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

Attention retention …

Attention retention …

Club Run, Saturday 7th October, 2017    

The Planned Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  74 km / 46 miles with 550 metres of climbing

Group size:                                         16+ riders and 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    15°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


 

downdy ryalls
Ride Profile


The Ride …

… as it (maybe) happened and with invaluable input from Taffy Steve:

While the Gang of 4 were away, wallowing in pie at the hugely enjoyable Wooler Wheel, the typical Saturday morning club run naturally continued in our absence. And so it should – it is of course (and rightly so) – much, much bigger than one individual, or group of individuals.

The recently established, best-practice of actually pre-publishing a route beforehand, so everyone knew where we were heading, what to expect, how far and hard it would be and when and where they could join up if they were delayed, seemed to be working smoothly and the overwhelming majority appear bought into the concept.

The pre-ride planning has also ensured we are being more creative in our route plotting, trying out different things and establishing options to avoid a very stale, same-old, same-old routine that has noticeably plagued our rides in the past.

Being an equitable, egalitarian, sort of guy, I especially like rotating the ride leader, so we could share the burden around, publish routes beforehand and allow anyone to step up and have a go if they wanted to.

This Saturday’s volunteer was Taffy Steve and even though I was away, I knew the route planned and it looked like being a good one, with a descent down the Ryals and one of my favourite clambers, back up through Hallington.

Taffy Steve had even given consideration to where the group could split to allow a slightly shorter, slightly easier path to the café for those less inclined toward self-flagellation and it even seemed to have received the royal seal of approval from OGL.

What could possibly go wrong …

Shouldering the additional burden of not only being ride leader, but providing the highly essential, ultra-important, some would say indispensable role of blerg scribe (oh, ok, it’s none of those things then) Taffy Steve sent through notes from the front-lines, allowing me to piece together my own, highly romanticised and wholly fictional account of what actually took place … or, in other words, pretty much the same thing I do every week.

Still, too badly paraphrase Winston Churchill, the writer writes the history … so, this is what actually happened, taken directly from Taffy Steve’s notes …

 


 

Early signs were promising, with a route published and agreed and a shortcut for OGL. Astonishingly he even endorsed it with a favourable comment and the job seemed like a “good un.” How was Taffy Steve to know it was going to unravel faster than an obese bungee jumpers cord, as he stood outlining the intended plan for the day.

He’d just reached a point of explaining that, at the roundabout the group were heading right, up Broadway, when OGL, obviously not a George Benson fan, unexpectedly piped up with a “No. We’re not going that way.”

With the same remarkable obduracy shown by his forebears facing impossible odds at Rourke’s Drift, our plucky Welshman stood his ground, “It’s my ride this morning, we’re following the agreed route.”

OGL spat the dummy and stormed off with much fugging and rugging and rumba-rarring, suddenly finding himself riding away, alone and in (not so splendid) isolation.

The rest of the group hastily apologised to Arriva for the large dummy mark left in the side of the 508 bus to Blyth and the ride pressed on, OGL-less.


sastre_par2003071934744_600
Carlos Sastre demonstrates the correct way to ride and retain the dummy


An outbound ride into the wind then followed without further incident, apart from those on the front noting that the Goose’s booming voice was so dominating you always knew exactly where he was in the group. G-Dawg suggested if Goose ever managed to even casually mention the word “stop” somewhere in his general discourse, everyone would likely interpret it as a shouted, emergency command and instinctively slam on the anchors.

At least one FNG was out with the group, a girl riding with flat pedals and she did remarkably well, holding her own all the way to the turn for the quarry. Here Sneaky Pete led a small group off toward the café, while the rest set sail for the Ryals – for the third week in a row.

This time though we were swooping down and not struggling upwards, topping out at 40 mph, even into a steady headwind. Great fun for all, but especially G-Dawg on his fixie. Who knew legs could spin that fast without spontaneously combusting?

The Garrulous Kid clamoured to turn around at the bottom and ride straight back up and started badgering and pestering all and sundry to go with him, but lips curled disdainfully and heads shook in negation – not again!

Seemingly undaunted, the Kid set out alone, up the Ryals for the third week in a row, which must be some kind of record even among the most masochistic of hair-shirted, flagellants.

There is a feeling the Garrulous Kid is turning into an OGL mini-me, complete with the incurable logorrhoea, highly embellished tales on infinite loop and an inclination to stomp off alone when the collective will diverges from his own.

Still, Taffy Steve reports his prep for the hill climb has reached a truly remarkable zenith – not that there’s any pressure on him to actually deliver …

For the rest, Hallington awaited and, after all the climbing, a pause to regroup. A remarkably ordered (for us, anyway) bit of through and off followed, everyone forming neat lines and rotating like pros on a team time trial, as the speed slowly built. Things were going smoothly until Jimmy Mac’s twitching nostrils picked up just the faintest whiff of coffee and, spurred on by the irresistible promise of cake, he shot down the outside of the line and powered away.

