There and Back Again

There and Back Again

Day#3  L’Alpe d’Huez

Total Distance:                                25 km / 16 miles with 1,033 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         1 hours 50 minutes

Average Speed:                                13.6 km/h

Group size:                                         3

Temperature:                                    31°C

Weather in a word or two:           Hotter


 

taba

The Ride


I awoke rather groggily to find someone had broken in during the night and filled my legs full of concrete and it took me a while to get moving. When I did, I found Crazy Legs busily flitting around and dressed to ride.

“Whassup?”

“I’m going to ride up the Alpe.”

I needed to ride to try and rediscover where my legs were.

“Wait, I’m coming.”

“How long do you need?”

“15 minutes.”

“Ok.”

As we reached agreement, Captain Black emerged, blinking and yawning. Rest had obviously done him good and Twatty MacTwat Face had reverted back to being Old Faithful. I told him the plan and he hauled his ass into gear too – 3 for the Alpe!

It wasn’t much longer than 15 minutes later and we turned right out of the campsite, pushed the pedals around half a dozen times and found ourselves once again on the first ramp up the mountain to L’Alpe d’Huez.

I took the first couple of hairpins out of the saddle and turning a modestly large gear, until feeling returned to my lower extremities and the stiffness stated to dissipate. I then dropped onto the granny ring, and plonked myself down to spin slowly upwards.

Behind me Captain Black got half way round the first hairpin and was shocked to find just how hard it was. Just before he turned round to head back, thinking he obviously hadn’t recovered from the day before, he finally looked down and realised he was still on the big ring. There was a sudden, resounding, clunking, wince-inducing clang of stressed and tortured metal that reverberated around the mountains, as he changed down under intense pressure and finally found instant relief and his climbing form.

The three of us worked our way slowly up the mountain, pausing frequently at various shady vista’s and viewpoints, picking out the past winners signs on the corners, taking photos and chatting with other cyclists.

The signs were a roll-call, highlighting some of cycling’s great and good (and occasionally villainous) – both past and present, ranging from the imperious, il campionissimo, Fausto Coppi in 1952, right up to Thibaut Pinot in 2015.

I found signs commemorating wins by Bernard Hinaut, Gianni Bugno, Stephen Rooks, Frank Schleck, Pierre Rolland, Carlos Sastre, Andy Hampsten and Hennie Kuiper among the more famous and celebrated of the winners.

Lance Armstrong’s name is still up there (twice) despite having his Tour victories annulled, along with two for the equally dubious and questionable Marco Pantani, who still holds the record for the fastest ascent of the mountain in an astonishing – no doubt rocket-fuelled, but still astonishing time of under 38 minutes.

I have to admit though, that even taking time to hunt them out and read the signs, I still missed one or two, including Joop Zoetemelk’s 1976 sign which I’d vowed to desecrate in honour of Lucien Van Impe. (Only kidding, nice Dutch folk!)

As previously mentioned, I found the signs totally underwhelming – so much so that I didn’t even bother photographing any of them – but here’s one I prepared earlier (or pinched from the Internet anyway).


huezs


As we were making our way around one hairpin, our bête noire from Saturday made a reappearance, as a bumbling Harley Davidson blatted loudly up the road and awkwardly around the bend, leaving a trail of greasy exhaust fumes in its wake.

“Your bike’s shit!” an indignant Crazy Legs shouted after the motorcycle, unfortunately just as another rider pulled up alongside him. This rider gave him a long, quizzical look before deciding he was in the presence of a sun-touched Englishman and he didn’t need to defend the honour of his Cannondale SuperSix. Just to be sure, he accelerated smartly away to avoid further insult to his bike and Crazy Legs can at least take a little credit for spurring one rider on to set a good time.

At the village of La Grade we stopped in a welcome patch of shade, where an elderly rider and his support-vehicle-driving wife were sitting enjoying the views. Our talk turned to decomposition rates as Captain Black enjoyed a belated breakfast banana and Crazy Legs described in intimate detail how the discarded skins turned black, slimy and wizened along the way. “Speaking of black, slimy and wizened,” he declared, starting to reach down the front of his shorts, “My knackers could do with a bit of relief.”

“Hey, nice day, isn’t it?” the support-vehicle-driving wife drawled, stepping in with a nice bit of deflection.

