Kingston Wheelers Wye Wander 600 (+16)

The final qualifying ride for Paris-Brest-Paris 2019 616kms.

For the Muswell Hill Peloton squad, a fickle bunch of timewasters, this was going to be a tough ride due to the fact that 3 out of the 4 riders insisted on sleeping in a bed after 350 kms!

The Wattmeister’s suggestion of traditional tried and tested ‘audax hotels’ accommodation….a bus shelter, a cemetery or a cold concrete garage forecourt…. was outvoted by Long Tom, Old Grey Socks and Bubbles, and so the Raglan Lodge hotel situated in the A40 service station was duly booked.

The plan was to ride 350 kms from the 6 a.m start in Raynes Park on Saturday morning to arrive in Raglan at 11 p.m…..take 6 hours off the bike….depart Raglan at 5 a.m and arrive back in Raynes Park by 10 p.m on Sunday evening. Easy peasy.

Hah! In order to achieve this, we would either have to be super organised regarding time spent OFF the bike….or, ride E-bikes. You see, both the charm and weakness of Team MHP is their combined ability to effortlessly extend a five minute stop into a twenty minute holiday.

We departed on time and made good progress to our first control stop at Wallingford (78 kms) after traversing some pretty lanes in the Chiltern Hills. Most riders were in and out in ten or twelve minutes, but true to form, Team MHP lasted 23 minutes before deciding to press on.

By the time we arrived at Stow-in-the-Wold (147 kms), the weather had deteriorated, the scenery had disappeared and  all we could manage was another 25 minutes sitting outside in the rain shivering our bollocks off, or in Bubbles’ case…her tits.

We pressed on to Worcester (202kms), the rain was replaced by a deluge of biblical proportions and despite our casual approach to time management, we were riding well and still on course for an 11 p.m arrival in Raglan.

Finally, the precipitation (which was not forecast), stopped, it warmed up a bit, the stunning scenery re-appeared all around us and we celebrated by visiting Mcdonalds in the town centre….but not before taking a detour as the River Severn had flooded our route.

Here, we squandered about 35 minutes….most of it trying to find reading glasses to better see the digital ordering screen. Old Grey Socks went retro, asked a human being and was served quickly.

The road to Hay on Wye (287 kms) was tough. The sun came out. As we winched ourselves up some wicked climbs, Titterstone Clee Hill dominated the northern aspect and the Brecon Beacons loomed in the distance under clouds pregnant with rain. The countryside looked splendid, verdant, dappled with a plethora of freshly rinsed wild flowers.

In the village of Eardisland, an aficionado opened their cosy front garden and plied passing randonneurs with food, tea, coffee, juices…this was one stop we could not miss….a most lovely interlude.

In Hay, our 5 minute stop was truncated to a mere 25 minutes at the Co-op, plus a bonus 9 minutes as we hunted for 20p in order to use the public conveniences.

Our 11 p.m date with Raglan now looked like being delayed to 00.30 a.m. However, with the assistance of benign weather, quiet roads and the power of Long Tom, Old Grey Socks and Bubbles, the husk of The Wattmeister was dragged into the hotel at midnight… on the dot.

A bed though is not for this breed of audaxer…..as soon as the others had nodded off, he took himself off to sleep on the floor of the hotel lobby using the fire extinguisher as a pillow.

We left Raglan only 15 minutes later than scheduled for our trip to the control in Chepstow (274kms) …..our supposed 75 minute journey had only taken 95 minutes due to a route miscalculation and a couple of humongously steep hills which no sane cyclist should ever consider tackling at 5 in the morning.

The planned 15 minutes in Chepstow magically became 45 minutes at we were wrapped in a cocoon of love by the sylphs of organising club Kingston Wheelers. Eggs, beans porridge…nothing was too much trouble.

When we were finally kicked out, the possibility of missing the cut-off time at 10 p.m was becoming a vague possibility…..so we ploughed on through the rain into a headwind across the Severn Bridge to our date with destiny.

