The Driller Killer

The Driller Killer

Club Run, Saturday 7th May, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 42 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                         32 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Overcast, dry

 Main topics of conversation at the start:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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


 

Ride 7 may
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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


 

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

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


 

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

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

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

“Pots”

“Pots!”

“Gravel”

“Mud”

“Shite”

“Pots!”

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

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

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


 

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Vittoria’s Secret and the Cold Hand Gang


Club Run, Saturday 30th January, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   100 km/62 miles with 1,156 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 28 minutes

Average Speed:                                   22.3 km/h

Group size:                                           14 riders, no FNG’s

Temperature:                                     5°C

Weather in a word or two:             Bright, blowy, brisk

Main topic of conversation at the start:

When G-Dawg rolled up wearing what looked like over-sized oven gloves and a muffler made of thick, carpet underfelt, we knew we were in for a cold, cold ride.

Crazy Legs was next in, lamenting that supplies of strawberry jam in his household were wholly depleted so breakfast had been a minor disappointment. As a consequence, and without its sugary boost, he declared his ride was probably doomed before it had even started. How fragile we are.

He’d already conducted his patented ice-test however, wandering out, into the road and finding a puddle to dip his finger into before declaring it safe to ride. I suggested he should just have jumped into the puddle, if it splashed everywhere then all was good, if he slipped and fell on his arse then a degree of caution needed to be exercised.

He said this was impractical as he wasn’t fully dressed at this point and during this exchange we discovered we both had an inimical hatred of slippers. Perhaps both of us thought that footwear that’s soft, fluffy, brightly patterned and utterly shapeless is the clearest indicator yet that you’d taken the first step (or shuffle) toward terminal decline and dotage, a road that all too easily leads to baggy, zip-up nylon cardigans, a complete wardrobe makeover to ensure all your clothes are the same dingy shade of beige or pale blue and a world where wing-backed La-z-boy chairs seem like a good idea.

We differed only in our solutions to this issue, he opts for a kind of hybrid sports slipper or plimsoll, while my choice are kung-fu shoes. Yes, we are officially weird.

What I presume was a mother and daughter approached us to ask if we knew where Bulman House, or some such place was. As we dithered, Taffy Steve popped up out of nowhere to display an encyclopaedic grasp of the local area that would shame “The Knowledge” of a competent cab driver. Even more startling, he’s “not from around these parts” and doesn’t actually live anywhere close to our meeting point.

He proceeded to confidently and assuredly issue precise, step-by-step instructions and the couple disappeared in the indicated direction.

As the woman returned sans daughter, Crazy Legs cheerily asked if she’d found the building, then as she passed archly suggested that the daughter was stealthily working her way around behind us and didn’t want to be caught and have to admit we’d suckered her into going in completely the wrong direction.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Carlton declared this was officially a Cold Hand Day – his unique measuring system for defining exact ride temperature, so now we knew we were operating somewhere between a Frozen Toes Day and a Frost-bitten Face Day.

Goose recalled having a steel-framed Peugeot which would be classed as a vintage bike nowadays and we briefly discussed the provenance of my winter bike, a (fairly) modern, aluminium framed Peugeot. These had only been available for one year before seemingly disappearing without trace as Peugeot re-entered the bike market, then just as quickly abandoned it again.

The cold had obviously addled our brains because Goose then asked if Peugeot still made cars and I have to admit I had to think really long and hard about it, before unconvincingly confirming they did.

One of OGL’s long-term acquaintances was at the café when we arrived and he kept us hugely entertained with a series of anecdotes of spurious origin, all wickedly laced with the type of language that might make Chubby Brown blush. In that instant my Teacake Haiku inspired dream of a cadre of sensitive, poetry writing cyclists, staring thoughtfully out of the café window before illuminating their experiences in contemplative verse, died a quick and horrible death.

At some point in our ride, Crazy Legs had wandered off for adventures on his own and entered the café late to tell us how he’d ran into the back of a car that had stopped suddenly as the driver dithered and changed their mind when approaching a junction. When Crazy Legs clambered off and approached the driver to apologise for the tyre sized groove he’d left imprinted in the rear bumper, she’d taken fright and bolted.

