Saturday 1 April 2017

South Norfolk in the Flandrian Style with a Bit of Magic Thrown In (LGD -407 Days)
Saturday 1 April, 53 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

Today the destination of choice was South Norfolk. I had arranged to meet Daren (Nairo) Morgan in the Market Square at East Harling and had laid on a route of about 60 miles that would take us north almost to the River Tud before we headed east to Wymondham and then south back to East Harling. Unlike last Saturday’s ride there was going to be very little in the way of climbing. The countryside round here is vaguely like that of Flanders but without the cobbles. It seemed quite appropriate as the next day the professionals would be competing in the Tour of Flanders, a Spring Classic and one of the five Monuments. As it looked to be a fine day I opted to ride the extra ten miles from home to East Harling for my rendezvous with Nairo.

I made good time and enjoyed a coffee whilst watching East Harling awake and observing its citizens go about their various Saturday morning routines. I do enjoy a spot of people watching.  Soon enough Nairo arrived, unloaded his bike and was ready for the off.
So, off we went. We made excellent speed with Nairo leading with his usual fast start. I was quite happy to tuck in behind him and be pulled along! After a couple of miles I realised that I might have made a tactical error with my route planning. Our fast speed was aided by a strong tailwind. What this meant was that the latter and much more exposed section of the route was going to involve riding straight into the wind. Hmmm.

Reflecting on my route planning capabilities I remembered a story about Freddy Maertens. Freddy was a Flandrian professional cyclist during the 1970’s and early 80’s who won several classics and Grand Tour stages. He was also the World Road Race Champion twice, in 1976 and 1981. His career was a case of swings and roundabouts and rather overshadowed by that of his fellow countryman, Eddy Merckx.  Nevertheless, he amassed a significant tally of wins and had a reputation as a hard man. His approach to training involved riding as far and fast as he could with a tailwind until he was unable to go any further. Then he turned around and rode back home again – into the wind! Nowadays Freddy is Curator of the Tour of Flanders Museum in Oudenaarde. So today it rather seemed as if we were going to pay homage to the Tour of Flanders and its cyclists.

With fast and easy riding Nairo and I engaged in a lively debate and were soon putting the world to rights. I won’t bore you readers, with the details. Suffice to say that it involved our differing perspectives on the distribution of wealth and the growth of the world’s population. Heavy stuff and heady stuff!

In seemingly no time at all we arrived at Yaxham and turned east heading for East Tuddenham before turning south into that strong wind. From here it was a case of grinding it out as we headed over the gentle folds and undulations of this part of south Norfolk. With my diesel-powered approach to riding I led us along, trying to maintain a high(ish) cadence with Nairo tucking in behind and popping out occasionally to give me a break. Arriving at Wymondham was an opportune time to refuel and Nairo took advantage of the three for two offer on chocolate to augment his Milky Bar with a Kit Kat. I was a tad more restrained with a Twix, but I suppose that’s cheating slightly as it does have two biscuits.

Suitably refreshed we left Wymondham still heading east. Nairo got excited when we reached the start of a Strava segment and indulged in a spot of sprinting. (I blame the Milky Bar!) We regrouped at the end of the segment and turned south again back into the wind. Much of the final leg of the route consisted of pan flat, near mile-long straights. With the added force of the headwind, this was riding that Freddy would surely have revelled in.

Where's My Milky Bar?
As we approached East Harling I suggested that we could ride the additional mile over to the St George’s Distillery, which we had passed on the way out, for a coffee and a cake, which I felt we had earned. I suspect Nairo thought I may also have hankered after a wee dram too! Arriving at the distillery we discovered that it had been overrun by a gang of Hell’s Angels. Well, not really Hell’s Angels but a group of Harley Davidson riders dressed up like Hell’s Angels. Unfortunately, they had monopolised the cafĂ© and were each individually ordering their choice of refreshment and the person operating the coffee maker was running at one speed – slow. So, faced with a lengthy wait we opted to backtrack to East Harling and call in at The Swan for our restoratives. They did us proud with a sticky chocolate brownie for Nairo and an apple turnover for me.

Sitting outside in the bright sunshine time almost seemed to lose all meaning. What I hadn’t anticipated was the post ride entertainment that Daren had laid on. When he’s not on his bike, or at work, Daren has another side – he’s an accomplished magician. With a slight of hand, a pack of cards appeared on the table and Daren was soon mesmerising me with an array of tricks and illusions. And surprise, surprise, to me at least. The brand of cards he used were called Bicycle! How appropriate. Readers, it’s because of their quality rather than any tricky features. Well, that’s what Daren claimed and who am I to disagree. Next time out I’ll bring my Battle of the Bikes Top Trumps pack and see if I can impress Nairo!  

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