It was weather to rival that which you would find on a Majorcan spring day, it really was that beautiful.
About eleven of us mustered at the roundabout ready to enjoy the delights of riding over the Black Isle with it looking its best. The group included the regulars with the Old Master, Ken, Sarah, Charlie, Rabbit, Ian, Jamie, El Parrot, Raymond, Mary, Donna, and Irish John (wearing Dumfries CC kit). We headed off on a slightly different and attractive route which took us over the Ord on a number of little winding back roads with interesting twists and turns before dropping onto the main busy Muir of Ord to Tore roundabout road which I found less enjoyable.
Over the Tore roundabout, up the hill and right to take the high road and onto the Killen straight. Great views along the ridge looking south over Munlochy Bay and the Ord Hill, thinking how fortunate we were to be out doing it as a bunch after a a long wet and windy winter, what could possibly go wrong?
As the peloton picked up speed coming out of the right hand bend that leads onto the long straight descent about 4 miles from Cromarty, the peloton naturally split into a faster group who had been in a single line then regrouped with about five riders doubled up. This was followed by the rest in a single line. The speed was steady to reasonably fast at about 30 mph with the lead group finding a little bit more. On a clear straight bit of road, with no traffic or apparent hazards, Irish John came out of the saddle to push a little more and immediately encountered a mechanical problem which was to prove pretty catastrophic with his back wheel locking up, chain off and feet out of cleats and him being dislodged hitting the deck hard before bouncing to a stop. Other riders managed to avoid a multiple crash with Donna, who was closest to John, fortunate to get away with only the only a few light grazes. John however was not so fortunate and suffered the type of gravel rash to his shoulder, elbow and thigh and damaged thumb that is seen all to often in professional cycling. I thought he was suffering from concussion and not aware of the seriousness of his injuries as his biggest concern at this point was that he might be bitten by a tick. I tried humour and empathy to no avail - John was not going to be rested on the grass and insisted on sitting down on the hard concrete in a clear patch of ground so the ticks would not get inside his lycra. In hindsight that was a great call from John as I met someone the next day who was still suffering from Lymes disease after months of treatment.
Before I joined Ross Shire Roads I was out in Majorca riding for a week and had a spill early morning resulting in minor gravel rash. A minor problem became a messier problem as my arm was not treated until about six hours later. Since then I have always carried a small bottle of antiseptic spray wash and wipes. On this occasion I was very glad to have it as it allowed Keith and me to give John some much needed first aid treatment which greatly helped the healing process later. Ken was on traffic control and dealing with some road rage as one driver, who was driving far too fast, had the cheek to reverse back to give Ken some abuse after he waved him to slow down as there were still bikes all over the road. Ian was quickly on the case and called for an ambulance which was on scene in about eight minutes. The rest of the peloton cleared the bikes off the road and dealt with the many good drivers who stopped to offer assistance.
Hand over of the casualty and duty of care was maintained to an even higher standard than normal, as Ian personally knew the medic who attended. After some discussion, the offer to give John's broken bike and damaged helmet to a nice couple in a Volvo 240 estate and deliver it to the coffee shop in Cromarty was accepted. Once the drama had settled down, John was on his way to Raigmore and the peloton were making ready to mount and role down into Cromarty, Donna asked if anyone had seen her helmet ...? What colour is it asks Charlie? . . . (I could only imagine Boatman pitching in with some comment at this stage if he had been there) ... Oh that colour - I think it's on its way to Cromarty with a nice couple in a Volvo 240. Never mind Donna, could have been worse, could have been your bike.
There was some speculation with regard to the trigger of the mechanical fault. The back wheel had a broken spoke, the wheel did shift and jam hard against the stay, the chain did come off and jam the gears and his feet did come out of the cleats, but what is not clear is the order of events. John did mention to me when I picked him up that there may have been some thing amiss with the skewer connecting with titanium frame.
Suitably refreshed and recovered after many bacon rolls, coffees and sugary cakes the peloton left Cromarty for home without further incident. I picked up my car at Maryburgh and returned to Cromarty to recover Johns broken bike as the Old Master went into Raigmore to recover a not so broken Irish John, however his Dumfries CC kit was a different story as it was totally shredded never to be worn again. This explains why I was met at the North Kessock roundabout by two Irishmen, one looking like a monk in a white cassock which as it turns out, was a surgical paper gown and the only suitable attire available to retain his modesty and discharge him with.
I blame the Old Master for A&E dressing him as a monk ... because when he walked in to reception he shouted out "I'm here to pick up McGeown"
We all wish John a speedy recovery, which as I write this from Orkney a week and a half late, I hear is already happening as he has been out on the Wednesday ride which is great news indeed.