Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Almost Christmas Crackered by a denizen of venison...

Back from the Lakes and sportive number four of the year, the Cumbrian Christmas Cracker, a gently rolling 65 miles of festive Lakeland scenery starting from Grasmere, out to Cartmel on the coast via Coniston and its rather substantial duck pond then back through Grisedale Forest. It was cold. Very cold. Cold to the point where the route was neutered to avoid sheet ice, but actually the mix of gently rolling roads and relaxed friends was lovely and just right for appreciating some stunning views, especially across the Lake near Brantwood.

 Pre-Cracker frostiness, brrrr... - pic by Harsh

A few things I've learned this year: how to look sideways and still ride in a vaguely straight line; that I don't have to try and beat people up every climb; that there are always lots of people much, much faster than I am, including this time, a fella in full GB kit on a pukka time trial bike; that following people's wheels in a sportive is a bit like juggling a live hand grenade; and one more from yesterday.

After tea and cake at Cartmel, the three of us rolled gently back towards the Christmas pudding pausing only to lose a pair of ruthlessly-competitive roadies from our wheels - easily done, we simply slowed down and let them ride off - and really just enjoying the ride and the views.

Skimming along towards Clappersgate, someone shouted something at me as I went past him, that I didn't quite catch because at the same moment, I spotted a deer running flat out parallel to the road on the other side of the dry stone wall to my right. First thoughts were what a beautiful animal it was and gawping at the speed and flow of its movement. Then reality kicked in and I realised that something had spooked it and walls aren't much of a barrier to a frantic deer.

Gently on the brakes as the deer turned hard left, bounded over the wall, crossed the road without slowing one iota, took the top off the left-hand wall leaving a portable TV-sized rock on the ground and slammed itself through the gap between the top wire and the gridded part of a wire livestock fence before disappearing across a field.

Ten metres in front of me, maybe less.

All so fast and so slow at the same time that it seemed unreal and unfrightening in the instant. It was only afterwards, pedalling back towards Grasmere that the pointless thoughts about what might have happened kicked in. And the concern for the deer which must have hurt itself hammering into that wall.

Lesson? Deer don't conform to the Green Cross Code. Lesson two: Christmas pudding with custard beats chocolate milk shakes in the comfort recovery stakes every time.

A really mellow, lovely day in a beautiful place with good people. Thanks guys. And thank you Mog.

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