Be Realistic Ask the Impossible: Shotgun Riding
Writing this post-ride whilst willing on my flailing road.cc fantasy team in the Amstel Gold... Like me they need bit of a boost this week!
Last Sunday I was one of a few hundred eager riders praying at the church of Rapha.cc's Hell of the North ride-a sun filled, 'social event' that was excellently organised. At 100k it wasn't too much of a stretch and I was tonking along quite well in excited anticipation of the beer and frites (chips, judiciously customised by mo to have a Rapha signature stripe in the form of tomato sauce of course...) and watching Paris-Roubaix on the big screen. I was pretty up for it and the legs felt good, bridging groups of riders and generally riding pretty positively, even if I lost my bottle cage upon hitting the first section of 20 'gravé' (i.e les 'dirty-potholed-farm-tracks-and-forest-paths' for those who've forgotten their school-level French). Some of the tracks really were pretty lumpy and demanded some manouvres more normally seen in cyclo-cross. Luckily the sun was shining otherwise it could've been a bit grim and slurpy, though as it was the 'vintage' Mercian's wheels were plenty tested and I had a few fear-filled airborne moments on some quite uneven descents to keep me on my toes.
Now, there's enough anecdotes about angry drivers and irrate peds that they become a sad but consistent part of being a cyclist, and somewhat hum-drum as a result. So about two thirds of the way round I encountered perhaps one of the most bizarre incidents I've experienced to date, even taking into account some slightly intoxicated late-night rides through the depths of Hoxton and Shoreditch of a night or the time I was viciously run off the road by a startled ram.
At the bottom of a wooded descent, I found a stricken rider who had fallen afoul not of a pothole or sunburn as you might realistically expect, but rather an irate 'farmer'. This charming chap (actually quite massive and definitely not the type to go on wine and cheese tasting excursions in Provence) had taken exception to the rider relieving himself in what was essentially the middle of a small, secluded wood. Clearly afronted by such a spiteful, destructive action, he decided to air his grievance by going into the house and then re-emerging to take a potshot in his direction with a shotgun. He then assembled a few tribe members to come and emphasise his affront through the art of less than gentle conversation-him stranded as he was waiting for his girlfriend to repair an especially inconvenient double puncture. Cue phone calls to police and rather comic gps co-ordinate giving (not sure Garmin was ever envisaged for this but it was handy regardless...) as what emerged to be not any old farmer but a retired East End gangster continued to voice some pretty grim threats. Whoever he was, he clearly has some very particular issues with urine being present in remote forested country areas. And public right of way.
I hung about more as moral support than any kind of deterrent for about 20 mins before we could move off in safety, the poor chap concerned who'd acquitted himself admirably going off towards the awaiting Police cars, and me to continue the route, by which time the bulk of the pack was long gone and I was left trundling along passing stragglers... an unfortunate if rather surreal end to what was in all a glorious day's riding so just be careful where you choose to piss chaps, you may find yourself under fire! (the free chips and the beer were well recieved too I should add... Thanks Rapha!)
This week's been a bit less glorious-I've wisdom teeth coming in which (I think?!) has left me feeling strangely drained, then work on Friday I tweaked something in my back which has been an annoyance all weekend. I did make it up early this morning to join on to one of Cycling Club Hackney's Sunday club runs, which I have been meaning to do for quite some time. My most local club, they are relatively new to the London cycling landscape but have been achieving really quite outstanding results through their dedication to youth development (Youth Games Champions in 2009/10!) , so it was a pleasure to finally make it down and introduce myself as well as get in a cheeky 75k before lunchtime. It's great to see a club that invests so heavily in the future of the sport and are reaping the returns to boot, and hopefully I can continue to get up that bit earlier than normal to make this a regular fixture and get some of the benefit of their experience myself!
In general I'm feeling a bit up and down mentally-work is pretty draining in itself but I've definitely not been on top form physically either which is putting a bit of pressure on training, as I really want to be taking advantage of the weather to be soaking up the miles before the Etape Caledonia. I'll just need to keep my head down in the meantime and hope my back feels better, and with my weight creeping down I've been unable to help myself from having half an eye window shopping for a decent lightweight steed to see me up the Alpe come July. Much as I love the Mercian it's about the same age as me and getting a bit creaky, and having tried out a friend's carbon 10 speed with it's silent shifting and ultra-stiff ride I think I've got an itch that needs to be scratched! I'm not sure how realistic this is financially but I've seen some good second hand carbon delicacies on fleabay of late so I'm hoping that the overdraft might accommodate a bit more abuse in the near future...
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