Draft Dodger

Draft Dodger

Club Run, Saturday 4th May, 2019

My ride (According to Strava)


Total Distance:109 km/68 miles with 1,214 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 6 minutes
Average Speed:26.6km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 3 FNG’s
Temperature: 12℃
Weather in a word or two:A chiller

Ride Profile

This is getting a little stale…

Another Saturday, another cloudy, overcast and chilly day. At least it’s not raining, I keep telling myself and anyone who’ll listen, but after one weekend of record setting high temperatures, we’ve now had several extremely cold ones, culminating in record setting lows. So, once again I’m bundled up against the chill and diving down the hill en route to the meeting point.

At least it’s not raining … although I am periodically blasted by billowing cherry blossom, stripped off the trees by the wind and hurled at me like a storm of confetti unleashed by the worlds most over-enthusiastic wedding guest.

Timing is bad again and once more I get stopped at the level crossing, but this time the train is heading up the valley and quickly rumbles past and away.

Over the river and back-tracking, I’m periodically passed by vintage motorbikes and scooters burbling away in the opposite direction. I assume they’re holding some sort of rally, but can’t find anything online to suggest who, what, where or when. A secret vintage biker meet?

Then I’m at the meeting point in good order and in good time. Here we go again …


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

G-Dawg is visibly shaken by the condition of the Garrulous Kid’s chain, black and glistening with evil intent, a thick, grungy coating of sticky black oil and accumulated gunk.

“It’s a black chain,” the Garrulous Kid insists, unconvincingly. No one’s buying.

It’s probably not going to cleaned until his bike needs a major service (considering it’s just had one, that’s probably some time in the future) or, he accidentally wipes it off on his calf for an epic chainring tattoo.

A couple of FNG’s or, to be more precise, an FNG couple, roll up to join us.
Double Dutch! They are adventurers from the Hollow Lands, perhaps drawn here by our sunny weather, gentle rolling hills and the general feeling of compassion and empathy for cyclists exhibited by the average British motorist. Welkom goede Nederlandse mensen.

The club is looking at ways to ease the passage of young riders from our thriving Go-Ride section into the senior ranks – as Big Dunc stated, if we can just bring half a dozen teens into the fold, we’ll be able to reduce the average age on club runs from 49 to, oh at least 48½.

To be able to do this though, British Cycling insist we have fully trained Ride Leaders (there’s a BC course for that) and said ride leaders have to have First Aid certification (and there’s no BC course for that).

“Don’t you have First Aid training already?” OGL enquires of Big Dunc,

“Technically, only in the event of oil rig evacuation, or an oil fire.”

“Well, that could prove useful,” G-Dawg muttered, once again looking askance at the Garrulous Kid’s oil clogged chain.

I complained to Big Dunc about the weather.

Ever phlegmatic, he shrugged, “At least we’re not in Yorkshire.”

He was, of course referring to the horrendous weather at the Tour de of Yorkshire, where extreme cold, high winds, hail and freezing rain have been battering the riders to such an extent that some of the women’s teams admitted to attacking just to stay warm.

We’re all watching, hoping for a glimpse of “old” boy and ex-clubmate beZ, riding for Ribble Pro Cycling and being paid to rub shoulders with the likes of Chris Froome and Greg van Anorak Avermaet. We can’t in any way claim to have been instrumental in guiding beZ from junior, to club-rider, to hardened pro-racer, but at least we didn’t irreparably break him along the way. Perhaps there’s hope for our Go-Ride youngsters after all?

Aether outlined the route for the day, including his signature Twizzel Twist, an odd phallic-shaped diversion, 5km down to the village and then 5km straight back out again on a parallel road. Captain Black speculated that Aether had been attempting some clever Strava art with his route planning, but had almost immediately lost interest when it proved too difficult.

A rendezvous point was agreed at Dyke Neuk and away we went.


I joined the first group, chatting with Andeven and Captain Black, before dropping in alongside a relative FNG who seemed keen to get more involved with the club. I learned I was in the company of another Dutch refugee, which if the pair from this morning stick around would mean that, along with Rainman, we would have four in the club. I’m not completely certain, but I’m sure that violates several UCI protocols.

We took the Twizzel Twist, dropping down at high speed with several of the group pushing away off the front. The FNG gave chase and nearly over-cooked it on a tight bend, braking furiously, unclipping and dabbing a foot down. G-Dawg swore he saw a trail of sparks where cleat kissed tarmac, then the FNG swung wide, off the road and through the grass verge, before correcting and powering on. Hey! Our very own Dutch Corner … and it almost gave me a Dutch Coronary.



Up toward the Gubeon, we called a halt for a pee, but the conditions were neither amenable, or luxurious enough for the Garrulous Kid, who crossed the road, squeezed through a fence and tried to pick his way into the woods for some privacy and a chance to commune with nature in splendid isolation.

We tracked his progress through the swaying of foliage, snapping of branches, a series of random grunts and the occasional startled exclamation.

“I’ve stepped on a fawn!” he announced at one point, but I very much doubt there were any deer within a thousand yards of his decidedly unstealthy bushcraft.

Captain Black wondered if the Garrulous Kid was recording his off-road adventures via his smartwatch.

“He’ll have a small Strava segment,” he declared, “And it will be small in this weather.” Ba-boom!

Finally, all fell silent amongst the trees.

“Ok, let’s go,” G-Dawg announced immediately.

“I’m here!” the Garrulous Kid announced, popping up suddenly beside the fence. Damn, that was quick. Missed opportunity.

