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  • Harry Says “Just get on my wheel and you will be alright!”
  • Harry Says “Put in an extra loop down the coast road”
  • Harry Says “Ride your bike!”
  • Harry Says “Just a steady 2 to 3 hours”

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A is for Ashurst and Argy-Bargy in Ainsdale

Neon Red's picture
on Thu, 25/04/2019 - 08:53

A baking hot Easter Sunday morning attracted around 50 people to the shop today for the 9am start, with a good few early starters hacing already gone to Jeffrey Hill and Little Bowland. I could have joined them if I hadn't been out on the ale the night before, but when it's hot the alcohol counts the same as away goals (double) and as such I felt like I had a gallon of Grand Central New York IPA in me as I left the house at 8:45am. Two C groups formed, Matt took the B's to initiate them on the concept of never stopping (well it was Easter Sunday, only the co-op and the Aughton corner shop had things in stock for a vegan like me to eat) and John Pout took the A's on a loop to include Ashurst Beacon, Tour de Wigan and the coast road. John's group set off second, beginning with Dark Lane.


I set off on the front alongside John Pout as we made our way up Greetby Hill then down the Dark Lane descent where we whipped up a nice, steady 22mph for the first part of the ride. This first segment was largely trouble-free, save for a couple of lone riders we had to overtake on their morning jollies to church. Even though I'd lubed the chain prior to departure, I was still in the mindset of "whatever I do it's never going to be good enough" and this would plague not only the ride but the entire day. For now, we did the usual left-left-right onto the Hoscar Moss Road, but after the Ring O'Bells we turned quick right towards the canal. Only thing was, we arrived at the cobbled bit AKA Where I Usually Lose Around 10 Places and were greeted by the canal barrier being up, as our good mate with the boat was also out for a Sunday siesta and as such we had to wait while the world's slowest boat passed at approximately 2.3kmh. Eventually, after a good discussion with ian Hampson and John Faz about why I should buy that Merida Scultura I tested the other day (you guessed it, it had disc brakes) we set off once again just as I started the one-worders and one-liners like "focus" and "Splashworld next week". This theme continued all the way to Newburgh where a fairly long line of traffic had us waiting at the Old New Post Office which seems to have re-opened as a tea room, before turning right at the next roundabout for the Beacon. For once, we did the whole climb and it was actually very entertaining as Michael Girvan shot off on his Scott and John made a decisive move as well. Then came the really fun bit; while I was distracted by a Carrie Underwood lookalike on a LIV Giant, Faz used his towrope to slingshot past me and go after Kuota John, only to end up seeing the little vegan who's barely any bigger than Danny Shearer rifle past just before the first pub near the summit. The rest of the group soon formed, having really dug deep to get what they really wanted, before descending to the crossroads at the other end, which was quite a hairy downhill with potholes aplenty and it wasn't surprising that David Rodgers noted how unruly the group looked on the next few roads. For our part, we were now on our way to the A577 and the route to Wigan, essentially a reverse of well-trodden roads we usually do on our way to Bank Top. As such it felt like we were in fairly unchartered territory but we soon reached the Orrell version of the Old Postie, whereupon we took in the right-turn for the Heinz factory and came out near Winstanleys Bikes, as predicted by Wilko who knows the area far better than I realised. Wait a minute, there are bike shops not selling Cervelos? Well, maybe in Wigan. I did ask Murph if we were stopping for a vegan pie barm (go and look it up, it's so absurd even I struggle to describe it) It's not often I'm at a loss for words, I know, but for a little while I would shut up and let the pedalling do the talking as we made our way back west towards our usual haunt, the Col de Standish.


It was a tight turn at the roundabout as we rejoined the usual climb but we soon saw daylight at the summit where the usual speeding motorists were keen to get onto the M6 or to the Rigbye Arms for pre-meal drinks. We turned left then right and immediately Paul Hargreaves was right in his element with the tailwind through Wrightington and past the Endurance Store, as he used his Argon 18 Nitrogen to great effect, lapping up the road at speeds of over 25mph despite one hairy moment when we came round the left-hander at the Camelot junction only to find a dozy driver who'd pulled out of the side road and then couldn't find their third gear. A bit like me with my own shift lever, but the other way round. For now we were vaulting down the descent to Eccleston where a few comments about people struggling started to surface, and surprisingly it wasn't Mr Grand Central either. It didn't really matter who it was, but for our part we would go left at the bridge and here the pace would cool somewhat, but I'm always ready for someone, usually Paul, to shout "carm on, get on with it". Here, we had to back off a bit anyway as Fiat 500 Driver took about 17 attempts to turn a bubble car round but at the junction we turned left and set sail for Croston.