“Oh, hello,” Crazy Legs responded, quickly withdrawing his probing digits and thinking fast, “I thought you were Dutch …”

It turned out they were American, from California, on holiday so the husband could enjoy a second-crack at riding the Alps. We then had a brief chat which concluded rather awkwardly when the wife offered sympathy over the “terrible, tragic things” in the UK and we had to ask whether she meant the terror attacks, the Grenfell Tower fire, or being lumbered with lame-duck, Prime Minister who would sell her own mother cling to power.

She meant the tower fire, which is obviously a cataclysmic tragedy, but not something we were ever likely to be personally invested in and it seemed an odd, discordant thing to bring up with total strangers on a bright sunny day, half-way up a mountain in France.

We kept going and stopped again at what we think was Dutch Corner, afforded the opportunity to look down and appreciate how far we’d climbed, the vista opening out to show the road below, twisting and turning sinuously through multiple hairpins as it snaked up the mountain. Crazy Legs recalled watching the Dauphine from this vantage point in 2010 as a rampant Alberto Contador made multiple impressive attacks before breaking clear to win the stage.


alpe
Reg in repose © Clive Rae

As we pushed on the other two slowly drew ahead and I was happy to trundle along at my own pace, slowing down and swinging right across the road to peer myopically at the signs on the hairpins and try to pick out past Tour stage winners.

More snaps from the photographers, the long drag upwards, a sarcastic slow-hand clap from the inflatable King of the Mountains and I was across the finish line and taking a seat next to Crazy Legs and Captain Black in the same café we’d stopped at the first time up the Alpe. Captain Black won the race to first beer of the day.


me
© Griffe Photos

And then we spaced ourselves well out for the fun of the descent. It was to be this, more than anything, which gave me an appreciation of just how big a task cycling up a mountain actually is – it took almost 15 minutes to whirr down to the bottom and every hairpin I thought was the last one was followed by another and then another. Looking back around the corners was also the first time I appreciated just how steep some of the ramps actually were, it’s not something you get a good impression of while struggling up them.


alpdown
Captain Black assures me that tiny speck in the road is me descending the Alpe © Anthony Jackson

And then, sadly it was over, we were done and back at the campsite and climbing off for the last time.

By this time my legs no longer felt like concrete, maybe more like hard cheese – a Cheshire or a Red Leicester perhaps. Either way an improvement of sorts. We broke the bikes down and packed them up, then picked up Steadfast and wondered into town for a few drinks and a late lunch.

The patron of the bar was apparently quite upset she couldn’t offer us any food, “Je suis desole!” but we were happy with baguettes and cornets des frites to accompany the beer. The Hammer joined us, fresh from a ride up to Allemont and then finally Goose appeared after a day alternatively spent walking and lazing by the pool. A few beers and we wandered up to the Dutch restaurant for the last supper.

All this time we talked an unending stream of nonsense (as usual): how Pierre Latour somehow acquired the name Roger, the immorality of any sport that needs judges to decide a winner, Tyneside legend Dave the Dwarf, once spotted drinking in the incongruous company of towering Scottish lock forward Doddie Weir. This led to an attempt to calculate how many dwarves you could reasonably expect in China’s 1.4 billion population and serious concerns about where all the Chinese dwarves are hiding.

We learned that Goose had been inspired by tales of a granny who was arrested for pointing a hairdryer at speeding cars in her village during a (seemingly hugely successful) attempt to get them to slow down. He revealed he had then taken this as inspiration for his own brand of traffic vigilantism, patrolling the streets around his home and leaping unexpectedly out at any motorist he suspects of speeding, arm raised, hand out while intoning a very simple, authoritative and stentorian: “No!”

We managed to calculate bills and work out a way where no one (hopefully) felt out of pocket and discussed doing something similar next year, or the following, although Crazy Legs declared he’s more or less done with the Alps, so we thought up a few alternatives such as Spain – the Pyrenees or Basque region, Tuscany, or perhaps, radically even somewhere flat like the Netherlands.

And then we wandered back, packed and slept, woke and showered, loaded the van, endured an unfriendly chalet inspection, settled our bills, waved off the Hammer and set out for home.

Swiss custom officials were strangely no happier to see us go than they had been to see us arrive and Heathrow customs officials managed to outdo them in terms of inertia, apathy and glowering disaffection.

We bade “bon voyage” to Steadfast, returning to his home along the south coast and the Goose wandered off in search of the best deals he could find on Toblerone. While we waited for our connecting flight, Captain Black stood us a round of coffee’s and had to double-check the price several times before he realised he wasn’t in Geneva airport and didn’t need to take out a second mortgage to pay for them.