Rab Dee, riding in the livery of Mario Cipollini then put in a burst that Super Mario himself would have been proud of and latched onto the speeding Jimmy Mac, the pair using the tailwind to their advantage, quickly accelerating to warp speed and opening a telling gap.

Taffy Steve Captain Black, G-Dawg, Caracol and someone Taffy Steve enigmatically describes as “the Cockerney,” quickly organised the chase, but even combined, their efforts were too ragged and not enough to catch the speeding pair up front, who were able to hold the gap all the way to the café.

A brief respite from the effort of the chase was apparently spotting the Monkey Butler Boy, thrashing away in the opposite direction, all the while being royally castigated, impugned and bellowed at by a mad Italian coach driving close behind in a trail-car. Looks like he’s found the perfect father-surrogate as a coach.

Meanwhile, there was no sign of the Red Max himself who had apparently been laid low with a mystery illness. Taffy Steve reasoned this had to be the hardest man-flu ever, as we’ve all seen Max defying doctors (and Mrs. Max orders) to rise from his sick-bed and grind out the club run,  reduced to a snail’s pace and all the while obviously suffering from the effects of some dire malady.

At the café, OGL apparently displayed selective amnesia and general bonhomie was the order of the day, with no apparent left-over rancour, or mention of his earlier hissy-fit. I doubt we’ve heard the last of it though.

Conversation briefly turned to the malingerers enjoying themselves up in Wooler and then to the more pressing demands of next week’s hill climb. Taffy Steve was relieved to learn that, the Red Max is already planning a fly-by that will allow anyone with a modicum of sense to avoid the actual timed ascent of Prospect Hill. Perfect he suggests “for those of us that don’t want to sound like a broken vacuum cleaner for 36 hours afterwards.”

Homeward bound, the accompanying south west wind made rolling back a real joy and another grand club run was ticked off in good order.


 

The Driller Killer

The Driller Killer

Club Run, Saturday 7th May, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  121 km / 75 miles with 1,1094 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 42 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                         32 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Overcast, dry

 Main topics of conversation at the start:

Crazy Legs arrived astride his much beloved and cosseted Ribble – a sign more reassuring than even a pinky-promise from 100 of the world’s leading climatologists and weather forecasters that there was absolutely zero chance of any precipitation on our ride today. (He would however be caught getting off and carrying his bike gingerly around the few puddles that still lingered in the shadier parts of the lanes.)

He’d just returned from a brief sojourn on the south coast of Spain, declaring the trip absolutely fabulous and the cycling fantastic, but claimed the big, big mountain climbs (3,000 metres plus) in the Sierra Nevada had utterly destroyed him. He said it was an awful, dreadful, hateful, horrible, anguishing and humbling experience … and he couldn’t wait to go back.

He then turned his ire on the public poll to name the new, £200 million British Antarctic Survey ship where the people’s choice, “Boaty MacBoatface” handily won the online vote with over 124,000 supporters.

In this instance however the “voice of the people” had been inexplicably ignored and the ship has been named after Sir David Attenborough. In protest Crazy Legs declared his beloved and cosseted Ribble would now be known as Bikey MacBikeface. No doubt he’ll be lending his support to the petition which has just started to persuade David Attenborough to change his name to Boaty MacBoatface in recompense.

Taffy Steve was pleased to note that for the first time in weeks the “hard core of utter idiots” who’d ridden right the way through the winter with him, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, The Red Max and me were re-united. If possible his grin spread even wider when he was reminded OGL was away on the club training camp in Majorca and we’d once again be off the leash.

G-Dawg had just formulated and gained consensus for a proposed route on some less travelled roads when Szell appeared, shaking off his winter torpor for a first club run of 2016. This is quite early for him actually, it’s still May and he’s only missed a quarter of the year.

His sudden and unexpected appearance gave us pause as ideally we needed a route that included Middleton Bank so we could practice our Szell Game – drop him on the climb, re-group over the top, then wait and wait and wait until he’d just … nearly … almost … made it back and then accelerate smartly away. Small? Petty? Childish? Yes, yes, yes, but great fun nonetheless.

As it was we decided to stick to the original plan which would take us in a big, clockwise loop around the Ryals to climb up past the radio mast at Beukley Farm before some demon descending down the A68, a sharp right turn and then more climbing to get us back up to a road that would eventually lead to the café.

Hopefully G-Dawg wouldn’t need his inner ring, although I’ve been led to understand it’s no longer in pristine, like-new condition after last week when, contrary to my earlier understanding, it was actually used in anger for the first time.

