Club Run, Saturday 18th May
My ride (according to Strava)
|Total Distance:||113 km/70 miles with 520 m of climbing|
|Riding Time:||4 hours 21 minutes|
|Group Size:||20 riders, no FNG’s|
|Weather in a word or two:||Soggy bottom?|
Scattered light showers. That’s what the forecast predicted, clearing from 11.00 clock onward, before returning later in the evening. This was an improvement on the previous day’s forecast, which basically suggested wall-to-wall rain from dawn ’til dusk. As I looked out, first thing Saturday morning, the rain indeed, seemed to have cleared, the roads were wet, but there wasn’t much surface water lying around. I’d fully-prepped the Peugeot the night before, but now it didn’t look like its full mudguards would be needed. A bit of a gamble, but if you gamble enough, sooner or later you have to win … don’t you?
On the valley floor, I tracked and then caught up with a fellow cyclist as he stopped at the traffic lights just before Blaydon. If I’d accidentally misplaced caution, he must have given it a right good kicking, before recklessly abandoning it, shocked and bleeding, by the side of the road. Yes, I was on the good bike with no mudguards, but I had on knee warmers, overshoes, a winter jacket under a waterproof, a cap and gloves. My fellow rider was wearing a white, short-sleeved BMC jersey with world championship bands, track mitts, shorts and little else.
I told him I admired his optimism, while wondering if he knew something about the weather that I’d missed.
All was going well and I was beginning to think I was a mite overdressed when, within a mile of the meeting place, the rain started. It would then stay with us pretty much as a constant for the rest of the day, with only the briefest of interludes (ironically, when we were all sitting warm and dry in the cafe).
Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point:
I pulled into the meeting place, which had shuffled off the pavement and over into the bottom of the dim, dank, dreary, dismal (but dry) multi-storey car park to wait and see who else thought this was the perfect weather for a club run.
Taffy Steve, having ridden in from the coast, confirmed we were facing wall-to-wall rain, with no possibility of a break in the weather. He’d had the foresight to not only prep his winter bike, but actually use it too, although I think in part this was due to having a new toy to play with. Gone, banished without hope of redemption, is the thrice-cursed winter bike and in its place is a bright and shiny and neat, Blessèd Beneficent Boardman.
OGL was heading off to watch Round 4 of The Tour Series, in Durham later in the day and offered a lift to anyone who wanted to tag along. We all agreed that a fast, city centre circuit on the tight, cobbled and steep inclines of Durham would be lethal enough, without multiplying the danger with a sprinkling rain to turn the surfaces greasy.
G-Dawg knew of one particular corner, where he felt certain everyone would congregate in anticipation of a crash-fest and thought you’d have to be there ridiculously early to grab such a good perch.
OGL wondered if our ex-clubmate, young tyro beZ would be riding for the Ribble Pro Cycling Team and, given the potential dangers of the course, actually hoped he wasn’t. I was momentarily left speechless by this uncharacteristic show of concern and empathy for another human being.
As our numbers slowly built up, The Silence appeared out of the gloom to lour over us, with no acknowledgement, or word of greeting.
Oh, hi there…
OGL suggested banishing anyone without mudguards to the back, before realising that would mean an extra long, hard day on the front for just him and Taffy Steve.
“Don’t worry, it’s dry rain,” G-Dawg assured us.
There was only time for the Garrulous Kid’s highly considered and informed opinion that “Caleb Ewan is not a sprinter” and then we could delay no longer and pushed out and into the rain.
For the first part I found myself riding alongside Taffy Steve and discussing (I know not why) “the parmo” a culinary delicacy on Teesside. It was described, by no less an authority than the Guardian, as the “‘delinquent nephew of veal Parmigiana.” I can only assume they meant off-the-rails raging delinquent, wild and feral and unpleasant.
My extensive research reveals that the typical parmo, consists of flattened chicken breast, covered in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until crisp. It’s finished off with thick layers of béchamel sauce and melted Cheddar, before the option of topping with pepperoni, bacon, more cheese, and ladles of creamy garlic sauce. Traditionally served with a bucket of chips, the typical parmo is said to contain over 2,000 calories and has been branded as “monstrous” by an anti-obesity campaigner.
While wondering about the etymology of the word “parmo” I told Taffy Steve about my youngest daughter, Thing#2 being out with friends in a restaurant and one of them reading a menu in puzzlement, before asking:
“What’s ‘man get out?'”
“Eh, what’s that? Let me see … oh, yeah, man get out. No idea.”
Luckily one of her more erudite friends turned up before they made fools of themselves asking the staff. “It’s mangetout, you blithering idiots!”
This led Taffy Steve to recall the launch of a Susan Boyle album promoted under the hashtag #Susanalbumparty. We couldn’t decide if this was the work of pure, unalloyed, evil genius or just lucky happenstance, but we both agreed neither of us were remotely interested in Su’s anal bum party.