Tiny lanes and steep hills slowed our progress to Pewsey (457 kms). But the sun came out near Chippenham, an opportunity not to be missed…. we decided a brief 29 minute stop for coffee would help our cause. Why rush?

In Pewsey, we were the epitome of efficiency, only 14 minutes, as the seriousness of the time situation took hold. A long stage to Hindhead (553kms) ensued, which was ridden practically non-stop. As we approached the never ending climb up to the Devil’s Punchbowl, the effort took its toll on Bubbles. A prolonged ravitaillement of 25 minutes was prescribed in order to revive our beloved Welsh warrior…..the promise of a pint at the finish was the clincher, and off she roared.

With 63 kms to go and 3 and half hours in which to do it, this would normally be seen as a simple task. But after 550 kms of riding and the formidably steep Surrey Hills between us and the finish, nothing could be left to chance.

Coombe Lane endeavoured to slow us down, but as we descended to Cobham with just 19 kms to go, Long Tom suffered a puncture. A reasonably swift tube replacement was effected but now things were getting sweaty. A fast, edgy ride main road ride from Esher into Surbiton tipped the scales back in our favour, and another rider, Ken, steered us back to the finish through a labyrinth of back roads, underpasses and cycle paths.

The Kingston Wheelers team welcomed us with hugs, handshakes, food and beer. A memorable ride.

The result was never in doubt.

 

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Back to the Smoke 412 kms

As coordinator of Muswell Hill Peloton’s crack Paris-Brest-Paris squad, The Wattmeister was attracted to this ride by the title, which suggests getting away from the increasingly tedious Smoke, and the fact that it was a linear 400 km ride.

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Accompanied by Bubbles, Old Grey Socks, and Long Tom, we initially set off with about 30 other riders from Exeter St. David’s station at midday on Saturday, following a prescribed route via Wells, Durrington, Stow on the Wold,  Buckingham and finally, to arrive in Marylebone Station in London by 3 p.m, at the latest, on Sunday afternoon….a veritable tour of some gorgeous areas of natural beauty.

Now then, in the run up to this event, Bubbles had contracted a throat infection, but she was bravely determined to give it a go. A visit to the doctor yielded some antibiotics, but these are not compatible with her home grown remedy of gargling with prosecco…..gargling won and she was fit and ready to go, if a tad unsteady on the bike

Unusually for an audax the weather was nice, it didn’t rain, and we had a tailwind for much of the way.  The ride report could end right there, a miniscule drop of happiness in a world of uncertainty.

However the contract says, “….pedal stroke by pedal stroke account….”.

Departing buzzing Exeter in the warm sunshine via numerous traffic lights, we soon lost contact with the front riders. We are in the process of  honing our long distance riding plan to avoid wasted time off the bike and to ride steadily and sustainably on the bike. The plan soon went out the window as Old Grey Socks had made up his mind to get to the first control stop in Wells, 100 kms distance by 4 p.m.

He towed us along for 70 odd kms, like a machine…..nearly 62 years of age….does the man NEVER STOP FOR A WEE?

Goodbye Devon, hello Somerset, goodbye Taunton, hello Middlezoy……hello verdant Somerset Levels swathed in cowslip, cleaved by narrow burbling waterways and framed by ancient tors, hello Wells with your magnificent cathedral.

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A faff free cafe stop adjacent to the street market to collect the all important proof of passage. Goodbye Wells, you are etched into The Wattmeister’s fading memory.

We set off onto the ridge at Horrington via the Old Frome road….quite a climb…which affords magnificent views in all directions. It was now Long Tom’s turn to force the pace as we hurtled down off the ridge through Frome, Warminster and on to our second control at Durrington.

Traversing the vast expanse of Salisbury Plain on a bike in late afternoon sunshine with a tailwind is one of life’s great pleasures.

Grabbing some food at Tesco’s in  Durrington at 7.30 p m, we now headed North, a 100 kms leg to Stow on the Wold. Some of the verve and brio of earlier had disappeared, but Old Grey Socks set off again with ants in his pants along the glorious secret lane to Upavon, passing the hamlets of Brigmerston, Figheldean and Fittleton.

