You’re not Jalabert, and this is not Armentieres…

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Thursday, 4th September

St Albans – Barnet – Potters Bar – Hatfield – St Albans. 32.2 miles

Once again, the good ol’ British weather had on it’s best black suit (which I think it tried wearing at school, claiming it was “charcoal grey, sir”), and raining whenever the mood took it. Which was whenever it wasn’t tormenting poor cyclists with quickly repealed promises of clear blue sky. Neither the dark sky, nor the rain, have ever really bothered me all that much – in fact, I quite like cycling in the rain, partly because lots of people don’t, and partly because it feels faster. The real conflict came with that most heinous of elements – wind. I don’t mean my dad’s farts, which have now made it into a second blog entry. He’d be so proud.

Today’s ride was the second with Chris, the chap from work. It might be the last, if our current run of luck continues. In two rides, and about 100 miles covered, we’ve now had three punctures between us. The first (or, more accurately, the second – you’ve already heard about the first in previous posts) occurred within the first sixteen millimetres, when my front tyre started to go flat. Three seconds later, it was very flat. Fortunately, we (well, I mean “I” – Chris still had no puncture-related paraphernalia) had the wheel off and the tube changed in a jiffy. If a jiffy is about twenty minutes. I’ve never has so much difficulty getting a tyre off a wheel in my life, but once off, it was plain sailing.

The road and the ride itself was relatively uneventful. As is becoming the usual situation, the road goes upwards and I seem to go backwards, and when the road is flat I feel good, until Chris whips past me like I’m not moving and I have to fight to latch on to his back wheel. If I wasn’t three stones heavier than both I should be and he is, then I might start getting a bit annoyed by this. Alas, I am fat, and he’s going to carry on killing me until I’m not.

The roads were, in the main, rather forgettable – the route wasn’t anything like as dull as the A5, the road to Milton Keynes, but it’s hardly the Yorkshire Dales or the North Yorkshire Moors. I’m really starting to miss the wonderful countryside of the frozen north. Being in a car, a van or a truck, you’re moving too fast to realise just how dull certain parts of the Home Counties are to look at. By riding around on a bicycle, even riding hard (or as hard as I can currently manage) I’ve finally had time to look at the scenery. It’s “nowt special”.

Now, I’ve said that the ride was relatively uneventful. That wasn’t strictly true. On the A1000, from Potters Bar to Hatfield, I was riding on the front at a happy 25mph-ish, when I felt the back pocket of my jersey start to vibrate. This wasn’t a new sensation, as my dad had already called me during the ride, wanting to know if Jack Daniel’s, one of the leading brands of Tennessee whiskey, was spelt with an apostrophe. For those wondering, I can confirm in the affirmative. This time, it wasn’t my dad. It was Chris, and I was confused. “Hello?” I said.
“You might want to slow down a bit.”
“Why?”
“My front tyre has just popped.”
I stopped and looked round. Chris was nowhere to be seen. After thirty good British seconds, a microscopic Chris pedalled into view in the distance. A very wobbly Chris, but unmistakably him. I considered turning round, but the vision before me was far too amusing and, had the tables been reversed, I doubt he’d have done so. Before not too long, he’d arrived at the point where I had stopped and we discussed the options. A quick phone call had resulted in rejection, when our mutual friend claimed (incorrectly, I might add – unless the boot is, as I suspect, full of girly junk) that his bike wouldn’t fit in her car. Fortunately, having established that there was a bike shop not too far away, off I tootled, leaving Chris to make his way on foot.

The bike shop was very nice and, armed with two new inners, I started off on the return leg of my rescue mission. In the meantime, Chris had made some impressive ground (I think he hitchhiked) towards Hatfield and, once together again, he declared that he was going to go into the shop and ask them to change the tube. He carried on walking.

Chris hits the deck.  Oh no...hang on.  That's Jalabert.

Chris hits the deck. Oh no...hang on. That's Jalabert.

Once the man in the bike shop had done his thing, we wandered off outside to continue the journey home. Being fairly new to this cycling malarky, Chris isn’t the most proficient – in fact, I think it would be fair to say that he’s terrible – at using clipless pedals. In an episode that was as unlike Jalabert’s crash at Armentieres, and certainly not as spectacular, he clipped on foot into his pedals, then holding onto a lamp post for stability, clipped the other one in. Anyone else might have clipped one shoe in, then pedalled off one-footed, then clipped the other in on the move. For anyone who doesn’t use clipless pedals, Chris was now sitting on a stationary bike, with his feet firmly attached to the pedals, balancing on two tyres measuring 23mm in width. Rather than coming down in a mass bunch sprint, his path blocked by fallen cyclists, and a rather stupid policeman with his camera, Chris simply keeled over.

The rest of the ride was boring. Here’s the map.

The bikes:
Fatman: Pinarello Paris with full 9-speed Ultegra and Mavic Open Pros
Chris: Wilier Mortirolo Carbon with full 10-speed Veloce and Fulcrum R7s

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