Friday, February 01, 2008

Last Ride of Freedom

According to the finest traditions of the land a motley TCA crew assembled to provide long-time associate, Ad with a send off ahead of his wedding in March to fellow associate Julie. Chichester was chosen as the venue for this auspicious occasion on account of the dossing space afforded by Jon's house. The route was debated as the riders trickled in and put together the familiar kit; With an air of resignation Ad did up the fastenings on his helmet for the last time as a free man and by 19:00 we hit the road bound for the route which proved such a festive treat on last year's Christmas ride. The conditions could not have been kinder - although cold (the temperature would drop below freezing before the night was out) it was a clear, still evening. We retraced our festive tracks through the city centre and on towards the cycle path leading north.

There was a curious atmosphere in the Earl of March, our first stop after some half an hour. A Friday night ride is a highly irregular occurence for the TCA; we are used to deserted pubs, maybe with the odd loner propping up the bar but the Earl was liberally sprinkled with diners, couples out for a drink and groups of friends. We felt decidedly out of place as we attracted strange looks from the other clientèle. Choosing a discrete table for five we ordered our pints of Ringwood Best - I daresay we should have shared laddish jokes and discussed the worthiness of the various barmaids according to the true spirit of the evening but it had been some time since we'd seen each other and we took the first stop to catch up with each other's news.

Our first pints dispatched we headed through Lavant towards the familiar ascent of the trundle. Only a few hundred yards into the climb John, who was bringing up the rear shouted 'stop!' and we all congregated around the stricken bike as last week's form continued - yet another puncture for the new Bontrager Mud X tyres. With much cursing of his new 'tweak' John worked steadily with help from Ad to replace yet another inner tube, the other riders illuminated the scene (all except Al that is, who took the opportunity to try out his new camera).

Bontrager Mud Wrestling:
Jon repairs his puncture

Having fixed John's problem the group were off again led by Al: Soon an unassailable lead opened up and Al, experiencing some respiratory difficulties it has to be said, pronounced himself 'King of the Trundle' for the first time in many-a-week! Ad and Charlie arrived next, closely followed by John (Delhi Belly) and Jon (hampered by some mystery complaint that had rendered him uncharacteristically sluggish). Having re-grouped Al got his excuses in early to Ad as he seemed to have lost the ability to engage the highest gears on his front chain ring - there would be no repeat of the famous Christmas race to the Partridge. Predictably the Stag shot off at warp speed down the crazy gradient leading towards West Dean leaving the others in his wake.

Cue more strangle looks from the regular punters as we marched in to our next pub in all our various apparel. Fuggle-Dee-Dum from Goddards Brewery on the Isle of Wight was the beer of choice in the Partridge. Initially there was a collective sense that there might be something strange in the beer as we all started to feel a little light headed. However our control, Charlie who was on lemonade, also felt a bit strange. We put it down to the 40mph descent in temperatures close to zero and continued drinking.

The distance between the Partridge and the Fox Goes Free is dangerously only a matter of a few hundred yard, such is the quality of this route for a good session on the beer. With the couple of ales inside us on an empty stomach the usual tom-foolery began - jostling and running each other off the road... until Charlie (the only rider unfamiliar with the area) shot off on a solo effort in the traditional sprint-style race to the pub - Ad had to chase him down as he screamed past the Fox at full speed! Having retrieved Charlie from West Sussex somewhere we stopped outside the pub to get our breath back and capture the obligatory group photo.

Like the previous hostelries the Fox was packed to the rafters; it was standing room only while we enjoyed our pints of - Ad's favorite - Ballards Best. Approximately 3/4 of the way down our Beers John commented that his pint smelled of cheese. There was some debate as to who had the pint that most smelled of cheese, and which particular variety of cheese it smelled of. The final conclusion though was that the beer was fine and that rather we had undergone some sort of sensory displacement on account of the cold.

