Sunday, 6 December 2009

regressive progression

Friday night. Leave late to miss the traffic, Radio 1, eyes on the drive. Smoothly up the M6, slingshot Glasgow, onwards up the A9, horizon rolling as the mountains cluster around. Haul up in the chosen layby, unfurl sleeping bag in the back and dive for broken sleep.


Rudely awakened. Wrestling into layers in the half-light. Base layer tucked into shorts under mid layer tucked into tights under another mid layer over shorts under vest and jacket zipped right up to the nines. Inhale steam from the stovetop, suffer apple pie and coffee burps for the rest of the day. Pack up, lock up, hit the hills.


Roiling nerves give way to exhilaration. The sun is up - it might not be seen all day but it is up and that's what counts. Miles roll on. Eat, drink. Views absorbed, perils assessed. Decisions made quickly and sensibly before crazier, more stupid ideas can be entertained. Somewhere in the back of your mind a smile grows broader as the crux is passed and the last leg looms. Endings matter less with a long before to give them substance. Watch the sunset, feel not much of anything. Eat, drink. Miles.


Finish in the dark, car safe and small and familiar. Fall around a muddy car park, stripping off to nothing and then layering up again whilst the stovetop steams and the rain returns and you stub your toes painfully on your socks. Black coffee, whole pot of. Scour the car for food. Heater on, radio on. Back on the road, smiling.

warming up panda


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

on any given

'Cross. Oh, how I love to hate 'cross. The pain, the brevity, warming up on lap four of six before bonking on lap five. Feet and hands that remain icy numb even when the core could be used to cook bacon. Taste of blood at the back of my throat, the glimpse of pink bar tape out of the corner of my eye on that turn which tells me whether I'm gaining, losing, gaining again. Wry laughs on the finish line, familiar hacking cough, hands cramping round the steering wheel on the way home.

Yup, hate it.

I do like northern 'cross better than southern 'cross, though. Southern 'cross is all terribly polite. New white socks for every race. Friendly, even when in the throes of agony. "Excuse me, do you mind if I overtake/undertake/vomit on your rear wheel? Lovely weather we're having. Did you see the latest Rouleur yet? Beautiful layouts. Some rather nice tubs. Anyway. Lovely chatting to you but I must be going. Keep pedaling, nearly there!".

Very nice.

Northern 'cross is different. Harder. Black socks are not uncommon. I have been sworn at, pushed off, elbowed, shoved. Asking around reveals this to be normal, though apparently this year has been worse than any preceding it. Up here I have had a great deal of fun with the sort of riders, all male, who wish they were top ten but have never quite managed to break top fifteen, and aren't used to girls with well-honed elbows who can and do hold their line when they have a legitimate right to it. Who are quite happy to return the verbal abuse they receive, doubled. And who can ride muddy, off-camber singletrack fast enough to keep returning that abuse right into the offending ear until the next flat field section is reached and power overcomes skill once again.

Love it.

(un)lucky gonk