I’m only comfortable writing this as I have sworn affidavits from two independent witnesses who saw G-Dawg climbing on the inner ring last week, although I have yet to confirm rumours that he paid someone else to actually make the shift for him so his hands could remain unsullied.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We had pushed two tables together and it seemed to attract cyclists like a magnet pulls in iron filings as we attempted to see just how many chairs we could squeeze around it. We were soon sitting pressed together almost two deep, the table surface all but invisible under a mound of cups and cakes and plates and trays and cutlery and helmets.

Crazy Legs, channelling the inner maturity and sophisticated wit that makes him a (self-proclaimed) Cards Against Humanity demon, nodded across at another group in the far corner where Goose, Captain Black and a one or two others were spread out and luxuriating in a wide empty table and acres of space and explained their relative isolation by declaring, “That’s the stinky table.”

The noise of our incessant chattering, punctuated by giggling and guffaws drew the ire of other café patrons, in particular an elderly couple sitting adjacent, the woman wearing the kind of expression usually reserved for someone being forced to wash down mouthfuls of sauerkraut with long draughts of apple cider vinegar. I had to resist the urge to lean across and tell her it could be worse, she could be sitting next to the stinky table.

And then we actually managed to make it worse after all as one of the girls kicked a tray she’d leaned up and out of the way. It slid down the wall with a prolonged, rattling, rumbling scrape and then cracked down onto the floor with a noise like a pistol shot. Oops.

I now suggested “Duchess Suck-Lemon” actually needed to suck on a lemon to improve her disposition and help her face un-pucker just by the tiniest of margins. Sadly, my observation prompted a rambling discourse from Crazy Legs about all the lemon groves he’d recently ridden through on his Spanish venture, where apparently all the lemons looked so perfect that he began to think they were artificial.


 

Duke_Suck-Lemon


On stopping near one plantation he’d found a lemon on the ground and had opened it up just to check it was natural, only to start wondering if maybe the fallen lemon was a plant to convince gullible tourists that all the others were real. I can only attribute this level of paranoia to to the high altitude, oxygen deprivation and the sensory overload from exposure to warm sunshine following a winter of unmitigated bleakness in northern England.

He then foolishly told me he’d started watching fantastic Scandi-TV thriller, The Bridge and received both barrels of my enthusiastic acclaim for all the odd European TV shows that tend to appear without any great fanfare on BBC4 or E4 – The Killing, Borgen, Spiral, The Returned, Deutschland 83, The Cordon, Blue Eyes et al.

At one point I caught up with the Prof who’d dropped off the back of the group when his rear wheel started to disastrously unravel. We thought we’d seen the last of him and he would be calling for a taxi home, but his running repairs had been successful and he’d made it to the café.

He started to give me a long and very convoluted description of exactly what had gone wrong, something about axles and cones, bearings, cassettes, freewheels and quick release skewers, retaining nuts, tolerances and not having tightened everything up sufficiently. “Ah,” I suggested simply trying to cut through the all technical obfuscation, “You bodged it.”

Crazy Legs and G-Dawg had been out riding with the Wednesday Crazy Gang and they had revealed Szell used to ride with them back in the day and his nickname then was “The Driller.” Perfect.


 

Ride 7 may
Ride Profile


The Waffle:

Saturday turned out to be somewhat disappointingly cold after what had been a very pleasant week, with decent weather and prolonged sunshine. Still, while the sky was a monotonous and uniform shade of dingy grey and there was no chance of even a sliver of direct sunlight, it was dry and relatively calm. Good enough.

I found it still chilly enough for light, long-fingered gloves, but my legs did get their first airing of the year and I was able to show off my new, very, very shiny, very, very plasticky and very, very red Chinese shoes.

En route to the meeting point I was stopped at a level crossing to let a train rumble slowly past, but caught the lights on the bridge just right to skip across on the tail of the rest of the traffic. Swings and roundabouts – or lights and crossings?

A brief stop to irrigate some foliage found me rolling up to the meeting point with G-Dawg and Son, where we eventually numbered just over 30 lads and lasses, including a healthy contingent of our kids who always take to the roads on the first Saturday of every month.

We agreed to G-Dawg’s hastily improvised but unerringly good route, pushed off, clipped in and rode out. I found myself alongside Szell who told me he hadn’t been out for an age as he was currently playing in two covers bands and was finding it difficult to find any free time between (and I quote) “the music, the hoes and the blow.” I assume he was being ironic, but you just never know.


 

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He was keen to know where we were going to and whether a slower group was likely to form, already planning for a quick escape. He then knowingly asked if we would be taking in his own personal bete noire, Middleton Bank –  just so we could enjoy his suffering, suggesting he possessed a degree of self-awareness that I would never have attributed him with.

As we passed through one sleepy little village, Szell proclaimed how much he liked Genghis Khan’s quote about the greatest happiness being, “to scatter your enemy and drive him before you. To see his cities reduced to ashes. To see those who love him shrouded and in tears. And to gather to your bosom his wives and daughters.”


