On not knowing where your bike has been and on being stung on the head by a striped beastie

I rode to Cheltenham yesterday and I rode back today. It was a slightly circuitous route and several strange things occurred. In the badlands near Kingswood I was stung on the head by a wasp. 

It flew into the vents in my helmet, buzzed around then unleashed hell. I felt like it had punctured my brain and stopped at the side of the road. Televisual visions flooded my mind and checked my breathing carefully lest I experience some kind of anaphylactic catastrophe. I waited for the shock to wear off then took to wondering what Charly Wegelius would do. firstly, he’d sell his jersey for £2.5k to a bunch of win-hungry italians, but secondly, he’d get the hell back on his bike and drag the bunch back up the leaders. I followed his example (the latter one). I recommend Wegelius’ book, Domestique. It’s better than most cycling books. 

It was a hot day so I stopped at Sainsbury’s in Stroud to buy some jungle juice and replenish my bottle. This was part of my pre-ride strategy, I only had one bottle on the bike because the other cage is used for a spare tubular tyre. 


A One Act Play

A country road. A supermarket. 

The entrance area of the supermarket is broad and capacious. The double doors are located to the left, approximately 3 metres from the ‘food to go’ section and lottery kiosk. The front of the shop is all but empty, 2 or 3 shoppers loiter near the baskets. A large and misshapen security guard leans to the right, propped up against the ‘information’ point, attempting unsuccessfully to curry favour with the lady behind the desk. 

A cyclist walks in with his bicycle and stops at the chilled drinks cabinet, trying to choose a suitable refreshment. He looks as though he has just ridden a considerable distance. The security guard approaches. He looks as though he hasn’t ridden more than 2 miles in 20 years.

Guard: I’m sorry Sir, and I can see that it’s an expensive bike, but you can’t bring it in here. You’ll have to leave. 

Cyclist: Why is that? 

Guard: Because it’s policy. 

Cyclist: Can I see the policy please? 

Guard: We don’t have to have everything written down you know. We’re not obliged to write policies. 

Cyclist: So is it a policy or isn’t it a policy? 

Guard: It’s our policy. 

Cyclist: I thought your policy might be to allow a thirsty cyclist to wheel his bicycle across six feet of floor into the shop to spend his money and buy a drink to replenish his thirst. 

Guard: I don’t want to argue, it’s our policy. 

Cyclist: I’m not arguing. You’re trying to frame this discussion as an argument to suit your lack of an argument. There is no argument. My question is, why is it the policy to not allow bikes in the front of the store? 

Guard: Because we don’t know where they might have been. 

Cyclist: Well, I can help you with that. This bike has been along the road from Bristol to here. It’s also been to France several times. It frequently rides uphill. On rest days it sleeps in the spare room with some other bicycles. What about your trolleys? Where have they been? 

Guard: We know where our trolleys have been. They’ve been in the car park. 

Cyclist: I have concerns about them resting outside in all weathers with the peoples of Stroud being able to touch them and do things. What about the prams and pushchairs? And shoes? Can you vouch for their provenance? 

Guard: If you want to argue then I’m going to have to ask you to leave. 

Cyclist: We’re not having an argument and you’ve already asked me to leave. 

At this point the cyclist replaces the bottle of chilled pop on the shelf and leaves the store. 


The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. On the return leg I got lost looking for Birdlip Hill (which i’d descended the day before) and rode up a curious climb called ‘Dog Lane’, which goes all the way up the escarpment then all the way down. I found Birdlip, it has been resurfaced which makes it marginally less painful going up and quite a lot quicker going down. I managed to break 50mph for the first time in quite a while. I have unpleasant memories of riding up Birdlip in the thick of winter on a 68″ gear. I will never do this again. 

I managed an average speed of 18.5mph for the 50 miles from Bristol to Cheltenham. I took in three big climbs; Wotton, Crawley, and Slad Valley, topping out at 3,500 feet of ascent. On the return my legs complained and I got lost in Stroud (punishment for arguing with the security man), as well as getting lost looking for Birdlip. My average speed was 16.5mph with a similar amount of climbing. It has been two good days of cycling. I’m not sure i’ll have the legs for tomorrow’s hillclimb at Frocester, so may rest and save my energies for the weekend. If I had sufficient room in my pockets I would have brought home some good muck. 


Riding Across the Cotswolds

Hubris ( /ˈhjuːbrɪs/), also hybris, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

The adjective form of hubris is “hubristic”.

