Saturday 7 April 2012

Bad Friday/Good Friday

Bad Friday was in March 2008, on Good Friday - that is, the two days before Easter Sunday Good Friday, rather than a generic uncapitalised good Friday. On Bad Friday I dislocated my shoulder on a singlespeed mountain bike ride in the Cotswolds, on a day of horizontal hailstones, skidding mud tyres on greasy tarmac and blissful, blissful prescription drugs. On Bad Friday I became dislocatedMTB.

That memorable ride was with Jon, who you may recall from such posts as "why am I about to vomit?", "who does he think he is, Andy Schleck?" and "please can we go home now?". When you've ended up in hospital on a ride in a certain location, on a certain day, and with a certain person, the best thing you can do is tempt fate once again.

As I left the house yesterday, Good Friday, to drive over to Jon's the shouted goodbye from Elaine included the words "...and I don't want any calls from Jon saying you're broken".

Can you guess where this is going?

The weather yesterday was a marked contrast to Bad Friday. As I mentioned, Bad Friday was brutal. Freezing, wet, icy, windy. Yesterday was chilly, dry, crisp and bright. The bikes were also very different - from rigid singlespeeds with mud tyres to carbon fibre road bikes with 23mm slicks.

Here are the bikes. Mine is the pretty one. Shame I've ruined the lines with a pump (gasp!) and a seat pack (shudder!).

The ride was originally planned to be a monster re-run of the route of the Cotswold Spring Classic but circumstances led it to be slightly less stressful. Jon's been ill and off the bike for the past eight weeks. This time last year he was riding like Philippe Gilbert. Unfortunately he's still riding like him - the 2012 version.

(Note for non-followers of pro-cycling. In 2011 Big Phil was astonishingly good, imperious. In 2012 he's been floundering in comparative mid-table obscurity.)

This gave me some hope for the ride. I'm in reasonable shape, and with Jon below his usual standard there was a slight possibility that I might be able to stay with him on the hills. Well, at least not get dropped as spectacularly as normal.

First big test: the climb into... um... some Cotswold village. They all blur into one for me. It's hard to see street signs when you're weeping with pain and on the edge of blacking out through the effort. Hang on, I'll check the map on Training Peaks. Oakridge Lynch. Then on to Miserden. On the first climb I STAYED WITH JON. On the second I WAS JUST BEHIND.

Wow. Those two moments will go down in my personal list of cycling achievements, like my first 12 hour solo mountain bike race and ascending Tourmalet on a unicycle.

Onwards - steep climbs, sketchy on-the-brakes descents down singletrack roads, potholed and broken, horses appearing from round blind corners. I resent these descents - after all the work on the climbs, having to take such care on what should be the reward is very, very tedious. Still, better that than another visit to hospital...

I mentioned that this was a less stressful ride than originally planned. We even stopped for coffee and pastries in (checks map) Painswick. Two small coffees, two pastries = £9.10. Cotswold prices.

Here's Jon hiding in the cafe, reflecting.

Out of Painswick on another steep, narrow, twisting descent. Then the inevitable 9% average climb out to the main road. From here on the main road through Slad into Stroud is probably my favourite section in the area, all open roads, stunning views and sweeping bends. There's no need to pedal, but it's just shallow enough that it's worthwhile to do so for those few extra MPH.

Climb out of Stroud. Jon drifted into the distance but I managed to stay close enough to keep him in sight. Another small victory. The rest of the ride was punctuated by wild garlic, snack stops and even another picture.

Then with final, crushing inevitability, it happened.

The last kilometre, along the car-strewn road to Jon's house. I click up a gear. Jon clicks up a gear. We both start to wind up the pace. I accelerate, Jon matches me for a second, then drops back. That's right, I beat Jon in the sprint home.

He may be Gilbert, but yesterday I was Cavendish.

(If you guessed this was going to end up in hospital, shame on you. I don't crash that often)

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