Dropping down from Meldon, I swung wide and just let the bike run, new wheels picking up momentum quickly as I shot past everyone and onto the front. We swung left and started the climb up to Dyke Neuk and, as quickly as I’d hit the front, I drifted back, as everyone raced to be first to the top. We were stopping to regroup there anyway, so I was in no great hurry and followed at a more relaxed pace.

The Garrulous Kid had lots of queries about saddles with grooves and odd shaped protrusions. G-Dawg encouraged him to get a saddle with strategically placed cut-outs, suggesting he could then dangle his testicles through them and, whenever he was going too fast on the front, someone could grab one and give a little squeeze. Alternatively, if he was going too slow someone could “reach across and give him a little tickle” of encouragement.

Ahem. Yes, well … Hmm … maybe we’re not quite ready to include Go-Ride youngsters in our club runs just yet.

Luckily the second group arrived before the conversation had a chance to take an even more disturbing direction. Unsurprisingly, no one wanted an extended ride up the hated drag to Rothley crossroads and we all stuck to the original plan, but split into two groups.

I dropped back into the second group alongside G-Dawg and Captain Black and we set out for a run at the cafe via Middleton Bank. As we took the turn for the climb, we found ourselves being followed by a massive tractor hauling a large slurry tank. We were in full cry now though, speeding downhill toward the foot of the climb, so there was no way the tractor could get past here, or on the narrow ascent, so it would have to crawl up the hill behind us.

Zip Five took a flyer off the front, but I waited until the steepest part of the climb before slipping out from behind G-Dawg and giving chase, pulling Captain Black along with me as we passed everyone. We pushed over the top with a decent gap and then slowed to regroup.

As the road straightened to run past Bolam Lake, the tractor finally rumbled past, but to be honest it wasn’t travelling that much faster than we were, so we never lost sight of it.

On the front with Captain Black, we started to wind up the pace and were soon humming as we swept through Milestone Woods to the foot of the rollers, where … as foolish tradition dictates … I attacked. There wasn’t the usual out of the saddle flailing, I just stomped on the pedals a bit harder and managed to open a decent gap.

By the time we hit the second ramp, I’m usually a spent force weak legged, gasping and flapping like a fish out of water, but today the legs seemed pretty good, so I kept going.

I caught the tractor, just before the final bump and dropped in behind it as we started the descent to the final drag up to the cafe. It proved perfect for a sustained bout of illegal drafting and I tucked in tight behind the bouncing slurry tank, hoping the driver wouldn’t brake suddenly, or the tank start leaking its noxious contents over the road.

With the tractor travelling at a good clip, I was confident my mechanical assistance was going to make me hard to catch – and so it proved. I eased over the last section of road and let the tractor pull away, before swooping through the final junction, just behind the back-markers from the first group.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Space was at a premium in the cafe, where a shrieking coterie of middle-aged women had commandeered the big round table in the centre of the floor and were pressed in great number all around it. It looked like perhaps the most civilised (second? third?) hen party, ever. But maybe not.

A few of us squeezed onto a table alongside an octogenarian couple trying to enjoy a peaceful lunch. Sorry, citizens, we had no choice.

I caught up with Taffy Steve, who’d been riding with the Distaff Double Dutch and been teaching her new words to ease her assimilation into the clubs culture.

Having already covered off “knacker” and “minging” he was wondering what else she might need. I suggested “worky ticket” but (rather oddly) Taffy Steve didn’t think she’d have much need for such a pejorative term amongst our serried, serene and cultured ranks. “Paggered” the always erudite Biden Fecht suggested, a word I think he’s taken a bit of a shine to. So paggered it was.

Halfway through our stay, the octogenarian gent pointed over his wife’s shoulder and declared, “there’s a girly party going on over there.”

Andeven looked at me and mouthed “girly party?” and I only just managed not to burst out laughing. Luckily, he distracted me with descriptions of Spry’s new, all white Trek Madone. This, he suggested made his Colnago look astonishingly dated in a side by side comparison, but, he reasoned that, much like pet dogs, bikes have a tendency to grow to suit their owners. Or, perhaps owners grow to resemble their bikes …

Still. the ultimate, thousand dollar question remained – would the shiny, new Trek encourage a return of the white shorts?


We left the cafe and I found the Red Max, resplendent in a smart new winter top. He said he’d only just got it for his birthday and hadn’t thought he’d get a chance to wear it until at least October. It really was that cold. Later, Taffy Steve would echo the same sentiments when he asked if I ever thought I’d be wearing overshoes in May.

As we were about to leave, we found out Distaff Double Dutch had a flat. Most of the group pressed on for home, while half a dozen or so of us hung back to help.

Well, I say help, we actually huddled round the side of the cafe, out of the wind and called out criticism and helpful suggestions in equal measure from this surprisingly sheltered space.

Back out onto the roads, I had a chat with Distaff Double Dutch and learned she’s on a research contract at the University, so here for at least 3 years. Meanwhile, Dude Double Dutch was on the front, riding alongside the Red Max and the speed kept incrementally notching upwards.

Odd that?

“Is there a Dutch term for half-wheeling?” I wondered, hoping to contribute something to Taffy Steve’s cultural-exchange programme.

Sadly, there isn’t, but, when I described the phenomena, she instantly recognised exactly what I was talking about. She agreed that Dude Double Dutch was a fine proponent of the art, and yes, that’s exactly what he was doing at the moment, aided and abetted by that arch half-wheeler himself, the Red Max.

I sprinted forward and got them knock it off, well for a while at least.

We had a decently fast run back from there and I even had enough zip left in the legs to burst past everyone as we drove to the end of the Mad Mile. A quick slingshot round the roundabout and I was off and heading home, quite absurdly pleased with myself.


