Glory through suffering

Glory through suffering..

No glory just suffering. With a few years in the saddle, I really should have known better. After a ten week enforced lay off and only a few turbo sessions and two gentle rides with SWMBO a return to riding should have been a gentler affair.
As I finally negotiated clearance from my better half to return to the saddle, I snatched the opportunity and wheeled my bike out into a beautiful, slightly overcast morning.
The satisfying clack of clean new cleats and the familiar nuzzle of my well worn Arione greeted my first pedal strokes as I sauntered off to meet at the roundabout. Having changed my trusty but trashed Shimano shifters, the first few miles were familiarising myself with Campag Ergos and throughout the whole ride I repeatedly shifted up just as the road dropped away..
Graham was already waiting, early and obviously still guilty about the Cricketers Christmas run. His bike still caked from the weeks excursions, looking confident and obviously up for it. No sniffles or excuses, this is going to be a fast ride.
Jack pitched up with a laconic smile, boisterous enthusiasm and proudly sporting his new chainset.
Rob had already been out for 90 minutes by the time he joined us and soon Stu swooped around the roundabout and pulled up.
Just before we set off Pete Younghusband arrived, a general wave indicating our intended route and we were off. By the time the rest of us had negotiated the roundabout Pete was already on his way to Portsmouth, a few hoots was the first time ( of a few)where the front runners were too far ahead to hear the turn instructions.
So the first few miles into Denmead are fairly smooth, stretching legs taking it easy on the mud caked road and a few greasy corners. A few sniggers between Jack and I a we pass through Bunn’s Lane, Bent Lane and turn onto Hoe Street the first easy climb of the day.. a left turn through a triangle of grit took us onto the first of the narrow lanes and the second time when Pete went straight past the turn.
A moraine of gravel marks the receded winter puddles on this stretch and a little wiggle takes us off Pestead Lane and down the thoroughly greasy descent of Chalk hill into Soberton.
Just past the pub and the lane dips over a hump backed bridge spanning the old Droxford railway line, made famous by Winston Churchills 1944 visit. The Meon river passes as we navigate past a very nervous pair of horses (Grahams beard has that effect) and the group skirts across a quiet A32.
The second hill of the day opens up a few gaps, Rob and I spinning while a few hundred meters ahead Graham and Pete sweep up the shady climb, only to be caught out at the cross roads at the top. They swing left as the rest of us pass straight over, Pete , obviously smarting from the cheerful “ not finished yet Wuss boy!!” hurtles passed us as we regroup. The narrow descent of Mayhill Lane thins us out, Pete missing the right hander into the ominously sounding Cutthroat lane, the next lane climbs parallel and joins the more familiar Hampton Hill near the top. By this time gaps had opened up again, and an unfamiliar straight on to Dundridge caught a few out. The 1 in 10 drop down Damson Hill can be fast, but it is narrow and deceptively steep near the top. The run off at the bottom is cut short, especially for Pete and Grahame, who overshot again. He he..
This sharp left junction allowed us to regroup and start rolling together.. finally having a chin wag , I am sure at some point someone ( Jack) was talking about Astronomy and unhindered by the now familiar horses, Dundridge lane brought us out into Bishops Waltham, well it would have if we didn’t swing into Beeches hill, I took the opportunity to take a quick 100meter pull on the front , no worries this all stopped the instant we flicked left into Vernon hill, where my legs immediately abandoned me.. These lanes here are fairly fast , and gaps soon built up. Luckily we had to regroup at each junction as rout meister was off the back Upham , noted at one time for its brush making, came and went as our little group continued north. More familiar roads returned as we crossed the Preshaw circuit and it was along Longwood Dean Lane that Rob decided that his additional hour in the morning dictated that it was time to turn for home, Stu and I were just off the back as Jack, Pete and Graham, wound it up and disappeared onto the circuit. The breezy hello as we passed a gaggle of slower riders, was all a facade, I was hanging on to Stus wheel and was quite thankful when Milburries came into sight and the familiar green clad twosome and Pete were waiting..I cant remember what was said , but any conversation was quickly drowned by the roar of flying down a sweeping hill into Kilmeston. The sun was starting to push through the clouds as we regrouped with yells of “Right! Right!” toward Brockwood. The flint dashed wall on the left ominously leans in at a crazy angle, It is only a matter of time, before an unfortunate biddy is left staring at the lead formerly attached to her beloved yappy pet , which now appears to snake away to a pile of jumbled blocks, as Rover gets his comeuppance.
Definite gaps were opening up now, with Stu and I casually enjoying the watery sun along Brockwood bottom. What should have been a swift Nature break very nearly spoiled the ride as Jack and Graham missed the junction at Brockwood park, idly (and deafly) waltzing passed the waiting hordes. As they disappeared the ride disintegrated, I went back a bit, to be passed by Pete, Stu carried on, Pete turned Left, old boy on a bike said “ they went left” ( they actually went straight on) and that was it… Bollocks was my first reaction… do I carry on, as my legs a pretty knackered and it is my first ride for so long……