The “barista” asked for his name and he momentarily confused me by saying Ant rather than Captain Black, or just the Captain. He obviously confused the barista even more as the coffee’s arrived with “Hans” carefully scribed on every cup.


hans
©Anthony Jackson

“Oh no,” I suggested to Crazy Legs, “That makes you Knees and me Boomps-a-Daisy.”

We then sat around discussing the worlds woes and how to correct them, until Crazy Legs looked at the flight board and realised our gate was closing in 10 minutes and we were in real danger of being left behind!

A quick, power-walk through the terminal had us tagging onto the very back of the queue, before clambering aboard our connecting flight to Newcastle and home.

At the other end we kept an intent and anxious watch on the baggage carousel, waiting for the arrival of bike bags and boxes and getting a little concerned as time dragged on, the crowd started to thin and the conveyor belt slowly emptied. Then Goose took a step backwards and fell over our bikes which the ninja baggage handlers had delivered by hand and stealthily dropped off right behind us.

Home, safe and sound and largely intact.

So, two days of travelling, Thursday 15th June and Monday 19th June bookended 3 days of riding, the Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Over the three days we were out on the bikes for 22½ hours, rode 251 kilometres or 156 miles in around 14 hours with almost 6,900 metres of climbing including, L’Alpe d’Huez (twice), the Sarenne, Lauterat, Glandon, Croix de Fer, Télégraph and mighty Galibier.

BA Flights form Newcastle to Geneva via Heathrow cost £160 each.

Budget Car van hire, plus fuel was £478.24, or £95.65 per person (5 people)

Two chalets at the Cascades Campsite, Bourg d’Oisans, cost £698.41, or £116.40 per person (6 people)

The total cost for my trip was around £372, plus meals, food and drinks.

Having been back a couple of weeks now, I can honestly say if someone offered me the exact same trip, with the exact same rides (even including all the pain and misery of the Circle of Death) I wouldn’t hesitate and I’d sign up immediately.


YTD Totals: 3,844 km / 2,304 miles with 46,068 metres of climbing

 

Rumble Strips

Rumble Strips

Club Run, Saturday 22nd April, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km / 67 miles with 1,024 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 03 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.5 km/h

Group size:                                         34 riders, 4 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Moderate


 

ride 22 april
Ride Profile

Saturday looked like being a reasonable enough day as I carried the bike down the front steps, out onto the road, clipped in and pushed off.

Ahead of me, the traffic lights turned red and a car pulled up before them. I wasn’t really concentrating, sort of pootling along, aiming to glide to a halt behind the stopped car and I was within maybe twenty yards from its bumper when I sensed, more than saw another car overtaking.

I instinctively recognised there wasn’t enough space for both of us on the same stretch of road, flinched and bailed, diving for the inside and reaching for the brakes. The driver of the overtaking car, a pale blue Renault Scenic seemed to suddenly realise they were in the wrong lane and approaching a set of red lights too fast, so simply braked and swerved sharply into the space I’d just vacated. That was too close.

I banged on the passenger side window to ask what the hell the driver thought she was doing, only to learn it had all been entirely my own fault as I’d been “all over the road” so the driver had a right, if not in fact a moral obligation to punish me and put my life in danger. I’m pleased we got that sorted.

I assume by “all over the road” she mean’t I wasn’t hugging the gutter and doffing my cap to all the righteous car-drivers as they sped past. There was no mention of the fact she was obviously speeding (it’s only a 20mph zone) overtaking while approaching a traffic junction and stopped cars, had dangerously cut me up and seemed to be driving with undue care and attention.

Even if I was “all over the road” as she claimed I would have thought that would have been a good reason to hang back, rather than attempt a stupid and reckless overtaking manoeuvre. But then again, it’s hard to fathom the way some people think and refuse to own up to the consequences of their own actions.

I told her she was going to kill someone driving like that, but doubt it had any effect, although she did drop down the hill keeping scrupulously within the speed limit, so just maybe she sensed her actions weren’t quite as 100% justified as she claimed and had been shamed into more careful driving.

No, you’re right of course. Probably not.

I pressed on, glad to get to the bottom of the hill and see the Renault drive off into the distance, while I began to stalk, catch and pass another pair of cyclists as I wound my way down to the bridge.

