Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Club Run, Saturday 16th April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.7 km/h

Group size:                                         14 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    8°C

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

Main topics of conversation at the start:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Ride Profile

The Waffle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Monumental Impediments


Club Run, Saturday 12th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   112 km/70 miles with 1,000 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                   26.0 km/h

Group size:                                           33 riders, 5 FNG’s

Temperature:                                      13°C

Weather in a word or two:              Splendid


 

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Main topic of conversation at the start:

I arrived at the meeting point to find a glowering BFG being warily circled by a couple of FNG’s who were keeping their distance and not daring to approach until I arrived to show them he was actually quite harmless.

Just to be contrary the BFG has resorted to type and was once again out on something venerable and vintage and made of steel. He’d even thought about adding a fake nut to the top of his stem just to see if he could inspire OGL to once again tell us the tale of how he ripped his scrotum open on one during a track meet. It’s a tale that never grows old in the telling…

Crazy Legs’s 39 days must have been up as he appeared sporting his new, faithfully and painstakingly reproduced Oakley Jawbreakers. Very smart. Attracted by the spectacle(s) the Prof then emerged through a milling crowd of cyclists to give him a hug – seemingly one of many that would take place throughout the day.

The Prof then stopped by to acknowledge how much he looks forward to his mentions in this humble blog. He is of course one of the more frequently featured characters, though trailing a somewhat distant second to his tiny, leaky bladder.

OGL arrived and dipped his head to fully reveal his new helmet, emblazoned with the club name across the top. What next, custom mudguards in club colours? Where will it end?

He then proceeded to have a bizarre conversation with one of the FNG’s when she stepped forward to introduce herself:

“You phoned me last Wednesday?”

“Err, no I e-mailed you last week”

“But you texted me yesterday?”

“Err, no I emailed last week”

“So was it you who messaged me on Facebook?”

“Err, no …”

Oh well, she passed the first test – showing patience and empathy for the infirm and senile.

One of the other FNG’s was having trouble with his bike, which was laid supine as he did something indescribable to the seat post. For one dread moment I thought we were going to be accompanied all the way around by someone else insisting that you don’t need a saddle, but thankfully he finally had it sorted.

His girlfriend cheerfully informed us they’d ridden across the Alps together, but that was two years ago and they hadn’t done a lot since. I assured her we wouldn’t be tackling any Alps today, but had a bad feeling this wasn’t going to end well.

The boyfriend had a decent enough bike and seemed to know his way around an Allen key, but rather oddly was wearing white football shorts over his bibshorts and had his helmet on at a rather odd, rakish angle. Maybe it’s incipient OCD or something, but I have to admit the latter is something I just can’t abide – I often have to adjust Crazy Legs’s helmet at the café so it sits just right before I’ll let him be seen out in public with us.

We were doing that usual cyclist trick of spilling aimlessly across the entire pavement, engrossed in waves of endless, nonsensical banter and completely oblivious to the fact that bikes and bodies had formed a rather formidable and impenetrable maze.

One old biddy was having trouble threading her way amongst us with her wheeled shopping bag until Richard of Flanders emitted an ear-drum shattering bellow that shocked us into silence and had us parting like the Red Sea.

Unfortunately, his aural assault caused the old biddy to almost leap out of her skin with fright and when she clutched at her chest and wavered I thought she was going to have a heart attack and topple head first into the shopping trolley. Luckily she recovered and casting fearful looks at us all scuttled away as quickly as she could manage.

Crazy Legs was left to ponder if the shock had been fatal whether we would have sprayed her shopping trolley white and chained it to a nearby lamppost like one of those Ghost Bikes left as a memorial to killed and injured cyclists.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Taffy Steve was out on his titanium love-child and declared the thrice-cursed winter bike had been put into deep storage for the rest of the year, having first removed the pedals in case they seized up. He then suggested he hadn’t loosened the seat clamp because he didn’t really care if the seat tube seized in the frame, reasoning that he’d stopped growing, so couldn’t foresee a need to alter his riding position.

G-Dawg wondered if a seized seat tube meant you could totally remove the clamp and save few crucial micrograms, then remembered a recent run where a malfunctioning clamp saw a saddle slowly sink lower and lower until the rider was pedalling with his knees around his ears. Not a good idea then.