YTD Totals: 2,913 km / 1,810 miles with 38,425 metres of climbing

Advertisements

The Carrot Coupé Haiku

The Carrot Coupé Haiku

Club Run, Saturday 28th April, 2018        

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  112 km / 69 miles with 1,151 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.7 km/h

Group size:                                       24 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   12°C

Weather in a word or two:          “Chilly as damn”*

* North East regional news reporter Gerry Jackson.


 

cchaiku
Ride Profile


By heck, it was cold first thing Saturday morning – cold enough that the long sleeve windproof jacket, knee warmers and long-fingered gloves didn’t feel quite enough. I was hoping that things were going to warm up and the sun break out a little later, but it didn’t look promising. Overhead the sky wore a dour, flat cap of grey, unbroken and seemingly immoveable cloud.

I made it to the meeting point in good time, in good order and with no encounters of any note – a very boring (which is also to say very welcome) ride across.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Almost everyone who piled up mentioned how cold it was, including a late arriving OGL who’d turned back for his thermal gilet and Crazy Legs who declared he was pleased he’d worn his hybrid gloves (part electric/part petrol, I assume). Even the usually stoic G-Dawg, who had declared several weeks ago that it was now shorts weather and there could be no going back, was feeling the cold and cursing the fact he was a prisoner of his own convictions.

Still, if proof were needed that winter was behind us, Goose arrived having traded-in the steel behemoth for something a little more sprightly in carbon. “Where’s the butcher’s bike?” a somewhat disappointed Crazy Legs wanted to know.

Goose had not only switched to his good bike, but assured us that he’d thoroughly cleaned it in preparation. He actually meant he’d run a wet-wipe around the frame just this morning, before venturing out on it. OGL ran his finger under the front brake caliper and, to much censorious head shaking, it came back all black and grungy.

And then, the final nail was banged into winters coffin, as Szell rolled up for his first ride of the year to massive applause and cheering. His timing was utterly impeccable, as the route planned by Crazy Legs naturally included his bête noire, an ascent of Middleton Bank, the first time we’d been up it in a few weeks.

“I’ll be flying by August,” Szell assured me. Hmm, so only 4 months of griping, bitching and whining to put up with then?

Crazy Legs talked us through the planned route and, as our numbers built up and passed beyond twenty, he determined we’d split into two groups for the first part of the ride, with different route options planned following a Dyke Neuk rendezvous.

G-Dawg was co-opted to lead the first group, with Crazy Legs dropping to the second, where he could legitimately “potter around” while looking after a couple of FNG’s. Although there was absolutely no debate, Crazy Legs felt the need to defend his statement that you could potter around in cycling terms, an intense argument he seemed to be having mainly with himself.

9:15 Garmin Muppet Time and I dropped off the kerb and made to ride off with the front group. A look back and quick headcount showed we really are useless at dividing into two equal sized bunches. A brief chat and, with the tacit agreement of Taffy Steve we pulled over and waited to join the second group and even the numbers out a little.

Group one left and, after a couple of minutes we tucked onto the front of a (still) smaller, group two and led them out.


“Did you drop back because you realised you’d find much more refined company in this group?” Sneaky Pete enquired, and we assured him this had indeed been our prime, no, in fact our only motivation in waiting back.

Meanwhile, I started chatting with Taffy Steve about a myriad of different things, but including: the film we will both now always refer to as Four: Ragnarok, how all the tri-athletes we know are just a little bit, well, different and his genocidal intent for Cockneys.

As we pressed on, we tried, somewhat in vain, to decipher the odd calls that kept floating up from behind us. “Karrup” was quite obviously a bastardised form of “car up” but, badly translated through my ears and then filtered through Crazy Legs, it became “carrot.” I’ve no idea yet of the origins of the “haiku” command, or the instruction to “coupé”  – but I acknowledged each one earnestly.


20170112_112611A


After 5 miles on the front Taffy Steve decided that we’d done our fair share, which had in fact been 5 miles more than he’d ever intended. We swung away and Sneaky Pete and Crazy Legs pushed through to lead, which gave me a grandstand view of Sneaky Pete’s unequal battle with his leg warmers. These kept sneaking down his legs, so he continuously had to adjust and tug them back into place.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t particularly mind looking like Nora Batty, wrinkled stockings and all, or even begrudge us the daring, tantalising glimpses of bare flesh he kept flashing, but I’m pretty sure he was bothered by the intense cold that attacked any sliver of bare flesh that you dared leave exposed.

Having (barely) survived my tuneless rendition of “Anything Goes,” we hit a short patch of smooth, new tarmac through Tranwell Woods. This was such a shock that it actually elicited a spontaneous cheer, which predictably turned to boos and hisses when it gave out a short 30 or 40 metres later and dumped us back onto the usual rough, broken up and grotty road surface.

Still, moves are obviously afoot to provide some small degree of road maintenance, even if that chiefly involves spray painting “illuminous” rings around the worst potholes. At least it makes them a little easier to spot.

As we pushed on toward Dyke Neuk, a sign warned us of the danger of floods up ahead. Rounding the corner we found the barest trickle of water, barely moistening the tarmac as it threaded its way across the road. Still, it was enough for Crazy Legs to seize upon and declare this as proof positive that conditions were still much too extreme and he’d been right not to expose the much-cosseted Ribble to them.

As promised we found the first group encamped and waiting for us at Dyke Neuk, where alternative routes and splits were discussed and agreed on. Crazy Legs volunteered to continue his pottering in the company of the newbies, while I found myself tagging onto the main group on the long, much hated drag up to Rothley Crossroads.