Crossing the river, I back-tracked down the valley before beginning to climb out the other side. Before this I found that all the road works that had been holding me up for the past few weeks had cleared, and the road now bore a new scar, a long stripe where they’d buried pipes, or cables or some such. This strip of new road look glossily black and sleek, smooth and inviting compared with the original surface.

I naturally assumed this would be a much better to ride on and switched onto it. Whoah! It looked smooth, it looked shiny, it looked rideable and I’ve no idea how they’ve achieved this, but if felt as though I was riding over an invisible rumble-strip. The bike shook and vibrated with a weird resonance that almost made me nauseous and I had to hang on grimly as everything seemed to bump and rattle and buzz.

I switched back and checked the bike over, looking for a puncture or something to explain the horrible ride. Nothing. I tried the new surface again. Same result. It looks like I’ve found my own cobblestone runway, but at least I know to avoid it now. Let’s hope that’s not the new standard for all new roads and repairs around here now.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

I found an old acquaintance at the meeting point, finally deciding today was the day he’d join the ranks of the FNG’s and ride out with the club, only after a mere 4 years of promising and procrastinating. Apparently he’d been texting me all week to let me know he’d be out, but we concluded he must have the wrong number, so some random person would have received a slew of odd queries about chamois cream, clippety-clop shoes, leg shaving and tight fitting spandex clothing.

We spent the next 15 minutes or catching up with news on daughters, bikes and bike fits, man-made fibre allergies, tri-athlon training and retirement plans, until it was suddenly time to go.

There was still however an opportunity for the Garrulous Kid to show off his new socks. “They’re Pringle’s” he proudly told me, although that bit was quite evident from the way Pringle was emblazoned down either side.

At least they weren’t as long, hairy, flappy and floppy as last week’s efforts. They were neither too long, nor too short and were reasonably straight and inoffensive. They were passable. They still weren’t white though.

The Garrulous Kid then worriedly exclaimed, “It’s getting dark!” and I had to reassure him it was just a cloud passing over the sun. Goodness knows how he’d react if we had an actual eclipse.

With around 34 lads and lasses crowded onto the pavement, it was probably just as well that we split the group. The Hammer outlined the options and his plan for leading out the first bunch, aiming for a ride with an average speed of 17-19 mph. OGL and G-Dawg were set to lead off the second group, who would trace the route of tomorrows Sloan Trophy as a pre-race course safety-inspection.


I found myself in the front group along with some seriously strong and much younger riders, such as Mad Colin, Eon, Jimmy Mac and Biden Fecht. With a target of 17-19mph average speed, I thought this could get embarrassing quickly, although I was somewhat reassured by the presence of some more regular and “equally-abled” riders.

After last week’s ride behind Pierre Rolland look-alike Spry, this week I had the chance to follow Eon, who could pass as Steven Kruijswijk’s body double, his shoulders so wide it looked like he’d forgotten to remove the hanger from his jersey before pulling it on.

It took a while to find the rhythm, but pretty soon everything had warmed up enough, we were clipping along at the requisite speed and any fears of blowing up, grinding to a halt, or simply fading off the back began to diminish.

Eon set the pace on the front, first alongside Aether and then, when he’d worn him out, with Jimmy Mac, until he decided he’d best relinquish the lead before he got complaints he was going too fast. Eon pulled across and I then took over with Jimmy Mac for the next section of the ride.

Slipping across the Military Road, we skirted the Reservoirs and at the request of Zardoz I called a pee stop, laughing when he disclosed he didn’t need to pee, he was just worried he was getting too close to the front of the group and wanted to take the opportunity to slip back and find more shelter amongst the wheels.

We then realised the ride had been so fast and smooth that we were well ahead of schedule and in danger of reaching the café too early. We agreed to tack on a slightly longer, hillier loop and set off again.


NOVATEK CAMERA


As we freewheeled downhill as a prelude to a series of short, sharp climbs, I caught up with the Hammer and we had a quick chat about how well things seemed to be going. Despite living most of the time in exile away from the North East and rarely being able to ride with us, he’d even paid up his club subs to avoid any flak about leading a ride when he wasn’t a club member.

If that hadn’t been penance enough, he’d even found a club jersey mouldering away at the back of his wardrobe and, against his better judgement and all good aesthetic taste, had decided to wear it to look as official as possible. I agreed it was a nice touch.

He slipped back to count numbers and make sure we hadn’t lost anyone and I found myself on the front again, this time joined by the Garrulous Kid as the route became decidedly lumpy. We pushed on and no one moaned about the pace, so I guess we did ok.

