy Legs, Double Dutch and Taffy Steve followed in close attendance and we seemed to open up a gap on the rest of the group.

As we slowed to reassemble at the bottom, Crazy Legs suggested we were in danger of being early at the cafe, so we could amend the route and put more miles in by looping around the reservoir, rather than taking the scramble up through Hallington. This got the immediate support of Taffy Steve, who likes this loop almost as much as he detests climbing through Hallington, so our course was set.



I pushed out onto the front alongside Ovis as we swung in a wide arc around the (always hidden from view) reservoir and up to where we would have emerged if we’d taken the planned route. Around the corner, I drove us up a segment known on Strava as Humiliation Hill (I know not why). This had everyone stretched out into a long line and we paused at the next junction to re-assemble.

As our last riders pulled through I looked back down the road and saw the flashing of florescent green cycling socks.

“Is that one of us?” I asked Taffy Steve.

“Nope, we’re all here.”

I hung back a little just to make sure, confirmed I didn’t know the lone rider and then hustled to catch up with the rest.

The unknown, rider in the florescent green socks passed us as we dawdled along, then Big Dunc put in a Big Dig. Everyone responded and we all bustled past Green Socks, until Big Duncs attack was foiled by temporary traffic lights and we all slowed and stopped.

Green Socks took the opportunity to nip in front of us as the lights changed. Crazy Legs caught him and sat on his wheel for a while, before dropping back, while I accelerated to take his place and started winding up the pace.

I passed Green Socks as the road began to climb and pushed on with Ovis, increasing the pace as we raced toward the end of the road, reaching the junction and then stopping to let everyone regroup. Green Socks passed us while we waited and disappeared down the road, probably glad to see the back of us.

We regrouped again and started the final push to the cafe, with Crazy Legs and Double Dutch on the front. As we approached the short, steep, Brandy Well Bank, Crazy Legs started to explain that, in about 3-4 kilometres, it would all kick-off toward a final sprint before the cafe. In normal circumstances he would have been dead right, but I didn’t fancy my chances in a straight-up sprint, so decided not to hang around and attacked.

I accelerated toward the climb and tried to keep my legs spinning as the gradient bit. It wasn’t like last week though, when I’d done hardly any work before hitting the same climb, I had tired legs and momentum dropped quickly, until I had to haul myself out of the saddle to keep going.

I paused at the top, part hesitation, wondering if the attack was premature, part from the needing to drag some air into tortured lungs and let the pain in my legs subside. Then I pushed on …

I was just starting to flag, when Ovis nudged past and I dropped onto his wheel. Now, slowly, but surely we started to reel in the lone rider in the florescent green socks and Ovis pulled us around him. Yet again. He must have been sick of the sight of us.

As the road started to drag upwards, I bustled back onto the front, trying to find a good line across the battered and lumpy road surface. Down toward the Snake Bends, we passed a lone Grover, seemingly still happy in his own company and I briefly stopped the frenetic pedalling to greet him in passing.

The road levelled out and I pushed on, until Ovis roared past me with an astonishing burst of speed. I had no response. Seconds later a hard-charging Crazy Legs and Mini Miss zipped past, but they were too late and Ovis was long gone, while Taffy Steve caught me just before the Bends.

As ever, great fun.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Carlton wondered if anyone had been watching the Chernobyl TV-series, which one of my work colleagues, Big Dave, described as unremittingly bleak. He reported that in the first 5 minutes alone, some bloke fed his cat, then hung himself and it the just got darker from that point on. (I guess it could have been worse and he could have left the cat to starve.)

I prefer my end-of-the-world, Armagideon Time to have a dash more humour, so was more interested in the recently released, TV adaptation of the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett book, Good Omens.

“Are you a Terry Pratchett fan, then?” Crazy Legs enquired.

“No, not really, but I like Neil Gaiman. Then again,” I added, “I do have to acknowledge the particular genius of inventing a character called Quoth the Raven. That’s very clever.”

Crazy Legs looked at me blankly, “Eh? What?”

“Quoth. The Raven.”

“Nah, don’t get it?”

Everyone else around the table looked suitably blank too.

“You know, from the Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Raven.”

Nope, nothing…

“Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.'”

Across from me, Famous Sean’s suddenly giggled.

“See, he gets it …

But no, he didn’t, it was more a nervous laugh, the kind you might emit if you were embarrassed on someone else’s behalf.