Thoughts turned to the round-ball game as notable local events were somewhat dominated by the conviction of Adam Johnson and the appointment of Rafael Benitez. No one quite knew which one had drawn the worst sentence.

Someone even suggested that Mr. Johnson was likely to be the happier of the two as he would now be referred to as Adam Johnson the paedophile rather than Adam Johnson the Sunderland player. Ouch.

Everyone was baffled by Rafa citing being close to his family as a reason for venturing back to “Northern England” and surprisingly it wasn’t the fact that we actually consider Liverpool be in the South that caused the confusion. What was troubling was that Rafael Benitez, well-travelled, urbane and international football manager at the likes of Madrid, Tenerife, Valencia, Naples and Milan, chose to leave his family in Liverpool. We wondered if he’d consider Wallsend or possibly Byker as a suitable place for future re-location.

Thoughts turned to much more engaging and worthwhile sporting endeavours with the Classics just around the corner and both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico in full swing. Thinking of the latter, Shoeless demanded to know what the “big, fuck-off pointy pitchfork thing” was all about.

Spry, something of an expert on esoteric cycling trophies as highlighted by a page of his blog (The Weird and Wonderful World of Cycling Trophies funnily enough) patiently explained that it was representative of Neptune’s trident as the Tirreno-Adriatico was a race run between the two seas. We then speculated on how the race could be improved if the leading rider was made to carry the trident along with them.

It was a short step from there to imagining a handicap system where riders were obliged to carry the trophies of their previous conquests, something that would be particularly debilitating for Fabian Cancellara and we imagined him bent almost double and shuffling awkwardly to the Paris-Roubaix sign-on, burdened down with the three huge cobble-stones stuffed in his back pockets.


 

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The Weird and Wonderful World of Cycling Trophies

 

Next up on our agenda for searing insight and erudite comment was Paris-Nice and the chances of Geraint Thomas taking an historic first win, always recognising of course his penchant for falling off his bike at the most inopportune time. Someone mentioned he’d crashed once already, apparently while trying to dislodge a stone caught between his saddle and frame. Fanciful I know, but it was a short step from there to imagining a smug and smiling Fabian Cancellara riding behind him and winking at the camera, happy to have used his astonishing sleight of hand to palm one of his cobblestones off on an unwitting dupe.

The Prof stopped by our table on his way to the toilet, pausing long enough for a quick hug with Crazy Legs. Taffy Steve suggested their homo-erotic displays were becoming a bit much and suggested they might want to think about getting a room. He then ventured to suggest a bit of prostate milking might actually help with the Prof’s constant urge to wee.

At this point OGL approached, snapping on a pair of latex surgical gloves and we all recoiled in horror at what we thought was about to unfold. Much to our relief he neatly side-stepped our table and began to work fixing a puncture on Laurelan’s bike.

Needless to say the Prof claimed the discarded inner tube to add to his growing treasure trove of cast-off bits and pieces and road-kill. OGL recounted visiting the Prof’s secret laboratory/workshop/lair and finding rows and rows of used inner tubes all bizarrely hanging out to dry on the washing line.


 

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Ride Profile

 

The Waffle:

So, who the fuck is Zakaria Amirouch?

Actually that’s a bit of a rhetorical question, I know that Zakaria Amairouch is a cyclist in Tetouan, Morocco. I guess what I really want to know is why does he feel the need to post his rides on our club Strava group? As far as I know Zakaria Amarouch has no connection with the club, has never been to the North East, doesn’t ride the same routes as the rest of us and doesn’t choose to interact with us in any way shape or form, either through Strava or any other channel.

So what exactly does he get out of it? Are we meant to be impressed by his mileage totals, huge rides, stupid photos, KoM’s or his single-minded, some would say borderline psychotic dedication to hunt down and join every single Strava group that exists? Do me a favour Zakaria and fuck off.

Sorry, rant over.

So the much anticipated day arrived, Spring is upon us and the promise of fine dry weather has riders across the region rubbing their hands with unfettered glee as they stow away winter bikes and carefully awaken carbon beasts from deep slumber.

As I gently lift Reg out from his nest between my single-speed and rat-bag mountain bike I can only marvel at how light it is. Don’t get me wrong this is no super-lightweight, fully carbon-outfitted, uber-machine with all the most exotic components. Nor is it anywhere close to troubling the UCI and their preposterous 6.8kg weight limit, but at bang on 9 kilos fully loaded it’s considerably and very noticeably lighter than the Peugeot.