Today I managed a PB on my commute to work. The average speed for the 12 mile journey was a shade over 12 miles an hour. It’s a form of evens. Technically, today was a rest day but due to the unscheduled car mishap I had to ride. I took it very slowly. I think it might even be a PB by as much as 10 minutes. It was a genuinely impressive achievement and certainly more than a marginal gain.

Steve sent me a text earlier; he went out today after riding hard and fast in yesterday’s Betty Pharoah road race:

taking your lead, i went for a long hubristic ride in the wind and rain today. with rain-smashed legs and just a banana, I bonked HARD and crawled up the gorge into a tormenting headwind. haven’t fucked myself over like that in a long time. there would have been tears if i could have spared the energy.

Yesterday i set out early on a scheduled ride to Cheltenham, whereupon I was to meet with the inlaws and wife for a lovely luncheon. The wife opted to drive. She is still feeling the after effects of a 55 mile Tintern Trek with Suzi Douchebag, the Audax Queen, and a nice spin up and over the Cotswolds did not particularly appeal. I planned to take my Condor, which I am going to be using for some road races next month, and ride the route at a hefty lick. The weather forecast put the kibosh on that, and what with the Ark not being quite ready yet, i opted to take the Mercian with its full mudguards and the guarantee of a dry ass, rather than the guarantee of a mud-splattered obscenity stripe across the gusset and ass crack.

On the way out i felt positively super-charged. There was a gift tailwind, and as is the norm with all gift tailwinds, i managed to convince myself that it was only a mild tailwind and the reailty was that I was super strong. I tore up the climb out of Wotton, pausing only briefly to exchange pleasantries with a Bristol South rider labouring up the lower reaches. There were two other nasty climbs, one of which wasn’t that nasty but merely a bit long, before a fast descent to Cheltenham. I averaged over 20mph for the ride with 2615ft of climbing. I felt quite pleased with myself, i even felt some form of vague pride.

I had a lovely lunch. It was delicious. Fortified with ginger and treacle pudding i decided to ride home again. Through a process of elimination I can now deduce that this initial decision may have been the cause of subsequent events. I can certainly deduce that I experience both ‘a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of my competence and capabilities’, especially when i opted to start the ride with an ascent of Birdlip. I can safely say that this climb is a purgatory for cyclists and both times i’ve ridden it I’ve had real difficulty. It pitches up nastily in several key sections and averages 10% for the 2 miles. It’s disgusting. Last time i rode it i used a 68″ gear which was nearly fatal. This time i’d opted to use a range of gears and still it wreaked considerable havoc on my sense of being. I survived, and in due course I felt fine. I even managed Selsey Hill without too much bother. Things were looking up, I got to Wotton with about 25 miles to go and most of the climbing in the bag. I was feeling good and the sun was shining. Thus far for the entirety of both rides I had avoided the rain. I even seemed to have avoided the worst of the headwinds. I chatted to a random stranger whilst eating a flapjack, he was impressed by my efforts and asked me how i felt about the remaining 25 miles to come.

A Piece of Cake (picture courtesy of The Cherry on Top)

I left Wotton and headed towards Kingswood. The road surface had been replaced with a sort of loose aggregate which makes riding difficult. A roaring headwind suddenly picked up out of nowhere, racing across the estuary with merciless force. I could just about cope. Up ahead grey and darkening clouds massed in formation and the wind picked up further. I finally encountered my first rainfall of the day, initially a gentle few drops which then gathered in momentum. I stopped briefly under a railway arch somewhere north of Nowhere-by-Wickwar to don my overshoes, but before i could pedal off the rain suddenly poured down, so I opted to stay put. Within minutes it turned into freezing hail and continued unabated for around 10 minutes. I felt glad to be dry, but also experienced that curious dilemma, wondering whether to press on or wait…

It eventually eased and I headed out. The headwind remained the same, dispiriting and soul-destroying. After 80 hilly miles ridden at pace i was starting to suffer. I hunkered low on the drops and tried to carry on regardless, but my spirits sagged like a week old birthday balloon stuck in a hedge. I knew I had a mere 18 miles to go but was struggling, and it was the blustery, horrible headwind that broke me. I crossed the ring road with my average speed dropping through the floor and limped back through Bristol, my legs were shot to pieces, undercarriage malfunctioning, and spirits no longer soaring. I just made it home.

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