The Stag Party:
(Left to Right: Charlie; Ad; Jon; Ali G; Al)

Leaving the warmth of the Fox we braced ourselves for the slog back up the hill towards the Goodwood racing complex. As we left the car park we had a brief exchange with a couple of smokers who apparently could not believe we had chosen to use our well earned leisure time in this matter - half way up the hill in the freezing wind we were also questioning the wisdom of our decision; wouldn't it just have been easier to hole-up in Jon's local for the evening? In any event Ad narrowly beat Al on this particular King of the Mountains section and the others soon caught up for the long sweeping down-hill back towards Lavant. There were reports of a near-miss with a white van for Jon on the way down, and Ad and Al had an encounter with some Vauxhall Nova driving chavs at the bottom of the hill, but we remained largely unscathed. We were soon propping up the bar in the Royal Oak.

With some stroke of genius Jon had thought to pack the menu from his local curry house in his hydration pack - knowing that we were only a 20-minute ride from home Al phoned through the unfeasibly large order at about 22:00, requesting delivery at 23:00. This should give us enough time to take a leisurely ride home, grab a shower, crack open a bottle of beer, select some dirge on the telly befitting the occasion and wait for the doorbell signaling the arrival of our gastronomic delights... well that was the plan anyway.

Fueled by 4 pints of lemonade Charlie suggested a mandatory imposition that everyone should leave the pub on their bikes via the short set of steep steps leading from the patio area. Some rides were less nervous/more drunk than others and launched themselves at the steps while others were more tentative. Finally however all were assembled, unscathed at the bottom of the steps and headed home at full steam.

Charlie (above) and Jon (below)
tackle the

'Royal Oak Steps of Death Challenge'

It was not clear which rider towards the front of the peleton took the fateful decision to part from the prescribed route and use the Goodwood perimeter track rather than the road route past the Rolls Royce factory. However, three-quarters of the way down the track Ad pulled up with our second puncture of the evening, with curry delivery imminent! Jon and Al continued alone while the others helped Ad patch up his bike. The advance party arrived just in time to greet the driver and by the time the others had caught up, plates, cutlery and beers were readied, and most of the various dishes identified. A perfect end to a splendid evening.

All that remains to be said is good luck to Ad and Ju for the forthcoming nuptials from all at the TCA - may you have a long and happy future together, and many a filthy ride!

Route Map (click to enlarge):

Elevation Profile:

(Posted by: Al)

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At 3:06 pm, February 08, 2008, Blogger Magpie Val said...

Congrats to Ad and Julie! Seems like a long time ago when I went to the Fox Goes Free on the way back from West Wittering, after fending off Patrick's attentions as we walked along the beach! Sorry Patrick, I won't be fending you off in Maderia next week :)

At 6:27 am, February 10, 2008, Blogger TCA said...

'Royal Oak Steps of Death Challenge' I like it, it about time there was another challenge to add to the book. Loooking forward to a pint in the Fox Goes Free v .soon.
All the best to Ade and Jules for next month, it dam hot over here!


At 10:58 pm, February 10, 2008, Blogger simon said...

Brilliant ride guys! Steps of death... rode down some stairs and flipped my bike! :o0 ouch!!!

At 5:00 am, February 12, 2008, Blogger Chris said...

Sounds like a great time you guys had. Next time if you drink more you can search out a much bigger set of steps. HA!

At 9:51 pm, February 12, 2008, Anonymous spm said...

Congrats to Ad and Julie sorry not to see you when you were up this way. Ad will be sorely missed at the Boys Weekend in Strontian in April but the TCA will have a strong presence.

There is no truth in th rumour that Flybe don't allow lycra in the hold but if TCA members want to board fully kitted out in Biking clobber don't let anyone stop you!

At 11:30 pm, February 12, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

The problem with marriage is that the girl expects the boy to change, and he doesn't. And the boy expects the girl will stay the same, and she doesn't. It's doomed, really.

At 4:27 pm, February 13, 2008, Blogger TCA said...

...quite. It is an institition conceived whent he life expectancy was 34.


At 10:13 pm, February 13, 2008, Blogger simon said...

I agree with Chris... and Maalie!

At 5:06 pm, February 19, 2008, Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Do you ever get snotty messages from Her Majesty's Stationery Office about pinching their maps for your blogsite? I have had a threatening note on my latest posting from them, but am not sure whether it is just Maalie playing silly buggers!


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