I’d checked the bike over the night before, inflated the tyres with a new, super-slick BBB track pump, and fitted a mount for my knock-off GoPro onto the saddle rails. I was good to go and eager to start.

I’d forgotten how much fun it is to ride on a twitchy, responsive carbon blade and as I dropped down to the valley floor I found I was clipping along two miles an hour faster than usual, stretched out by the different geometry and grinning like an idiot. I don’t think the bike is actually worth an extra 2 miles an hour, I was simply riding on a wave of pure exuberance and joie d’ vivre.

Even the lights on the bridge were in my favour and I skipped over the river without stopping and began spinning up the other side of the valley, looking forward to a good ride out. I wasn’t alone at the meeting place, finding just about everyone had abandoned mudguards and heavy winter bikes in favour of their “Saturday best”.

G-Dawg even turned up wearing shorts, resolutely declaring it was Spring and there was no turning back now.

The relatively mild and dry conditions had undoubtedly been a big draw and around 33 riders and a smattering of FNG’s pushed off, clipped in and rode out. At this point the BFG rolled past me and declared he thought he’d seen everything, but this was the first time we’d had a bike with a kickstand out on the club run.


 

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Riding Out

 

I fell in with the Prof who informed me the Frankenbike, my old crashed and trashed Focus that he had repaired and restored to life in his secret laboratory/lair/workshop, was being honourably retired from service now that he’d found a frame that was a better fit for Mrs. Prof.

He then revealed his dirtiest, darkest secret, admitting he would consider buying a bike with normal sized wheels if he could only find one that increased in value rather than depreciated. Despite my uncertainty he seemed convinced such bikes exist, although even if they do I’m not sure that appreciating value would be one of my major (or even very, very minor) considerations when buying a new bike.

Somewhere around this point I hit a pot and with a loud clatter my pretend GoPro launched from under my saddle and bounced alarmingly across the road. The FNG in football shorts retrieved it for me and handed it across. A quick check seemed to suggest that it was as shockproof as claimed, but the retaining bolt that kept it fixed to the bracket had worked loose and disappeared.  There was no quick way of fixing the camera back in position, so I tucked it away into a back pocket and pressed on. It’s a shame, because I was quite impressed with some of the backward facing shots I had managed to gather in the short time it was working.


 

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An extreme close up of the road surface – the last image my camera recorded

 

I then began what would become the first of many chases to catch back onto our group. Having accomplished this, I found myself slotting in right at the back, where Pierre Rolland look-alike, Spry (not facially, but I can see a definite similarity in style and form on the bike), was cruising along with his dad, Andeven.

As we hit the bottom of Berwick Hill, the FNG accompanying the one in football shorts began to slide swiftly backwards and I watched as a gap between the front and back of our group yawned quickly open.

Andeven skipped around her and gave chase, while I waited a little longer. When it became obvious that even if she made it back up to our group she’d never complete the ride, I pulled out and started my own chase back.


 

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Until it self-destructed I was quite happy with what the camera managed to capture

 

As I closed over the top of the hill I passed a faltering Arnold who said he was doing ok and then found Laurelan who was somewhat detached from our group and drifting backwards. She said she was ok too, but was worried about Arnold who, despite his assertions wasn’t ok and wasn’t feeling all that good.

I noticed OGL dropping back off the front group to see what was happening, so relayed across to him to let him know the FNG’s were well adrift and Arnold was suffering. He went back to investigate further and lend assistance while I gave chase again.

Catching up with the group, I found myself riding alongside Zardoz who was fighting to stave off the incipient onset of serious man flu and reported that someone had broken into his shed and nicked his winter bike. Both perhaps valid reasons for Crazy Legs to declare that Zardoz was the angriest man riding that day, especially after an altercation with a RIM who refused to slow down as he drove toward us down a narrow country lane

This encounter had Zardoz’s moustaches brisling like a face-off between angry tomcats and had him swearing through them with an admirable degree of fluidity and imagination. Gone was the mask of twinkle-eyed, avuncular, bon homie he usually adopts – here was the real cold-hearted cycling assassin revealed in all his dark majesty.


