Saturday 16th June 2018

The Donna-Matrix
The birds were singing, and there was already some warmth in the air, as Prima-Donna threw open the patio doors of her fairytale castle and carried her breakfast tray out into the early morning sunshine. After a relaxing, yet nutritionally-balanced, al-fresco breakfast, she dressed in shorts, and a thin summer cycling top. Certainly no need for waterproofs or shoe covers today....
Club Ride Reality:
The steady drizzle had turned to proper rain by the time I left home. Being the caring and compassionate type, always mindful of my fellow riders comfort, I selected my mudguard-shod winter steed for today's ride. Grabbing it from the stand in the garage, I had ridden at least 15 yards before the realisation dawned that the head bearings were seized solid. An energetic roadside steering waggle did little to improve matters, so with firmly clenched buttocks I set off down the hill to the roundabout.
The Black Isle race tomorrow meant that attendance at the roundabout mainly comprised the RRCC second team, or bench. The Boatman, Steve, Davy, Prima-Donna, Katrina and myself made up the initial 6. The Boatman, relishing being in charge, ran through a lengthy list of routes which he did not want to take today, before eventually the suggestion of the Meig dam loop found favour. We set off into the rain, meeting the fashionably-late arriving Iain and Lianne coming towards us. They joined the peleton and 8 of us set off towards Strathpeffer. It was along this stretch that the full reality of my bike's condition dawned. I could hear Steve's laughter behind me as he realised that I couldn't take one hand off the bars to point out potholes, in fact I looked like I'd come straight from an all-day session in the pub and had then ripped off my stabilisers for the first time ever.
The little kicker hills along the road through the woods spread the group out, and we regrouped at the dam, the Boatman seemingly daring another chain to break as he powered up the incline. Donna went on ahead for a comfort break, and this is where everything started to go a little weird.
Emerging from the bushes, the figure certainly looked like Prima-Donna, but unbeknown to us, she had switched places with her evil twin, Donna-matrix. By now feeling the cold, as well as a need for speed, the evil Donna-matrix summoned two henchmen, and myself and Steve were the slowest to run away. Off she set, at the head of a V-formation, with Steve and myself as outriders. The pace was akin to joining a chain gang, only to discover later that the person at the front was on a motorbike. Donna-matrix kept an ear open, and whenever she heard gasped words exchanged between the 2 henchmen she interpreted this as a lack of effort, and cranked the pace up a notch further.
Brief respite came at Marybank when she allowed the two of us to catch up. The remainder of the group were nowhere in sight, but our pleas to wait for them fell on deaf ears, as with a crack of Donna-matrix's whip we set off to Muir of Ord in search of coffee.
Upon arrival at the Bad Girl Bakery, we were fortunate that another group of cyclists had already formed the first puddles on the floor, so we felt less embarrassed. The 2 henchmen, still out of breath, recovered the power of speech when we saw the salted caramel shortbread was still on the menu. Requisitioning 2 high-chairs and a radiator to try and dry sopping wet clothes, we settled in to recover. Texts to members of the other group went unanswered, and after 2 cups of coffee it appeared that they would not be joining us. Fearing a summons to attend the RRCC disciplinary committee for multiple breaches of club run etiquette, Steve and myself chivalrously agreed to blame the evil Donna-matrix for everything, whilst hedging our bets to see whether the Inverness Cycle club were taking applications for new members. A particular highlight of the coffee stop was the look on the faces of diners at the adjacent table, when two of our number wrung out their still-soaking gloves into a half-empty coffee cup on the table - this was definitely the signal to leave....
Any thoughts of a slow trundle home were dashed when we were told that we were accompanying our leader partway back to Inverness. Cold, tired legs and the climb up Ord Muir proved a brutal combination, but our complaints were swiftly punished with an extra loop round Drynie Park, before Steve and I were finally cast aside, and Donna-Matrix headed off to Inverness to seek out her next victims.
That's our story, and we're sticking to it!
Best of luck to the RRCC 6 competing tomorrow, hope it stops raining.

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