All the way up the valley, where the land dips down to meet the river, a thin layer of mist floats like a diaphanous negligee of chill.
The junction of Green Lane with the main road is a tricky one whichever direction you approach it, but particularly when coming in the direction towards home. Twice I stick my right arm out and move to the primary position in anticipation, and twice cars come past me into the blind corner regardless. By the time I’m at the junction I’ve firmly claimed the road and have both hands on the hoods for maximum control. Yet still, as I make the turn, a third car drives past on the inside blaring its horn. With a somewhat indelicate Italianate gesture I let the driver know exactly what I think of them.
As the anger slowly dissipates however I spot on my computer screen than I have managed to be three seconds up on my fastest time down the lane without really trying. The intention had been to just ride home steadily but this seems too good an opportunity to pass up. By the time the bleep sounds for the end of the sector I have pulled out another couple of seconds to knock a round five off my previous best. This feeling of satisfaction is something of a salve.
All along the lane there are white scars along the crown of the tarmac. Either someone has been driving their Formula One car along here with titanium skid plates sparking, or the farmers have been towing heavy loads of hay bales from field to barn. If I were a betting man I would wager on the latter.
We’ve had a short parents’ evening after school today so it’s not until a quarter after six or so that I hit the road for home. The weather has been glorious all day and over in the west the sun slips gently towards the horizon. Shadows are long and the fields are draped in autumnal hues. Even riding hard I still have just enough breath to be taken away.
It’s only when I reach the end of Green Lane that I remember that whilst I have strapped a small light to my seatpost, I have not yet switched it on. The sun has just about peeked over the tree tops and is casting enough morning brightness for the question of lights to be at least debatable, but in the interest of safety I figure it’s just about worth carrying the extra weight.
Three young club riders pass by, heading for the coast. Heads down, pressing on, the lad on the back just starting to lose the wheel. They remind me of the illustrious, illusionary Troon Velo
club of my own youth: a club that existed only in the fevered imaginations of the members but no less (and indeed perhaps more) important for that.
Out for an afternoon habble, strong friendships no barrier to the desire to make your soul mates suffer. Such things are timeless.
Riding up from Winsford towards the Exford to Wheddon Cross road I’m brought up short behind a flock of sheep moving fields. Bringing up the rear is a quad bike with an ever-excited sheepdog perched behind the young farmer. The dog squeals and yips, desperate to get onto the real work of the day. Eventually it is time for action and in the blink of an eye (so quick in fact that I miss the move entirely) the dog has sped to the front of the flock and is deftly directing it into an open gateway. With a nod and a wave to the farmers I pick up my pace again, the interlude so pleasant that I don’t even care that it has caused my average speed to plummet dramatically. Numbers are not everything, after all.