Up at 6.30am to ride cross bikes before the day begins. Catch the sunrise and blue sky before the lifting fog smudges it grey again. A quick one-two with the time concertina as things fall magically into place and off to Manchester for a track session. Monstrously painful fun and so absorbing I forget to save anything for the ride home with Trio, which turns out to be a long one, skies turning chillier with every mile that passes, endless back alleyways and secret trails on a bike that ought to fit but doesn't, really, making everything sore and doubly tired.
Part ways and the slog goes solo, quiet and with purpose, just want to be home but there are miles and miles still to go. Head down, get on with it.
The hill out of Bacup is significantly easier than it looks but still, I'm crawling. Legs grumbling, tummy aching with emptiness after riding straight past lunch and tea.
Pause in the layby at the top. Adjust bag, jersey, jacket for four mile descent. Tug, wriggle, zip. Couple in the car aren't paying me, or the view, any attention at all. Cows stare rudely from the verge and my knees hurt like hell. Weary sigh. Clip in, push off, shrug the bag, roll past the car into the empty road and -
They're. Eating. Chips.
They're sitting in there eating chips with the window open just far enough to let the crossswind grab a hefty waft of salt and vinegar fumes and drag it under my twitching nose setting every sense a-tingle. It smells so good I'm already half-turning the bars to swing round and back to the layby before common decency kicks in and reminds me that they are quite likely to think I'm a murdering two-wheeled psychopath rather than a half-starved rider who just wants to mug them for their tea and it really is only ten miles to the chip shop. And at least half of that's downhill.
Just ten miles.