As the climb stiffened, Kermit, Caracol and the Cow Ranger darted away off the front and, as they left, the speed of the rest of us dropped to a reluctant dawdle. As we began to bunch up, with no one keen on leading, I pushed through onto the front. Goose swung in beside me and we began to pick the pace up again, although with no real hope, or intent of pulling back the front-runners.

Climbing comfortably on the front, Goose declared his carbon fibre steed was certainly lighter and climbed faster than the steel behemoth, but he really missed the all-round comfort of the butcher’s bike. Still, he recognised he would need to get used to carbon again in time for June.  Last year Crazy Legs had staged a re-enactment of Hannibal crossing the Alps, in which, along with Captain Black and Goose, we served as passable stand-ins for a troupe of heavy and slow-witted pachyderm.

This June, the Crazy Legs Expeditionary Force is heading into the French Pyrenees and last year’s successful chevauchée has encouraged others to sign up too. Rather worryingly, this includes two of the current attackers, Kermit, a sub-60 kilo bundle of nervous energy who is built to float up hills and Caracol, whose name is the complete antithesis of his riding style. “They’ll just have to wait for us at the top of the mountains,” Goose concluded phlegmatically.

At the crossroads, we paused to regroup before heading straight over for a less-travelled route to Middleton Bank. I found myself following Benedict and Andeven and when I looked behind found that only Zardoz was with us and we’d opened up a sizeable gap on everyone else.

Andeven, or the King of the Haute Route, as the Cow Ranger calls him, led uphill at a pace he thought was comfortable, but was in fact right on the limit for everyone else. I realised I was now in for a red-lined, extended “sprint” to the café covering 20 kilometres instead of the usual 5!

At one point Zardoz rode up alongside me, puffed out his cheeks dramatically and gave me one of those patented, WTF-stares he reserves for moments when he’s seriously wondering if the entire world has gone utterly insane. He paused slightly to consider whether we should wait for everyone else to regroup and … bang … he was gone … he lost 20 or 30 metres and we had a gap that he couldn’t close with any amount of chasing.

Andeven increased the pressure and simply rode away from us – and I now found myself chasing Benedict and repeatedly yo-yoing off and then back onto his wheel. Bizarrely and counter-intuitively, I seemed best able to hang on when the road was climbing. I looked up at the distant Andeven and declared to Benedict that he’d gone, even as we managed to close slightly up the next hill.

With desperate times calling for desperate measures, Benedict calculated that we might make up a sneaky 30 seconds or so, if we dropped down to Wallington, instead routing through Scots Gap on the approach to Middleton Bank. We took the teeth-rattling descent to Paine’s Bridge as fast as we dared, before a hard left and a dash along the banks of the River Wansbeck. I swapped turns on the front with Benedict, pushing as hard as I could, but, as we reached the junction I had to declare I was pretty much cooked.

We were spat out at the bottom of Middleton Bank, with the road empty in all directions, leading Benedict to declare his ruse had either worked perfectly … or failed miserably. Half way up the climb he had his answer, as Andeven caught us from behind and pushed past. Benedict tagged on and I struggled after them both.

They eased over the top and I caught up, sitting at the back as they pulled for the café and trying to recover as much as possible. Over the rollers we went, down to one last descent before the final drag up to the café. Here, I nudged onto the front and led us in en masse.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I found the Prof’s better half in the café queue, where we were both intrigued by the sudden arrival of what looked like fresh-from-the-oven, sizzling and aromatic, savoury muffins or soufflés. Through careful questioning of the staff, we learned these were in fact mini-quiche’s, but as I concluded before we both ordered up the lemon and almond slice, “they look great, but they’re not cake!”

At the table, I declared that I felt I’d fully earned my cake this week, but was somewhat surprised to find Benedict with nothing more than a cup of coffee as a reward for all his hard chasing. He explained that he found exercise actually suppressed his appetite. I confessed to being the complete opposite and find when I get home from a ride I’m like a Grizzly emerging from a long and hard hibernation and nothing in the kitchen cupboards is safe as I try and eat my own weight in food.

Andeven decried the impossibility of finding Campagnolo replacement parts and mused that it was no wonder even Italian bikes come with Shimano equipment as standard these days. He did report finding some Campagnolo replacement brake blocks, somewhat oddly from German online retailer Rose. Not only were these horribly expensive at just shy of £30, but they’d apparently arrived royally nestled in a mountain of packaging, within something the size of a shoe box.

Someone explained the standardisation of packaging leads to economies of scale and ease of transport, but even so, receiving a pair of earrings from Amazon in an over-sized box, big enough for a homeless person to sleep in, still seems utterly bizarre and wasteful to me.

G-Dawg did an unlikely recreation of Biden Fecht and Captain Blacks coffee tsunami, spilling his mug across the table, while I dived out of the way. “You didn’t get it on your new shoes, did you,” G-Dawg enquired whilst apologising and mopping up. We considered what might have happened if it had been the Monkey Butler Boy sitting in my place, with his bright-white, new sneaks threatened under a deluge of coffee. By consensus, we agreed this probably would have made his head explode.

G-Dawg was eyeing up a mid-week trip to take in the Tour de of Yorkshire and had identified one or two opportunities where he’d be able to watch the race briefly whizz past, but wasn’t particularly impressed by a route that kept it much further south than previous editions.

“Is it not on the telly?” Zardoz enquired.

“Yeah, ITV4 will show the whole thing live. It’s probably a better way to see it, really,” G-Dawg replied. “Are you going to watch?”