 

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At some point OGL hauled ass past me, breathing hard, but able to gasp out that there’d been no sight of the FNG’s when he went back to look for them and that they must have abandoned the ride. At the rather inevitable pee stop I found that both Laurelan and Arnold had managed to re-join however and did indeed seem ok.

After this short break I found myself riding with Crazy Legs, who like Zardoz was also suffering from incipient man-flu and blaming his infection on sitting next to a 6’4” Irish Elvis impersonator during a business meeting. From my understanding the Elvis impersonator was an all-round good bloke who had been skilled enough at his craft to get a paying gig in Las Vegas. I never did work out what an IT firm needed an Elvis impersonator for though.

As we started up a steep hill behind the BFG, there was an audible hiss of escaping air and Crazy Legs called out, “Puncture!” The BFG dutifully relayed the call up the line, then turned to ask who’d punctured. I could see Crazy Legs giving himself a mental face-palm as he pointed to the BFG’s rear tyre and replied with a sparse, “You have…”

We all gathered together at the top of the hill to wait for repairs to be made. OGL decided that we should split the group and that depending on which group the BFG wanted to ride with the others could press on while the rest waited.

Crazy Legs trailed down the hill to ask the question and then dragged himself back up to inform us the BFG had said he would decide when he re-joined!

Finally underway again, we began travelling down a road where all the potholes had been marked with big yellow brackets spay-painted around them. I assume this means that they’re eventually going to repair the road, but even if they don’t the paint did a great job of showing us which bits to avoid.

The Red Max went off on what, even by his own crazed standards, was an impressively long and very ambitious lone break. At one point Spry said he was thinking of bridging across so the pair could work together, then realised we were bearing down on Middleton Bank and Red Max would soon be engulfed in an unequal duel with gravity and unlikely to be in position to offer much assistance.

Despite the daunting obstacle of the climb to come, Carlton and Cowin’ Bovril seemed determined to bring Max to heel sooner rather than later and whipped up the pace of the pursuit.

We turned right at a junction that dumped us directly onto the bottom of the climb, which was good as there was no time to even think about finding the right gear and less chance of making a mess of things like I did the week before.

Andeven attacked from the very bottom of the climb and quickly pulled away, while I slotted in behind Shoeless as the slope began to bite. As we hit the steepest section I levered myself out of the saddle and swung across the white line, accelerating upwards. Bit by bit I overhauled Shoeless and started to creep past G-Dawg. There was a shout of “car!” from someone at the back and I looked behind to find I’d opened up a big enough gap to slot into, so I swung back across the road and out of danger.

It was now just a case of keeping going, as I slumped back in the saddle, hugging the left hand gutter so there was plenty of room for anyone to pass me. I had no idea what was going on behind, or where the others were and couldn’t hear a thing beyond my rasping, panting breath.  I was gasping like an asthmatic chain-smoker with emphysema being forced to run wind sprints up a mountain and it would took another 2 or 3 miles before my breathing returned to normal.

I was however slowly closing on Andeven and might have caught his back wheel if the slope had continued another 200 metres or so. It’s also just as likely I would have collapsed in a jelly-legged heap if the slope had continued another 200 metres or so, as it was the road levelled and Andeven pulled away again.

At this point I just kept going, recognising I was breaking club protocol by not waiting to regroup at the top of the climb, but reasoning that I was so winded and slow that everyone would overhaul me eventually. Then Shoeless cruised past, I jumped onto his wheel and all thoughts of regrouping were conveniently forgotten as he accelerated away – when confronted by my misdeeds age, enfeeblement and senility have been my excuse in the past and I was sure they would serve me again now.

We picked up Andeven and from what I recall G-Dawg, Plank and Captain Black made it across as we drove for home in front of what I gather was a rather frenzied chase behind. Everyone in the front group swept past me on the final climb, but after blowing last week’s assault on Middleton Bank I was just pleased not to have messed up again and as an added bonus managed to net a new Strava PR for my efforts.

It was pleasant enough for us to encamp in the café garden, with everyone (well, maybe all apart from Zardoz) in high spirits, on top form and full of the usual unfettered, unrelenting torrent of irreverent banter to keep us royally entertained.

A pleasant return leg, mainly spent chatting with Zardoz (he didn’t really seem all that angry) and a good solo run for home capped the best ride of the year.

So far.


YTD Totals: 1,326 km /824 miles with 13,346 metres of climbing