Discussion about the inability to stop a fixie quite so unexpectedly inevitably led to the issue of disk brakes. Crazy Legs informed us he was very impressed with the brakes on his new mountain bike but felt the “cockpit” (as the trade magazines like to call the handlebar area) was incredibly cluttered and restrictive. He demonstrated this by wiggling outstretched fingers and flapping his elbows in and out, doing a fair approximation of the funky chicken.

G-Dawg dryly queried if this wasn’t more akin to a demonstration of one-man-band skills rather than bike-handling and wondered whether Crazy Legs preferred cymbals or a horn under his arms.


Ride 20 January
Ride Profile

 The Waffle:

Isn’t the Internet a strange and wonderful thing?  Not only because my witless meanderings find an audience, who amazingly seemed to appreciate and, even more astonishingly, occasionally  ask for more. There also seems to be quite a refreshingly friendly community amongst bloggers, who all provide slightly different perspectives, read each other’s work, contribute with insightful or amusing comments and promote competitor blogs to their own readers.

This week I was able to offer a tiny modicum of help to a club mate who’s undertaking the rather daunting and Herculean task of building a searchable database of all the grand tour stage winners, complete with their nationalities, ages, teams, bikes et al. For an esoteric take on cycling stats and an eclectic mix of pro cycling insights, try SiCycle.

Sur La Jante also got a name check in a blog entry from the The Lonely Cyclist  who provides a completely different perspective on British cycling and cycling clubs, not surprising really as the Lonely Cyclist is neither male, middle-aged, cynical, sardonic nor quite as jaded as this old blogger. Hmm, now I think of it, old blogger sounds somewhat pejorative, if not quite as bad as arse hat.

Then, either inspired by my teacake haiku, or alternatively wholly embarrassed by my putrid efforts, Ragtime Cyclist responded with a haiku of his own:

What is riding for?
If not the mid-ride teacake.
Helps to shut up legs.

For one, brief moment I had a clear, lofty vision of cycling clubs up and down the land immortalising their weekly rides in verse form, and presiding over a renaissance of British poetry … but the dream didn’t survive the hard reality of first contact with my fellow cyclists.

It’s well worth stopping by to see what the Ragtime Cyclist has to say, such as his take on Haribo abuse – it made me laugh and I can’t think of a better endorsement than that.

This week I was also proud to learn I’m a Vittorian. Somewhere along the line my appreciation of Vittoria tyres has seen my details captured in a random database and now I receive periodic copies of their newsletter; The Vittorian. This is obviously a thoroughly gripping (no pun intended) read, dedicated to all things tyre-related and doubtless ripe for parody on Have I Got News for You.

Through this less than august journal, I found out their secret for the new season – tyres reinforced with graphene, the wonder-substance that’s a 100 times stronger than steel. I wonder how long it will be before we’ll all be lusting after exquisitely light, super-strong and shockingly expensive graphene frames and our love affair with all things carbon will be dead and buried.

We’ll still be going no faster, but the bike manufacturers will be rubbing their hands with glee. This also makes we worry about what we’ll do with all the useless discarded carbon frames that are all but indestructible and non-biodegradable.

Anyway, I digress wildly. Feeling much, much better than last week I was looking forward to another club run, despite the temperature which would struggle to reach a heady 5°C and gusting westerly winds predicted to hit 45 mph.

Just in case of any lingering ice, I eased down the hill slowly and immediately turned to greet this wind head-on for a slow grind to cross the river. Here I could enjoy a brief respite with added tailwind benefits before I had to clamber out of the valley again.

I had just about found the right gear and cadence to battle my way into the wind when, seemingly out of nowhere, a black clad, ninja cyclist cruised past, greeted me with the universal and UCI approved, “How do?” and invited me onto his wheel. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I latched on behind and had a couple of miles of relative shelter until I decided his pace was slightly too high, too early in the ride.


 

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My mystery benefactor, providing shelter from the wind

 

As I dropped off and turned to cross the river he disappeared up the road, pounding away into the headwind that seemed to be having no appreciable effect on his speed and effortless riding.