“Oh, I’ll probably turn the TV on, watch them whizz past and turn it off again,” Zardoz replied innocently.

Talk turned to marathon runners and how even the best of them converted to “steady-away” cyclists, but couldn’t seem to cope with the rapid increases in effort caused by a steep hill or sudden change of pace. This led to a discussion about Scot marathon runner Callum Hawkins at the Commonwealth Games, who had just over a mile left to run and a lead of two minutes when he started to wobble, run in big, looping arcs and bounce off the road furniture like a pinball … before dramatically collapsing.

I wondered if he’d been so delirious and out of it if he’d demanded “put me back on my bike” while we concluded that although he didn’t officially finish the marathon, he’d probably ran further than anyone else in his zig-zagging distress.


We left Taffy Steve, Crazy legs and Sneaky Pete in the café, somewhat behind following their pottering ride and enjoying a break before the attendant potter home. Still, it was a large group that turned out onto the road and started the return.

I hung around at the back until we hit  Berwick Hill. “Let’s keep it together,” OGL shouted, but he should have saved his breath as the front of the group, almost on cue, accelerated smoothly away. I knocked it down a gear and spun up the outside in pursuit, dragging Caracol, Captain Black and a few others with me as we bridged across.

We kept the pace high the rest of the way, surprisingly netting me a new best time up the climb to Dinnington. As we entered the Mad Mile, I was sat behind the Colossus, who was slightly adrift of the lead group containing G-Dawg and at serious risk of losing the race for home and first use of the shower. Even worse, a car had inveigled its way into the gap between us and the leaders.

Undeterred, the Colossus accelerated up behind the car and I hung on to his wheel while he used its slipstream to pace his pursuit across to where the others were being driven along by the Cow Ranger. The car overtook everyone and shot away and I dropped back, too far away to see if the Colossus managed to take the sprint, but at least his traffic surfing had brought him back into contention.

I swung off for home fairly happy with my fitness and form on the ride, but as I reached the bottom of the Heinous Hill I found my legs now completely and utterly empty. Oh well, the sun had finally broken through and it was actually a quite pleasant, if still cool day. I dropped the chain onto the granny ring and slowly started to spin my way upwards, proving beyond any doubt that Crazy Legs was right and it is eminently possible to potter while on a bike.


YTD Totals: 2,352 km / 1,461 miles with 27,098 metres of climbing

 

Ozzie Rules

Ozzie Rules

Club Run, Saturday 2nd September, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   108 km/67 miles with 1,105 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 30 minutes

Average Speed:                                   24.0 km/h

Group size:                                           31 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                      19°C

Weather in a word or two:              Pleasant


 

2 sep
Ride Profile


The Ride:

You can’t say I hadn’t been warned and I should have known what to expect, after all I’d already managed two bike commutes into work during the week. On both occasions the cold had made me grateful for the light, long fingered gloves (my favourite and highly recommended, Galibier Roubaix Vision 4’s) that I’d used both mornings, before switching to mitts for the considerably warmer return journey.

But, Saturday morning looked bright and breezy and I was setting off an hour later than I do when travelling into work – surely it wouldn’t be so cold that I’d need to supplement arm-warmers with gloves? It was though, and dropping down the Hill at high speed didn’t help. The cold attacked my hands, especially through the chilled metal of the brake levers I had covered throughout the descent.

Along the valley floor I tried to find some relief and to break the wind chill – hands positioned on the very tops of the bars, just before the warm tape gave way to icy metal, fingers curled up tight and bundled together like cold kittens, with only the runts of the litter, my two thumbs, still exposed to the air flow and slowly turning numb.

Despite the frigid, early morning conditions, it looked like being a great day once the air warmed up a little, the pale blue above only lightly smudged with milky ripples and whorls of cloud, like a giant had left his fingerprints across the sky. It was simply a case of surviving until the suns warming influence could be felt, perhaps one of the last, fine days before the dark, cold, winds and rain of late autumn descend and so, not to be missed.

The promise of decent weather was a real incentive to get out for the Saturday Club Run, overcoming the twin challenges of illness and a sore knee. I’d missed time at work on the Tuesday, feeling sick – high temperature, nausea, stomach cramps and a headache. I still wasn’t fully 100% but had determined to try and ride through it.

Then on Thursday I’d noticed my right knee was sore, especially when climbing. I’d shared the first half of my evening commute with Mr. T (aka The Man with the Van and the Plan) on Friday. He’s trying to reach his annual mileage target, so wanted a longer route home. During the ride he wondered if I’d done anything to actually injure the knee, but nothing came to mind.

It wasn’t until later, when climbing the Heinous Hill with little stabs of pain sparking in the offending joint, that I remembered slipping on the office stairs on Wednesday morning. Perhaps that was the source of the injury? I hope so, as it beats the alternative, that my aged and decrepit knee joints are just worn out, crumbling and terminally failing.

Still, as I crossed the river, admiring a small flotilla of single-sculls arrowing downstream, I felt fine, any knee pain was at least temporarily quiescent and the bike was whirring along smoothly and quietly. All seemed well with the world.

I reached the meeting point in good time and in good order and drew up to wait for everyone else alongside the early arrivals, Crazy Legs and the Garrulous Kid.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Garrulous Kid reported great success with his GCSE exams, especially Chemistry, Physics and Maffs. Apparently he’d passed his English too and with flying colours, causing me to enquire if there was an oral element to his testing and how well he’d fared at that part. (There wasn’t).