As we rode along the Garrulous Kid complained that he thought he’d been unfairly treated in my blog witterings last week and explained his comment about never having met Captain Scott had simply been because he thought we were referring to a pseudonym I’d assigned a club member.

“Everyone knows Captain Scott was the first man to conquer Mount Everest.” he concluded. I am, of course more than happy to set the record straight and apologise for doubting his savvy, acumen and unerring knowledge of key historical figures.

As the climbing evened-out and we set course for Matfen, Mad Colin whipped us into an impromptu, pace-line, riding through-and-off. It was all a bit ragged at first, but it did get me off the front. We stuck with it though and had just about managed to iron out the kinks and start to cruise when – amidst much cheering and jeering from both sides – we passed our second group, heading in the opposite direction toward Stamfordham.

The pace-line drove us at a rapid rate of knots to the bottom of the Quarry climb and we scrambled up to the crest, taking the slightly shorter, but lumpier right hand turn. A few jumped away in a long-range strike on the café, but I hung back, knowing the road would soon start to drag up approaching the crossroads, they’d slow and I could probably bridge across at this point.

For once things actually worked out as planned, and as we dropped down the hill on the other side I caught up and then kept going, darting inside Caracol and onto the front around a tight corner. A long descent led to a sharp left and I braked late before sweeping round, kicking hard and dragging everyone over more lumps and up to the junction with the road leading down to the Snake Bends.

A few nudged in front at this point and I settled comfortably in amongst the wheels as the speed built some more. I eased up alongside Caracol and began singing him the chorus to Matt Keating’s “Boxed-In” – which I’m not sure he fully appreciated.

Now in a compact, buzzing group, Zardoz slid up on my right, I gave him a big, cheesy grin and he winked back before briefly inching his front wheel ahead of everyone else’s.

With the Bends fast approaching, I wound in the speed and sat up and the group elongated and spread out as we swept through the corners. That was good and fast and fun and I still didn’t feel like I’d been on the limit. Maybe my series of rides over the Easter weekend has had a positive effect.

We cut across the main road and ducked down the side lane, well, all except the Garrulous Kid, who took the direct route, belting straight down the main road to later claim he had won the race to the café.

I tried to explain to him that the official-unofficial finish is before the Snake Bends, so you don’t go racing through those and find yourself sweeping wide on a corner and into the path of a car – something I felt he should have realised when he’d done just that last week.

I declared instead that Zardoz had won the sprint, suggesting that brief nano-second when he inched in front of everyone else was right on the imaginary finish line. Zardoz agreed wholeheartedly with me, so that was that decided.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I found Princess Fiona, trying to arrange an alternative club activity for Sunday – a hike through the Cheviot Hills as a welcome variation on just another bike ride. Caracol and Goose seemed interested, although the former would wonder at her insistence that he must see a particular refuge hut.

Caracol felt the attractions of the refuge hut were being over-played slightly and the plan had gone from “you should see” to a mandatory – “you will visit” this place.

I couldn’t help thinking about the Great Escape and suspected Caracol was being sentenced to the punishment block: “For you, Tommy, zis var is over. You vill go to… ze cooler!” – or something else racially stereotypical and probably offensive to all Germanic people the world over. I hope he took his baseball.

Talk turned to how Princess Fiona felt the sporting prowess of her family – father still actively cycling at 85, brothers who are all triathlon champions – suggested she was genetically predisposed to being a better athlete than she felt she actually was.

In her shoes, I suggested my contrary take would be:  look I obviously have the base genetic material to be good, so I feel I have nothing to prove and, you know what, I just can’t be arsed. Get over it. This attitude could of course go a long way to explaining my rather startling mediocrity.

We discussed my fear of not at being able to keep up with everyone in the first group that morning and how choosing a group to ride with is fraught with all the pressures, issues and uncertainties of picking a team for school games, only in reverse. For a ride, instead of choosing the best players to make your team as good as possible, you actually start looking for people of roughly the same ability or even slower, so you know you aren’t going to be the first one blown out the back at the drop of a hat.

Usually, if you ride together regularly, you’ll have a fair idea where you sit in the pecking order of abilities and any changes to the hierarchy are likely to be gradual and noteworthy. (None of my clubmates have ever shown the sort of overnight improvement that would lead me to suspect widespread abuse of EPO within our ranks. If they are using it, they should probably ask for a refund.)