“Oh, I give up, you’re all a bunch of bleedin’ Philistines.”

“You’re on a table full of scientists, mathematicians and engineers,” Crazy Legs consoled me, “What do you expect?”

Pah!

I left to get some coffee refills and to see if I could find some more erudite cycling companions. The first bit was relatively easy, the second though … well, the jury’s still out.

Still, at least it gave me an opportunity to briefly ear-wig on an delightful conversation between two old biddies in the queue, carried out almost entirely in question form.

“Do you know Annie?” the first pondered.

“Ooh, Canny Annie?”

“Hmm?”

“Paula’s friend?”

“Taller Paula?”

“No, no, smaller Paula.”

I would like to have hung around to hear more, but was conscious of Philistine cyclists requiring further injections of caffeine.

When I returned Double Dutch Dude who’d been in the first group, was dragging Double Dutch Distaff away, to get some more miles in. Meanwhile, conversation had returned to less culturally divisive subjects … or maybe not … as Taffy Steve expressed his love for Gogglebox, a TV programme about people watching TV programmes. We wondered where it would end – was there, for example, an opportunity for a TV programme about people who watched TV programmes in which people watched TV programmes?

G-Dawg briefly joined us, having sneaked out from the cafe for a bit of peace and to try and quell a strange, incessant clamouring in his ears. Sadly though, the strange incessant clamouring followed him out.

I noticed he seemed to be a riot of colours today; green shoes, yellow socks, blue shorts and a red jersey. Still, I’m sure last week’s civilian, who complained about cyclists dressed all in black, would have found some other reason to disparage him.

Famous Sean, being one of those weird triathlete-types, started undertaking a series of stretches in preparation for us leaving. He’d left the fat velcro straps of his triathlon shoes unfastened and they flopped over to lie flat on the grass, making him look like Big Bird, all skinny legs and big feet.

Crazy Legs had to ask if the velcro actually worked on grass and if that was why Famous Sean’s could touch his toes without toppling over.


We lined up and rode out, for what would prove to be a remarkably unremarkable trip back, the only thing of note I recall was being subjected to a short, sharp shower half way up the Heinous Hill,

Our first June club run complete then and still we wait for some good better weather. Come on, make it happen…


YTD Totals: 3,604 km / 2,240 miles with 46,106 metres of climbing

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All Maps Welcome

All Maps Welcome

Club Run, Saturday 14th May, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  114 km / 71 miles with 1,1194 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 29 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         23 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    15°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy and chilly to cool

Main topic of conversation at the start:

I found G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg, very early arrivals, sitting on the wall and basking in the warm sun as I rolled up to the meeting place. “So where are you taking us today?” I asked, half-jokingly. “Well…” G-Dawg replied, reaching into his back pocket and flourishing a map, “I was thinking…”

A Map! A Plan! An idea of where we’d be going before setting off! This was a novel and banner day for the club. And this wasn’t just any old map randomly torn from a 1:500,000 metre scale atlas of Western Europe, this was a full colour OS map, carefully annotated with precise distances, the alternative routes carefully picked in different highlighter pens and graded according to severity and road surface, the whole precisely folded to fit neatly into a back pocket.

G-Dawg even suggested he should have brought 40 copies of the map and route profile, all carefully laminated to hand to everyone. We gathered round to review and agree the proposed route including some new, uncharted roads marked only with the vague warning “Here be dragons” and a fair amount of climbing with both the Mur De Mitford and Middleton Bank included in the mix.


 

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M.C.Escher: Ascending and Descending


Taffy Steve did a quick check for deep-section wheels and just to be sure confirmed we wouldn’t be going down the Ryals. Nevertheless, he suggested it was windy enough to keep away from these riders on any downhill sections, although he concluded anything would be safer than riding behind Plumose Pappus on windy descents, reasoning he was “so light he flutters like a moth caught on a windscreen.”

Richard of Flanders arrived and was immediately faced with the consternation of choice, feeling that he’d overdressed for the day and was likely to overheat. He took himself off into a darkened corner to divest himself of one or two layers, or basically as much as he could stuff into his back pocket. I suggested he could just have left his clothes in the grit bin to pick up on his return, reasoning that the Prof was away riding the Wooler Wheel and so they would likely be safe from opportune bin-dippers.