The light was beginning to fade as we winched ourselves up to Clench Common, just south of Marlborough. We still had 70 kms to go to Stow, the Clysts of Devon were long gone in a blur of frenzied energy, and the Ogbournes and Draycots would be passed more sedately and unseen in the darkness.

My word this section was a slog, briefly enlivened by another Old Grey Socks 20 kms blast from Highworth to Broughton Poggs, at which point we turned off to climb through the Cotswolds. The Wattmeister was not a happy boy, dealing with a painful bout of hot foot , as we proceeded through the Barringtons and Rissingtons with a final brutal punch up to our control point, the 24 hour garage at Stow.

Over 13 hours, the group mood had changed, tiredness had replaced the exuberance and confidence of mid-afternoon. Bubbles dreamed of getting a taxi back to London…”f*ck PBP” she whispered before huddling up next to  LongTom and Old Grey Socks on the cold concrete forecourt of the petrol station.

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Even The Wattmeister was having doubts….”what if we miss breakfast?” he fretted.

Other riders preferred to kip in the cemetery across the road. It was 1 a.m…the glamorous side of audax riding unfolding in all its glory.

At 3.30 a.m, we had a group hug. Although is was a mild night, we set off to conquer the the 70 kms leg to our next waypoint in Buckingham wearing every item of clothing at our disposal to ward off the chill that inevitably sets in after a long break.

It wasn’t long before Bubbles suffered a puncture. Surrounded by three capable men, one of whom once owned a bike shop, what could go wrong? 20kms down the road, she flatted on the same wheel….the diagnosis was that Bubbles had pressed too hard on the C02 canister and crushed the inner tube valve….the competence of the male riders remained untarnished…phew!

Buoyed by the fact that he could do no wrong, finally, after nearly 300kms, The Wattmeister did a turn on the front…..the other riders guffawed….”we’ll never get there at this pace! ” snorted Bubbles.

By the time we had dispatched Buckingham to our list of receipts, the ride began to have a “justwanttogetthere” feel to it. However, an opportunity to waste an hour in Tring presented itself, so we sloped off to the excellent Espresso Lounge for a cracking breakfast.

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Bubbles fell asleep at the table whilst ordering so ended up with a “crushed avo…” (guess the rest to win a prize), LongTom manfully attempted to remain awake by closing his eyes, and Old Grey Socks demolished a Bubble and Squeak and yoghurt creation….all the while The Wattmeister wordlessly and clinically dismantled a superb full english breakfast, an act of leadership which alas went unnoticed by his companions who were otherwise engaged.

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The Espresso Lounge in Tring….worth repeating. The owner is a formidable but friendly man. The food is very good. The ceiling on the toilet is very low. The Wattmeister rode the final 78 kms with concussion.

Not really much to say about the finale…more traffic, the circumnavigation of Watford, Bushey Hill ( who knew it was so long?), the slog along the A5, crossing the North Circular, a grim return to the Smoke.

We arrived at Marylebone station, had another group hug, acquired receipts, The Wattmeister downed a Pale Ale in the twinkle of an eye, and Old Grey Socks thrashed us in the sprint back in Regents Park as we rode home.

A great day/night out, not without its low points, but with a plethora of high points. Thanks must go to Bubbles for finally, finally, finally getting her rear bag packed nice and neatly so that it doesn’t rub on the mudguard.

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Downsizing

“Look at all these bikes. You can only ride one at a time! Why have you got so many wheels? You haven’t got a tricycle! Have you?….I’m sorry I said that, don’t get any ideas!”

The Wattmeisterin is paying The Wattmeister a visit in the cellar where he has been installed since 28th March 2019, the day preceding the original Brexit date, living as quietly as is possible on a diet of sardines and Torq energy gels, eschewing lycra for protective, sealed anti-Brexit protective clothing.

“Has Theresa May made a deal with the EU, my love?”, asks the former king of baroudeurs. “In the opinion of the general public, what will happen to the price of bike parts if we leave with no deal?”