Crazy Legs thanked Zardoz for his moral and very vocal support during last week’s 4-Up Team Time Trial. Apparently Zardoz’s bellowing of, “you’ve almost caught your minute-men!” halfway around the course had been invigorating and motivating, even as Crazy Legs immediately realised it was a complete and utter lie.

Aether rolled up and we awarded him a full ceremonial fanfare as this week ride leader. We all genuflected in his august presence and I’m sure, out of the corner of my eye I even saw the Garrulous Kid attempt an awkward curtsy.

With another good turnout spilling across the pavement, Aether recognised the need to split us into two, but we still haven’t quite got the hang of this and we ended up with a pair of very lopsided groups, one of about twenty-strong, the other of no more than a dozen. Sadly this was just an excuse for those who don’t agree with splitting into groups to complain that it doesn’t work. And they did. A lot.

A small few of us hung back to form the core of the second group, even rolling up to the lights on green and refusing to go through them in order to allow the bunch out front plenty of time to get clear.

The lights finally cycled round to green again and we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve took to the front for the first part, while I slotted in behind them, alongside the Garrulous Kid, with Big Dunc and Zardoz following in turn and in our wheels. On past Dinnington, the front two peeled off, I pushed through with the Garrulous Kid and Zardoz, realising he was getting perilously close to the front immediately called for a pee stop, so he could slip quietly back down the order. We naturally ignored him and pressed on.

We drove the pace on, up past the Cheese Farm, trying to see how many “ease up!” cries we could generate on the climb, but they were disappointingly scarce. Passing under the A1 just outside of Morpeth, we ceded the front to Zardoz and Big Dunc. A large contingent of Grogs slipped away off the back to head straight to the café and when Moscas turned early for home shortly afterwards, there was just the front group and OGL left – a Malignant Seven – average age about 50, or if you exclude the Garrulous Kid, about 56.

We swung round a sharp corner onto the bottom of the Mur de Mitford, I changed down and attacked the slope. Ouch, big mistake, as someone introduced my knee to a little needle of niggling, sharp pain. Ah! So that injuries still there, then …

I tried to spin up, putting as little force as possible through my right leg, which felt a bit odd. It wasn’t hugely painful, but uncomfortable and the joint felt weak and somewhat femmer – definitely not something I wanted to put too much strain through.

We regrouped and pressed on. The weather had started to warm up, the sun was high and bright and I was able to abandon the arm warmers. It was, finally, a glorious day. All around us the countryside was blooming richly and riotously. Glossy blackberries dotted all the hedgerows and while a few fields had already been shaved back to a dry stubble, in the Font valley the maize was already reaching over head-height.

We swung left, onto the Coldlaw Wood Climb running parallel to the Trench and took the opportunity for a pee stop, while OGL shipped and stowed his gilet. The Garrulous Kid complained there was nowhere to pee. Crazy Legs raised a quizzical eyebrow and looked around the shady, secluded country lane, lined with a wall and hedge to one side and tall trees to the other?

“What more do you want,” he asked, somewhat exasperated, “A Dyson air-blower to dry your hands?”

“We’ve got one of them.” I added nodding back down the lane, where OGL was shoving a gilet into his back pocket.

“Nah,” Crazy Legs concluded, “Dyson’s need to be able to produce at least 100 watts.” Oh, dear … average age of 50 and we’re still such shockingly childish, immature and caustic bitches.

As the climb levelled off we swung left, while OGL, looking for a shorter, easier route went right. Rolling round a bend we passed our first group, all clustered at the side of the road while the Red Max worked feverishly to fix a rear wheel puncture.

We had no intention of stopping and rolled past, now forming the clubs advance party, or tête de la course, if you prefer, travelling down toward Dyke Neuk on a road we more typically travel up. Slow-witted as usual, it took me an absolute age to realise I actually knew where we were!

Just before dropping down the dip toward Hartburn, OGL was spat out of a side road ahead of us – now our virtual leader on the road. Once again though he didn’t press his advantage, taking a different, shorter route at the top of the climb, while we followed the less well-travelled ride plan, up to Scots Gap, before starting to close on Middleton Bank.

I drifted off the back of the group as we rolled toward the climb, happy to ride  at my own pace and nurse my sore knee along, only to find I’d acquired a pilot fish, as Crazy Legs dropped back to check on me.


NOVATEK CAMERA


The group splintered apart, Zardoz and Big Dunc riding off the front, with the Garrulous Kid in hot pursuit, while I spun up the climb alongside Crazy Legs, slowly closing the gap to Taffy Steve.

Over the top, Zardoz and Big Dunc were pressing on for home without regrouping. Crazy Legs took over on the front, checked I was happy with the pace and set off for home. “All aboard the gimp express!”

We caught Taffy Steve in short order. “All aboard!” I called, easing back to open a space behind Crazy Legs’ back wheel. Taffy Steve slotted in, Crazy Legs blew an imaginary train whistle … and then we started to eat into the gap up to the Garrulous Kid.

The Garrulous Kid appeared to be lost in a daydream and seemed a bit startled as we thundered past, but managed to respond to the call, “All aboard!” tagging onto the back of our line.

We never did catch the rampaging Zardoz, or the only slightly-less rampaging Big Dunc, but then again, despite all expectation, our erstwhile front group of runners and chasers never caught us either.

We managed to keep our small group all together until the rollers just after the Milestone Woods, when Taffy Steve drifted off the back. I hung on down the descent and around the corner to the final climb, before Crazy Legs and the Garrulous Kid romped away to contest the minor placings in the sprint.