There was only time left then for Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs to make sure their Garmins were perfectly synchronised and neither was reading from a rogue Russian satellite and we were off.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

One of the guys recalled flying into Southampton Airport and noticed how you could tell from the air how affluent the area was by counting all the tennis courts and swimming pools attached to the houses.

Someone wondered what a similar aerial view flying into Newcastle would reveal? Satellite dishes someone suggested, but trampolines according to Taffy Steve, who’d seen an aerial photo provided by the Police of one suburb while investigating an accident. He said everyone had been amazed by the number of trampolines, with seemingly one in every other garden, only differentiated by the more up-market ones’ sporting safety nets.

So there you have it, a handy gauge for reckoning the disposable income of an area from the air is the ratio of swimming pools and tennis courts to trampolines and satellite dishes.

Having flogged himself to death riding on the front into the wind and attacking every hill like an overly excited Labrador puppy, we tried to convince Richard of Flanders to indulge a little more in the fine art of wheel sucking, but apparently to no avail. He’s obviously still much too young and idealistic and hasn’t come to recognise the immutable truth behind the maestro, Il Campionissimo Fausto Coppi’s grand edict; “Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”

As we indulged ourselves in the café, the Cow Ranger appeared on a new TT bike he was fine tuning for a triathlon up on the coast of Northumberland tomorrow. Someone was curious about his Kask TT helmet, which he’d managed to find at a bargain price of under £200 after spending days scouring the far corners of the internet for the very best deal.

Unfortunately, his comprehension of Dutch small print wasn’t quite as good as his nose for a bargain and he only found on delivery that the helmet was priced so competitively because it came without a visor. He has since bought the visor, is happy with the helmet and though an extra £40 lighter in the pocket, he has perhaps learned a valuable lesson.

The BFG went to look over the Cow Rangers new TT bike, promising not to touch, but to be honest I was more concerned by the trail of drool he was leaving in his wake.

A couple of the guys discussed the impending Greggs sponsored, Children’s Cancer Run, perhaps the only healthy activity where you are rewarded with a less than nutritious cheese pastie. Sounds good to me and beats an energy gel any day.


 

14 may ride
Ride Profile


The Waffle:

There was, finally the first stirrings of spring in the air as the verges, roundabouts and public areas were awash with bright, flowering daffodils and tulips and with trees nodding heavily under masses of pink and white blossom. Even the broken glass strewn across one corner of the road looked less than menacing, seeming to wink benignly in the bright sunlight, like a handful of carelessly discarded diamond chips. I prudently picked my way carefully through it anyway.

Despite the signs of spring, it was still bitterly cold at 8.00am as I swung down Heinous Hill to start to wend my way to the meeting point and I was beginning to wish I’d worn warmer gloves. It wasn’t quite cold enough for my thumbs to become frozen and blissfully numb, so they just ached in discomfort.

Loud squawking at one point alerted me to a cat sitting primly amidst a flower bed where, for some unknown reason, it was being roundly berated and screeched at by two very indignant crows. The cat was ignoring them with studied indifference that I found particularly admirable.

At the meeting point we agreed our route and around 24 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out, including several FNG’s who would perhaps have preferred an easier introduction to a club run.


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Out into the countryside and signs of spring continued to show, the trees were a soft, vibrant green and the base of one wood of silver birch was threaded with a haze of bluebells. The only discordant note was the seemingly ever more common fields of rape seed, jarring in their too bright colour and filling the air with a somehow alien and over-powering perfume.

The first challenge of the day was the Mur de Mitford, and I found myself climbing well and skipping from the back to near the front of the group as the gradient began to bite and the chatter was replaced with much manly (and occasionally womanly) grunting. Half way up Taffy Steve started deliberately positioning himself on my wheel for an all action photo, but I’m not sure he got the result his consideration deserved.

Over the top we ventured out into the unknown, taking a new route none of us had ever ridden before, although we all agreed if OGL had been present he’d no doubt have claimed a fantastic intimacy with its every rise, pothole and divot. And climb. There were lots of these, in fact so many and with no corresponding descents that at one point we questioned if we were actually caught on an infinite Penrose Stair made real, or trapped within an M.C. Escher lithograph.