I saw us drop to around 22mph on the Croston approach and expected some people to turn off, but apart from Ian who had to be back for family commitments we still had a full complement of riders and this would continue as we made our way through the back lanes of Bretherton. Shortly after scaring the living daylights out of two riders coming the other way and cruising through the canopy of cool we were out in the open again, but a few calls came to have a piss stop - one thing you won't need if you've been drinking the night before. For my part I spotted a chance to "make the scheme work" for myself and by that I mean devour the flapjack bought from Euro Garages Ormskirk at 8:55am in the morning. I just about managed to finish it off by the time we got going again and I started remarking that I was likely to vanish off the back once we reached Green Lane. Indeed, Kevin Murphy thought the same as me, that we should have ridden to Tarleton lights and gone down the main road to get to the moss, but the opportunity to cause more chaos was apparently too good ot pass up and I was now the one panicking that a scheme had been devised to eliminate me - of course I could just turn for home, but I did that on the Race group ride three weeks ago and didn't want to win John Faz's "Always Gets Dropped Award". So it was a case of hope like crazy that no-one else went mad at the front, and indeed the presecence of bikes coming the other way and me remarking about the time Ste Francis crashed here on Boxing Day 2011 must have had the desired effect. So with peace in our time we made our way through the red and white barriers used when I took a teammate to the Splashworld triathlon bike route on Wednesday, but we would continue north for Shore Road, where me and Stefan took over the front as "the hell before the hell" of the coast road. We would exhibit our usual interpretations of bike cadence, Stefan spinning his slightly lower gears to perfection while hoping that someone would lock off my BFG (Big F***ing Gear) so as to force me to breathe harder. Eventually, after several people remarked that I was seemingly trying to start World War 3, Stefan launched an "R Alex" style of attack until we were slowed in Banks village by horses, cars and people on their way to meet Jesus. At the roundabout for the coast road I think I went a bit too mad when I said "here comes HELL" but that was because David Rodgers, who is so multi-talented he's considering a half marathon attempt in five week's time, took over the front with the Murph and John Faz in hot pursuit. But would the Faz get things all his own way like September 2, or would someone else on either two or four wheels have the final world?


As we reached the KFC, where next week's triathlon run route turns back to race HQ, we were slowed somewhat by people out for Easter ice-cream but by this time Faz and the Murph were well established on the front and it was immensely entertaining to watch Faz giggle the way he always does, only for the Murph to escape at the roundabout where the riders will join Marine Drive next Sunday. Once onto the coast road I remarked that there was no repeat of the John Faz STOP AT NOTHING TO DESTROY EVERYONE move from last autumn and that we were seemingly staying around the 21mph mark. I think we can smash that mark next Sunday with the pink wheels. The race route doesn't go as far as Pontin's but Wilko turned off here, presumably to go to the cycle cafe while the rest of us carried on down the coast road towards the lights. It was just after the bridge descent that the biggest incident of the occurred, though. White VanMan With The 68 Reg Plate blasted a huge horn at us and then proceeded to stop at the lights just as we got there. This led to the funniest stand-off in over six years (surely you remember the one with Ste Francis in March 2013) as Kevin Murphy and David Rodgers owned TweedleDumb and TweedleDumber sitting in their respective seats and I did what I did all those years ago, sat back a few lengths and just laughed my head off. With these two having locked up the Reject award we set off across the junction and towards Plex Moss Lane, but here the second episode of "whatever you do Chinook, it'll never be good enough" took place as I always go to pieces on this confined road towards Halsall, however this time I would at least avoid the wooden spoon. But with gravel all over the place and people not pointing out potholes it left me seriously spooked and combined with my hangover it contributed to me getting a bit of a headache as we approached the bridge denoting the end of the moss road. Here, John Faz turned left for home or to do another 26 laps of Southport befoer Caroline dragged him off the bike, but the rest of us continued towards Shepherd's Lane, and the final push of the day. I gave myself a bit of a chance here as I decided to attack everyone, but Michael Girvan won the sprint as he never looked like being challenged. Our work wasn't over yet, though,as we had to see if one more mile would break anyone. So we descended Small Lane North and went up the side of Gorse Lane where it's always fun to go mountain biking (especially with American Football shoulder pads). Finally, we reached the top of Gaw Hill Lane and I could turn right for my road while some just had to stick together until the last theoretical moment to go home. I parked up in my driveway at 12:15pm having covered 53 miles before a quick bath, a trip to Dinky Dory for vegan ice cream and a very enjoyable afternoon at TOPO as the red men scored twice in the second half to keep City's champagne on ice at least until Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Many thanks to JP (Pout Edition) for leaidng the ride today, great to see the leader combining hard slogs on the front with looking out for those in need at the back.

Now for the results, brought to you by Dinky Dory:

Distance: 85.02km

Time: 2:41:06

Average Speed: 31.66kmh (easily a season's best)

Horses: 6

Hors Cat Climbs: 2

Angry Motorists: 2, one of whom really had a go

SMHBYWI Moments: 4 (two when I was on the front, the other two when I handed over)

Post Ride Nutrition: 10/10 (Vegan Berry Sundae from Dinky Dory in Ormskirk, which happens to be part of the same Vici club as the Old Post Office)

REJECT OF THE RIDE: Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber

(And you thought Jeremy Kyle was a freak show)

Enjoy your ride without me to shout motivational one-liners next week, I'll be at Southport doing the Splashworld Triathlon. Never set foot in there ever since Murtle the Turtle surfaced during opening in 2006 - maybe Rob Macleod could dress up as him and be the official mascot?

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