Ahead of me, OGL emerged yet again from another side road and I swooped around him and then eased to roll up to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The café has new coffee mugs, which are, apparently easier to carry, so I think the staff quite like them.  Or at least they did –  until they had to contend with a bunch of awkward, obstreperous cyclists insisting – beyond all reason and even after practical demonstration – that they were smaller than the previous version and we were all being short-changed.

We took advantage of the good weather to sit outside in the garden, reasoning there can’t be many more opportunities to do that this year.

Perhaps though, we should be more thankful we live in such a temperate climate, it is after all just a matter of perspective. OGL related how one of our club members was currently living in Las Vegas and didn’t seem too happy about it – perhaps because he can’t walk the dogs in the afternoon as the pavement (sorry, sidewalk) is so hot their paws blister.

Not that he can even get out himself either, as his steel gates expand so much in the heat they jam closed. Apparently the strict grid-like layout of American urban areas and the surrounding blank, flatness of Nevada ensure that all his Strava routes could be easily replicated by a child on an Etch-A-Sketch.

Crazy Legs recalled riding with the guy on one club run, in mid-autumn when it was typically wet, blustery and cold and everyone was complaining about the weather, apart from our ex-pat, who positively revelled in it and couldn’t have been happier. You see, perspectives.

Gazing into a nearby field, the Garrulous Kid seemed excited to see a black lamb amongst all its snow-white brothers. (He doesn’t get out much.) OGL revealed this was the field he was planning to use if he’d won the charity auction for Sean Kelly’s donkey at one of the Braveheart dinners. Luckily he was outbid at the last.

(I’ve yet to discover what possessed him to even think about bidding to win Sean Kelly’s donkey, or perhaps more accurately how much alcohol you have to consume before bidding for Sean Kelly’s donkey seems (even remotely) like a good idea.)

I felt duty bound to ask if OGL hadn’t felt a bit of an ass, while Crazy Legs wanted to know if the donkey had later wandered up to his room and “brayed on the door.” Well, it kept us vaguely amused anyway.


Coming out of the café and setting off home, the Garrulous Kid and Monkey Butler Boy got into a bitch-boy slap-fight, which the Monkey Butler Boy seemed to win, simply by virtue of his well-honed, rapier-sharp wit, as evidenced by his final retort – “Blah-blah, bler-bler-bler.”

“Blah-blah, bler-bler-bler?” I enquired.

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Your scintillating wit, bon-mots and clever word-play really would put Oscar Wilde to shame.”

“Who?”

“Oscar Wilde?”

“Never heard of the feller.”

I cocked an imaginary pistol, Contador-style, pointed it at the Monkey Butler Boy’s head and (figuratively) shot him dead.

“You’ve never even heard of Oscar Wilde?”

“Well, you’ve got to remember, I’m only young … I wasn’t around in the ‘80’s.”

Sigh.

The Monkey Butler Boy rode away to continue his fractious discussions with the Garrulous Kid, leaving me in splendid isolation, where I found I was continuously yawning. I mention this because it seemed so utterly incongruous – I can’t remember ever needing to yawn while cycling before – and now I couldn’t seem to stop.

I also began to feel nauseous and strangely displaced. This wasn’t good. At the next junction, I baled, swinging right to track through Ponteland for a shorter route home, while the bunch sped left. I started to feel chilled, even though I was sweating, but it was the clammy cold sweat of not being well, rather than the good, honest sweat of a hard workout and my speed began to drop away.

I stopped to throw up and pull on my arm-warmers – completely separate actions I’m afraid, I’m not that good at multi-tasking – before pushing grimly on.

At one point I suffered a too-close pass by a learner driver and started to wonder what exactly they were teaching them these days – but more or less forgave the driving-instructor when the car then bounced off the verge in a puff of dust and I saw him wrestling with both the wheel and the driver, trying to centre the car back into the middle of the road.

I finally made it to that Hill and crawled up it using gears I haven’t troubled since L’Alpe d’Huez, managing to make it home before an unfortunate attack of the Dumoulin’s. Well, that scuppered any chance of riding out Monday to catch the Tour of Britain – not that it was heading anywhere particularly scenic mind …


 

SWP_OVO_ENERGY_TOUR_OF_BRITAIN_0017x-1024x681
In a picture stolen from the OVO Tour of Britain website, the peloton rides past Bamburgh Castle, en route through one of my favourite places, the remarkably beautiful, Northumberland coast.


Actually, now that I think about it, the familiar scenery is about the only thing the OVO Tour of Britain has going for it – what an incredibly dull … I was going to say race, but “series of  unconnected sprints” would be a better description – they’ve managed to make it almost as uninspiring as the women’s version.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for both races as an opportunity to see professional cycling on British roads. I want them to succeed and spread the appeal of the sport and I’d rather watch even this level of racing ahead of just about any other sport you care to mention … but … what remarkable lack of ingenuity was employed in designing this race and does anyone want to see a GC largely decided among sprinters on bonus seconds?

How come the Tour de of Yorkshire (despite its sad, naming pretensions) can come up with an interesting parcours and compelling competition based on a couple of days of racing in just a single county, yet our National Tour, which should be the showcase event for cycling, has the whole, infinitely variable landscape of the British Isles to choose from (and a super-strong start-list), yet is so completely lifeless? Got to hope for better next year.

Right, time to rest up the knee and hopefully get better before next weekend.


YTD Totals: 5,253 km / 3,264 miles with 60,111 metres of climbing

Bitchin’ Climbs#1

 


Whenever I get the opportunity I like to take in one of the behemoth’s featured in the book “100 Greatest Climbs” to see how much strain I can put my on ancient knees before they explode in a welter of bone, sinew and blood, like a feral alien bursting out John Hurt’s chest cavity.