The big problem comes when you’re with an unfamiliar group and trying to assess abilities – then you become particularly judgemental based on some very unscientific and totally unreliable barometers, which are all coloured by your own prejudices.

This is likely to involve such things as age, body shape, demeanour, tan lines, bike spec and cost, the tightness, brand and style of clothing, whether a helmet has a peak or not, or (in my case) even sock colour and length. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that none of these are any indication of how well, or poorly, someone can propel a bike up and down the road.


On the way out I caught up with Taffy Steve, who complained at his unjust punishment for missing last week’s ride, not only having to sit all day on the front of the second group, but also being forced to share a table with the Garrulous Kid at the café. I concluded it was karmic justice and that he was obviously being punished for some truly venal and unspeakably evil act he must have committed in a former life.

The Garrulous Kid himself then approached to claim he now, definitely knew how to fix a puncture and launched into a confusing and convoluted tale of a puncture simulation involving a needle to let the air escape and the complete removal of the tyre in order to fit a new inner tube.

We then questioned him about why he didn’t take the much simpler and sensible expedient of letting the air out through the valve.  After some lame argument about how that wouldn’t be a real puncture simulation, the tale then morphed to where the needle was something or other attached to his track pump and of course he didn’t poke a hole in the tube, or take the tyre off completely.

Nope, I’ve no idea either.

He then nodded his head and exclaimed, “Look at that funny little bloke” I was left momentarily speechless, but luckily several others pointed out he was looking at Ray Wetherell, one of the greatest cyclist the North East has ever produced, a local legend, who’d achieved more in cycling terms than the Garrulous Kid could even dream of and deserved nothing but respect.

Trying to explain this unforgivable faux pas in a way the Garrulous Kid might actually understand, Taffy Steve suggested what he’d just said was akin to dissing Yoda. Maybe the message got through.

I set off for home alongside Taffy Steve, discussing truly crap British cars of the past, which to my mind were epitomised by the Talbot Samba. I then learned that Son of G-Dawg wasn’t out today as he was at some work away-day, conference and team-bonding session. This allowed me to regale Taffy Steve with my favourite Alexi Sayle quote, or to be more accurate truism: “Anyone who refers to a workshop outside the context of light engineering is a right twat.”

Dropping down Berwick Hill I had a chat with Grover, who seems to be finding his riding groove again following a winter of hibernation. I swapped places so I could latch onto G-Dawg’s wheel for the Mad Mile only to find I wasn’t alone and all the young racing snakes were jumping over the top and snapping at G-Dawgs heels like young pups trying to bring down the Alpha-male.

By the time I swung off and away at the roundabout G-Dawg was sitting watchfully encamped on their back wheels, just daring them to attack again so he could swat them down once more.

My solo ride back was without incident and I got back to hear about the tragic loss of Michele Scarponi, killed in a collision with a motor vehicle near his home. I can’t say I was ever a Scarponi fan, but this seemed a cruel and senseless death and for it to happen on familiar, local roads just seemed to underscore the poignancy of the loss for his young family.

Having had my own travails with arse hat drivers just outside my front door this morning, also reinforced how lucky I’d been and the ever present risk you take every time you swing a leg over your bike. Still, I guess the rewards must outweigh the risks.

Love him, or loathe him, I think perhaps Chris Froome’s comments on Scarponi summed things up best for me: “The whole cycling world has been shocked by his passing and it’s something that rings very close to home for a lot of people. Not just us as professional bike riders, but people who go and ride their bikes every day. He wasn’t breaking any traffic rules, he was just riding as he probably does every day, 2-3km from his home.”

Team Sky website

A rather sad  and sombre end to a great ride.


YTD Totals: 2,323 km / 1,443 miles with 24,825 metres of climbing

Two Up, Two Down


 

Club Run, Saturday 26th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   114 km/71 miles with 1,060 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 35 minutes

Average Speed:                                   24.8 km/h

Group size:                                           29 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      13°C

Weather in a word or two:              Chilly and overcast

Main topic of conversation at the start:

According to his Faecesbook post, OGL undertook an epic ride of over 85 miles on Good Friday, two thirds of which he claims to have completed all on his lonesome.  The BFG won the impromptu sweepstake by correctly anticipating OGL would mention his own “epicness” within the first 2 minutes of arriving at the meeting point. We were not disappointed.