“Look around, you already have enough bike parts to start your own shop…..now there’s an idea. Why don’t you consider making  space down here for more sardines by selling some of this cycling paraphernalia?”

“It’s hard to let go schatje”. (Sounds bad, but is in fact a term of endearment in the Netherlands), “I’m very attached to this stuff, but if it makes you happy, I will put my Full English Breakfast photo library up for auction on ebay….it should raise quite a bit of cash…especially the one with bubble ‘n squeak AND black pudding.”

“Look Wattmeister, you have to get real. The house is too big for us now that the children have left….”

“The children have left!?”

“Yes Wattmeister, they have moved out of the family home.”

“Moved out? How old are they?”

“They are old enough to vote, but not old enough to fill the fridge or buy toilet paper when it runs out.”

“Toilet paper! What’s that?”

“Julian Assange has been evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy and now it’s time for you to leave the cellar Wattmeister.”

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Random Breakfast Review

A lot has happened (or not) in the 5 years since the Great Muswell Hill Full English Breakfast review series.  In completing the task, The Wattmeister’s finely tuned physique suffered from the accumulation of 37,500 extra calories. Much to the delight of The Wattmeisterin, a taut six-pack made way for copious love handles.

Despite his best efforts….a couple of grudging sit-ups a week, the odd half-hearted press-up and an occasional sulky burpee… The Wattmeister’s shape has refused to return to the Adonis-like glory of yesteryear.

In order to arrest the decline, his team of sports psychologists suggested a Mindfulness course.

“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be”.

Which, in cycling terms, reads as: “You’re slower. You were never fast. Enjoy getting even slower”.

Crushed by the effort of maintaining moment by moment awareness and being confronted by the truth, The Wattmeister panicked and took flight, pitching up in St.Ives, Cambridgeshire.

Strolling down The Broadway, he tumbled into The Local Café as if drawn there by a magnetic black pudding. Spotlessly clean, flooded with bright cheerful light, populated with efficient, engaging and helpful staff….well, it was like the intensive care unit of Full English Breakfasts….a cure for mindfulness and the antidote to rock-hard abdominals.

The Set B brekkie at 7 quid was comprised of:  2 slices of toast, a large portion of baked beans, fried egg, very tasty sausage, 2 slices of bacon, mushrooms and a couple of hash browns….coffee or tea included in the price.  Delicious.

If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, and realise that the game is up, The Wattmeister recommends a trip to St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. There is some wonderful walking and leisure cycling to be enjoyed around Fen Drayton Lakes nature reserve and along the Great Ouse riverside. When hunger sets in, visit The Local Café in St. Ives town centre  which gets  a rating of 9.5 watts out of 10.

 

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Cannondale CAAD 12 Ultegra2019 review

Early days, only 280 kms ridden.

Swapped out the stock Fulcrum Sport wheels for the Fast Forward F6Rs off the now deceased TCR. This bike is part insurance replacement.

Examination of the frame shows it to be an object of thoughtful planning and beauty under an underwhelming paint job. Tapered top tube, sculpted down tube, flattened chain stays…..carbon seatpost, and, oh…..aluminium of course.

Geared with Cannondale’s OPI Spide Hollowgram 52/36 chainset and 12/30 cassette …should be perfect for North London and Hertfordshire’s short, sharp steep hills…and Regents Park flat track…..and my 60 year old legs.

First of all, the ride is surprisingly comfortable. Rigid, firm….but not a boneshaker….even with the stiff deep section wheelset.

The bike weighs in at around 8 kgs, but despite being slightly heavier than the TCR and Propel, it responds well to a punchy dig on the pedals, resulting in a feeling of real speed while quickly reaching speeds of over 40 km ph.

Although my climbing prowess is limited, times up various local ascents are on a par with previous attempts on the carbon bikes.

I am very impressed with this bike and am reassured by two things. If the frame suffers terminal accidental damage, it won’t cost the earth to replace, and furthermore,  it is comfortable enough for rides well in excess of 100 kms…..longest ride so far 88 kms, but not a hint of discomfort…without it being a cushioned job……that belongs to the Synapse which will be reviewed soon.

