Words and pictures: Sarah Alexander
Mother’s Day. So mothers (and I am one) should be doing all the things they really want to on this special occasion – such as having facials, shopping, eating one’s bodyweight in Lindt and trying out yet another obscure pink gin.
Well, there may be time for all that still, but let it be known that this mother did exactly what she wanted to do, on this auspicious day: and that is lose an hour of precious sleep, have a wardrobe conundrum (what would be my prime enemy today – rain or cold, hmmm – and would it match with my nails-slash-bike-slash-helmet-slash-shoes?) and then meet her just-as-crazy friends at the Bridgnorth Football Club and set off on a magical mystery tour.
This time the objective was to train all us foolhardy Birmingham Velo newbies to prepare ourselves for the task ahead. And that meant a longer ride selected by our own beloved Chairman Andrew and the shrewd Graeme Tait. What could be more straightforward? Get us ready for the Velo? Piece of cake.
We set off down some canny backroads straight outta Bridgo (Jeez, I am down wiv da kidz) and then found ourselves in familiar territory on the Craven Arms road. And that’s where we said goodbye to the familiar and embraced the bloody surprising and often downright bloody tough. There was a hill that suddenly came upon us with the ferocity and unpredictability of a rabid dog on a Spanish summer’s day. And when it latched onto your ankles and had you in its grip, boy did you have to fight hard to keep ahead of it and stay upright. It was a battle of wills. If that hill were a dog, it would be a farmworker’s Jack Russell – short, tough as nails and with ideas beyond its station.
Then we had to battle the winds along Longville in the Dale, all the way to Craven Arms. At that point, when heading towards Craven Arms, the winds were working with us. We stopped for welcome refreshments at the Secret Hills Discovery Centre and wisely opted to stay indoors. You know you’ve worked hard when not only do you buy honey cake to go with your pot of tea but you also fantasise about eating cheesy chips or a Brie and tomato quiche – or hey, why not both? You’ve worked HARD. 🤔
There was another mega-hill but this one was longer but announced itself more courteously and as a pack of riders, we spread ourselves out along its spiny back and hammered away at it, each at our own pace, in our own little bubble of pain. I actually quite liked that one and will revisit it sometime.
Following the wonderful cafe stop, we were given the green light to go at our own pace and head back to the Club House. So I found myself in a little group with two of my favourite dudes, John and Jack Robinson. We churned it up on some charming little lanes outside Stanton Lacy and headed back in the vague direction of Bridgnorth. Just when we got up a great pace, a car would come down the single track road and we’d have to stop completely as the road was too narrow, quashing our Strava hopes but at least keeping us alive and in one piece. When we emerged from those unfamiliar serpentine gravelly lanes, our relief on finding a road we knew was short-lived. Sheesh! The wind was a kick in the face! It was brutal! All the way back from Shipton to Morville, I was buffeted around like a sheet on a washing line. Jack, John and I huddled together in a sorrowful mini-peloton and I battled to stay upright and in a straight line on my Cross bike with its smart-but-in-today’s-case-very-silly-50mm-rims. I was like a two-bit puppet on a string, a flapping jib on an unmanned mast.
Just before Morville, my ears became aware of a jetplane approaching – the jetplane that was a posse of riders from the CCB as they whirred past. I clung on and joined them for as long as I could on the road back to Tasley but it was a futile endeavour as the winds regained their strength on the last surge up to the Livestock Market.
Eventually John, Jack and I made it back up to the Club House. We felt invigorated but also spent. We had managed to hold our own in those horrendous cross winds. We had done battle and won against two daunting Shropshire hills and made it back to our sanctuary in the face of formidable crosswinds and anything but ideal conditions. We were grateful to the road planning of our friends Graeme and Andrew and knew that although the route was gruesome in places and the conditions testing, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
Errrrrm, right. Whatever you say. 😉 Ride On.