Then, unwittingly and unlooked for and with no prompting at all from his audience, OGL once again launched into the gruesome tale of scrotum-meets-stem-during-track-meet, replete with an all too vivid description of the catastrophic ripping and rupturing that ensued and the stitching needed to make him whole again.

Attire, a fully-paid up member of the Cult of the Racing Snakes listened to this bloody tale impassively, then reached into his jersey pocket, wrestled out an entire Lyle’s Family Sized Golden Syrup Cake Bar (typical number of servings per pack = 9) and proceeded to devour it almost whole, gnawing through and around the different layers of packaging to get to the sticky goodness within.


 

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Not the most portable of snacks, but the equivalent of a dozen energy gels

 

Seeing such a massive cake bar being cavalierly brandished and then demolished, the Red Max felt it put Taffy Steve’s choice of puny cereal bars to mortal shame and he pressed Taffy Steve to reveal just how inadequate and insecure this made him feel.

The BFG had a cunning plan to not only ride every one of the four club runs over the Easter weekend, but complete each one on a different bike. With this in mind he rolled up astride the carbon on carbon uber-bike and immediately began praying to the weather gods for a dry day on Sunday so he could venture out on his wooden wheels.

The Prof informed us he’d manage to wrestle Mrs. Prof’s gear hanger back into some semblance of functionality and she’d been able to limp noisily home from her mechanical yesterday, albeit with the rear derailleur threatening to hurl itself bodily into the back wheel and playing a clattering tune on the spokes, as carefree as a schoolboy running a stick along park railings.

The Monkey Butler Boy complained about the pink stem cap that had appeared overnight on his bike following the Red Max’s latest round of refits and improvements. Max suggested it was there to remind the Monkey Butler Boy of how girly he is every time he looks down and said that he’d even considered having “You’re a big girl” engraved across the top.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Lance Armstrong film, The Program came under critical review and received the massive ringing endorsement, “Yeah …  it’s all right”

I criticised Ben Foster for having to take drugs in order to be able to act like someone who took drugs, reminding Taffy Steve of Laurence Olivier’s fabulous response on seeing Dustin Hoffman’s “method” acting technique of not sleeping and making a mess of himself to get into character while shooting Marathon Man:  “Dear boy, it’s called acting.”

[The venerable Toshi-san remembers Olivier’s retort as “Try acting, dear boy. It’s easier.” Which may be inaccurate, but is even better.]

Spry felt the actor who played Michele Ferrari really let the film down with an awful and unbelievable cod-European accent, only to discover the actor, Guillaume Canet was actually French, so plausible Italian shouldn’t have been that much of a stretch.

Someone wondered why Jan Ullrich didn’t feature and I think we all had in mind candidates to play the hapless, rotund German who never seemed to get to grips with the temptations of the off-season.


 

ride 26 march
Ride Profile

 

The Waffle:

So, here we go then, day two of the Easter holidays and the second day in a row that I’m allowed out for a club run. I guess I was just born lucky. Or maybe the family are happier in my absence and I’m just unwanted in my own home.

The perfect, blue skies of Friday had gone however, leaving a grey, windy and even chillier clump of weather to be negotiated, with a burst of heavy rain being forecast to make an unwelcome appearance around midday.

The camera slung under the saddle appears to be producing one or two decent shots in amongst a mountain of dross and discards, so would be put into action again. One or two of the riders captured have even adopted the photos for their personal Faecesbook profiles, maybe there’s no higher compliment.

This got me wondering if I might get embroiled in an argument over royalties and image rights like David Slater and his monkey selfie. All it really needs is for someone to champion and care for the rights of cyclists the same way they do for hugely vicious, vermin-raddled, wild monkeys – c’mon, surely MAMILS are more lovable and worthy than crested macaque’s? Anyone? No? Oh, well…

Arriving at the meeting place there were a handful of survivors from Friday and a whole new batch of fresh riders eager to stretch their legs and dish out a little pain. Once again then a fairly sizeable group of just under 30 of us pushed off, clipped in and set out.


 

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Things were going well until we stopped at a T-junction and I watched in disbelief as the BFG fell like some majestic giant redwood, slowly and silently toppling to crash into the ground while still clipped firmly into his uber-bike. I’m still not sure whether he was attempting a smart-arse track stand, was having cleat problems or simply forgot what he was doing – either way the results were unintentionally comic.

