“Get out of the road you fucking wankers.”
The line was perfectly delivered by a driver whose window was already rolled down. He’d probably been practicing that one for weeks. As we climbed up Monsal Head laughing, I logged it as a highlight of my first ride out with Buxton CC.
You can be forgiven for not paying closer attention to the transfer saga of the autumn. There was talk of a CC London “up north” franchise or a newly created race team, there was also at least one concrete offer from a team that said “you can ride with us if you can’t find anyone else.” I’ve never known what it’s like to be so in demand.
After literally a couple of days of uncertainty I can now reveal that I’m planning on signing for Buxton CC for the 2017 season. It’s only an hour ride to get to the start of their club runs, which is only slightly more convenient than with CC London where I’d have to make a 2 hour train journey and stay in one of those hotels endorsed by Lenny Henry. I’ve lied there. I actually stay in a travelodge which is endorsed by a puppet that looks like a knock off muppet. I’m a big success.
Sunday was my first ride out with my new club mates, although I already know Joe and Phil from racing, and Joe’s missus was a member of CC London. The first ride out is to watch the National Hill Climb Championships in Matlock. For me it should only be a 120km round trip through the Peak District but I’ve forgotten to consider that the Buxton lads might have planned a slightly less than direct route to get the most out of their Sunday club run. 150km later and in fading light I’m more than aware of it.
Like 6 Day Racing, Cyclocross, and the sudden popularity of the word “spooktacular” nothing says Autumn is here like a Hill Climb. Alongside sharing pictures of your dinner, leaving the European Union and being really not that into Gluten, hill climbing has also got unexpectedly popular. Matlock CC had to turn down 100 entries before the event. On the day they’re having to set off a lot of the field at 30 second intervals just to make sure everyone gets a ride.
I had initially planned on entering the Hill Climb but I never got around to entering any of the qualifying events. Mostly that’s because I didn’t think my Strava would look good with me basing my weekend around a sub-10 minute ride. I think I dodged a bullet there when I see bikes like the one belonging to Lee Baldwin. It’s only got one chain ring and the saddle has had as many holes drilled in it as possible. It’s actually just a sheet of air with an occasional bit of saddle to interrupt it. The whole bike probably weighs about 4kg. I haven’t got the time, the money, or the drill to achieve anything like that.
The run to Matlock is pretty straight forward barring the abuse we get on the climb up Monsal. The same can’t be said for the run back.
The route could take us directly back to Buxton but it doesn’t. It deviates through parts of the Peak District that I’ve never been before. I think electricity may have only just passed through a couple of weeks before us. Everyone is knackered by this point and the group keeps shedding riders out the back over every climb. Not to worry, we’ll all regroup when Derek hits the deck hard somewhere near Elton. Was it called Elton?
Derek went down hard and is sprawled spark out on the tarmac. He’s taken Joe down with him but Joe’s ok. His only injury are some cuts to his hands. Weirdly all of the cuts are on his knuckles. Joe’s such a hardman that when he crashes it seems he simply punches the road in anger. That’ll learn it.
Derek’s ok but he’s definitely concussed. You can tell this when he asks “what’s concussion.” He also asks “where did I crash?” “Did I crash here?” “Did anyone else crash?” and “Did I just crash once?” on repeat for the next 20 minutes. He keeps changing up the order of the questions to keep it fresh. Did I mention he’s concussed? Luckily a couple in a Land Rover have stopped for us. It’s lucky because we’ve completely blocked the single track road and if they hadn’t stopped then Derek would also be able to add “got run over by a Land Rover” to his list of problems. The couple are pros at this. They’ve taken in cyclists on a number of occasions and so they take Derek back to their house to wait for an ambulance. Their house is called The Cheese Factory. It’s the only delightful thing that’s happened in bloody ages.
It’s another age back to Buxton but at least we can keep saying things like “did I just crash once?” to keep the spirits up. We’re all riding very cautiously as but this point the ride just feels cursed. That might also have something to do with the fact that we’re up in the Peaks and the whole place is covered in fog. At times it feels as though we’re cycling into the afterlife. Ride into the light, Tom. Ride into the light..
At Buxton there’s about 5 of us left from an initial 18. Like a classic horror movie they were all picked off one by one. Derek only added to the horror movie vibe as when we left him one of his contact lenses was hanging out which was only slightly less horrific than that bit with Glen’s eye in The Walking Dead. All this and it’s only the day before Halloween. I’m going to race with this lot next season. I know how to pick ‘em.
After Buxton it’s just me on my lonely slog back to Glossop. The last survivor of a plucky band of brothers that went out to just enjoy a day on their bikes. If you thought I was out of danger then think again as it’s 5pm and I told my wife I’d be back for 2ish. The horror…….
p.s Hope Derek's ok. Can someone let me know. Ta.