Anti-Cyclone

Anti-Cyclone

Club Run, Saturday 30th June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 118 km / 73 miles with 1,242 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 30 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.2 km/h

Group size:                                       7 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   24°C

Weather in a word or two:          Hot


anti
Ride Profile

I couldn’t summon up even a single jot of enthusiasm for doing the Cyclone this year, so while the majority discussed their 106-mile, 90-mile and 64-mile ride options, I cast about for other, like-minded club members to see if we could have a normal-ish Saturday club run.

The Red Max and Taffy Steve seemed up for doing something “not-different” – so we put it out there as an alternative to see who else we might entice along.

Saturday morning was grey and overcast, seeming to promise a brief interlude to all the hot, sunny weather we’d been experiencing all week. It was still indecently warm and a dry day seemed guaranteed, so I gave the weather no more thought as I clipped in and pitched down the Heinous Hill.

After two week absence, I was pleased to find the bridge at Newburn still closed to cars, although less pleased that the ramp over the washed out section of road had collapsed somewhat. I grounded my chain coming off it and decided it was probably best if I no longer used it as an impromptu time-trial start gate.


Main topics of conversation at the start

I arrived at the meeting point just in time to spot the backside of Richard of Flanders disappearing out of sight as he attacked the ramps leading up to the top of the multi-storey car park. I wondered if he had a secret Strava KOM up there. He suggested he’d just never been up before, so wanted to see what it was like. Hmm.

Slowly a small knot started to coalesce and by the time we’d rolled out, we were 7 strong – the Anticyclone Seven, as Taffy Steve would dub us.

The Red Max has been organising regular Wednesday evening runs, a leg-shredding, set 30-mile loop run at full-bore, on-the-rivet, balls-to-the-wall, maximum speed. This Darwinian, survival of the fittest has already reduced grown men to tears, including the likes of Carlton (who vowed never to do it again, before promptly turning up for another go a few weeks later).

I’ve started referring to the rides as the Circus Maximus and suspect it’s only a matter of time before the Red Max turns up with scythes attached to his wheels.

Richard of Flanders has thrown himself wholeheartedly into this madness, apparently shouting “Have it!” as he continually attacks off the front, is caught and immediately attacks again.

I suggested what he was probably shouting was actually “Havoc!” as a prelude to letting slip the dogs of war…

Now Max suggested that Taffy Steve might enjoy the Circus Maximus experience too.

“What ride 10 mile in from the coast after work, red-line my heart, shred my legs, burn out my lungs for an hour and then ride 10 mile back to the coast?” Taffy Steve enquired.

“Yes!” a gleeful Red Max insisted, his evident enthusiasm over-riding any perceived negatives in this plan.

“Err .. No, thanks.”

Richard of Flanders described downloading an Irish narrator/navigator to his Sat-Nav, hoping for some soft, lyrical, lilting and calm directions. I was only at the start of a very long road trip that he belatedly discovered what he’d actually selected was a rampant, rabid, Ian Paisley/Nationalist Ulsterman.

“I think yeell find ye don’t want to go dine thar!” it shouted, before declaiming loudly, “Ye should just go dine sighff!”

Luckily, we had no need of a Sat-Nav today as the Red Max had something in mind, which thoughtfully included several stops for coffees.

As we started the countdown toward Garmin Muppet Time, the sun broke through the clouds and I was able to shed and stow the arm warmers. This was the start of what would be a long and sustained bout of unexpected sun, which would see me getting home with bright red, burned kneecaps. Where’s the cloud when you need it?


The ride was progressing well as we traversed the Mitford Steads. I was on the front with Richard of Flanders when we rounded a corner and startled a young roe deer casually ambling across the road. The deer’s flight instincts kicked in so hard that it lost all traction on the tarmac and I could hear its claws skittering and skeetering across the top of the slick road as it did a quick Bambi on ice impersonation, before finding its feet and crashing away into the woods.

We paused at Dyke Neuk, which was a mistake as we were now on the route of the Cyclone and had to wait for a break in the stream of passing cyclists before we could get going again. When we did, the Red Max switched to full-on, loopy-Labrador mode and started chasing down anything that moved, gradually working his way up the stream of riders by jumping from wheel to wheel.

Luckily, the Cyclone was routed up the next right hand turn and we were able to regroup before howling down the Hartburn dip and up the other side. We started plugging our way toward Scot’s Gap, catching and passing a lone cyclist. Rab Dee glanced round, saw the Cyclone number on the rider’s bars and told him he had missed a turn and was off course. The Cyclonist turned around to retrace his steps and hopefully, find the right route.

In the distance, Rab spotted another lone cyclist and took off to see if they too were riding the Cyclone and had gone astray. Accelerating to catch her, we found that she too had missed the turn and was heading in the wrong direction. She had apparently started out in a group of friends, but had been dropped and left to her own devices. The Red Max provided instructions for her to re-join the course without having to backtrack and we pressed on.

Through Scot’s Gap and on to Cambo, the Red Max sniffed the air and decisively declared, “Coffee!” We swung left off the road and into one of the Cyclone feed stations, where the welcoming local residents had opened up the Church Hall to sell cakes and coffees.


Coffee Interlude#1

We grabbed coffee and cake and wondered outside to sit on the grass and enjoy the sun.  Here we discussed unequal wear of pedals and cleats, which was largely dependent on which foot you tended to release when you clipped out. Most of us were left-footers, but Rab Dee was a right footer. With his right pedal worn out from over-use, but the left almost as good as new, he wondered if there was the potential for a pedal-exchange programme with a suitably discomfited left-footer.

As we preparing to leave, one our earlier strays turned up, having failed to follow the Red Max’s explicit instructions. She’d done about 26 miles of the 64-mile route and had less than 20 still to do. Still, on the positive side, she was well ahead of the people she’d been riding with and had a chance to either beat them home, or wait around to join them, fresh for the last leg.


cyc2


We were back on the Cyclone route for the bad descent down through Wallington (high speed, vicious rumble strips and a narrow bridge make this a bit tricky for the unwary) but we were ahead of most cyclists at this point.

We then left the route as it headed for the Ryals and had a fast run toward Capheaton. At the junction, Richard of Flanders and Slow Drinker set off for home and Rab Dee went off for a longer ride out. I pushed on with the Red Max, Taffy Steve and Zardoz toward more coffee at the Capheaton Tea Rooms.


Coffee Interlude#2

“The problem with multiple coffee stops,” the Red Max explained, “Is multiple coffee stop sprints.”

We got coffee and cake and found a table on the tearoom balcony. Here we heard all about the Monkey Butler Boy, lavishing all the money from his new Call Centre job on bike bits – much to the disgust of an old timer sitting next to us, who couldn’t work why anyone needed a power-meter. (I had a lot of sympathy for his view).

The Red Max outlined a plan to take Coffee Interlude#3 at Stamfordham and then pick up the tail-end of the Cyclone route, once all the riders had an ascent of the Ryals in their legs, at which point he conjectured they’d be easy pickings!

We left our shady sanctuary and took to the sunny roads again, stopping to try to work out what the odd machine perched in the bed of a truck was. After careful examination, Zardoz and the Red Max concluded it was a vintage, steam powered, electrical generator. I bowed to their superior engineering expertise, quite frankly I didn’t have a clue.

For a refreshing change, we went down the Quarry climb, joined the Cyclone route just after the Ryals and pushed on for Stamfordham.


Coffee Interlude#3

The Red Max and Zardoz stopped for coffee and ice cream, but I decided it was getting late and it was time to head for home. Taffy Steve agreed and we set off at a decent clip, working our way around a steady stream of tired Cyclonists as we pushed on.

Just before Callerton, I split from Taffy Steve and the Cyclone route and started my drop down toward the river and home.

I was back just a couple of minutes later than usual, having had a thoroughly relaxed and enjoyable alternative Cyclone.


YTD Totals: 3,914 km / 2,4,32 miles with 49,186 metres of climbing

Advertisements

Chevauchée Pyrenees – Day #4: Time for Business

Chevauchée Pyrenees – Day #4: Time for Business

 

Ride 3, Sunday 24th June, 2018

Hautacam and Col de Tramassel

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                       40 km / 25 miles with 1,286 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                               2 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                      17.5 km/h

Temperature:                         27°C

Weather in a word or two:    Hot


Hautacam
Ride Profile

Sunday morning and we meet up at the campsite entrance ready for our last day of riding. “Time for business,” Caracol mutters, setting Crazy Legs off on a Flight of the Conchords song:

It’s business
It’s business time…

Hmm, business time indeed, but first we had to wait for the Mid-Life Motorcyle Mob to clear the campsite entrance with their farting, spluttering machines. Once they’d buzzed off, trailing a cloud of exhaust fumes and waves of pungent aftershave, we mount up and ride out.

It promised to be another hot, hot day, with traffic surprisingly busy for a sleepy Sunday morning, so we had quite a delay getting out the campsite. Not that we were in any great hurry, we only had one goal today, the Hautacam and back by the most direct route and preferably in time so the boys could watch the England vs. Panama kickball game.

We snaked our way through the village, crossed a bridge over the turbulent and swift-flowing, Gave de Pau and almost immediately found ourselves heading uphill. We were planning on passing through the summit of the Hautacam and its traditional Tour de France finish and pressing on, right up to the top of the Col de Tramassel. I would understand why when we got there.

So on the menu today was a hors catégorie climb of around 16km and up to a height of 1,190 metres, running at an average gradient of 7.5%. Kermit told me it no lesser a rider than Alberto Contador had described it as one of the hardest climbs he’d ever faced, although I couldn’t find any source to support this. Anyway, I would question Contador’s judgement, after he allegedly claimed OGL was one of the greatest descenders ever to ride a bike (that’s according to OGL anyway.)

