Monday, 16 January 2012

Life, Death and Hills

Some might say that attending a wine tasting (and not the kind with spittoons) from 3 - 8p.m. the day before a long ride isn't good preparation. Others might also agree that Byron burger (and copious onion rings), although being a poetic juxtaposition with last week's recovery food, probably isn't the best thing to go to bed on the night before a long ride. Having done both on Saturday, my 6a.m.-Sunday-self would have to agree with those people. Still, nothing that a cup of tea and a Berocca couldn't fix, and soon I was feeling exactly like this: (well, maybe not exactly like that - there was more lycra involved in my version).

"Red sky in the morning: shepherd's..."
How does that rhyme go again?
A quick look out of the window confirmed that the weatherman wasn't lying about a cold snap - ground frost in Central London is a surefire sign that it's a cold day. Embracing the snot-freezingly cold air that greeted me as I opened the front door, I cycled up to meet Rich at the end of the road. In the spirit of the great Ran Fiennes ("there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing") we had both used our nouse and gone for Assos jackets - probably the best cold-weather clothing produced for cycling. Unfortunately, it appeared that one of the other members of the ride (*cough* Mr Gething) had decided  that these were no conditions to be poncing around on skinny tyres, and much better conditions to stay in bed - he must have read a little bit more about Mr Fiennes, and discovered that he had once cut off his own frostbitten fingers with a Black and Decker rather than pay the surgery bills, so was clearly insane.

In my experience, group rides often start with a comparison of kit choice ("I see, so you decided on the extra base layer and the wooly hat. Interesting.") followed by a lambasting of the BBC Weather forecasting service who are then placed solely responsible for any cold fingers, toes etc. Rich and I were deeply engrossed in such a conversation as we headed along Albany Road, north of Burgess Park, not more than 5 minutes into our ride, when we noticed an Audi A3 coming towards us at something approaching 60mph. Now Albany Road isn't particularly wide, and a parked car on the right hand side meant that the Audi had moved into our lane while moving at this rate of knots. Something wasn't right, and the driver had clearly seen us at the last minute after pulling out so he proceeded to slam on the brakes while turning back in - probably due to his speed and the icy conditions, this didn't have the desired affect, and all four wheels of the car locked up as he drifted diagonally across the road in something that closely resembled that Aston-Martin-wrecking scene in Casino Royale. Fortunately, fate had dictated that Sunday was not to be our end-day, and we were far enough up the road that the car passed just behind us hitting a lamp-post that we had been next to only seconds before. All I remember thinking at the time is "S--t, that car's going to hit us" - hardly the most inspiring thought I have ever had, and I hope that come the day, I can do better than that! Looking back, the car was a total write-off, with bits of the engine strewn across the road and not-good-sounding noises coming from it. Strangely enough, when we turned round to help the stricken driver, we found him leaning back into the car through the window, removing the car stereo and rooting around for anything else he could find - either he wasn't very bothered about his car, or it wasn't his. Either way, he seemed fine and we were keen not to be involved any further, so we went our separate ways...

Running late for our meeting with Paul in Clapham, we pushed on - jumping at every loud noise as our nerves were shot - only to see a fellow cycling struggling with a puncture just north of the Common. When we checked if he was ok, a strong South African accent replied that his pump was broken. Being a cause close to Rich's heart, Saffas In Need is not as well supported as its name-sake for young people, so we stopped and gave appropriate assistance. All this time, Paul had been waiting in vain for us to arrive, and when we finally did the expression on his face said it all (serves him right for not wearing yet another Rapha layer, I suppose). With haste we pushed on to Richmond Park, stopping to counteract the heady effect of a mix of all that early morning rehydration and nervy close encounters of the vehicular kind. It must have been something to do with the cold, but both Rich and I had to stop several times to spend a penny on the ride while Paul stood there rolling his eyes - either he was frozen from the bladder upwards, or his catheter was in full force...
One of many...
One thing to confess on this blog is that although the rides go out with the aim of 'bagging' a certain number of the 100 climbs, the very nature of the geography of the climbs means that the ride inevitably takes in 'non-qualifying' hills - even though these hills are often no less arduous. The photos below are cresting our second climb of the day, although this wasn't Leith Hill, Whitedown or Box Hill:
Rich gets to the top while having an
invisible snowball fight

Spot the Rapha - yep that's Paul
Something about doing a circular route around our usual training lanes meant that we were all perfectly content to keep a sedate pace and take in the wildlife including roe deer, parakeets, daredevil foxes, a dead, frozen squirrel (grammar fans please note the use of a comma) and the odd mountain biker - none of which I got a photo of: great job, Nathan. We were hoping to catch Clive (who had abandoned us for a ride on the muddy stuff) in all of his baggy-shorted shame, but unfortunately he stayed resolutely hidden away in the woods. Inexplicably, I had never ridden the first two climbs from the approaches described in Simon Warren's book, so it was great have a new perspective on a well-ridden training ground. Leith Hill passed without too much incident, other than a reasonable amount of drag and a few nasty double-digit ramps, and before long we stopped for a photo-op at the bottom of Whitedown Lane:

Up and up and up

The wetsuit look is in this season
It was at this point that Paul chose to share his anecdote regarding a multi-cyclist pile-up that he had the misfortune of co-ordinating an ambulance for some years ago, and so we felt much better for having to go up rather than down this one. This was definitely the hardest climb of the day, made harder by the number of riders trying to squeeze up the narrow road, and a particularly impatient Jeep driver trying to push past - use your little-used low range gearbox you malignant Chelsea tractor! Rated 8/10 in the book, I struggle to see what makes this climb harder than the longer and just as steep Ditchling Beacon, but either way it was another one ticked off.

On to Box Hill, we joined the pilgrimage of weekend warriors making their way up the gentle hairpins of Zig Zag Road - making us ponder why the road builders didn't just go straight up the steep slopes of the hill, as they seem to do in pretty much every other lump in the country. I got an early jump on Rich for the summit, but he managed to claw back to my wheel and pip me on the line. A few quick coffees (thanks Paul) later (plus a bit of bike-porn-gazing) and we were on our way back towards the Smoke to battle through the traffic. Despite the huge number of people who had chosen this lovely brisk winters day to spend sat in the confines of their cars, we made reasonable progress on the way back, with Paul taking time out of his busy schedule to re-educate a taxi driver as to the error of his ways. A lot of what was said is un-printable, but one particularly choice exchange did result in Paul shouting at the top of his voice "Do you want to F--k me?" - probably one of the best rhetorical questions to throw back in the face of someone showing you aggression, nice one Mr B! Overall, a lovely Surrey ride with a few lumps thrown in for good measure

More technological issues recording this ride, as the Garmin decided to split out the ride to Esher, and the progress on the 'course' so producing two files. I'm also pretty sure my HRM slipped down to my stomach during the ride (I didn't fancy standing by the roadside adjusting my 'bra strap' so left it where it was):

1 comment:

  1. Thoroughly enjoyable ride with mates. Hopefully our fair weather friends will join us in the near future :-)