Very happy so far.

 

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Essential Reading List for Cyclists

The weather is dreary. There is not much to see or hear on the TV apart from politicians debating Br*xit and pundits opining on Br*xit. The cinema is expensive at £14 quid a seat, a pint of beer is a fiver everywhere except Wetherspoon’s, and it is even becoming dangerous to take a constitutional what with the risk of tripping over discarded mattresses and fridges. The only thing that is holding us together is graffiti.

Never fear, if you are vaguely interested in bikes and biking, The Wattmeister has come up with a superb reading list to brighten up the dark months.

Each tome has been chosen for one of the seven literary themes.

Good vs Evil……………….The Magnificent Sevenspeed/The Seventh Sprocket of the Samural. (Rural community hire mercenary mechanics to protect them from avaricious bike shop gang).

Rags to Riches…………….Oliver Twistgrip. (Orphaned posh boy goes from singlespeed to basic gearing with help of benign benefactor).

The Quest……………………Lord of the Big Rings.  (A trilogy comprising; The Fellowship of the Granny Ring; The Two Chainrings; Return of the KOM).

Comedy……………………….The Headwind in The Willy Wavers. (Conceited Strava addict becomes obsessed with Di2).

Tragedy……………………….The Picture of Marco Pantani. (Super talented pro cyclist adopts every vice while the picture in his attic reflects his disintegration)

Rebirth………………………..Candide Chooses Campagnolo. ( Lovestruck bastard nephew undergoes all sorts of trial and tribulations but still fails to get Italian manufacturer’s gear to synchronise).

Voyage and Return……..Gone with the Tailwind. (Drama involving woman who loves another man’s carbon bike more than her own husband’s titanium steed. Terrible things ensue…..they even come off Strava!).

Enjoy

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The Willy Warmer 2019

Named mischievously for the bike club, Willesden CC, which organises this 200 km audax ride, for many aspirants it heralds the start of the 2019 Paris-Brest-Paris qualification series.

The Wattmeister was accompanied on this auspicious adventure by the redoubtable  Bethan Lloyd, and by none other than Old Grey Socks, formerly known as The Rider of Donkey.

Starting in the dark at 07.30 a.m from Chalfont St. Peter community centre near Amersham, it stayed dark all day. We headed off into the gloom via Gerrards Cross to our first control point at Pangbourne, 52 kms away to the west.

The weather for most of December and January had been mild, dry and bright. On this day, Saturday 19th January, we were treated to a capricious mixture of bitter cold, persistent drizzle and a strange twilight .

Nevertheless, once we had escaped the clutches of the M25, our route led us through Henley, Gallowstree Common and Whitchurch via some sweet if rather waterlogged lanes to the first control at Costa Coffee in Pangbourne. Old Grey Socks bought me a regular coffee and I duly soaked my freezing toes in the ginormous cup. Bethan ate some rock hard nougat. Her teeth can cut diamonds.

We pushed on to the next control at Hungerford, another 53 kms away. We climbed up to Yattenden and followed more quiet byways to Hermitage, Leckhampstead before entering the Valley of the Racehorse near Lambourn. Racehorses are dear to The Wattmeister’s heart, having spent many years working on the racecourses of southern England in the bookmaking trade.

In Hungerford, time flowed through our fingers as we lingered next to a tepid radiator in the café. But eventually we decided to tackle the second half of the ride. It was only 2 p.m in the afternoon, but all the riders need to activate their lights.

This section of the route to Winnersh, near Reading would have been the most picturesque part of our outing….but to be truthful, the loveliness was obscured by a mantle of murk.

We plodded on through Ball Hill, Burghclere and Bramley…..every village name began with a ‘B’, before getting stuck at a level crossing when finally in full flow. Eventually we pitched up at the 170 kms control in Winnersh. A big bowl of soup at the Java Café hit the mark….Old Grey Socks and Bethan preferred hot chocolate, Kit Kat and chips….these rides are a culinary conundrum.