Through the village of Ayros, the gradient stiffens and the signs warn the next kilometre is at an average of 10%. We’re already slightly strung out along the road, but at this point the gaps start to seriously attenuate. Caracol and Kermit skip lightly upwards, while I lumber in pursuit of the Hammer, closing in on the steeper sections, but falling back again when the road levels – (“levels” being a purely relative term, I mean of course where the slope eases ever so slightly). The rest of our group are strung out at various points behind.

Just after the village of Arbouix, Captain Black bridges across to join me and I share his company for the next few kilometres. The gradient hits 13% through some hairpins, as we catch and pass another couple of Brits. I beg them to tell me it gets easier, even if it’s a lie.

Following the road around the perimeter of a narrow field, a couple of bare-chested farm labourers are struggling to clear out some bushes. It looks like dry, dusty and hard work. Meanwhile, just by the side of the road, their small dog lies dozing comfortably in the shade of a leafy, green tree, seemingly intent on proving that it retains all of its mental faculties and feels no need to join the Englishman out in the (near) midday sun.

Thanks Nappy

I read somewhere that the Alps are more uniform than the Pyrennees because Napoleon (once an artilleryman, always an artilleryman) had their roads engineered with regular gradients. This was to ease towing gun carriages up and down the mountains, thus enabling his need to invade sundry other countries and kill lots of their citizens.

I’ve no idea if this is true, but even by Pyrenean standards the Hautacam seems to have a point to prove. It goes out of its way to be as irregular and erratic as possible, with ramps of various pitches all jumbled together within its kilometre sections, making the average gradients all but useless when judging how hard the next section will be.

At one point, a sign declaring a 7.5% average became somewhat more foreboding when it is immediately followed by a sustained and prolonged downhill section. We knew we would be paying for this brief respite just a little further on.

“In the granny ring yet?” Captain Black enquired as we topped another steep ramp. I assured him I was and had been for a long, long time. Despite this I seemed to be climbing out of the saddle with more power and without spinning my legs quite so futilely. I attributed to the extreme steepness of the slope. Hmm…

We hit sections of 15% and 16% and the Captain slowly started to pull away. I found myself alone, again. Naturally.

As a distraction, I start counting pedal strokes between the kilometre markers and reckon there was about 750 of them, although if I’d miscounted, or even double-counted I wouldn’t have been remotely surprised.

On one, aggressively steep section, I pushed the right hand lever hard left. It was already against the stops and I knew it, but I had to try anyway, just in case a new gear had miraculously manifested.

I then glanced down and found I was still in the middle ring. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but immediately dropped onto the granny ring, although the worst of the climb seems to be behind me. I was now out beyond the tree line, rattling over another Passage Canadien and could see the road twisting and turning across the open pastureland ahead and a long trail of riders clambering up behind me.

(In)Sole of the Mountain

Off to the right I saw the totally incongruous sight of a solitary, discarded insole by the side of the road Who? What? Why? When and how? Answers on a postcard, please.

The gradient has eased back to an 8% average and, as I pass the summit sign, the road yawns wide open. It feels like I’m riding across the deck of an aircraft carrier, a flat sea of empty, rather dusty, black and featureless tarmac, capped by nothing but a blank, blue sky overhead.

When the Tour de France finishes up here, this area will be transformed into a busy finish hub, with cars and caravans, coaches, tents, barriers, crowds and the works. Right here and now though, it’s all a bit disorientating, just a big empty car park. I feel as if I’m suffering a mild attack of agoraphobia and I stop pedalling and coast, looking around for where to go next.

The two Brits I had passed further down the slope work their way up and past me and I wait to tag onto their wheels and tentatively follow, trying not to make it too obvious that I’m not quite sure where I’m going.

They find a road out of the car park and we’re back on track and set to climbing again. Another 1.5 kilometres or so up the road from the Hautacam is the summit of the Col du Tramassal, and a café promising cake and coffee. What further incentive does a man need?

I’m still feeling pretty good, so roll the chain down the cassette and attack the last few slopes, rising out of the saddle and bursting past the two Brits, who must have wondered what the hell I’d been snorting back there in the car park.

Around a final shoulder of the mountain, the road zigs and zags upwards toward the cafe, a natural amphitheatre, where our front-runners are now sitting along the crest of the slope, enjoying the sun while they look down and cheering everyone through the final few hundred metres.

I join them to encourage the others in, take a few photos and to admire the fantastic views of the Col d’Aubisque and the other snow-capped peaks across the wide-open valley. It is utterly stunning up here and it only takes a thoroughly enjoyable ride to experience it.


IMG_0294


4 Days of Bullshit

We retire to the café terrace where the question du jour is why the bear in the TV series, BJ and the Bear, was played by a monkey? We decided that the pilot probably cast a proper Grizzly in the lead role, but it proved too hard to control and savagely mauled its co-star. We then imagined the Hollywood producer-types trying to determine how best to replace the Grizzly and save their series?

“I know guys, what about an alligator? Mountain lion? Ok, ok … how about a camel?”

I have a chat with Crazy Legs who asks if I’ve enjoyed the trip. “What, four days of unadulterated bullshit? What’s not to like?”

“Ah,” he suggests, “You’ve got a blog title already.”

Briefly Airborne & Then Done

For some reason, I’m the first off on the descent and lead the way for the first three-quarters or so, until the Hammer edges in front.  As we sweep through one of the villages, I hit a speed bump and become briefly airborne.

As the road straightens, Caracol surges past, pedalling furiously and we drop onto his wheel. The three of us ride full-bore all the way back to the campsite, opening up a big gap on everyone else.

And we’re done. I can’t help thinking I’ve got another mountain or two left in my legs, but I’m pretty sure that’s just bravado.

Lost in Translation

We retire to the bar to watch the football, where England record a handsome victory, albeit built on a rather homely looking performance.

We also get the short-end of a cultural exchange with the barman. We helpfully tell him Crème Anglaise is custard in English, but he fails to reciprocate in like fashion when Crazy Legs enquires after the French equivalent of the term “built like a brick shithouse.” I guess somethings get lost in translation.

We stayed long enough to watch the start of a Grand Prix, typically the only interesting bit of these races. Sure enough, there was the usual carnage and crashes off the grid. We left shortly afterwards to ponder why they had soft, super-soft and ultra-soft tyres (I guess hard, medium and soft doesn’t sound dramatic enough, but what they’ve chosen sounds like different grades of toilet paper?)

The campsite bar is closed Sunday evenings, so we need to head into town for ravitaillement. Goose wanders off as our advance party to scout out food and drink options, while the rest disperse to start packing up our bikes.

Reg breaks down and packs away handily and with surprising ease and I wander around the campsite just to fill in some time. Here I find Caracol, struggling to fit everything into his bike box, and looking gaunt and washed-out again. He cries off from the evening’s excursion and retires to his bed, still seemingly suffering the after effects of heat stroke and his exertions across the three days.

The rest of us congregate on a chalet porch to finish off any remaining supplies and then take a two mile or so walk into the town to find Goose.

Goose Gets Paella

He’s discovered in a bar with a friendly waiter who Goose insists is Spanish, despite the lack of any kind of supporting evidence. He’s now communicating with his “new best friend” in pidgin-Spanish, even though the waiter speaks perfect English (and probably Spanish too.)

The bar is good, beer is good, company is good and the menu looks good . The only downside seems to be a bunch of English cyclists, all uniformly dressed in tuxedo-printed cycling kit (hilarious and original) and straw Panama hats. Rightly or wrongly (and I’m still leaning heavily toward rightly) we take an instant dislike to them, but luckily they’re just there to pour a few beers into their faces and soon wander away.

After days of wanting a paella, talking about paella and how best to prepare and cook paella, Goose finally gets to eat paella, which he declares is very good, very big and suitably filling.

Along with Crazy Legs, I choose the cassoulet, which is also tasty and big enough for hungry cyclists. The rest have various pasta dishes, all of which are deemed at least adequate, except for Steadfast’s lasagne, which is about the size of a choc ice and soon disappears without touching the sides. We wonder if he hasn’t accidently ordered from the children’s menu.

Goose Invents Ebola

With a big clean-up of the chalets scheduled for tomorrow, Goose describes an advert, that seemingly only he has ever seen, of someone cleaning a kitchen work top with a chicken breast. He also revealed a dark and distant past part-time job as a “professional” cleaner. Apparently, he was somewhat less than diligent and claims to have inadvertently invented MRSA and maybe Ebola too.

Carry On Regardless, Part 1.

For some reason talk turns to Carry On films, which, through the power of Google, Kermit reveals number an astonishing 31 titles!

Unfortunately, he then starts listing each one individually:

“Carry On Sergeant, Carry On Nurse, Carry On Teacher, Carry On Constable …”

“Ok, we get the picture.”

He “carries on” undaunted.

“Carry On – Follow That Camel, Carry On Doctor, Carry On Up the Khyber, Carry On Camping….

“No really, stop now.”

“But, I’m almost finished. That’s Carry On! Carry On Emmannuelle and … [dramatic pause] … Carry On Columbus.”

He takes a deep breath, “Several other films were planned and scripted, but unmade…”

“No!”

We discuss options for a trip next year, perhaps somewhere we can fly direct to from Newcastle and doesn’t include a long car transfer. Perhaps that way I won’t suffer that first night travel-sickness-thing again? (Or whatever it is.)

We have lots of ideas, but nothing is decided, well, other than to cross off Goose’s suggestion of Chernobyl as a destination. I’m sure the roads are lovely and quiet, but there are sadly no direct flights to Boryspil Airport in Kiev and even if there were, it’s still a 3 hour drive from there to Pripyat.

We wander back to the campsite. Ably assisted by good food, red wine, beer and the cumulative efforts of several days riding, sleep comes easily.

In the morning, we clean out the cabins and handover the keys. Unlike last year, there’s no forensic inspection and no accusatory interrogations and we’re free to go without even a cursory glance at our, nonetheless spotless accommodation.