14 lads and lasses eventually gathered at our rendezvous point, where surprisingly there was no mention of ride etiquette, mechanical or wardrobe faux pas or overdue club fees. We pushed off, clipped in and rode out, looking for routes that might give a modicum of shelter and some small relief from a gusting wind.

We were warned however to be on our best behaviour at the café, as OGL was meeting some journalist from Cycling Weekly – presumably for a forthcoming feature on the Cyclone Festival of Cycling™.

As we rode out I immediately dropped to the back of the group, my usual position, but more imperative on a day like this when I didn’t really fancy sticking my nose into the wind.

Here I found Mad Colin, riding with us mere mortals, whilst bemoaning age and responsibility and we were soon discussing daughters, body building, structured training, proper rest, drugs and Lance Armstrong. He revealed how he felt that, even before Jon Tiernan-Locke registered his breakthrough wins on the Continent, racing against him was a somewhat, err shall we say, other-worldly experience.


 

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Some of the local road surfaces are in a shocking state – we probably spend more time pointing out pots than holding the bars

First OGL, then Crazy Legs, Red Max, G-Dawg, Taffy Steve and Carlton all took turns at the front as, pummelled by the incessant wind, we started to track 3 riders in the far distance. I felt sooner or later their lack of numbers would tell and we’d catch them, but we weren’t rotating off the front often enough to keep our pace really high.

With the other group dangling annoyingly in front of us for what seemed miles, Mad Colin finally took a hand, rode to the front and with Crazy Legs pushed the pace up a notch higher. We closed in, finding much to everyone’s disbelief one of them riding in shorts and his raw, angry legs looked the colour and texture of corned beef. Luckily we were soon past and leaving this uncomfortable sight behind.


 

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Despite the cold it was a very bright, very breezy day

 

As we made the turn for the café, I dropped back to check on Taffy Steve who was starting to feel the effects of prolonged efforts riding on the front. Then, as we battered up the Quarry Climb, he became slightly detached with OGL and cresting the climb they found themselves stuck behind a huge, slow-moving tractor and trailer at the precise moment that the Red Max launched a Forlorn Hope attack.

Max quickly gained about 100 to 150 metres lead with Goose stuck firmly to his wheel and Carlton queried whether we shouldn’t be chasing them down. I told him to wait and explained that it was still far too early.

We duly held formation until the road began to rise and Max’s efforts began to get a bit ragged, then a quick injection of pace had the group reforming before the road kicked down again. Meanwhile, further behind, Taffy Steve having failed to convince OGL to join the chase, finally overtook the tractor and began a madcap pursuit on his own, closing fast, but ultimately running out of road.

On the next descent and aided by some daredevil cornering, Max attacked again and again managed to open up a sizeable lead only for Mad Colin, G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg to quickly overhaul him as once more the road kicked up.

With the strong riders pulling away up front, I dragged myself through the last junction slightly distanced from a group that included Goose, Red Max and Shouty. I pressed harder on the pedals to pick up speed and with glacial slowness the gap started to close. I made contact and decided to keep going, swinging over onto the other side of the road and sliding past down the outside of the group.


 

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Did I mention it was bright?

 

I’d just eased past Max when we hit the approach to the Snake Bends and braking sharply we zipped and switched our way through and into the final run to the café.

We left OGL at the café staring morosely into a second and now empty cup of coffee and still waiting for his contact from Cycling Weekly to show, as we piled out and saddled up for an uneventful ride home. The group split and we entered the Mad Mile, where the pace was kicked up I slipped slowly backwards through the group.

As everyone else zipped left, I swung to the right, then right again until I was pointed directly into a headwind that I suspect had been waiting for this precise moment to amp up its intensity. As I started the long drag uphill I quickly ran through the gears, trying to find something that I could spin relatively easy but still feel like I was making some headway.

I settled into the grind, watching the fog of my breathing starting to coalesce in the cold air as the temperature noticeably dropped. A stinging shower of ice-hail-snow was swept horizontally down the road to needle my face numb for the last few miles, until I could once again cross the river and ride the tailwind home.


 

YTD Totals: 392 km /244 miles with 3,855 metres of climbing