With only 38 kms to go to the finish and wearing every item of clothing we could muster, we continued  in cold, quiet darkness to Bray, away from the Thames and up Berry Hill, passing National Trust owned Cliveden House, before a rapid last few kilometres to the finish in Chalfont.

Thanks to the many riders whose smiles lit up a lugubrious day, and especially to Old Grey Socks and Bethan for such wonderful company. Apologies to Bethan for stealing a couple of  chips when she wasn’t looking.

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Cycling Facts

This is a public service announcement on behalf of humanity……courtesy of the Dutch Government website……thank you to them for a clear explanation of why it is so good to cycle and to invest in cycling.

Health

Cycling helps to reduce the risk of various illnesses, such as diabetes, some forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and depression.

• Two-thirds of Dutch residents aged 18 and over associate cycling
with joy.
• People who walk or cycle to work tend to be more satisfied, less
stressed, more relaxed, and experience greater freedom compared
to people who drive their car to work.
• Bicycle use not only improves physical health, but also has a
positive impact on mental health and subjective well-being.

Cycling is economical

• Cycling is a cheap mode of transport. The annual costs of cycling
range from 175 to 300 euros. By comparison: the costs involved in
driving a car range from 2500 to 8500 euros a year, based on an
average annual mileage.

• Cycling also scores well in terms of the social impact of a kilometre
of urban travel by bicycle compared to such costs involved in
a kilometre of travel by car or by bus: each kilometre of bicycle use
yields a social benefit of 0.68 euros, whereas cars and buses cost
society 0.37 euros and 0.29 euros per kilometre, respectively.

• The annual infrastructure costs per traveller kilometre are
0.03 euros for bicycles, 0.10 euros for cars, 0.14 euros for buses,
and 0.18 euros for trains

Environment
• Switching from a car to a bicycle saves 150 g of CO2 per kilometre.

• Each 7 km by bicycle rather than by car will save an emission of
1 kilogram of CO2.2

• Cars are used for 3.6 billion short trips (< 7.5 km) annually (In Holland).

• Replacing all these short car trips by cycling would save roughly
2.0 megatons of CO2 per annum*

*2 million megatons equates to the volume of approximately 2 million three bedroom houses/flats with a footprint of 1200 sq. feet and a height of 12 feet.

Summary
• Cycling leads to a longer and healthier life:
–it helps counteract various illnesses, such as diabetes, some
forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and depression;
–it is an efficient way to prevent obesity.
• Cycling is relaxing, convenient, and economical:
–cycling takes you from door to door and offers individuality,
flexibility, and freedom;
–it is a cheap mode of transport and yields substantial social
benefit.
• Cycling improves accessibility and, compared to cars, involves
lower greenhouse gas emissions and less air pollution:
–switching from a car to a bicycle saves an average of 150 g of CO2
per kilometre and 0.2 g of NOx per kilometre.

Thank you Holland.

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Drawing a Parallel

The double jeopardy rule, whereby a defendant could not be tried more than once for the same crime, was reformed under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act of 1996, and further amended under the Criminal Justice Act 0f 2003.

Thus, new and compelling evidence could be presented at a re-trial.

In certain case it is deemed to be in the public interest to pursue a conviction under these new rules. In fact, just this week, Russell Bishop was convicted of the murder of two girls in 1986, having been found innocent of the same crime some thirty years ago.

With the advent of new technology (DNA matching), and the consideration that a change in the law was necessary to accommodate the pursuit of justice, a wrong judgement has been put right.

This week has also seen a monstrously grotesque charade played out in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister cancelled a Commons vote she knew she would lose…..which could have triggered a Conservative leadership contest or even a general election.

The People voted in June 2016 on the UK European Union referendum. The result was not legally binding according to a ruling of the Supreme Court in 2016, but the Government and Opposition are holding fast to the result as if it were enshrined in the Magna Carta.

