Before I get into the serious business of attempting to get a laugh out of a joke about the state of University education. A joke that has a tenuous link to a bike race I did at the weekend. I’d first like to dedicate this week’s blog to Ben Pritchard. Benno is probably reading this in hospital after having a bad crash in a race a couple of Saturdays ago. One of the earliest races I did was with Benno. He crashed in that one too, breaking a few ribs and a shoulder, I think. He still finished the race and rode home. A true hardman, and that’s how you know it’s been a bad one if it’s kept him in hospital for anything more than a couple of hours. Get well soon, Benno.
You hear a lot about the way cyclists design their seasons in order to hit peak form at a certain time, and then hold that form over a series of races, or throughout a 3 week tour. I think I hit the closest thing I have to a peak at the Ben Carroll Memorial Road Race a couple of weeks ago. My attempts to maintain that form involved not riding my bike for 10 days, going to Sicily and eating at least one ice cream a day. Also quite a bit of wine out of quite a few jugs. The reason I do these things is so that you don’t have to. If anyone’s thinking of adopting this performance plan then be aware that it doesn’t do wonders for your form. In fact it’s been so long since I’ve ridden one that I’m not sure that I actually believe that bikes are real anymore. You what? A contraption whose only contact with the ground is two thin pieces of rubber? Relying on human power? And it stays upright? Yeah, I believe you, mate. Who does this guy think I am?
It’s amazing how much perspective taking 10 days off riding has given me, i’m particularly enjoying the perspectives that I’m calling ‘how cycling is awful’ and ‘why would anyone want to do this to themselves?’ I’m not sure if any of you have ever tried not riding a bike instead of riding one but it’s literally loads better. I feel like one of those dads you see on those adverts for giving up smoking. The ones who have kicked their awful habits and are now having a new lease of life. I can’t remember any of the particular adverts but you can bet that most end with the Dad being towed along on a skateboard by an exuberant labrador. I hope my life is going to be that fun now.
Unfortunately my willpower is weak and I’m back on two wheels. In an attempt to remind myself that bikes do exist, and that I know how to ride one, a couple of days before the Out Of The Saddle Autumn Road Race, I’m back out in the Peak District on a training ride. Maybe my form is out here on the road. Maybe that’s it just there. Nope, that’s a roadkill Rabbit. The giveaway is that it’s in better shape than my form.
Now this could be one of those race reports that plays with you, lowering your expectations before the final act that involves a heroic against-all-odds win, soundtracked by Jefferson Starship, and ends with me hooking up with the hottest girl at high school. On prom night. Or it could just lead to a few jokes about the race HQ being in aFootgolf clubhouse. Which one will it be?
The Race HQ is in a Footgolf Clubhouse on a University Campus. Is that the sort of thing you can study these days? Education in this country has gone to shit since my day. Back then we studied proper intellectual subjects like Media Studies and Hotel Management.
I thought they’d given up on trying to combine golf with other sports after the debacle of Frolf. Remember Frolf? Frisbee Golf? Like golf but played by people who are still wearing an anklet, that a girl they met whilst backpacking in Thailand, made for them. It’s probably good that you don’t remember it but I promise you it’s a real thing. The only things that have combined with Golf to make it any better are Windmills, and the other things you get in Crazy Golf, and Rodney Dangerfield.
I’m not sure about Footgolf but the culture of cycling is strong in these parts. The legendary Donny Chain Gang starts just up the road and a lot of the riders in this race take part in it. If you’ve never heard of it, the Donny Chain Gang is ride that is frequented by the likes of Ben Swift, the Downings, Graham Briggs and a whole peloton of northern pros and super strong amateurs. If I ever start to enjoy riding my bike again I’ve made a pledge to myself that I’ll join them one day.
Today’s race isn’t a long one, it’s only 80km, but it’s a notoriously tough one. The circuit is only 10km around, with a super steep descent and some punchy climbing. I’ve not got my hopes up for this one. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it but I’ve had some time off the bike and I’m feeling distinctively under prepared for the race. Early in the season that’s the sort of thing you might get away with, but not in September when those still racing are as battle hardened as they are here.
My plan for this one is to ride my way into it. Much like Chris Froome was doing with the Vuelta this year, but whereas he gave himself 10 days or so to find his legs, I’ve probably got around 20 minutes.
Turns out I’ve got less than that. I’m midway in the bunch trying to work out if I feel great or whether I’m in the kind of shape that someone who eats ice-cream everyday should be in, when the race kicks off. It kicks off in a big way too. About 20 riders seem to have gone off the front and no one looks like bringing them back. Once I get to the front I try and get across but I can’t do it alone even though I’m fully committed. I’m joined by a couple of riders but I can’t work out what their motives are. Are they sitting on knowing that they’ve got riders up the road or are they serious about doing something about it? As our momentum stalls I miss my chance to ask. Not to worry as I’ll put in at least 2 digs per lap for the next 3 laps at least. If I’m going to feel terrible then I may as well make myself feel really terrible. With all the points up the road I’m hoping that I can get away in a small group and maybe catch anyone who gets discarded from the break. There could be a solitary point in it, and taking solitary points has been my speciality this season.
Despite my hunger for single digit rankings points, I can’t find a way to get away from the bunch. I’ve tried attacking on the same part of the course at least 3 times. It’s that failure to learn from my mistakes that still leads me to try and get staplers to staple through more sheets of paper than they can manage. I’d be better off just stapling a few sheets at a time. What drives me to take such risks?
I’m writing about staplers so you can pretty much guess that by this point my race is over. A less discerning blog might say something like “I’d used my last staple on that attack” or “with no chance of getting any points, much like the stapler I longed to be stationery.” That last one is a fucking good joke. I don’t even care if a stapler is truly stationery or not. Let’s see someone who did a BA in Footgolf use English as playfully as that!
The last couple of laps are spent listening to riders do jokes about us being in the grupetto. I come up with a line about making the time cut but keep it to myself. It’s not half as good as that one about staplers.
Incidentally if you google “jokes about staplers” then this one is the top entry.
What Did The Post It Notes Say To The Stapler?
“This Is A Stickup!”
That works on literally no levels. First of all it’s not even a stapler joke. It’s got nothing to do with the stapler at all. His role could easily have been taken by a pen or some jam. Maybe if the post-it notes were mugging the stapler then it would work, but why would he say “this is a stickup” in a regular conversation?
Also take a look at the image. The Post-It notes are actually delivering the joke to the stapler. That’s like me opening a conversation with you by saying “what did I say to you?” In fact he's not even saying "what" he's saying "why did the post-it notes say to the stapler?" The guy needs help.
Everyone should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. I’m off for a round of Footgolf.
Thanks as always to my sponsor 23mm.co.uk. If you want a new set of beautiful hand built wheels then check them out. I can’t praise them enough. If you mention this blog then you’ll probably bag yourself a discount.