Just before despairing and sloping off home Stu pitched up, and managed to bring order to the chaos. Jack and Graham were directed onto a rendezvous as Graham and I crossed the A272 to enjoy the great lanes around West Tistead. Smooth and flat I highly recommend this area. Brewers lane drooped (pun) us onto the meeting point where our two off piste companions were waiting for us. Pete had since disappeared as the four of us climbed towards Colemore.
Colemore is a tiny village with a wonderful little church , which despite it handy size has a rich history ( )
Sidling on through we started to discuss the possibility of investing in race radio, not only to look cool but as a safeguard against crap directions and a route captain so far behind that only the indignity of an imaginary Voiture balai is semi holding it all together. A short drop takes us to East Tistead, usually known for a higher than average occurrences of Crop circles , but today the scene of a far more inexplicable nature.
While discussing the possibility of the shop purchasing said radios, the stillness of the morning was rudely broken by the unmistakable hiss and volley of swearing that we all know.
Quite how Captain Wyatt is the magnet for more than his fair share of thorns isn’t known, but I can share with you is; If you want a bit of a giggle and want to learn a few new swear words , just watch Graham repair a puncture. In fact if you want to get moving again quickly, I strongly advise you to repair it yourself..
Luckily the sun was now out, and while Jack and I stretched out on a grassy knoll, Stu leaned on his bars in the middle of the road , ensuring that all passing cars had to slow appropriately. Meanwhile Graham showed us how to repair a puncture smoothly and efficiently.
Or rather how not to do it.
How to fix a puncture by Graham Wyatt;
1. Say loudly how pleased you are that you can use your new pump,
2. Disengage said pump from bike frame, brandish and then admit that you hope it works as you haven’t tried it yet.
3. Extract inner tube from tyre.
4. Find puncture .. ( all good so far)
5. replace tube ( still good )
6. Inexplicably walk to other side of road and start pumping furiously.(!)
7. Pump until villagers of small hamlet are rudely awoken by loud bang, followed by a very shrill screech and lung rending swearing at high volume.
8. Walk back across road and deliver inner-tube with sheared valve to teammates who can spend the next ten minutes taking the piss while you repair the puncture again.
9. Those watching, must pick them selves off the floor laugh loudly and spend ten minutes taking piss while offering useless advice and knowledgeable titbits.
10. Everyone starts to get cold and think, hurry up ..
11. Eventually continue with the ride.
When Graham said he was feeling strong he meant it..
We rolled out of Tistead for about a mile, before a right took us up past the magnificent 15th century Goleigh Manor.
In the summer, the descent here is among the best in the area, single track for road bikes, but maybe I oversold it as today my pedestrian like pace failed to find the flow as before, The steep knarly rooted walls with a dark canopy overhead create an atmospheric tunnel as the road rises into Hawkley. Again I find myself off the back, as my tiring legs are failing to respond to any demands on them, even on the straight road onto Hawkley Road I fail to get back on,
The suffering starts,.. 45 miles in at least an hour to go, damn this is going to hurt. The descent is punctuated by a very sharp left hand hairpin, Graham almost comes cropper, but after that the roll off is fast and enjoyable. (Maybe I could do a route ‘Hairpins in Hampshire’) The right turn off the wider road and I know what is in store, this takes us back into little Switzerland, normally an area that I love, but today, every little roller, dip and rise taunt and just add to my misery. The road curves up and away to the left, and already the cramp is rising in my aching quads. I loose contact even before it starts . if you ever come down this be careful near the bottom, the road sports a very strange off camber and odd subsidence right on the riding line,. A glance over to the left has a glorious view towards Liss but the tunnel of trees ahead focuses my vision as I have to bite deeper into reserves and grind my way up. Over the top the lane narrows to a pinch as it joins a familiar Church Lane above Steep Marsh. We regroup, but I roll through without many words, mumbling about keeping right on the way down. Jack promptly misses this hidden road, but I am already focussing on Steep; looming darkly to our right, I know why they are named the Hangars. The others are gone now, all I can muster is a hoarse “Right” as I join the main climb. The elastic snaps again, I am alone. Every blink brings a pool of rainbow colour to my peripheral vision and ringing in my ears as I concentrate on pushing on the pedals, I occasionally try shifting down again, only to be disappointed as the rear mech stubbornly refuses to give me an extra tooth to ease the pain. keep going, you can filter it out..
A slight relief as the road flattens before the hairpin , they must have topped out by now, they will be waiting, talking, all I can do is concentrate on the burning knowledge that being shelled out is painful, it stays with you for a long time and no matter how strong you were, it is only right now that counts that next pedal stroke.
Jacks descends towards me as I round that last corner, I know I am just dead weight now, wanting to fall on my sword, let them go.
Concerned looks as I lead us onto Ridge Top Lane and luckily a rolling road at last but I can still barely keep up. Conversation is lost on me as we arrive at the top of Langrish. What is usually a full on head down thrash downhill, is now a lazy freewheel, more gaps, at the turn at the bottom I point out the weird garden with the replica biplane, windmill, they have removed the plastic cow on a bike ( really!) and that’s the last I see of them until East Meon. It is just me and my cramp now, gingerly pressing on the pedals as not to provoke another spasm. I even get off to stretch in a laybay on a tiny rise before the sign..
At East Meon I announce to let me go, the harikiri of the dropped rider, sacrifice, not the obedient contribution of the roleur, rather the acknowledgement, that nod, leave me here , let me suffer in silence. It’s a private thing, even though all cyclists know it, it is not something to be shared.
East Meon passes, and no matter how many times I try my bottle yields no more fluid, maybe a placebo gulp of sugary air will stop the ache for a while. A Sunday rider passes me, toeclips and a new bright yellow jacket, at least he will feel proud of himself, how ashamed am I? here in my Assos gear being passed suffering on a hill only 5 miles from my own doorstep. The swaying green dots high on the ridge have gone now. Just me and this last hill.
Relief as I crest, it is all downhill from here. My usual 45 Mph is now a limp, I have to keep pedalling to stop my legs giving up for good, Clanfield greets me, no observatory extra climbing today, only three alongthe valley to go.. The headwind bites, but at least it is flat. Steady, my hands changing position every 10 yards , and its there, the Lovedean sign of home, no sprints, no over the shoulder reinforcement of my win, no arms aloft. Just that last rise before my screaming legs and back can rest. Why do we do this? I really should have known better, I should have eased back into it with a few gentle rides,
But where is the glory in that?

Glory through suffering my arse, its miserable.


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