We plan and execute a quick detour to take in crepes atop the Col de Peyresourde. It looks like a fantastic climb from the west and it would make it onto my bucket list if I had such a thing. The crepes were good too. I’ll be looking forward to the Tour’s super short, Stage 17 this year, which starts at Bagnères-de-Luchon and immediately tackles this route.

Then it’s the long drive to the airport, arriving in plenty of time for check-in.

Carry-on Regardless, Part 2.

As we wait to check-in Kermit starts to get antsy about his big, red, oversized carry-on bag again, convinced he’s going to be stopped and charged for exceeding his baggage allowance. He starts eyeing up the ground crew, trying to determine which one looks the most benevolent and identifying the stern, stone-faced ones he hopes to avoid – a sort of baggage Russian Roulette.

Before we make it that far, an announcement informs us that the flight will be busy, so passengers are invited to check hand baggage into the hold for free. Kermit breathes a sigh of relief. Nonetheless, he gets a ticking off from the ground crew for having such a ridiculously large carry-on bag and somehow manages to feign both innocence and remorse, as he’s relieved of his big, red burden.

I’m the last to check-in and everyone else has disappeared by the time I make my way to the over-sized baggage drop off. Five minutes on intense, unfriendly scrutiny and unnecessarily prescriptive instructions from a taciturn, French baggage handler and the bike bag goes one way and I go the other.

Plain Sailing

I catch up with the others, just before boarding and notice we’re sharing the flight with some Panama hat wearing, English cyclists that may just have tuxedo-printed cycling kit tucked somewhere in their luggage. Crazy Legs even gets to sit in the same row of seats as one of them, but is luckily buffered from direct contact by another innocent passenger playing piggy-in-the-middle. As such, his curled-lip disdain goes unremarked.

Leaving the plane, I can’t help but notice all the HSBC adverts plastering the air bridge, welcoming us to Heathrow and extolling our “United Kingdom.” I can’t help wondering if this is supposed to be ironic, or is just very badly misinformed.

De-planed (as they insist on saying in the business) we all congregate at the other end, minus Steadfast, who has already taken a flyer into the seething morass that is a hugely overcrowded, glacially slow Heathrow passport control.

We’re about to plunge into this very maelstrom ourselves, when Captain Black spots signage directing us elsewhere for our connecting flight. We find ourselves in some kind of placid, quiet backchannel, quickly passing through a fully-automated passport control system and then smoothly released into the general departure lounge.

We stop in the Wetherspoons for some food and then we’re on the last leg and being hustled on to the plane for the short hop back up to Newcastle. Well almost, Goose gets stopped at the gate and we pause to laugh at his startled, rabbit in the headlights act as he screws up the facial recognition sensors and then desperately tries to get them to recognise him.

At the other end, our baggage arrives in dribs and drabs and we depart piecemeal. As such I’m well on my way home before Kermit realises his bright green bike box isn’t going to put in an appearance.

“It’s Big & Green and Nowhere to be Seen” : Kermit

Kermit’s bike box is eventually tracked down to Zurich and is finally returned to him a few days later. Before this, however, it seems to have been fed through a threshing machine and both box and bike are badly damaged. An insurance claim is on-going, while in the meantime, Kermit has to resort to his winter-bike, at a time when we’re enjoying the longest spell of fair weather we’ve had for years.

I have a feeling though that even this isn’t going to put any of us off signing up for similar adventures if offered next year.


Chevauchée Pyrenees Totals: 228 km / 142 miles with 5,570 metres of climbing

 YTD Totals: 3,741 km / 2,324 miles with 47,054 metres of climbing

Chevauchée Pyrenees – Day#1 Tripping Out


Planning & Prep

Encouraged by our super-successful, slightly-secretive, semi-selective, sterling-sojourn into the Alps last year (see: Riders of the Alps Bucket-List) – this time Crazy Legs had us targeting the Pyrenees for another raid, deep into traditional French cycling territory.

With his formidable planning skills to the fore, he picked a date, found flights and accommodation and then simply offered the opportunity up to anyone willing, able-bodied and crazy enough, to want to ride a bike up multiple mountain passes in searing heat.

All we had to do at this point was indicate our intent with a quick, “Oui” or, “Non.” Perfect.

Wholly unsurprisingly, all of last year’s sextet re-upped for a second Tour of Duty (or Tour of Doodie, if you happen to be American) – so that was Crazy Legs, Goose, Captain Black, the Hammer, Steadfast and me.

To these serried and honourable ranks we added some real climbing prowess, with Kermit, a sub-55kg, climbing spider-monkey and the larger, but somehow-even-faster-going-uphill, Caracol.

Buster hemmed and havered, but eventually gave a reluctant, “Non” – and so we were set – an octet of inappropriately optimistic, opportunists, intent on wrecking who knows what – legs? lungs? livers? … and probably, somewhere along the line, any hopes of post-Brexit, Anglo-French entente cordiale, too.

British Airways flights were booked to leave early Thursday morning, June 21st from Newcastle to Heathrow, where we would connect with Steadfast, before travelling on to Toulouse. The return was planned for the following Monday, allowing us 3-full days of riding.

As usual, the Hammer would travel independently (which our fevered speculation determined would be through a combination of private jet, chartered helicopter and chauffeur-driven limousine).

Due to arrive early as our advance party, he promised to gather the most basic essentials to fuel our trip, which, in order of importance, appeared to be beer, wine, beer, cheese, beer and pain au chocolat.

… and beer.

Crazy Legs had secured us four cabins at the Campsite du Lavadan, just outside Argelès Gazost and some 15kms due south of Lourdes. This would be our base of operations for our 3-days of cycling and would put us within the orbit of such famous Pyrenean climbs as the Tourmalet, Hautacam and Aspin.

Goose sought and negotiated transport from the airport to the campsite – one big, 6-seater-van and a large car, deemed sufficient for 7 skinny blokes and their oversized bike boxes. He and Kermit bravely volunteered to do the driving and we were not at all worried when Kermit kept asking which side of the road he would be driving on.

The flights cost £185, the car hire about £65 each and 4 nights’ accommodation was around £100, so the basic bones of the trip came together for a, fairly reasonable, £350.

Crazy Legs then devised and circulated a rough plan for the rides:

Day#1 – Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aspin – a 126km loop

Day#2 – Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque – a 120km loop

Day#3 – Hautacam – 40km – straight there and back again

Everything was agreed and booked by the time BA announced the cancellation of our return flights.  Luckily, the available alternatives actually helped, rather than hindered, with a more relaxed timing for the return.

Then, like last year, I more or less forgot about the whole thing until a few weeks before we were set to go.

There was a little last minute uncertainty when flash floods hit the western Pyrenees and destroyed some of the roads around the region. Indications were that the route from the Col d’Aubisque through the village of Gourette was particularly badly affected and likely to be closed, but we determined to play it by ear and adapt our route on the day.


PY


More seriously, any effect on the upcoming stages of the Tour de France, set to travel across the same roads for stages 19, remains to be seen.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

Like an anorexic, bulimic teenager, weight became a bit of an obsession on two fronts as, learning from the previous trip, I planned how to travel lighter, both personally and baggage-wise.

The latter was much the easiest to accomplish. I swapped last year’s borrowed, rigid bike box for a cheap Planet-X bike bag, which I would load up with the bare minimum. This I determined was: one T-shirt per day, the clothes I would travel in, three full sets of cycling kit, a few energy gels, a set of allen keys for building up and breaking down the bike, a couple of spare tubes and a few sticking plasters (in case of emergency).

I found the bike bag much easier to pack than a box. It had integral wheel compartments and a ton of internal pockets that proved incredibly useful for stuffing things in and keeping them tied-down and in place. I also found the bike would fit in easily, with only one pedal removed – and the less assembling and disassembling I do, the happier I am, so a win all round.

Wheels out, one pedal removed, seat post out, handlebars released from the stem and taped to the top tube, I removed the gear hanger and taped the rear mech up inside the stays. I mummified the whole rear triangle in bubble-wrap, added a few pieces of foam pipe insulation to protect the frame and held everything in place with copious amounts of masking tape. That’s it, I was done.

If anything, the bike bag proved too big and capacious. Even fully loaded with wheels, frame helmet and clothes, it was still only ¾ full. I could actually have done with it being not quite as tall and, while eminently luggable, a set of wheels on the base would have been a real boon.

I’d been paying a little more attention to my own weight than usual and, as mileage ticked up, this started heading in the right direction too. I was hovering around 65kg’s on the weeks leading up to departure and starting to feel stronger and better for it.

That was until, the weekend before, when I developed a sore throat and tried the patented Crazy Legs cure of riding through it. (Hint: he’s called Crazy Legs for a reason).

Exactly one week before the trip, I climbed off the bike after a difficult commute home, admitted defeat and crawled into bed for three days, laid low by some vicious, random bug that left me thoroughly drained, caused me to miss a slew of meetings at work and, more importantly, the Saturday club run.

The following Wednesday, D-Day Minus-1, I finally swung a leg over the bike for a lone, last commute and my final ride before travelling to the mountains. Not exactly the ideal preparation, but I was good to go.

Priscilla, Queen of the Pyrenees

Early Thursday morning and having submitted my (hopefully well-packed) and protected bike to the tender ministrations of the ground crew at Newcastle International Airport, I tracked down the rest of the mob, already happily ensconced in a coffee shop in Departures and slurping down a selection of premium, hot beverages.

I think Kermit had surmised his baggage allowance also took into account personal weight, which gave him a massive advantage over every other passenger. To exploit this to its fullest extent, he was trailing quite the biggest and reddest piece of “hand baggage” I think I’ve ever seen.

We naturally queried if it would fit within regulation, hand-baggage dimensions, knowing full-well that if he did, by some miracle, manage to jam it into one of those baggage-guidance stands, it would never come out again.

Taking our concern to heart, Kermit triumphantly zipped up the expandable gusset, reducing the bags width by, oh, I don’t know a whole 5cms, maybe, and effectively reducing its overall footprint by almost 2%. It still looked massive and Kermit started to fret a little about getting it on the plane without having to pay an excess baggage charge.