However, the evidence presented by both campaigns in 2016 was untruthful. The public were lied to and misled in a premeditated fashion by politicians who were elected to represent them, some of whom have their own agenda.

The result is not a fair reflection of public opinion based upon the presentation of tainted facts, figures and statistics.

Whether you voted to remain or leave, it matters not. It is only correct and proper course of action is to seek the will of the People for a second time based on the new evidence.

Double jeopardy was scrapped….it made sense. This version of Brexit should be scrapped…..it makes no sense.

 

 

 

 

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The Rulebook of Muswell Hill Peloton.

Where to begin? That is the question. The definition of a rulebook goes something along the lines of : a book containing the official rules/ standard of behaviour for a profession, organisation or activity.

Muswell Hill Peloton could be loosely described as an organisation but is perhaps more accurately presented as a functioning disorganisation…..one whose core activity is road cycling.

The weekly rides which form the club activities take place around Regents Park on Saturday mornings from 06.20 a.m….in all seasons, and on Sunday morning rides into Hertfordshire from 08.00 a.m, once again, throughout the year. The favoured method of communication for members regarding route choices etc.  is via an invitation only Facebook page.

The membership is comprised almost entirely of young men, middle-aged men and men of a certain age. However, the club does have one regular female enthusiast who is esteemed and respected by one and all.

Despite the lack of subscription fees, written constitution (and therefore, in theory,  rulebook), things seem to progress and evolve in an amicable fashion. Common sense generally prevails, and the ‘membership’ continues to grow steadily.

So far so good…..yes? Well, on this weekend, the rulebook which at present resides in The Wattmeister’s head,  has had cause  to be referred to on two separate occasions.

The first instance concerned an opportunist move by Young Peter Batchelor, henceforth known as Maverick Pete….and please, not to be confused with Pistol Pete who is more of an agitator than a maverick.

Anyway, imagine the scene. Come the final lap in Regents Park on Saturday morning, Maverick Pete seized the moment and nipped clear of a chasing group comprised mainly of dribbling, gasping, fibrillating middle-aged men at Physician’s Corner in order to steal a much cherished but ultimately worthless sprint ‘victory’ at Camden Gate…..some 450m away into a stinking headwind.

“Good luck to him”, thought The Wattmeister, “rather him than me!”

But Big Mig had another opinion and immediately raised his right arm to call for a “Regrouping” and then upped the stakes with a ‘Stewards Inquiry” on the grounds that the pursuants had to slow down significantly to ensure that the sharp left turn was traffic-free and therefore safe to negotiate……thus ending their chance for glory.

As it turned out. Maverick Pete didn’t even have the decency to win the sprint as The Ringo Kid reeled him in effortlessly, so judgement of the case has been deferred….but we will be keeping a close eye on Pete.

However, it did not take long for Maverick Pete’s free spirited tendencies to manifest themselves  again. For the Sunday ride, via Facebook, he proposed a novel spin on the MHP default route to Redbourn by suggesting we ride it in reverse. IN REVERSE! Most of the guys/girl have ridden the 77 km route a hundred times and STILL GET LOST.

What does it say in the rulebook? Is there a precedent? Who is this troublemaker? Questions, questions but little in the way of answers.

On Sunday. thirteen riders assembled outside the Everyman cinema in Muswell Hill, our new meeting place since being served with an ASBO. Who turns up late? Maverick Pete,

We set off less as a club, more as a group of individual time trialists….but return with ‘gruppo compatto’ …it was fun. Monty claims the ride is hillier back to front. (It’s not). Michael’s Garmin only recorded half of the ride, (yes, Redbourn Reverse is the Herts equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle). John Joe and Lyes followed another group of riders missing a left turn in the process.  Despite these hiccups, the route was a great success….who needs a rulebook?

 

 

 

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The Great Kibbeling Review

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This is going to go down a treat.

Kibbeling and frites is a very popular snack in Holland. Sold from a variety of establishments…. from kiosks on seafront promenades and seafood stalls in the local market to michelin starred restaurants ….it is typically Dutch, like pragmatism for example.

