Saturday, 1 December 2012

As cold as it gets?

You have to capture these kind of moments. I absolutely, categorically assure you that I am not gloating. No really. I promise. Besides, it's nine and a half years since we beat Chelski, so given the relative stature and resources of the two clubs it could be another nine and a half years before it happens again.

Whoever would have thought that I could warm to Sam Allardyce? I should say that I am partly responsible. I had just explained to my Dad why Carlton Cole was such a frustrating player, how he rarely changed important games, and looked too tired and off form to contribute much today. Then he scored one and made another. (I'm not having that "assist" rubbish BTW, you do that if you drive past a broken-down car with a family looking helpless and hapless, and offer your assistance).
West Ham celebrate

I did love Rafa Benitez's post-match explanation. All Chelsea have to do is realise it's a game of two halves, take their chances and play better. Who would be a football manager? I never knew what a tough job it is.

All this was very far from my mind when I woke up at 7AM this morning, ready for a planned 8AM ride out from my Dad's house on my own. I had planned to do this back on Monday.Then came more rain and on my commuting trip on Thursday I was a bit surprised to find that a lot of the back roads were still deeply flooded. As the temperatures were also heading south at a rapid rate, it was fairly obvious that a lot of the roads would be at risk of being icy for the first few hours of daylight.

So in true risk management style, I decided to head for Salisbury not by the planned back roads, but via the A road that runs up the Avon valley. Now Laurens has a temperature record, and he was showing about minus 6C as I set off. I think he is a bit pessimistic by about 2 degrees, I cross-referenced against my car thermometer, but even so it was chilly. And very, very foggy. The mist in the air condensed on me, and by the time I got to Downton my handlebars, gloves, coat and tights had a nice layer of ice on them.

The traffic was also beginning to annoy me. Where are all these people going at 8.30AM? And despite the fog they weren't hanging about either, so I decided to risk the back roads up the small hills to the south of the city. There was some ice, and the fields had lots of frozen water in them which must be the remnants of the flood. But I was sensible and rode slowly before coasting into the city itself and paying a visit to the Cathedral.

The attached link will tell you that Salisbury has one of the only cathedrals that was built in one go during the medieval period, to a unified plan. It may have taken them 60 years, but it still makes it our most beautiful church.

 And there was also a donation box (into which I popped a pound to say thanks for these photos) next to the curious "talking telescope".

I was tempted to have a go, but even though the fog had largely lifted, it was still bitterly cold, and I didn't want to lose the benefit of the sunshine that was now starting to break through.

After navigating the city streets I swung south and headed up the hill towards the racecourse, HQ of the Joker sportive. Skip and I entered last year and her gear cable let her down, but she gamely battled on and finished. I think.

I was now on back roads again and there was a lot of ice on the descent on the other side of the hill. So much so that I decided to change the plan again and stick to the main road that crosses the hills towards Blandford. At first it was quite nice, an easy climb followed by some undulating roads with magnificent views.

But then the road took on the character of a race track, and it turned into a dual carriageway. Time to risk the back roads again. Which actually took me back to my original route at Broad Chalke, and as the temperature inched above freezing, the roads proved easier to navigate and specifically descend on. A couple of tough climbs followed with more spectacular views of the countryside, and not so great views of my freezing face!

Eventually the route brought me to one of the most wonderfully-named villages in the whole world. FACT. Although Sixpenny Handley has nothing to do with money, some of the signposts in the area seem oblivious to that fact. Older readers will understand this, as will Latin speakers, maybe. And if you don't understand, just admire the signpost for its own sake, its setting and its old-fashionedness. After all, everyone loves a signpost.

From there it was a pretty standard loop back over the chase to Cranborne and Alderholt, to complete a nice anti-clockwise circle of 45 miles, that looked like this. After a practice on Thursday this is Laurens' first proper outing, and you can see that there is oodles of data available. I have already mentioned the vagaries of temperature, I also thing the calorie counter is under-recording, at least in comparison to my Polar watch. Yes, I wore two heart rate straps to test it! I have a lot to do to get the most out of Laurens, but so far I am really enjoying his company.

As ever the scenery of Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire was fantastic. By the way, there is a story that if you fish in a stream up the road from here you can catch fish from all three counties. I'd go to Sainsburys but it does emphasise how wonderfully higgledy-piggledy the county boundaries are. Long may it remain.

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