Meanwhile talk turned to marginal gains, with Kermit admitting to taking a hacksaw to his seatpost to shave off a few centimetres and a few excess grams. There was some involved discussion about whether leg shaving constituted a marginal gain, while Goose and Crazy Legs bemoaned their androgenetic alopecia … of the legs.

Kermit worried we must have sounded like a troupe of old queen’s sitting round talking about leg shaving, but I assured him we were much too ugly for anyone to make that kind of mistake.

Someone mentioned Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and it was a short-leap from there to Priscilla, Queen of the Pyrenees. Meanwhile, I briefly pondered if there’s a collective noun for a transvestites – a camp of transvestites the best I could find.

Our flight was called and we made our way to the gate, half of us taking the escalator to jeers about “marginal gains” – which no doubt thoroughly bewildered other passengers. I felt I was doing ok, as, although I used the stairs, I was drafting Caracol the whole way.

On the plane, Crazy Legs found himself sitting next to a bloke who looked like a rugby prop forward, he was as wide as he was tall and solid. He initially took the aisle seat, hoping the plane wasn’t full and he wouldn’t have to squeeze into the middle of the row. No such luck, a late arriving passenger appeared to claim the aisle seat and the prop forward was soon pressed in tightly against Crazy Legs, blocking most of the light filtering in from the window and causing the seat in front of me to creak alarmingly.

Close proximity, coupled with abundant, natural Crazy Legs bonhomie, soon had the muscled-mass talking and it emerged he actually was a prop forward, from Leeds Carnegie Academy and travelling to France for a little continental seasoning at one of their pro clubs.

The Return of Hans

At Heathrow, with time to kill, we gravitated toward the Costa Coffee where we’d been sitting, talking our usual brand of unadulterated bullshit on the return last year, only to forget about the time. We’d had to dash to the gate, making it just as the last flight home was closing.

In commemoration of that anniversary, Captain Black informed the staff his name was Hans, which they duly inscribed on his coffee-cup, as they had the year before when he’d told them his actual name. I’m still at a loss to understand how they could have misinterpreted Captain Black quite so badly that they arrived at Hans.

We found five seats and Kermit perched on his big, red case to sup his drink. (Ah, so that’s why he brought it). British Airways announced our connecting flight was full and were offering to check hand baggage into the hold for free. Hoping to avoid any unwelcome arguments, Kermit gave up his impromptu perch and had it checked in. One less thing to worry about.

Jump Judo

As Kermit returned from the baggage drop, we were discussing the photos of Donald Trump alongside Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, which seemed to prove that the President of the United States was lying (yes, I know – it’s hard to believe isn’t it) about his height. The photographic evidence suggested that he isn’t the 6’3” he claims and, given his weight, can officially be classified as obese.

Still, I’m not sure if this matters, after all a wholly impartial, completely objective and scrupulously honest physician has already unequivocally informed us, that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Kermit only caught the tail-end of this conversation and then spent five minutes wondering what Jump Judo was and whether it was worth catching on Eurosport.

Dead or Alive?

A discussion about the Orange Dotard’s tiny hands morphed into a discussion about Jeremy Beadle and the Kenny Everett character, the spectacularly stupid, Brother Lee Love, who had giant hands. From these humble beginnings the trip tradition and a new game, Dead or Alive?  was born. The rules were quite simple, whenever someone moderately famous, or mildly notorious was mentioned, someone (usually me) would invariably pipe up to query: “He’s dead, isn’t he?”


bll


Backed up by Google, the most astonishing thing we found was how many people we thought were dead, were still hanging on, hale and hearty, and how many we thought were still with us that had, in fact long since departed.

France Bound

We eventually relinquished the seats in Costa’s and made our way to a quiet gate, where we could sit and people-watch. Here we enjoyed the drama of a futilely sprinting, late-arriving passenger pleading to be allowed onto a flight that had already closed.

(I thought he lost his case through over-acting, especially when he clasped his hands together in prayer and begged. At this point went from being a somewhat sympathetic character to overly-dramatic and slightly unhinged.)

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs tried to decipher the complex code behind all the rank markings on the epaulettes of the aircrews. The conclusion seemed to be they were mainly for show and generally meaningless.

At some point, we were joined by Steadfast, who lives just a short drive away from Heathrow and then we were all filing on board and bound for France. Goose snagged a Financial Times to read on the plane, but would later complain there were too few pictures to hold his interest for long.

On the flight I swapped seats so a pair of separated, second, or third time-around (I assume) honeymooning Americans could sit together and I managed to sleep through most of the flight.

At the other end, we queued dutifully for our bike bags with a motley collection of other Anglo-cyclists, then suffered through the seemingly interminable process of collecting our rental cars. Why such a simple process always takes such a long, long time remains one of life’s great mysteries. Finally, we were sorted and started to move.

We hit the van first, Goose and Captain Black finally remembering how we’d managed to fold the rear seats flat after a fair amount of pondering, head scratching and trial and error. We managed to load 6 of the bikes into the back of the van, squeezed in four passengers, with Goose as a driver and off they went.

The second vehicle turned out to be a new, very square, very big and very ugly, ultra-white Jeep. I would have been embarrassed to be seen in such a (# cough # wanker tanker # cough #) monstrosity at home and I think my bike bag felt the same as it curled up and hid, alone and a little lost in the Jeeps rear compartment.

I finally got to grips with a recalcitrant SatNav, tapped in details of the campsite and then Kermit got us moving for a couple of hours driving, with arrival scheduled at the campsite just as the sun was setting.

We made it to our destination without incident, bikes and bags were quickly unloaded into the cabins (all decent looking and a step up from last year’s – not that we’d ever do much but sleep and shower in them anyway.)

We picked up our advance party, the Hammer and all piled into the campsite bar. There, hard bargaining with a somewhat angry and prickly site manager, managed to make Brexit negotiations look simple, straightforward and positively jocular, but our unwavering stance finally netted us four buckets of moules et frittes and four platters of ham, eggs and chips. This seemed just about acceptable to everyone.

I stocked up on calories, washed everything down with a couple of beers and retired to the cabin, looking forward to a good night’s sleep, an early breakfast and the chance to calmly build up the bikes before we began our first ride tomorrow.


 

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Club Run, Saturday 9th June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                       118 km / 73 miles with 1,023 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                               4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                      27.3 km/h

Group size:                              24 riders, 1 semi-FNG

Temperature:                         17°C

Weather in a word or two:    Temperate


 

YSSUG
Ride Profile – (with Friday’s commute thrown in for good measure)

Another chilly start to the day, my ride across to the meeting point was wholly unremarkable, except for miles and miles of road south of the river that were lined with yellow traffic cones. Because I’m quick off the mark, I was able to guess that there was obviously some event or other taking place.

If I’d realised it was the 9th June, I might just have made the connection and understood the significance, still, even without this hint, I somehow managed to correctly guess that all the activity was somehow related to the Blaydon Race, although I also thought (incorrectly) it was scheduled for Sunday.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Jimmy Mac was already at the meeting point, showing off a huge patch of road rash on his calf that looked like someone had blasted a muddy football off his leg. He’d been involved in a mass pile-up during the Tour Of Cambridgeshire Chrono + Gran Fondo and, considering the circumstances, escaped relatively unscathed.

The same can’t be said for his Storck bike, Zipp wheels, Assos shorts or Specialized shoes, all of which were well and truly written off, although he appeared remarkably chipper about the whole thing, I think if I’d travelled 200 odd mile and sustained losses of maybe £2-3,000 or more, I’d still be crying and cursing the cycling gods.

Still, here he was, bright and early, out on his winter bike sans mudguards and ready to lead the ride. Perhaps his general insouciance can be attributed to the fact he took out a massive new insurance policy on the Storck just the day before he left for the event?

While posting up today’s intended route of Facebook, Jimmy Mac had jokingly referenced the Velominati Rule#5, which had inadvertently triggered a (somewhat predictable) bad tempered, off-kilter, nonsensical tirade from OGL.

This was so completely inarticulate, we wondered if it was a cry for help from someone suffering a stroke while actually furiously bashing at a keyboard. We even tried to identify the precise point in his messages when the blood flow was suddenly cut off from the brain, but it could have been at any one of a dozen points.

A worried G-Dawg had immediately queried if OGL was quite ok and whether this incoherence was due to predictive text or excessive wine, while Radman concluded it was obviously predictive wine. Still, OGL had the perfect comeback, invoking the deeply mysterious, startling succinct, cutting and insightful reply of “2.”

No, I don’t know either…

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs related that he’d been tempted to buy some new socks when he saw Castelli Corsa Rosso – 6 socks for £8.00 on Wiggle. His keen brain quickly worked out that this was just £2.66 per pair of socks, an absolute bargain for such quality kit and too good a chance to miss.

On receiving just a single pair of socks with his order, he quickly checked the webpage before succumbing to an apoplectic e-mail rant. There he learned he could not only buy Corsa Rosso – 6 socks, but also Corsa Rosso –9 socks, or even Corsa Rosso 13 socks, all named for the length of the cuff and completely unrelated to how many items you get per pack.

To add insult to injury, he didn’t even get any free Haribo with his lone pair of socks.

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day, which included a few roads we hadn’t ventured down for quite some time and a few more we’d be travelling down rather than up, or vice-versa. Included in the middle was a, still novel, descent down Middleton Bank.

Mention of a road up through Molesden caused much head-scratching from Goose. With a deeply furrowed brow, he conveyed his confusion with a simple, “Huh?”

“Where the mad farm dog is,” someone volunteered.

“Ah!” the veil parted, “The mad farm dog.” He knew exactly where we meant now.

Jimmy Mac had us split into two groups, I dropped into the front group and away we went.


More by evolution than conscious design, the front group is starting to be characterised by a faster pace and today was no different. It’s an arrangement the consensus of regular riders seem to have been working toward for some time, but we really need to start making it more explicit – anyone suffering a jour sans, or not quite on their game is naturally going to be more comfortable in the second group.

