Foolishly I was unprepared for the last summer ride.
I had expected an autumnal ride of slips and showers and dressed accordingly. Instead the riot of fall colours was steaming in the late summer heat. Shorts were a better choice than my Gore Profi 3 trousers but long sleeves did save me from the whipping of the undergrowth.
I love the trails at this time of year as it makes it a challenge to find the dry ones and avoid the mud. The least known tracks are covered in a camouflage of leaves so many of them are left to the familiar.
Whiteways car park was filled with Hogs glinting in the sun but we found space for all of us and after coffee AND NO BACON BUTTIES we pedalled out and up. We looped through a few sections of single-track in the trees including the new Rich Reward linking old with old and ran down some of the main runway stuff before heading out over the hill.
The man from the meadow, (Monsieur du Pre), and I slipped twice at the bottom before he was spurred into an attack on the hill and sprinted off with me chasing. Three quarters of the way up as I faded Alec was in the perfect position to jump onto his wheel but with the disdain of a top twenty place recently achieved in the night time trial over the South Downs he informed me that he “had nothing to prove”.
Rob trundled up ahead with unassailable lead.
We raced through the next sinuous section with a couple of our new faces performing with aplomb. Pete lost the trail for a second but showed me an opportunity for a new link.
We separated a little as we ran the ridge trail with Nick keeping a wary eye on this slender trail. He seemed to enjoy it as he followed the rear wheel of the Gary Fisher down the hill. Almost too close as Pete somersaulted over the bars after hitting a log but he landed softly in the leaves. At the bottom a certain Blur rider confessed that he had done exactly the same and he has no excuse having ridden this countless times over the years.
Over the horse jump logs I challenged Mr. Donne to clear the lot and in a flash he was off. And in a flash he was off; at the second log wrestling to hold the bike and spoiling a clear run with a dab. “Puncture” was the cry, as Pete’s tyre went down whether as the result of the acrobatics or not the cause will never be known. Time for a munch while he played mechanic. Nick’s nice, light Fuel brought out an engineering lesson for the second group with Rich eventually settling for “just tell me what to buy?” That’ll be VPP, Rich. Mike swapped his patriot with the S works of Rich for a bit as the puncture was prepared. Rich zoomed off and Mike used the S works chain ring as a saw on the next large log.
The other Mike ran ahead through the overgrown trail to grab a picture or two. The main group should have been intrigued by the bouncing log that we had laboriously sawn through the previous weekend as a trail obstacle, but it seemed to be just a log. The sweat was not worth it.
We hit that little climb next and dug in. Not very long, not very rocky, not very narrow and not very easy and a few pushing up to the top. Always hurts me that one. Around the quarry ridge, dry and clear with v brakes shuddering behind me as Mike tested out the braking of Rich’s racing steed with the security of hitting me rather than something solid. I sprinted to get away and did fine until I hit three or four of the strongest uprights in the panda garden. I stayed on with skill and aplomb proven by the appreciative gales of laughter from the two Mikes at my maestro demonstration.
More single-track, some roots, some happy walkers encouraging us on and another mechanical. Alec’s tubeless had come unstuck. Very rare as he rides so light but as he have bottomed his fork perhaps he was carrying extra speed into the gullies. A new tube and we rode around the road section after a democratic decision which went against me.
The little hill on the last leg of the way back found us running out of water as the heat took its toll. The last run down through the two main runways brought us back to the final climb that reminds you that your fitness is never good enough.
So that was my ride as sweeper. How was your ride?