Saturday 23rd December (1)

Give me shelter...

Good shout mate, think I'll do the same. Is what I should have said... When a double ironman (and ex minicab driver on the mean streets of Chorley) says the crosswinds are making cycling too dangerous, and he's doing a turbo session instead, smart people take notice. However, having swapped cycling for all day drinking sessions on both of the previous two Saturday's, my motivation for a pre-emptive strike on the inevitable waist expansion over Christmas was strong. So, quite literally throwing caution to the wind, I set out for the roundabout.

On my arrival I found 4 hardy souls: Ken, Caroline, Mary and Katrina. The continuing fallout from what will surely come to be known as kit-gate had filled everyone's inbox during the week, and also threatened to be the only conversation topic at the roundabout. In an attempt to lighten the mood, Katrina was sporting a pair of festive antlers atop her helmet (more on these later).

In the absence of Captain Rabbit, Able Seaman Ken took the lead. The wind was howling from the West, which the Old Master would surely have used as an opportunity to head for Cromarty, however we decided on Kiltarlity, and set off up the Leanig. The side wind was brutal and made for a certain amount of buttock clenching as we crossed the river (or was that just me?). At the top of the Leanig, it became obvious that Katrina was struggling. A combination of the destabilising effect of the gale force wind on her antlers, and fresh memories of Wednesday's lucky escape when a tyre exploded, had affected her confidence and she decided to turn for home. It is not straightforward to achieve a round robin of festive hugs in an 80mph crosswind whilst still on a bike, but eventually we managed, and then left Katrina to head for Mulbuie.

If anything the wind was even worse along the Mulbuie road. In single file, we struggled to maintain 6mph, and Caroline seriously considered abandoning her bike and running instead. Seeking shelter in the lee of the cottages, we needed a new plan. Ken suggested that, in an attempt to find shelter, we try a variation on the "reverse saxophone" route made famous by The Boatman. This proved to be a good plan, and Drynie Park was quieter, until the battering resumed at Kilcoy. We dropped down to Redcastle and decided to head for coffee in Beauly. Initially we were sharing the lead of the peloton, until it became obvious that there was no shelter to speak of behind Caroline, so the rest of us stepped up in turn...

In Beauly we joined the queue of other cyclists waiting for a table in the Biaggiotti cafe. Caroline seemed to know all the other diners, and Ken seemed to know all the staff, so there was a fairly leisurely approach to the coffee stop and nobody seemed in a hurry to leave.

Eventually it was time to head for home, the howling tailwind between Muir and Conon should have made for some good segment times for those chasing kom's. At 26 miles, I think that is my shortest ever club ride, but the wind made it feel like a workout. Merry Christmas to one and all.


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