How much faster is the first group? Well, in the first 30kms or so, on a route I’ve ridden dozens of times in the past 5 or 6 years, I netted twenty-two Strava PR’s, five 2nd fastest and two 3rd fastest times across a stretch of 37 segments.

It reached a peak on Bell’s Hill when I followed the Colossus and Ovis up at such a breathless pace, that I had to rein them in at the top after they’d blown the group apart. It was so fast, that Ovis, once again intent on fuelling his ride with an entire malt loaf, didn’t even get the opportunity to pluck it out and unwrap it, let alone eat the damn thing. He was so busy riding hard, it stood out, proudly outlined, a square, brick-sized lump in his pocket, weighing him down like a solid lead ingot.


20170216_122709A


We started to slowly shed riders as we progressed. The Garrulous Kid was the first to go, rather inexplicably declaring he didn’t much “like the road” we were travelling on. I’m not certain what particular arrangement of tarmac, slope, gravel, pots and bordering foliage he took exception to – it looked no different to what had gone before, what was yet to come and pretty much the exact same of what could be found around every single corner, no matter which route was chosen.

Then, after hammering down Middleton Bank, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy took a sharp left for a shorter run to the café, while later, Benedict and Caracol (and maybe one or two others) pushed on for a longer ride.

Somewhere along the way we lost an FNG who wasn’t really an FNG, but had apparently been riding with the club off and on for the past 10 years. (I’m guessing more off than on as I didn’t recognise him).

By the time we had locked-in and started the long burn toward the café, there were just six of us left. I hit the front on the short, sharp climb of Brandywell Bank and pushed as fast as I could, as far as I could down toward the Snake Bends. As the road finally levelled and then started a long gradual dip down, everyone roared past and I dug in, gave chase and just about managed to hang on the coattails as we swept through the bends and out onto the main road to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The main conversation point at the café was best way to gauge the volumetric capacity of the human mouth. The Red Max asserted that the correct and only unit of measurement was the Twix-biscuit and his record was 12 Twix-biscuits, entirely complete, whole and undamaged.

Given Crazy Legs’ number confusion with socks, the Colossus was undertsndably keen to understand if this was 12 individual Twix fingers, or 12 standard Twix packs and therefore 24 individual biscuits – (the former), while I queried if they were fun-sized fingers or full-sized – (the latter, obviously).

Someone suggested the number of sideways inserted Mars bars might provide a better measure, while from a professional, medical perspective, Jimmy Mac recommended using a liquid, such as ale, or coffee. He then cautioned that if things went wrong the autopsy might prove challenging – explaining how the subject drowned in a mouthful of beer would be difficult enough, even before considering what implications could be drawn from a Mars bar lodged horizontally in the throat.

OGL’s absence was briefly queried and we were reminded that the last time he hadn’t turned up for a ride, he was miffed that no one had bothered to check whether he was actually all right. No one volunteered in this instance either, nor would have if any other regular failed to turn up for a particular club run. Yes, we’re a mean, selfish and self-centred lot.


And then, we were off, for a fairly fast-paced, generally uneventful ride for home.

I split from the group and made my way across the river, hitting Blaydon at just about the same time as some kind of family fun run was finishing. Luckily, this was just a prelude to the main event, the Blaydon Race, which was still an hour or two away from starting, so at least I didn’t have to share the road with 4,000 or so rabid-runners as I pushed on for home.


YTD Totals: 3,297 km / 2,049 miles with 38,651 metres of climbing

Power Drain

Power Drain

Club Run, Saturday 2nd June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  118 km / 73 miles with 1,023 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                27.3 km/h

Group size:                                         30 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    23°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and cool


 

pd
Ride Profile

Here we go again, tipping down the Heinous Hill under dull skies. It was warm, muggy and sticky, with the incipient potential for a heavy, clearing downpour at any time. If we were lucky, we’d avoid it, if not, I suspected we’d be getting very, very wet. As it was a light shower was already an intermittent companion, fading in and out as I turned off down toward the river.

I couldn’t help feeling unprepared, strangely listless throughout three days of commuting, I think I was suffering not so much un jour sans as une semaine sans. I’d also accidently left my Garmin on overnight so, like me, it was in danger of running low on power.

Briefly delayed at the level crossing by the passage of a squealing, clackety and rackety local train lumbering slowly eastwards down the Tyne Valley, I found the bridge still closed to vehicles and once more threaded my way across on the footpath. Suits me – from a purely selfish perspective, I hope they take an absolute age to repair it.

Swinging right, the sun was now directly in front of me as I pushed on, only discernible as a small fuzzy patch of slightly brighter, white-gold in a blanket of grey.  Although nearly every traffic light seemed against me, I was making decent time and was soon at the meeting point. Even better, the light, misting showers seemed to have run their course.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Much to the delight of all, but especially the Monkey Butler Boy, the Garrulous Kid inadvertently referred to his quick release skewers as tyre levers. We then wondered if perhaps there was an opportunity for quick release skewers to double up as actual tyre levers, although Crazy Legs idea of somehow using the levers on some kind of retractable wire, while they stayed in situ, through the hub, seemed a little too clever.

Crazy Legs meanwhile tried to convince the Garrulous Kid that, despite all evidence to the contrary, his new 25mm tyres meant he could balance his Bianchi so perfectly it would stand upright, without support. His first attempt, with the bars leaning lightly against my hand, was quickly spotted, as was the next attempt where he poised a supportive foot expertly under the pedals.

Crazy Legs nodded at the Garrulous Kid, before acknowledging, “He’s not as daft as he looks.”

“I’m not fick, you know,” the Garrulous Kid affirmed, before perching himself awkwardly on the wall, folded over like a gut-shot spider and barely supporting his bike with fully out-stretched fingertips. When questioned, he was adamant that it was a perfectly natural and fantastically comfortable pose and not at all as odd and graceless as it looked to everyone else. It would have been much cooler if he’d somehow managed to casually balance his bike upright and been able to push back and relax in his seat without having to hold it in position.

Meanwhile, OGL had arrived and hinted mysteriously at “big, big names” signing up for the National Time –Trial. I immediately wondered if Eritrean, Dimension-Data rider, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier Werkilul had perhaps applied for British Citizenship. Surely one of the biggest names in pro-cycling at the moment …

I never did find out though, as surprisingly and for once, OGL was actually keeping his own counsel, so we’ll just have to wait for the inevitable, predictable unveiling of Alex Dowsett, Steve Cummings, Geraint Thomas and … and … well, that’s about it in terms of the big, big name, British TT’ers I can think of. I’m taking it as a given that Chris Froome, not seen on British Shores since a brief cameo at the 2016 Ride London Classic, will continue to shun his own national championships.

G-Dawg stepped up to outline the ride for the day, which would see us trail down through Corbridge, before climbing back out via Aydon Road, a Strava 4th Category climb and a relatively new route for us. We were ready for the off, but OGL declared we were still two minutes away from official Garmin Muppet Time. (When did he become so time-conscious?)

We took this as an opportunity to organise our 30, or so into two separate groups. Once again, I hung back a little before divining that, yet again, the first group was outnumbered, before I dropped off the kerb and joined the back of their line. For once we achieved an almost, but not quite 50/50 split as we pushed off, clipped in and rode away.


The Colossus and Garrulous Kid punched out on the front and the speed started to build almost from the off. I suggested to G-Dawg that simple self-preservation was driving the Colossus to push the pace, perhaps desperate to quickly reach the velocity where wind noise would cancel out the idle chatter of his riding companion.

Once the first pair had done their stint and swung off the front, Kermit, Rainman, Biden Fecht and Caracol all lined up to take over and together they conspired to keep the pace high as we pushed on. I’ve no idea what particular demons were driving their frenetic pace, but in a 20km stretch of 11 Strava segments, I netted nine PR’s and a pair of 2nd fastest times, over fairly well-travelled roads.

Phew!

We made it to Whittledene Reservoir in what must have been a remarkably fast time and hunkered down to wait for the second group. Some took the opportunity to refuel, while others doffed helmets and removed base layers in an attempt to cool off. Although the sun was still well shrouded, the day was muggy and uncomfortably sticky and humid.

The second group reached us after maybe five or so minutes waiting and G-Dawg indicated this was the first opportunity to turn off for a shorter ride. Only OGL, needing to be back in his shop early, took the more direct route to the café, everyone else seeming game for the hills to come and leaving a huge bunch to swarm into Corbridge and terrorise the locals.

Off we went, soon spread out by some sharp climbing and then descending the narrow lanes through Newton and into the Tyne Valley, a steep hill we more usually find ourselves grovelling up.

We were confined to a narrow strip either side of a thick line of dusty, yellow grit and gravel running down the centre of the lane and occasionally prey to snagging jerseys, or skin on the hedges, thorns and thistles that encroached from the banks on either side. Still, after countless cries of “pots!” throughout most of our ride, it was somewhat refreshing to hear Biden Fecht’s warning shout of “flowers!” instead.

A nostalgic Rainman suggested the tracks reminded him of lanes back home in Holland – I’m not sure he heard when I asked if they were all shit, too.

Hemmed in by gravel on one side and the rampant foliage on the others, a few of the riders were trying to pick their way down carefully and much too slowly for the Red Max. He let his wheels run and started sweeping past people, so I dropped into his wake and followed, weaving our way around the slower descenders and occasionally having to surf across the gravel centreline in a crunch of gravel and puff of dust.

We ducked through Brockbushes farm shop and café – home to several uncomfortable encounters with surly staff who seem to have an inherent dislike of cyclists, or maybe just customers in general. After being made to feel about as welcome as a hedgehog in a sleeping bag, we’ve taken our post-Hill Climb patronage (and money) elsewhere in recent times, so there was no chance we’d be stopping today.

We cut through the road tunnel (for once heading in the right direction and with the flow of traffic) to much whooping and hollering in its echo chamber confines, before being spat out on the road leading down into Corbridge.