A recent holiday in Keldy Forest, North Yorkshire saw me travelling with Reg to tackle the fearsome Rosedale Chimney – the climb the recent Tour de of Yorkshire wimped out of.

The books author Simon Warren, who just happens to have competed in National Hill Climbs, helpfully explains his rating system in the book is an amalgamation of gradient, length and the likely hostility of the riding conditions. He concludes, “all the climbs are tough, therefore 1/10 is hard and 10/10 is it’s almost all you can do to keep your bike moving.”

Rosedale Chimney is a 1.4km climb rated 10/10 with gradients reaching 1-in-3, and Simon cheerfully goes on to recount how he snapped his chain “not once, but twice while trying to conquer this vicious stretch of tarmac.” Oh my.

Oh, well…


The top and bottom of Rosedale Chimney.
The top and bottom of Rosedale Chimney. That’s not Reg by the way.

My allotted day arrives and I kiss goodbye to an anxious wife, say a final farewell to the kids, and we’re off. The weather is pleasantly mild and quite bright, but there’s a noticeably stiff breeze whenever the road is exposed.

A 25 kilometre or so loop gets me warmed up, and as I ride along the valley approaching the climb I can look over to the left and see a daunting picture of the road snaking its way up to the top of the North York Moors.

I slow down deliberately, gathering myself and coasting pass the big sign at the bottom of the hill. The road twists and turns a few times then spits me out past the last building and now we’re going resolutely uphill. Out and exposed, with the road clinging precariously to the side of the moors, and the “noticeably stiff breeze” has turned into a capricious, gusting blast that seems to come from all directions at once.

I hit the 33% hairpins and suddenly I’ve run out of gears and my legs are barely moving. I now have an image from a Ted Hughes poem lodged firmly in my brain, and I’ve become a “black-back gull bent like an iron bar slowly.” My mind keeps repeating the line over and over, to the rhythm of my straining, shuddering, agonisingly slow pedal strokes.

The gusting wind has me going from almost a standstill, to skeetering nervously across the road and swerving wildly to avoid running out of tarmac. And upwards, always upwards. A protracted crawling and dragging upwards.

I’m fighting the bike and the incline now, legs and lungs burning, zig-zagging back and forth across the surface and praying there’s no traffic coming the other way. I want to sit on the saddle, but when I try the road is so steep that the front wheel keeps lifting and I’m barely keeping control.

And then slowly, agonisingly I’m past the hard bit, the road straightens out and the climb goes from suicidal to just plain hard. I reach the top and crawl into a gravel strewn lay-by to unclip, breath again and admire the majestic, but rather bleak and threatening views. A quick photo and I turn around for the descent.

It’s only now that I realise my ordeal on the hill isn’t over yet. The sign usefully suggests that “cyclists dismount” and the road seems to drop away into emptiness. I creep down slowly, gingerly, brakes almost full on, knowing if I gather any momentum it’s going to be difficult to reach a controlled stop, uncertain on an unfamiliar road and sketchy surface.

Twice on the way down I have to pull over to the side of the road to shake out and flex my aching fingers back into some semblance of life. Then the incline eases and I can sit back and wheel merrily the rest of the way, off the climb without looking back.


rosedale chimney
That big, isolated bump at around 30km, like the topography flipping you the finger, is Rosedale Chimney. It laughs in the face of aged cyclists.


Well that’s that one ticked off. It was one hell of an experience, but I can honestly say I don’t ever see myself going back for another attempt.


Longer! Harder! Faster!

My Ride (according to Strava)

Club Run, Saturday 2nd May, 2015

Total Distance:                                     108.7km/67.5 miles with 1,035 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4:17 hours

Group size:                                            45 cyclists at the start. No FNG’s

Weather in a word or two:               Chilly

Main topic of conversation at the start: The Tour of Yorkshire (sorry, I’m too ashamed to call it the Tour “de” Yorkshire. Nonsense. The only thing I found more embarrassing were Gary Verity’s yellow pants. Just NO!)

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Tweaking gears until they’re irreparably broken, (a little knowledge IS a dangerous thing). Strava Flyby’s and whether they had the potential to inspire some bizarre cyclist/“gang-banger” drive-by’s. Verdict: probably not, but watch this space…

hinault
Tour OF Yorkshire podium, Scarborough. The Badger goes on the attack against Gary Verity’s minders as he reacts to the insult of “les pantalons jaunes.”

The Profile:

2 to 3 May

The Waffle:

A very large mixed group of 45 brave lads and lasses met up at our rendezvous point, under mainly grey skies with the odd sparkling patch of brilliant blue.

Although things did warm up a little on the rare occasions when the sun managed to prise a fissure in the cloud cover, the day was still cold enough to ensure anyone without gloves generally regretted the choice. Dry though – so no complaints, right? Well, almost.

A generally incident free ride followed, with no real encounters of note with the random indignant motorist (RIM) and only a single solitary puncture (thankfully not mine). As usual we completed a planned split, disintegrating like a MIRV with each group independently locked onto the café, but each travelling a different path and trajectory to get there. I rode with the middle group taking a slightly longer, harder and faster route than the amblers, but steering well clear of super-hard, super-fast flagellation of the young and brash racing snakes.

As we closed on the café I chased down the lone early break across a couple of hills dragging the main bunch behind me, and with that job done retired from the final mad sprint to roll in comfortably (sur la jante, naturellement.)

A surprisingly even-paced and orderly ride home followed, without the usual mad attacks and jumping about.

Until next week…

YTD Totals:         1,780km/ 1,106 miles with 18,885metres of climbing