There was a distinct bite to the wind this morning, despite the blue skies, and long sleeves were certainly in order. I was the first at the roundabout, and was soon joined by Lianne, unusually neither late nor last, who brought positive news of Iain's recovery - back on the turbo within a week, it would be a brave soul who bet on him spending his whole 12 week recuperation period off the bike...
We were joined by Elvis, President Ken, Mrs and Mrs El Parrot and Ali, and as we were deciding where to go, a very strange thing happened. Stranger than Lianne not being late, but probably not quite as strange as Donna cycling at below 30mph, it was in fact the annual appearance of Charlie - he had arrived 3 months early for the club dinner, and after a brief trip back to the car to fetch his bike and sunglasses, appeared ready to go.
The choice of route was briefly, yet hotly, debated - We've been to Cromarty every week this year, complained the President. We've been to Cannich both the last two Saturdays, countered Elvis. Before a kit-gate style row could erupt, the wily Parrot made the call for Tomich, and the situation was defused. Without further ado, he left his customary shoulder perch and sped off towards Dingwall.
As we reached Dingwall, a blue flash (later identified as Charlie) overtook the peloton and assumed the position at the front. Leaving all in his wake, he ascended the road past the Leisure Centre as if he'd been fired from a canon and, without even unclipping at the top, set course for Evanton at the same pace. We next saw him about 20 minutes later at the Mount Gerald summit, having probably had time to stop for a coffee. Trying to keep Charlie in sight had led the President to work up a sweat and he needed to de-layer. Noting that a new cafe had opened at Mount Gerald, and keen to confirm that he did, as in every other Highland eaterie, know everybody working in there, Ken went to investigate. His relationship with the owners was good enough that he felt able to leave his surplus layers in the cafe, and we continued towards Evanton.
The absence of our captain (and his whistle) gave a slightly disorganised look to the peloton. El Parrot was left unchallenged on the front most of the way, albeit mainly with a tailwind, until Elvis and I eventually felt sorry for him after Alness and gave him a rest. The weather could not make up its mind what it wanted to do, and we had a swirling wind from all directions, sunshine, blue sky and rain pretty much simultaneously.
Charlie had turned for home at Alness, and Ali and myself also decided to miss out the coffee stop due to other commitments, so left the group at Kildary and headed back. The wind had settled down to be in our faces most of the way back, which made the climb back up Mount Gerald seem like a very long slog.
Another great run out, 52 miles showing by the time I made it home.