Published 25 June 2014
Report: Abby Holder
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Seat posts. They’ve over-rated aren’t they? Who needs a nice comfy saddle to sit on anyway?
At the London Olympics, Marco Fontana completed most of the last lap of the mountain bike course without his and still managed to win a bronze medal. And a Norwegian rider once rode 20km on the cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix without his after breaking it in a crash.
I mention this because with a little over 10 miles to go in the 63 mile Virgin Money Cyclone on Saturday, my friend Dawn noticed a rattle on her bike. When we pulled over at a feed station, closer examination revealed she had lost a piece of the clamp which should have been holding her saddle in place. Looking at it positively, she no longer had to put up with that annoying rattle, but we were left with the small question of how she would complete the final 10 miles without a saddle.
Giving her a ‘backie’, callously abandoning her by the roadside and fashioning a new saddle out of victoria sponge cake from the feed station were all ruled out. And a quick search of residents’ garages by one of the marshals revealed none of the local villagers had a spare we could bodge a temporary repair with.
Then a fellow rider gave us a mobile phone number to call and 10 minutes later two knights in shining neutral support car pulled up, whipped the seat post off a spare bike on the roof rack and had us back on the road.
Prior to this, everything had been going swimmingly. The conditions were perfect; sunny with just the right amount of breeze. The gently undulating route took us out of Newcastle along the country roads of Northumberland and I was in the excellent company of Dawn and Jackie, two fellow Breeze champions.
At the feed station in Cambo and the sight of a trestle table covered with home-made baking which stretched the length of the village hall, we almost abandoned the ride in favour of a leisurely afternoon of eating cake on the village green. But if we had done that, we wouldn’t have got to ride the Ryals.
The Ryals appear to hold legendary status amongst Cyclone veterans. I’d heard tales of “proper roadies” cramping up and collapsing in an undignified heap into the hedgerow, such are their powers.
The pre-ride information sent out to riders described them simply as “the treacherous climb”. I was sceptical, but as we approached I could see a line of sportivistas in the distance who had abandoned all hope of riding to the top and were pushing up, whilst others were weaving unsteadily from side to side.
Actually it was fine. In fact I thought it was the highlight of the route. Maybe this is where following a training plan has paid off. A year ago when I first got my road bike, I used to shout “hurting!” as I rode up any kind of substantial incline, but now I relish the challenge of a good hill. At the top as I turned around and rode back a few metres to take some pictures, I heard an incredulous by-stander say “She’s gonna do it again”. And I was tempted…briefly.
The Ryals aside, one of the best things about the day was just seeing the variety of people out enjoying themselves on their bikes.
There were lots of children riding with their parents; I saw a couple on a tandem making impressively light work of the hills and one bloke rode the whole thing on a Raleigh Chopper. A group of riders even threw a surprise 60th birthday party for a friend along the route – complete with balloons, party hats and a champagne picnic. If any of my friends are reading this, I want that when I’m 60 please.
Safely across the finish line, the borrowed seat post was returned to the support team and we faced one final challenge. The car park was a mile away and Dawn still had no seat post. So she rode the last mile standing up. I rode it standing up too, in solidarity. I knew all that climbing training would come in handy one day.