20170216_125640A


Our best-laid plans were nearly led astray by a closed road sign in the town centre, but G-Dawg wasn’t to be denied and resolutely drove us through the traffic cones and almost immediately onto the climb.

We’d be heading uphill for the next 6 kilometres or so, but the testing, climb proper was a 1.6 km stretch at a 6% average and a maximum of 13%.

Caracol charged away and Kermit gave chase. I nudged onto the front with Goose and tried to set a steady and comfortable pace, even as others kept jumping past and into the gap, Benedict, Biden Fecht, Rainman and Spry all individually racing by, stretching out their legs in pursuit.

There were maybe half a dozen of us, forging upwards in a small knot behind the frontrunners and then everyone else strung out and scattered down the road in a long, long tail behind. G-Dawg called for a stop to regroup at the top and I whirred away toward this still distant point as the slope began to ease.

The riders out front weren’t stopping and had long gone by the time we’d gathered everyone together and set out again, sweeping through Matfen and up the Quarry. The group splintered apart again at this point and I took to the front as we approached the crossroads and tried to drive the pace as high as I could, through the last few bumps and up to the junction that put us on the road down to the Snake Bends.

A small group burst away to contest the sprint and I latched onto the wheels again as we rolled through the Snake Bends, onto the main road and up to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We’d only just gathered coffees and cakes and taken our seats in the garden, when a quite remarkable scene unfolded –  a big bloke rolled through the car park, down onto the grass, braked sharply, stepped off his bike and … in a royal hissy-fit … hurled it petulantly to the ground and stomped away.

Recognising the rider as a fellow Ribble Rouser™ – Crazy Legs visibly blanched at the treatment being meted out to the twin brother of his own, highly pampered velocipede. Suffice to say, if it had been there, Crazy Legs’ much-cossetted Ribble would probably have needed crisis counselling after witnessing such an abhorrent behaviour. Luckily, today he was out on the street-brawling Bianchi and it just shrugged in a nonchalant, Italian, seen-it-all-before kind of way.

The stroppy bike throw had been performed with such vigour that the rider’s sun specs flew from his helmet as he stalked off.  The Colossus retrieved them and followed to hand them back, reporting he barley received a grunt of acknowledgement, let alone any thanks. Someone, apparently, was in a really, really, bad mood.

Meanwhile, we learned that Mini Miss had found herself having to cope with the shitty hand dealt her in the second group.

Literally.

It was so bad Crazy Legs felt compelled to enquire if she’d inadvertently “done a LeMond?” – while we all sombrely acknowledged the dangerous stuff that our fellow riders tyres could pick off the roads and flick our way.

Crazy Legs gave us a reprise of the debate he’d started with the Hammer on what sounded like a fun-filled Bank Holiday Monday amble, when they’d tried to determine who was better, the Beatles, or the Human League. This had seemingly ended prematurely when Old Grey Whistle Test presenter, “Whispering” Bob Harris got confused with first Rolf Harris and then, even more improbably, Arthur “Bomber” Harris.

Still, the debate was not wholly without merit as it lead to the rather dubious invention of a new, fun-filled game for all the family  – “Paedo, or Predator?” This is a sort of variant of Snog, Marry, Avoid (or FMK, if you will) – but only involving celebrities accused of sexual deviances…

Yes, well … Moving swiftly on.

As we were packing to leave, Zardoz excused himself, saying he was going to stay back to chat with some of his Venerable Wrecking Crew of Gentlemen Cyclists, who’d arrived in our wake. He admitted he couldn’t miss the opportunity for more lively banter, along the lines of: “For over 40 years you’ve been wheel-sucking back there and you haven’t come around me yet.”


We set out for home and were pounding up Berwick Hill, when my Garmin let out an apologetic little beep and the screen flashed up the dread words: Battery Low.

This last happened to me half way up the Col du Télégraphe, but this time I wouldn’t have a fellow rider to loan me their files. I was now engaged in a race against the clock to see how much of my ride I could record before it was prematurely cut short and stopped being committed to Strava (and we all know if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen).

A larger group than usual entered the Mad Mile as the others turned off and G-Dawg was so engrossed chatting with Carlton that he didn’t respond when the Colossus jumped away to claim first shower. Sensing a lack of competition, the Colossus sat up, just as I decided he was having it far too easy.  So, I attacked, carried the speed I’d built through the roundabout as I swept away from the others and launched myself away to start my solo drive for home.

After one brief hold up at a Metro crossing, the lights were with me the rest of the way, although I was travelling faster than the cars as I dropped down to the river and had to slow a little. I then started to time-trial along the valley floor. A thudding up and over the ramp on the bridge, a drop off the kerb, slalom through the traffic cones and I was now heading east again and closing on home.

Just before the short, but unforgivably steep ramp up from the river, my Garmin flickered and died. I had about 2 or 3 miles left to go and was on track for the longest ride of the year, but it wasn’t to be. This was where my ride officially ended.

I eased off and rolled the rest of the way home.


YTD Totals: 3,297 km / 2,049 miles with 38,651 metres of climbing

Farcical – The Movie

Farcical – The Movie

Club Run, Saturday 5th May, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 113 km / 70 miles with 1,077 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 21 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.0 km/h

Group size:                                        21 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Chilly


farcicl
Ride Profile

Farcical … or Far Cycle – A Very British Farce*

(A script in development and purely speculative fiction)

*Farcenoun – a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterisation and ludicrously improbable situations.


Cast:

The Subject: Sur La Jante

The Lone Dissenting Voice: Captain Kamikaze

The Fly: A fly

Jolly Man: A random passing civilian

Captain Kamikaze: The Lone Dissenting Voice

The Gang: Various riders from the largest cycling club in the region. (Allegedly.)


A black screen.

The silence is broken by the slow beeping of an electronic alarm and an image slowly coalesces of a flailing arm that bashes wildly at a bedside table, 2-3-4 times, until it finally manages to hit the off-button and silence the horribly intrusive noise.

The camera pulls back and, accompanied by much moaning, groaning and muttering, The Subject slowly peels back the covers and stumbles out of bed. Blinking in the still dim light, The Subject runs a hand through ridiculously unkempt, dishevelled hair that’s standing straight up at attention. He rubs at gritty eyes and yawns loudly.

Cut.


In a narrow kitchen, The Subject prepares an uninspiring but hopefully fortifying breakfast of porridge and a muddy espresso, while trying to ignore the two hungry felines giving him the evil eye and demanding he drop everything to placate them with a sacrificial offering of food.

Finally, their evil cat gazes start to shrivel his soul and The Subject succumbs to the pressure, opening a pouch of some foul smelling cat food at arm’s length and trying not to gag as he disgorges the contents into two bowls that he quickly lays at the feet of his masters.

Cut.


The Subject is now wrestling with a fantastical costume that could (perhaps justifiably) be characterised as being a couple of sizes too small for comfort. A t-shirt, with more holes than substance, goes under a pair of long, form fitting shorts with bizarre straps that go over the shoulders. It looks like the kind of lederhosen a cheesy, 60’s TV-superhero might have worn. Alpenhorn Man, anyone?

The subject pulls on a pair of socks that he hopes are neither too long, nor too short. They are unashamedly bright and white.

Strange black, sausage-skin type tubes are then stretched up and over spindly, pipe-cleaner arms, like opera gloves without any fingers, before another, possibly even tighter, t-shirt is pulled over The Subjects head and inched and tugged and twisted down and around his torso.

This latest t-shirt has 3 odd pockets sewn into the back and The Subject starts loading these up. In the left hand pocket goes a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar. In the middle pocket goes a small camera and a bundled-up, incredibly creased, bright orange jacket is stuffed on top of this. In the right hand pocket goes a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool.

Once completed, The Subject decides he needs to visit the toilet. Out of the left hand pocket, he retrieves a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar and sets them aside. Out of the right hand pocket, he pulls a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool and sets them aside. He decides the camera in the middle pocket is probably safe, plugged in place by the orange jacket.

He inches, tugs and twists the top t-shirt up and pulls it over his head and is already slipping the strange lederhosen straps down, off his shoulders as he opens the toilet door.

Flashback: an earlier time and an earlier natural urge, The Subject is dressed in a similar manner as he enters the toilet, but the rear pockets are still bulging with “stuff”. He grasps the collar of his top at the back and tugs and twists and pulls it over his head. As it starts to slide down his arms, his mobile phone flies out of his left hand pocket and describes a slow, lazy arc through the air, a trajectory so perfect that Tom Daly would have spontaneously cheered … Plop! Straight down the toilet bowl without touching the sides.

Cut.


The Subject emerges from the toilet and goes through the ritual of wrestling on his top t-shirt and loading up the individual pockets once again. In the left hand pocket goes a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar. In the right hand pocket goes a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool…

He sighs.

He goes outside, still in his stockinged feet and pulls a bike from the shed. It’s an alarming, eye-watering riot of vile red, poisonous black and bilious yellow. The bike is loaded up with a tool tub, water bottle and computer and our subject returns inside.

“It’s a bit chilly out there,” he tells one of the cats. The cat stares back with mute indifference.

“I know you care really,” he suggests unconvincingly.

The cat yawns and wanders off.

The Subject pulls a pair of ruby red slippers from a cupboard, drags them on and twists a clicking dial on each, until the cheese-wires that serve as laces tighten enough to cut off blood supply to his toes. He backs them off a little. He fishes the orange jacket from his back pocket and slips this on for good measure, adding an extra layer of insulation. Good to go.

Cut.


The Scene: A little while later at a grandly named Transport Interchange Centre, that actually resembles a very ordinary, run-of-the-mill bus station. A low wall at the back of a wide pavement separates the bus concourse from a multi-storey car park. Seated on this wall waiting, is the tall, gangly figure of the Garrulous Kid dressed all in black.