Kibbeling is a corruption of the word “kabeljauwwang”, which means ‘cod’s cheek, it consists of deep fried chunks of fresh cod accompanied by a choice of dips… generally versions of tartar, garlic or mayonnaise.

Nowadays, some vendors may use offcuts of other white fish like hake, pollock, haddock or whiting to construct their version of kibbeling, which will naturally have an affect on the flavour as will the batter.

The batter must not be too heavy or too oily. It must be crisp and  crunchy, a little salty….sometimes it is infused with beer. The oil must be hot, too many kibbeling in the pan cause the temperature to drop resulting in soggy batter …..who wants soggy batter?(I’d still eat it!)

The best kibbeling is 100% cod.

So, where are you going to encounter the best kibbeling? This is where my selfless quest begins. Take the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. Disembark the ferry, (preferably by bike…you won’t regret it), pass through customs and passport control, you will be confronted by a kiosk called The Hoekse Vishandel.

There is modest but adequate seating inside and outside. The staff are friendly and multilingual….you will not be met by indifference. For the princely sum of 7 euros, buy a normal sized portion of kibbeling and frites with a choice of sauces if required. The fish is light and fresh. The batter is refreshingly crackly and the frites will hit anybody’s chip button. Open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m…..it’s never too early or late to have the Hoekse Vishandel’s kibbeling

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Exquisite French Climbs…Part 4

So, here is a nice story.

Thirty odd years ago, when The Wattmeister was 10 kgs heavier than he is now, his mate Guido was training for the 264 kms Liege-Bastogne-Liege cyclosportive, which, on the homeward leg, takes in brutally steep hills of the Belgian Ardennes.

Being a Dutchman, Guido’s hill training was comprised mainly of rides of 100 kms solo into a bitterly cold headwind. The younger Wattmeister listened to Guido’s training schedule in awe.

Now, let us progress through time to 2017. Guido has worked harder and exercised less than in his youth, he suffers a heart attack. This scary threat to his health at the age of 59 precipitates a change of lifestyle and consequently his love of cycling is re-ignited.

In August 2018 on his 60th birthday, Guido sends a Whatsapp photo of himself at the summit of the Col du Béal, having ridden up from Vertolaye in the north east of the volcanic Massif Central. Inspirational!

guido

Suitably impressed, The Wattmeister vows to send Guido a photograph of himself the following month on HIS 60th birthday.

A satisfactory trundle through France saw The Wattmobile parked up in the village of Olliergues caressed on one side by the La Dore river and hugged on the other side by the D906 from Thiers to the north.

Initially, there is a short, stiff pull up through the village on the D37, which has an excellent road surface. After a series of twists and turns which last about 3 kms, the Route de Brugeron straightens itself out for a bit, still super smooth under wheel, passing the left turn to Olmet and Augerolles (lovely detour) and climbs gently to the village of La Brugeron.

Here, after about 10 kms at an average gradient of approximately 3.5%, one’s legs are nicely warmed up, and one’s eyes have feasted on a beautiful landscape…..and furthermore, by this point, on 20th September 2018….The Wattmeister had only seen one single car.

The climb proper starts in the village with a little dig up into the trees via an alpinesque hairpin bend. The gradient averages about 6 % for 11 kms, with a maximum figure of 9%. The views are intermittent, but the tranquility and sense of solitude are constant. Still only one car in an hour or so of cycling.

About 2 kms from the summit, the road exits the forest and continues to climb up onto a rocky moorland, not unlike the Peak District with its craggy tors……except that there is a ski station to the east of the Col.

Exposed to the elements, the last 1500m felt like quite a slog, but views of the southern French Jura to the east, and the volcanic ridge incorporating Puy de Dome to the west make the effort worthwhile.

There are several routes to the summit, but a rapid descent to down the D40 to La Bourlhonne and a diversion via the Col du Chansert…..on an even quieter road…..is highly recommended, as is a lunch visit to La Cherlen Café in Augerolles…..although The Wattmeister cannot show his face there again after abusing the cheeseboard.beal

 

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