 

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“You don’t mess with Genghis Kahn!” he opined, loud enough for Crazy Legs to overhear and bark with delight, before commenting that you can find the strangest conversations buried in the heart of the bunch.

Szell drifted backwards after a few hills and I found myself riding along beside Taffy Steve, until we all had to single out and navigate around a large, very wide and very yellow bus. The driver stopped to let us through and called out something like, “Whey aye! gann on man, canny lad, a’ll keep yez al warkin!”


 

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Whey aye! gann on man, canny lad, a’ll keep yez al warkin!” – or something like that anyway


“Nice of him to stop, but I haven’t got a clue what he was saying.” Taffy Steve said as we regrouped and pressed on, chatting about the irrepressible Mario Cipollini and his ever so slightly inflated ego.

We started to climb on a road that wound up into the hills and turned into a somewhat rough, single lane farm track, becoming strung out in a long line as we crept slowly up toward a summit dominated by a massive radio tower. The surface was in a poor state and there was lots of pointing and an increasing number of hazard call-outs:

“Pots”

“Pots!”

“Gravel”

“Mud”

“Shite”

“Pots!”

Sneaky Pete suggested the Belgians might have the cobbled classics, the Italians Strada Bianca, but we were the only ones to get Strada Merda!

We then passed a pothole so deep that G-Dawg suggested that if you fell in you would have to ride around the bottom, like a wall of death to build up enough speed to attain an escape velocity and get out the other side.

We were soon crawling past the radio mast and up to the junction with the A68 before stopping to regroup. We now had a fantastic, long and fast drop off the top, then a sharp right turn and more climbing to replace the altitude we’d just thrown away so carelessly.


 

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Yet more climbing led us to a new junction where we again regrouped with some of the youngsters and Szell hurting and well off the back. It was here that we heard about the Prof’s wheel disintegrating, but the word came up not to wait and just press on.

The Red Max said he would take the youngsters off on a shorter route to the café while everyone else continued. Szell, perhaps sensing an end to his needless suffering decided to tag along too and then Sneaky Pete sneaked away with the group as well. What the sadistic Max had failed to mention however was his chosen, shorter route actually included an ascent of the rather fearsome Ryals. Oh dear.


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We continued with yet more climbing until we finally reached roads I began to recognise and the pace started to creep up. Soon there was a split and a compact bunch of us were driving toward the café at high speed, buzzing like a swarm of angry bees on the rampage.

As the road levelled and straightened, Son of G-Dawg surged around everyone and opened up a clear gap. I rounded G-Dawg and pulled everyone along for a while, then Captain Black powered through and carried everyone past me in turn, so I slotted back into the end of the line. Son of G-Dawg had sat up by now, job done as Captain Black swept past and into the Snake Bends.


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We flew over the junction and set out straight up the main road, my least favoured option, keeping the pace incredibly high. Once more I latched onto G-Dawgs rear wheel and let him drag me to the café.

I’m beginning to think G-Dawg’s rear wheel as my ultimate safety blanket, but he must be sick seeing me there every time he turns round – like having an unwelcome stalker always two steps behind you everywhere you go. I must ween myself off this and find some other target for my now very well perfected wheel-sucking chicanery.

On the way home I had time to chat with Captain Black and we laid tentative plans to tackle the new, 90 mile Cyclone route. Sneaky Pete and Taffy Steve had also suggested it was their favoured option, so we should be able to pull a small group together for it.

We also had a chat about the Giro and the surprise performance of ex-Ski jumper Primož Roglič. We wondered how he descended and whether we’d see him stand up on the pedals and lean forward with his hands clasped behind his back. I seem to remember some tale of Bernard Hinault experimenting with a bizarre Superman descending pose, but this could be even more spectacular.

I also had words with Carlton who noticed how relatively calm and ordered the ride had been, even without the strident exclamations of the absent OGL and we had a brief chat about whether the club needed to start thinking about succession planning for when the old feller finally hangs up his cleats.

As regular readers may know, OGL is our de facto Road Captain, Club President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Chairman, Secretary, Event Organiser, Social and Welfare Officer, Patron, Club Committee, Route Finder, Web Controller, Archivist, Photographer, Social Media Gatekeeper, Weatherman, Chief Recruiter and Club Ambassador, so it’s not a case of simply nominating the next man up.

As the group split and I entered the Mad Mile I passed Szell, sitting in the middle of the group and still plugging gamely away having survived a rather torrid first run of the year. I waved him off with a cheery “Next week?” and then pressed on for home.

A long, lumpy ride, but a great run and the weather is finally starting to turn good. Things are looking up.


YTD Totals: 2,567 km / 1,595 miles with 24,253 metres of climbing