Saturday 4th February 2017

How good does this feel!  Well earned hot soup, which followed hot shower, feet up watching rugby,  21 - 8 at half time, Scotland are rolling.  Character building shift earlier in day with ride to Cromarty, setting off at temp 6c in the dry and finishing in the semi sleat at 4c, wet and dirty.  Quick change at the car and headed home.  Thoughts of Clifford as he is probably only half way up dead legs road into the wind.
Nine set off and seven finished with Catriona just out for a short day and Ian cutting off early on way home  before the Cullicudden straight.  Clifford, Alister, John, Mary, Iron Man Keith, Ken, and myself completed the group. Forecast was dead accurate with the rain coming in at about 1100.  It did get heavy and colder on way home, so it was a ride in which you dug in with some steady pacing to let the miles run by.
Strange start to the day as I had not been out for a few weeks, but have maintained a level of fitness.  As we headed up Leanaig brae, Ian kept pushing (he thought it was me) as I was looking for a wee test to see how I was feeling. I stayed with him as a gap opened on the main group with Clifford closing the  pair only for it to explode into a sprint in the last 50 m to the top which I managed to take. . . what was that all about, so much for the easy warm up into the ride.  It was then steady pace to Cromarty with the Old Master on the whistle rotating the group.  I found myself unusually in the prime position outside at the back of the group with about 700m to the 30mph sign.  All the main players were jammed on the inside as I continued to block Iron Man Keith who was itching to get out.   I thought that was going to be it with a group finish and easy pace until Ian decided to break . . . go on then . . . I stuck on his wheel as he pushed on and pace increased.  At 200m to go as Ian faded and with Keith on my wheel I kicked at around 80m which was just enough to shake of the Iron Man and take the sprint.
Rugby has just finished with a Brilliant 27-22 win for Scotland, what a victory, a fantastic game that had everything.
Great coffee stop in Cromarty, with wet gloves and other gear drying over fire guard by the wood burner.  It reminded me of a scene from the Broons kitchen and an earlier occasion when Ian Mac and I called in on a wet cold day.  Ian made full use of the drying facilities just about down to his base layers.  The pleasant welcome, speed of service and good quality of scones was commendable . . . a great early contender in my book for Cafe of the Year.  I made a point of not sitting to near the fire so I could feel the benefit of my jacket when I went back outside.  There was a pleasant surprise when John mentioned that Julian was on line and enjoying a ride somewhere close to the Cambodian border.  Think of this special conditioning training he was missing and the survival skills he will not have . . . how to put on super tight freezing wet gloves, how to clear salt and grit from your molars without wearing down your teeth, how to sense and avoid the pot holes that lurk below surface water, ah he does not know what he is missing . . . but in fact he does ... which is why he is on the Cambodian border!  Suitably refreshed we headed for home pretty much on the reverse route but with the pleasant change of cutting in via Resolis.
It was a SE,ly head wind out and a SW'ly head wind back. Unusually, John dropped off the pace about four miles out of Cromarty and was now stopped 400m behind as the peloton  pushed on. This, just as Iron Man got a puncture.  As we are all one team, the peloton stopped to help Iron Man. John by this time, had fitted his skull cap to prevent brain freeze, caught up and came charging past shouting "keep going" thinking the stop was for him . . .
All fixed, we pushed on for home with John complaining of "salty nipples" at this time of the year,  and how hard it is to get a good drink . . . not much you could say to that, as it opened to many doors  and images . . . eventually it became clear and had something to do with low hanging bottle cages.
As the cold began to bite,  I mentioned to Iron Man that the only bits that I found were feeling it, where my finger tips as they were submerged in puddles freezing water and my oxters as the wind was whistling under them.  He said "whats cold . . . I've never heard of an oxter".  Even northern lads who are well travelled and have been here (Scotland) for a while, need a little nurturing.  To that end I offer a little advice on dietary supplement and the Scottish tongue to get him over the winter   "Noo wi the cauld winter days and the caulder nichts we need tae forget aboot the cholesterol and eat a bittie mair creesh tae bide warm"

Looking forward to warmer days.

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