Sunday, 21 October 2012

It's not about the bike

Poor old Lance Armstrong. There, I've said his name now. Let that be an end to it. I really hope the story of him having a Google alert for his own name is true. He would need to have an army of people monitoring them, what with Twitter and all. If one of that army is reading, first let me tell you I'm not worth suing. Second, there is nothing about Lance Armstrong in this post that is defamatory, since it is either true or, actually, not about him.

I just wondered if Lance Armstrong has a therapist, a psychotherapist, or a psychology coach, that type of thing. In the absence of any of the said factual evidence, I can't speculate, but it would be interesting to know. I bet he could do with a friend at least right now. And as we all know, a friend is someone who lets you help.

Today, Steve, Jennifer and I went to Bath. Via the scenic route. It is the latest in the continuing theme to boldly go where we don't often go, before, or something like that. Last week we went south-west, this week it was north-east. So it doesn't take a genius to work out where we are going next. As with all my plans they are pretty flexible, but this week we stuck to most of the route, and certainly did the full planned distance, just over 100km in my case.

We did forgo Draycott Steep, the very, very steep hill up the Mendips, in  favour of Westbury Hill, the very steep hill. It was swirly-misty-early-sleepy Sunday morning, and after only 6-7 miles I was huffing and puffing up it. Unlike Steve, who was doing a fair impression of Joaquim Rodriguez today. As in, breezing up the hills while smoking both of us, never mind the cigar.


Once up the top we took it in turns to haul ourselves across the plateau, before Jennifer took off down towards Chewton Mendip. For once we carried right on, until a right at Farrington Gurney, and then a sharp left, took us into our first sandstone village (town?) of Paulton. For the next few miles the road ran along the top of the ridge, and as the mist slowly cleared, the views were tremendous.

Soon, we took a right, down into the valley that carries the Gem Brook to the Avon, and the lane passed through some delightfully-wooded sections, Warren Wood, Engine Wood, Godwin's Wood, and the gruesome Slittems Wood. The best name of the day was to come, as once through the village of Monkton, we turned left and hit the slopes of Brassknocker Hill.

The route then took us round the south side of urban Bath, before descending right down to river level, and out coffee stop, the Riverside Inn at Saltford. Pretty empty it was too, I would imaging it would be packed in Summer, but as we left the day was turning into a bright and mild one. There was much layering and de-layering but with the wind now behind us, it was definitely a case of being too warm more often than not.

It was also much muddier, and there were more horses, but the names continued unabated. Pretty villages, Compton Dando, Middlepiece Lane, Cocker's Hill (yes really), Publow Lane, and my personal favourite (I have no idea why), the village of Woollard, Something to do with the accent I think.

Rail enthusiasts will recognise Pensford viaduct, which we all went under for the first time today.  Pensford  is actually a fascinating place, as I found out from the link, but  if you can't be bothered to read the link, I can confirm there isn't a railway a-top it now. The village does however have this other Grade II listed farm house, also eponymously named!

I haven't mentioned bridges for a while. If you are a new reader, I have almost an obsession for a great bridge, and we went over loads today, mainly because we were dipping out of these small valleys, each with its own Avon tributary.

Modern bridges just don't seem the same somehow, more thought went into this, for example:

This one is in Stanton Drew, and I have still not stopped to look at the Stone circle there. Shortly after crossing this, we headed back onto more familiar ground through Chews Magna and Stoke, but instead of heading up a Harptree, we climbed the back road out of Compton Martin, known as the Wrangle. Pretty steep and a bit mucky. I was initially sitting down, until I inadvertently pulled a wheelie, forcing me out of the saddle till the road was less damp.
Once at the top we all decided that was enough and so we headed across the top and down the gorge. For once, on a Sunday, I got a clear run and took it at a fair pace, before hitting grockle city at the bottom.
It had been a great ride. Not lightning fast, but then mucky and wet roads put paid to that, along with some chunky climbing. And the best company there is, in the fresh air and the sunshine. Just for one day, a little bit of denial. So Lance, I understand, I really do. Sometimes the real world and the truth are hard to face. But when you do it, after it's all over, you will still have your friends, your family, your health and your bike. You can make a plan of how to sort things, get people to help and support you, people that really care, not the millions of "adoring fans".
Do you need anything else? Really?

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