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Finally, after what seemed an impossibly long time we were at last able to confirm the maxim that what goes up, must come down, with a long, gradual drop down to the River Font. We travelled along the valley floor for a while, before crossing the river and scaling the other side, although thankfully avoiding The Trench and taking a longer but less brutal climb up.

I found myself riding next to Goose and discussing heartrate monitors, which we’d both tried and both rejected as superfluous. I did however tell him how much fun I had when The Red Max helped me set my Garmin up and unwittingly synced it to his own heartrate monitor. Until that point I never knew tachycardia was actually a lifestyle choice.

At some point Aveline’s rear wheel started to unravel, an occurrence eerily similar to the mechanical travails the Prof had suffered the previous week, although she was entirely blameless not having hand-assembled her own wheels from cast-off parts, recycled components and odd bits of flotsam and jetsom.

Regrouping after the sharp climb up to Hartburn, Sneaky Pete volunteered to guide the FNG’s on a shorter route to the café, avoiding Middleton Bank. Aveline decided she was uncertain how long her wheel was going to survive, so opted to tag along on the shorter ride, but Szell somewhat surprisingly decided to stick with us and tackle his own personal bete noir of a climb. He’s game if nothing else.


 

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Unfortunately, the accumulation of all the previous climbing took its toll and Szell was shelled out long before we even started the run up Middleton Bank proper. I hung back long enough for him to appear on the horizon and convince me he hadn’t had a mechanical, then followed everyone else up the hill.

The climb felt strangely unreal and far too easy. When I got to the steepest ramp I stood out of the saddle from force of habit rather than any need and accelerated to start and pass some of the others on my inside. I cleared the steep part, clicked down a couple of gears and pushed on. I was closing on the front group, but running out of hill as I cleared the top in what Strava reckoned was a new PR for the climb. This was however to be one of those times when we decided not to regroup after the hill and I was now facing a long, lonely chase across on my own.


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For the first time that day I began to notice the headwind as I pushed hard and slowly began to close the gap on the front group. I passed a detached Laurelan and slowed briefly, but she sensibly didn’t want any part of my futile chase and didn’t take my wheel, so I pushed on.

It was one puny chaser against a headwind and half a dozen others at full tilt and it was a very, very unequal contest. I was making no impression whatsoever and every time they whipped out of sight around a corner I could sense the gap growing a little more. As I hammered down through Milestone Woods I caught up our amblers group and gave up, easing back to exchange a few pleasantries with Sneaky Pete.


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Then as we hit the rolling ramps I accelerated and tried to carry my speed across them, almost managing until the final rise caught me pushing too big a gear and grinding a little too much for comfort. As I tipped over and began the descent to the final drag to the café I sensed someone latching onto my back wheel and turned to find I’d picked up the company of Taffy Steve, who suggested he should have guessed a consummate wheel sucker would know immediately when someone was sucking their own wheel. Yep.

We pounded up the last slope to the cafe, discussing whether we might have bridged across to the front group if we’d pooled our efforts. I’m not sure we would have made it, but there’s no doubt it would have been closer.

Suitably refreshed, a small group of us set out for the return home, leaving a few notables still loitering in the café, but aware Richard of Flanders had an impending family deadline. I hit the front with Taffy Steve and we pushed on for the first few miles, before he recognised we were the two with the longest trips back but were the ones battering manfully into the headwind.

He decided we’d shouldered our fair share of the workload and at the next hill we eased across to let the others through. Unfortunately, the Cow Ranger took this as an invitation to smash it and accelerated away in full TT mode with the BFG jumping off in crazy, mad pursuit.


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I could only shake my head in disbelief as Richard of Flanders and Goose got drawn into the madness and began pounding away after the others and I didn’t even try to follow, settling back to find a more sustainable pace, but left once again pushing into the wind.

On Berwick Hill we caught Richard of Flanders and Goose and managed to pick up another rider on a TT bike returning from a long solo ride up to Rothbury. She worked with us to set a decent pace and we clipped off the last few miles easily.

On the last sharp hill up to Dinnington Richard of Flanders started to flag from his earlier efforts and dropped off the back. Hopefully he wasn’t too late getting home, so might be allowed out to play next week.

As first the TT’er and then Goose and Taffy Steve turned off I entered the Mad Mile alone for my ride home, reflecting that it’s all a lot easier when you ride in a group.


YTD Totals: 2,759 km / 1,714 miles with 26,349 metres of climbing