I spent most of the day trying to ride slightly offset from the wheel in front to avoid as much spray as possible – it didn’t seem to make much difference whether the wheel ahead was covered by a mudguard or not. Water, water flying everywhere, there was no avoiding it. I was soon soaked through.
I had a chat with one of our new(ish) Irish guys, Wilf – the Irish seem to be forming as strong a cabal in the club as the Dutch at the moment. I wondered if the conditions were making him homesick.
“At least it’s warm rain,” he suggested, a nice positive spin on things. Notice how he didn’t try to convince me it was dry rain, like the dastardly G-Dawg.
I took a turn on the front alongside Biden Fecht, through Stamfordham, where we split into different groups for different routes, before pushing across the Military Road, past the reservoir and calling a brief halt for further splits. There were quite a few fishermen out today, but they looked thoroughly miserable.
On we went again, climbing up through the plantations and making our way to Matfen and from there to the Quarry. At the top of the Quarry I pushed onto the front alongside Wilf and we made a run at the cafe.
I helped drag the group up and through the crossroads, ceding the lead through the hairpins, before hitting the front again for the final drag to the road that leads down toward the Snake Bends. Once through the junction, I straightened up and tried to keep the pace high as a launchpad for anyone wanting to sprint.
Taffy Steve burned through, testing out his Blessèd Beneficent Boardman, but a rocket-fuelled Biden Fecht followed in his slipstream and was able to slingshot around the outside and romp clear.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
It was bin bags all around at the cafe, to protect the chairs from some very wet cyclists’ posteriors. Well, all round apart from the Monkey Butler Boy who confessed he hadn’t bothered asking for one.
“That’s because you’re uncouth,” I told him, “whereas I’m the opposite and totally couth.” He looked quizzically at me, but said nothing.
Speaking of uncouth, Szell sat down, grasped his scone and flexed his fingers around it, as if preparing to rip it in two.
“Ooph, you’re an animal, ” I told him, “Are you really going to tear that poor, defenceless scone apart with just your bare hands?”
He paused reflectively, remembering he was a cyclist with all the upper body strength of a wet moth. “Nah, better not, I’ll probably end up with De Quervain tendinitis.”
Outside the rain had temporarily stopped and I even noticed a group of brave cyclists taking a rare opportunity to sit out in the garden. It wouldn’t last.
The Monkey Butler Boy complained that he’d been on a college trip to Middlesborough and been charged £5 for a croissant. We would have sympathised, but what did he expect, croissants and other delicate pastries are probably seen as rather effete and exotic on Teesside, beside, who’d want a feeble, foreign bread roll with a stupid name, when you could get a mighty parmo for far less?
Taffy Steve commended the Monkey Butler Boy for his perfectly framed and composed family mugshot on Facebook, taken from their recent holiday in Italy. He said the whole group looked happy, tranquil and relaxed, but he wished he’d been there for the five minutes before the picture was taken so he could enjoy all the bickering, slapstick mayhem and disgruntlement that he was certain preceded it.
The Monkey Butler Boy admitted it had been a somewhat fraught and fractious affair, before launching off into a tirade about the angle of the sun in the shots being all wrong. Evidently, it still rankled even now.
We then got an unfettered glimpse into life in the Red Max household, learning the Monkey Butler Boy had accepted the challenge of washing the family car for £5 and then been charged £1 for the shampoo, £1.50 for the water and £2.50 for the loan of a bucket.
After that , he’d been enlisted to help out as the Red Max drilled through a thick slab of hardwood during some insane DIY project. Loosening the drill bit and letting it slide out and drop to the ground, the Red Max had picked it up by the non-business end and lobbed it nonchalantly toward the Monkey Butler Boy …
“Hold that for a minute.”
Deftly catching the drill bit, the Monkey Butler Boy had instantly felt the burn of hot metal on skin, swore loudly and instinctively hurled the offending object away from him, only to get a rebuke for disrespecting his dad’s tools.
In contrast, the Garrulous Kids confession of, “I once hit my fum with a hammer” seemed rather tame and uninteresting.
By the time we left the cafe, the rain had returned and looked like it had settled in for the long term, while the temperature seemed to keep bumping its way incrementally downwards. I decided to cut my losses and bailed from the group early, to loop around the other side of the airport and shave a few miles off my journey.
Even with this short-cut I still racked up 70 miles, most of them in a wet and pretty miserable conditions. Perversely though, it was a good ride.
I got home in time to watch Caleb Ewan handily winning Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia, in what looked to be a sprint finish where he easily beat lots of top sprinters.
Yeah, not a sprinter.
YTD Totals: 3,244 km / 2,018 miles with 42,066 metres of climbing