He shamefacedly picked himself up, scrubbed ruefully at the scratches on his no-longer pristine brake hoods and tried to nonchalantly side foot the debris back into the crater his impact had created in the road surface. Maybe now people won’t be so intent on pulling stupid-ass stunts – wheelies, track stands and other shit while riding in a group.

We recovered and pushed on, Crazy Legs and Goose hitting the front for an epic and marathon effort into a strengthening and debilitating headwind. Chapeau guys.

At the split Crazy Legs went off to recuperate a little with the amblers, but Goose stuck with the longer, harder, faster group of around a dozen or so, finding the going quite hard after all his sterling work on the front.


 

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I felt good and led on the first couple of hills, but the legs tired quickly and began to feel heavy and full of hurt.  Although we took a completely different route getting there, we were soon once again heading for the Quarry climb and then the slow burn to the café.

I managed to stay with the lead riders to the top of the Quarry, but was distanced for a while shortly afterwards trying to recover. We then all regrouped on a downhill section and the pace began to build.

Pierre Rolland look-alike Spry put in a perfectly timed attack on the next short rise and splintered the group. The rider whose wheel I was on lost contact and by the time I’d gone around him the gap was too great to shut down.

I was on the drops and working harder than I had on my solo break the day before, but the gap at refused to close and then ever so slowly yawned open. I pushed on regardless, bouncing and rattling over the uneven road surface and limped into the café some way behind the leaders and appropriately sur la jante.


 

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Inside we found Plumose Pappus home from university for the holidays and intent on turning all the paper napkins in the café a bright shade of red. He was managing all of this from a deep gash in his elbow where a large crescent of flesh seemed to have been crudely hacked out and according to the BFG he looked even paler than I did after the hill climb.

From what I can gather from the muddled conversation around me, Plumose had fallen whilst trying to take a jacket off mid-ride. If true, maybe now people won’t be so intent on pulling stupid-ass stunts – wheelies, track stands – oh, sorry – you’ve heard that already…

The Red Max once described Plumose Pappus as the only man with legs the same diameter as his seatpost and Taffy Steve had calculated he was exactly twice the young feller’s weight. The worry now is that with a sizeable chunk out of his arm he’s going to weigh even less and be even more difficult to hold back on the climbs. It’s a radical form of weight loss and perhaps one that should be kept from Sir David Brailsford and his dogged and unwavering pursuit of marginal gains.

Plumose Pappus was bundled into his mum’s ambulance/voiture balai, no doubt destined for the local A&E and an intense bout of wound cleaning and stitching up. When he recovers he’ll have a great opportunity to swap hoary old injury stories with OGL and perhaps one day, if he’s brave enough, they can even compare scars.

Meanwhile, back in the café I was successfully inviting my fellow cyclists to sit like a human shield between me and the fire which was roaring and throwing out heat with the intensity of a Krupp blast furnace.

Ever the pragmatist, Taffy Steve took the much more effective step of simply negotiated with the café matron to have the fire turned down, or for them to at least not bother throwing another sacrificial cyclist onto the blaze. Mission accomplished the stop at least became bearable.

On the return home we hit roadworks and were stopped at some traffic lights. OGL spotted a car pulling into and lurking in parking space on the wrong side of the road and rightly guessed he was going to jump around us when the lights changed.

Suitably warned we were able to avoid getting unnecessarily caught up under his wheels and impeding his entitled progress. The danger wasn’t over though, as a truly moronic RIM in a white Transit van tried to shoot the gap between the lights and cyclists forcing us to dive out of the way again. We watched in complete and utter astonishment as he then drove 20 yards past the lights and turned off the road and onto a driveway. What a complete and utter arse hat.

The legs were heavy and hurting, but I managed to hang in the group until the first split when the remnants entered the Mad Mile and started to accelerate away for one last blast. I let them go happy with my own pace and preparing myself to turn off and into the headwind for the trek home.

Things weren’t too bad until I started to drop down to the river, finding the wind was so strong I had to pedal downhill to maintain momentum. As I crossed over the bridge the first drops of a light rain began to sift down, but I was on the climb of the Heinous Hill before it began to fall with any real intent and safely indoors before the heavens truly opened.

Two hard rides in two days, both enjoyable, but I really do need to rest and recover now. I’ve also discovered that doing two club runs in succession is a challenge, but not nearly as difficult as two blog entries.

I’m quite looking forward to the resumption of normal service next week.

YTD Totals: 1,720 km /1,069 miles with 16,238 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


 

pa NOTICE


 

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.


 

ride 12 march
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