Friday's heavy rain had given way to blue skies and even a hint of sunshine this morning, and it looked to be the perfect day for a club run. The clash of dates with the Strathpeffer Highland Games had claimed a few of our number, with Elvis, Katrina and Lianne all having commitments there. The Hammer had wisely decided to escape the start of the Premiership season, with pictures circulating on WhatsApp showing him simultaneously all at sea and heading South, surely two potentially apt metaphors for his team during the coming season.
Serial Wednesdayist, but recent Saturday convert, Kenny, had foolishly tried to follow Donna to the roundabout from Inverness, and as a result was lying on the verge in a semi conscious state when I arrived. We were joined by Innes, Toby, Prima Donna, Debbie, the Boatman, Davy, Iain and new recruit Ali. Everyone was waiting with bated breath to hear the Captain's latest excuse for non-appearance, with many believing that the last one about a career change to a lumberjack was probably the peak - this turned out to be the case, as he did in fact make an appearance, proudly sporting a figure-hugging new club gilet which he claimed to be a size XL.
Cannich was the call, and we set off towards Beauly, where we were joined by Irish John in a silky manoeuvre which didn't even require the peloton to slow down. The Kiltarlity loop was foregone in favour of the road over the dam - Donna and Toby on the front proved a dangerous combination, leading some of the peloton to question whether they would even make Cannich at that pace. Innes in particular was struggling, with a pre-existing issue (with either his heart or his monitor) causing worryingly high readings. Various suggestions were made to try and reduce the heart rate, ranging from breathing changes to chest compressions to electric shocks - anything other than riding slower was an option, it seemed.
The Captain left us at the next junction, citing an urgent appointment in Aberdeen. Not wanting to be outdone by the pace-setting Donna-matrix, Irish John decided to flex his muscles. For the man for whom there isn't a carbon frame strong enough, a couple of weeks off the bike makes no difference. John's unleashing of leg power was met with a horrible noise and a wobbly wheel, the spokes just couldn't handle the force and John had to ease off to ensure we made it to the cafe. This, however, didn't stop him engaging in an elbow-banging sprint to the 30 signs with the wily boatman. The jostling as they came through the pack led Donna to take the Boatman to task, and separate tables in the cafe were required to prevent tensions boiling over.
Not having been to Bog Cotton for a while, I made the schoolboy error of ordering a scone. As they arrived, Innes produced a Dremmel from his pocket and began expertly dividing the scone into two pieces. Foolishly attempting the same with a blunt knife, I failed spectacularly and the end result resembled something which had fallen from a third floor window. Prima-Donna had ordered a kit of parts which, when assembled correctly, produced a bacon sandwich. Leaving John at the cafe to await recovery, we set off back to Aigas.
A couple of miles down the road, a stop was called. Donna had been complaining of a strange noise from the back of her bike, which simultaneously became louder but somehow more distant the harder she pedalled. Nobody was brave enough to tell her that what she was hearing was actually the muted whimpers of the rest of the pack trying to keep up, so we made a convincing show of inspecting her bike for mechanical damage. At least it gave Debbie the opportunity to get the word "pawls" into a sentence, thus achieving a long-held ambition.
Barely had we set off again, when a further stop was necessitated by Kenny's rear tyre exploding in spectacular fashion. This broke the momentum for the final 30 sprint, which was won uncontested by Iain. To celebrate this feat, he press-ganged most of the peloton into a hilly detour back to Muir of Ord, leaving the Boatman, Davy, Toby and myself to our own mini chain gang home via Beauly.
A very good morning (not only as a rider, but also if you happen to own a bike shop locally!), home in the dry with 54 miles on the clock, great group and great craic.