G-Dawg and the Colossus roll up on their bikes. The latter is wearing a Le Col jersey in a bright shade of orange, while the former sports a Molteni retro jersey that, through time, evolved from an unloved navy blue and brown to orange and black. G-Dawg’s is the more modern, much more tasteful orange and black version.

Trailing behind, our Subject arrives and pulls up alongside the pair.

“Huh, you’re all in orange?” (There’s really no fooling the Garrulous Kid, or his keen observational skills.)

“It’s Orange Day, didn’t you get the message?” G-Dawg asks.

“Yes, orange is the new black,” The Subject attests.

Even the Garrulous Kid doesn’t fall for this one though, especially as other riders start turning up and there’s no further incidence of orange.

The Subject determines things have probably warmed up just about enough, so ships and stows the orange jacket.

Slowly, more cyclists arrive and form up around the group, until the pavement is all but blocked by skinny blokes with plastic bikes.

“I thought there would have been more out today,” G-Dawg surmises, even as the headcount tops 20.

The Subject reminds him there’s a few up doing the Wooler Wheel and one or two facing the brutal Fred Whitton Challenge tomorrow too.

The Subject then falls into conversation with the newly arrived Big Friendly Giant.

The Subject: “So you survived last week and now you’re back for more?”

BFG: “Yeah, and I might make it all the way around, this time. But I’ll not be stopping at the café …”

The Subject steps back, aghast.

The Subject: [tremulously] “What … no cake?”

BFG: “I have to be back to do some gardening. Feed and tend the lawns and all that.”

The Subject: “Ah, is this the new obsession?”

BFG: [unashamedly] “Yes!”

The Subject: “So, it’s replaced your earlier obsession for building bikes from rare, exotic and wholly unsuitable materials?”

BFG: “Yes. The trouble is though, Nature is always changing and evolving and nothing ever stays perfect for very long.”

The Subject: “Very true, that’s life – things are always changing.”

BFG: “Yeah, but it can actually become a bit of an issue for someone with acute OCD and a need for perfection …”

Cut.


The Scene: Out on the road. The weather is bright, but cold and a group of 20+ riders are travelling 2 abreast down rough country roads in a very rural landscape.

Untitled 2

Above all the general chatter and good humour, a disassociated voice can be heard complaining long and bitterly about the speed the group is travelling. Everyone else seems happy and comfortable, talking away, enjoying the ride and not breathing too heavily – even Szell, just recently awoken from winter hibernation seems at ease.

“It’s not a bloody race,” the Lone Dissenting Voice proclaims.

“If you want to race, put a number on your back,” the Lone Dissenting Voice continues.

“Is this the bloody toady France or something?” the Lone Dissenting Voice queries, to everyone and no one. Well, to be fair, actually no one – they’ve all stopped listening.

Slow fade …


The Scene: The group has stopped at a junction with a choice of turning right for a shorter route to the café , or left for a longer harder route. G-Dawg is busy outlining the different options that everyone can take.

Lone Dissenting Voice: “Well, I’m going this way, the speed today has been just bloody farcical. Farcical!”

The Lone Dissenting Voice takes the right hand turn in protest – a protest somewhat spoiled by the fact that it’s the route the Lone Dissenting Voice always takes…no matter what.

Lone Dissenting Voice: [a final parting shot] “If you want to race, put a bloody number on your back.”

“That’s it, we’re all wearing numbers next week,” someone announces.

Cut.


The Scene: Out on the road, the groups numbers are somewhat diminished, all the climbing is done and they’re riding at a high speed, pulling everyone out into a single long line.

Someone attacks off the front. The Subject follows a wheel through as another rider moves to respond.

The attacker is brought back.

The Subject attacks.

The Subject is caught.

The road rises a little.

The Subject attacks again.

The Subject is caught.

Cut to an aerial shot, showing a long straight road. Head-on and still a little distant a group of riders can be seen, approaching fast and in single file. Having been caught again, The Subject is now sitting second wheel.

The camera pulls back slightly revealing this view is actually one being contemplated by a large, black fly of an indeterminate species. The fly performs a lazy barrel roll, drops down and heads buzzing toward the approaching riders.

The road rises, ever so slightly.

The Subject pulls out from the wheels.

The Subject attacks again.

Briefly, the view shifts to the fly’s perspective and CGI special effects are applied. The view becomes heavily stylised, a multi-faceted picture of bikes and riders through the eyes of the fly.

It focuses on the group approaching.

And zooms in… to focus on the attacking lead rider.

And zooms in…to focus on the face of the attacking lead rider

And zooms in… to focus on that riders gaping mouth, through which he’s trying to draw enough oxygen to fuel his thrashing legs, pounding heart and gasping lungs.

The black maw of the fully open mouth looms and draws the fly in …

Blackness engulfs the fly.

The camera pulls back to focus on The Subject again. He’s coughing, spluttering and trying not to gag on a sudden obstruction that’s rattling and vibrating in his throat.

The Subject’s done, he’s caught and blinking away the tears in his eyes, he drops back. Back past Jimmy Mac, past the Big Yin, past Keel, past G-Dawg, before finding a space and slotting in on the wheel of the Colossus.

He follows. Hanging on. Still at high speed.

There are two very distinct, very loud cracks as G-Dawg smashes through a pothole no one had the wit to point out.

G-Dawg: “Ooph!”

Centimetres from his rear wheel, the Colossus twitches to one side and bangs across the shallower edges of the hole, avoiding the worst. The Subject quickly yaws away to one side and manages to miss the hole completely.

It all happens in an instant. The group presses on, seemingly having sustained no damage, until G-Dawg realises he’s blown out both tyres and they’re rapidly deflating. He comes to a rumbling stop.

The Colossus continues, charges across the gap, past a slow riding, Lone Dissenting Voice (who has just emerged from a side-road) and to the front of the group. The Colossus contests the sprint, then calmly turns around and goes back to help G-Dawg with his double puncture.

Meanwhile, The Subject rolls through on the back of the group and makes his way to the café.

Cut.


Scene: In the café. The Subject is standing in the queue loading his tray up with coffee and cake. The Lone Dissenting Voice stands behind him, waiting to be served. A rather jolly, corpulent civilian approaches and addresses the Lone Dissenting Voice.

Jolly Man: “Well, well, well it’s Captain Kamikaze.”

The Subject tries to suppress his grin, the Lone Dissenting Voice studiously tries to ignore the Jolly Man.

Jolly Man: [unperturbed by the silent treatment and in no way deterred, continues] “Hello Captain Kamikaze, thrown yourself under any 40-ton artics recently?”

The Subject scurries off, before he bursts into laughter…

Cut.


Scene: In the garden at the café. Two of the benches have been pulled together in a line and are overrun with cyclists. The Subject is sitting at one end, talking with Jimmy Mac and Rab Dee about the Giro d’Italia. At the other end sits the Big Yin and the Garrulous Kid.

Rab Dee: “I’m looking forward to a lazy afternoon watching the Giro and listening to Sean Kelly’s commentary about turds and trees.”

Jimmy Mac: “Reminds me of the story of how Billy Twelvetrees was always called 36 by his Irish team mates.”

The Subject was just about to add that Yates’ commentary has never been the same since Ulrika Greenedge became Mitchelton Scott, when the Lone Dissenting Voice a.k.a. Captain Kamikaze, plonks himself down opposite the Big Yin.

Lone Dissenting Voice: “The speed today was shocking.”

The Big Yin: [feigning innocence] “Yeah, It was a bit slow wasn’t it?”

Lone Dissenting Voice: [utterly devoid of humour] “It’s ridiculous, the Saturday runs were set up 50 years ago as a social ride.”

The Big Yin: [reasonably] “Well, yeah, that was then. It’s different now and things change naturally over time, they evolve and …”

Lone Dissenting Voice: “No! No they bloody don’t! Not over time!”

The Subject: “Err … eh?”

Lone Dissenting Voice: “The pace of the Saturday rides is stupid. It’s why we’ve had a 50% drop in club membership. It’s why some of the old stalwarts don’t ride with us anymore. It’s why numbers on Saturday rides are falling.”

The Subject: [sotto voce, shaking his head] “No. No. No and no.”

Luckily, the group are distracted, when the Garrulous Kid spots Rab Dee’s espresso cup.

Garrulous Kid: “Hey, that’s a tiny cup!”

Garrulous Kid: [bending down to look under the table] “Is there a midget here?”

Slow fade.


The Scene: Still the café garden. The cyclists are packing up to leave, minus the Lone Dissenting Voice who left early in order to “ride home at a sensible speed.”

Szell weighs up an order card left lying on one of the tables so the servers can identify who has ordered what.

Szell: “Isn’t this the kind of number we could put on our backs?”

He proposes sticking it to the back of the Lone Dissenting Voice’s jersey and starts looking for some glue, or tape.

Szell: “I know, jam. That’ll work.”

Luckily, the group makes to leave before Szell can put his plan into practice.

Cut.


The Scene: Returning home in high spirits, the group are powering along with the Garrulous Kid and The Subject on the front, chattering away and laughing. As they approach the final climb, up to Dinnington, Taffy Steve accelerates up behind the Garrulous Kid.

Taffy Steve: [chanting] “Old fat bloke coming for you, Old fat bloke gonna catch you…”

With a girly-shriek, the Garrulous Kid accelerates away.

Over the top, he sees the Lone Dissenting Voice, labouring along on his own.

He sweeps past.

Seconds later, everyone else sweeps past too.

Lone Dissenting Voice: [grumpily, as he disappears out the back] “I could hear you lot coming a bloody mile away.”

G-Dawg: “We’ll all have our names entered into the little black book now.”

The Subject: “Yep, it’s a club run, it’s not an excuse for us to be out enjoying ourselves.”

Fade to credits.

The End.

All options available[Still!]


YTD Totals: 2,780 km / 1,571 miles with 32,346 metres of climbing

An Amicable, Amiable Amble

An Amicable, Amiable Amble

Club Run, Saturday 18th November, 2017             

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  94 km / 58 miles with 980 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          3 hours 51 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.5 km/h

Group size:                                         22 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    8°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright but raw


 

18 nov
Ride Profile

The Ride:

A band of heavy rain passed over in the night, but by morning the skies were clear, it was bright, but cold and the wind had a raw edge to it. I’d misplaced my Galibier “disco-headband” and suspected my ears were going to suffer unless I found them some cover.

Rather handily, there were a couple of girly hairbands that either Thing#1, or Thing#2 had carelessly abandoned on the sideboard. The red, sparkly one was a bit garish, but the black one would just about do. I slid it up into my hairline, pulled it down low at the sides to cover my ears and plonked my helmet on top. Perfect – almost as if they’d been made for this very purpose…

I was a little late leaving, so went with the quicker route option and the closer bridge over the river, looping west to approach from the east and minimising the amount of dual-carriageway surfing I needed to do. Swinging left onto the span I was somewhat surprised to find an Ee-Em-Cee rider approaching directly from the south, a route I’ve never attempted, suspecting the traffic’s a bit too busy and wild. He’s a braver man than me, or maybe just more confident.

Anyway, I was glad of the company as he dropped in behind me on the bridge, figuring two riders were a little easier for motorists to spot than just the one. Unfortunately, we never got to chat as once across, he followed the river west, while I took a sharp right and started my climb out of the valley, arriving at the meeting point in good order.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

G-Dawg was once again out on his best bike, this time using the excuse of a new pair of shoes that he needed to road test, before packing them away for the summer. His new Sidi kicks, a very welcome birthday present, were super-classy, super-stiff, super-light and super-bling – I did however question their inherent thermal properties and suspected G-Dawg might have to suffer a little for his sartorial splendour – but he obviously couldn’t have desecrated the Sidi’s by hiding them under overshoes or Belgian booties. Just for the record, I was wearing winter boots and my trusty Prendas Thermolite socks and my toes were only just ok throughout the ride.

It turned out G-Dawg was not the only one with shiny new toys, the Colossus having acquired a new turbo trainer. Crazy Legs suggested it wasn’t the one voted “Best Buy” in Cycling Weekly, but the Colossus was unmoved as his turbo had red and blue light’s!

Crazy Legs persisted, this time with the suggestion you could tell how hardcore and pro a rider was by the fans they deployed with the turbo. He said there should be a minimum of two, slightly off-set at a 18° angle to maximise bodily surface exposure to the airflow and at least 60% of their construction had to be in carbon-fibre.

The Colossus countered that the only specialist equipment he felt needed was one of those triangular sweat nets. Someone suggested that a sweat net would be relatively easy to make from an old pair of tights, while I felt the answer was fisherman’s waders, with regular waddles to the bathroom to empty them out during the turbo-session.

An FNG rolled up and greeted us with what I took to be a pronounced Antipodean twang. “I’m guessing you’re not from around these parts?” I suggested.

“Aw, I’ve bean heer twinny yeehz,” he assured us. He turned out to be an Ironman triathlete, who’d seen us ride past his home on many a Saturday morning and he’d finally decided to come over to the dark side.

Crazy Legs tried to explain to the FNG an unseemly, on-going social-media spat between the absent Prof and OGL, by drawing parallels between Kin Jong Un and Donald Trump’s slightly less fraught and contentious relationship.

G-Dawg also explained Our Glorious Leader wouldn’t be riding today as he was off to a British Cycling meeting which, according to some rather self-serving Facebook posts, OGL claimed he was looking forward to, as a chance to relax without having to wear a stab-proof vest to protect his back. Huh?

Taffy Steve simply welcomed the opportunity for a good ride, as we were absent at least three potential sources of friction that he could think of. Ultimately, he had the right of it.

Aether was set to lead the ride and had picked a route that Crazy Legs had posted in the summer, emphasising we didn’t need a new and novel plan every week and there was no harm in repeating things. He hoped this would encourage others to set and lead future rides and briefed the opportunity in, along with outlining the planned route for the day.

Another decent turnout of 22 riders, all seemingly in a relaxed and rather amenable mood, pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


As we turned off toward towards Great Park and the filthy, muddy, potholed and often thorn-strewn Brunton Lane, G-Dawg took his regular detour, aimed at keeping his good bike and fancy new shoes in pristine condition at the expense of a slightly longer and busier route out of the city.

As we emerged from the end of the lane and scurried uphill, an injection of pace had us all spread out. Mini Miss eased alongside me and asked, “Is it just me, or is the speed really high this morning?”

I peered up to the front where the Colossus and Caracol were driving us on, with Rainman waiting in the wheels to take over if either faltered and let the speed drop.

“Nope,” I replied, “It’s fast,” before kicking to close a gap that was threatening to yaw open.

The pace was evidently too fast for G-Dawg, whose detour usually spits him out well ahead of the group, just before we hit Dinnington. This time he wasn’t there waiting for us and when I looked down the road he would emerge from, it was completely empty.

Having missed us and then waited at the junction thinking we may have been held up by a mechanical, G-Dawg spent the rest of the morning trying to find the right time and place to intersect with our ride.


18 non


We continued for some distance at a pace I felt was just the tiniest increment above comfortable and it would be some time before I was able to infiltrate the front alongside Crazy Legs and drop the speed by a good 2mph or more. No one seemed to be struggling particularly, but I needed a bit of a breather, even if everyone else was ok.

We then found that Aether’s cunning plan of using one of Crazy Legs’s summer routes was not without its flaws, the small lane we took before Meldon being wet, slippery and thick with mud kicked up by farm traffic. At this point the FNG punctured and, while we were stopped for repairs, the Colossus discovered G-Dawg was still missing and set off to find him.

As we waited, Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs kept me entertained with tales of the labyrinthine, convoluted and quite frankly bizarre local government rules and regulations relating to business expenses. I think my soul is still scarred from this nonsense.

We then pushed through to Dyke Neuk, where we unleashed the now twitchy racing snakes and shooed them away for a faster, longer, harder ride before they became too irritable. The rest of us pushed on, down the dip through Hartburn and toward Middleton Bank at a more considered pace. As we approached the hill, we met G-Dawg flying down the other way and he was able to swing round and rejoin us, reunited at last.

Reaching the steepest part of Middleton Bank and, just for the hell of it, I bounced off the front and opened up a gap before sitting back down and easing over the top. We slowed to regroup and Crazy Legs, who had no intention on mixing it in the café sprint on his fixie, offered to provide a lead out. I dropped onto his back wheel as he slowly began to wind up the pace and lined us out. Perfect it was like having my own personal derny moped.

Crazy Legs pulled us past Bolam Lake and then, with a professional flick of the elbow, peeled away and I took over at the front and tried to hold the pace he’d set, as we rattled through Milestone Woods. I attacked up the first of the Rollers and as my pace slackened G-Dawg rode off my wheel and away, the others only slowly coming around me in pursuit, as we tipped down the other side. As we began the last drag no one was committing to bringing back G-Dawg’s lead, so I dug in and accelerated to the front again.

I pulled everyone to within maybe 5 metres of G-Dawg’s back wheel, just before he nipped around the last corner, but that was it, I was done and cooked and sat up. The others zipped past, but I suspected it was too late and G-Dawg was long gone.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The main topic of conversation at the café was the dark, dangerous and twisted plotting within the Byzantine world of cycling club politics, but this is a family friendly blerg … so let’s move swiftly on…

Somehow the conversation eventually morphed into a discourse on political leaders, with Taffy Steve’s assertion that all you needed to succeed was a good haircut, sharp suit and a pithy slogan, “You know,” he outlined, “Make Uh-murica Great, or Strong and Stable Leadership, Things Can Only Get Better, that kind of thing”

“Ah, like Strength Through Joy?” I suggested helpfully.

We then had a chuckle that Bradley Wiggins felt he had in somehow been exonerated from the “living hell” of his “malicious witch hunt” by the conclusions of the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation into the contents of the now infamous Jiffy bag. Under the circumstances, UKAD appear to have done as good a job as possible and their conclusion of “no definitive evidence” was logical. As far as I can tell, this is a very neutral statement that exonerates no one.

It’s laughable that Wiggins and Team Sky claim there was no wrongdoing on their part and both think the verdict backs this up. The assertion by Shane Sutton that they would “game the system” and use TUE’s for marginal gains sounds much closer to the truth and more adequately explains the injections (injections, Bradley?) of triamcinolone Wiggins received before several races. As for what was actually in the Jiffy bag – the truth is, we’ll never know.

A group of  cyclists from the University made their way, wide eyed and blinking into the café and Sneaky Pete and I rolled our eyes at the folly of youth and the fact they chose to ride out in weather like today only wearing shorts and short-sleeved jerseys. The fact there flesh looked raw and marbled like corned beef seemed to suggest we well-wrapped, old curmudgeons had the greater sense.


Outside and I had a quick look at the FNG’s Trek Madone Aero bike with fairings over the front brakes that opened and closed like aircraft ailerons whenever he turned the bars – it seemed like an awful lot of engineering for a very minimal gain.

The FNG himself said he’d enjoyed his first ride out with the club and it made a companiable change from all the solitary Ironman training on his TT bike.

A blast up Berwick Hill tracking Biden Fecht got the blood flowing and it wasn’t long after that I was swinging away for my ride back home, reflecting on what had been a perfectly amiable, amenable, run, with no objectionable shouting or swearing and no encounters with dangerously crazed motorists.

Things weren’t quite so peaceful at home though, where Thing#1 and Thing#2 were engaged in a spat over Thing#2’s missing black hairband. I ‘fessed up to being the guilty party, pulling the offending article out from under my helmet and proffering it back to Thing#2 on the end of my index finger, where it hung, limp, damp and shapelessly unappealing.

“Ugh! It’s all sweaty.”

Oh. Sorry.


YTD Totals: 6,819 km / 4,237 miles with 78,229 metres of climbing