The Grand Depart of the Laser Fleet’s ‘Tour De Studland’ took place on Sunday morning, from the Yacht club, at a suitably later time than scheduled, but was still a little too early for Hayley, who had shamed those of you who couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed by driving all the way from Cheshire – that probably explains why we didn’t see much of Hayley’s ‘joie de vivre’ until after lunch time!
Eight intrepid mountain bikers jostled with a whole world of cyclists on the Sandbanks Ferry and headed towards the first hill of the day at the Knoll Hotel. However, at the suggestion of Gary Hind, the tectonic plate moving decision to take a different route was made, after the briefest of voting procedures. Thus the off-road adventure began earlier than usual.
Together, we negotiated sandy tracks and one steepish gravel gully, admittedly with varying degrees of competence, and, thus success; and then headed for the eye-catching, ‘Kim’s Ridge’. The pastoral idyll of birdsong was enthusiastically added to by Hayley’s response to every bump in the track being relayed to the part of her body that was in contact with the saddle at that moment. Hers were not the only trials and tribulations, however; the sight of Colston’s arms at the end of one particularly narrow passage was enough to ring the alarm bells of even the most complacent health worker. Neither self-harming nor a delayed entry into punk was the explanation though: an all embracing bramble was the culprit.
It’s true that some sections of the heath were a bit steep but Brigitte was able to make much shorter work of them after a mini tutorial in the mechanics of gearing. So, with some falling off, some swearing, some walking and a good deal of laughter we arrived at the Studland to Corfe road in the environs of the local Golf Club. At about this time Donald was haring along the Studland Ferry road, looking forward to a comparison of journey times, but more of that later.
A short and not too steep track led up from the Swanage side of the main road towards the ridge into Corfe. By now, we had lost one of our band of happy cyclists: Gary had to keep an appointment with the Parkstone Thursday Night Ladies sailing group. We didn’t know it then but this was to give us a late bit of interest as we consumed a final drink on the club’s balcony. With Hayley taking every rest opportunity to get horizontal we reached the ridge in fine order and everyone had enough breath left to voice their appreciation of the view. Had we been a little swifter in our ascent, we may have successfully rendezvoused with Donald but unbeknown to us he had already sped past, and was by now ordering his Orange and Lemonade and Luxury Burger, both of which had been virtually consumed by the time we had reached the Greyhound Inn. The twenty minutes it took us to glide down into Corfe were probably some of the most enjoyable of the day, although Chris Garvey might choose to disagree with this opinion on account of the number of ‘mechanicals’ he had to deal with on the descent.
Half way through a fairly lengthy stop for refreshment, the bubbly side of Hayley’s nature began to re-emerge. Whether this was due to increased calorie intake or the certain knowledge that there was no more ascent to be encountered, (with the exception of ‘Evening Hill’ of course), who can say? Anyway, a jolly time was had by all, especially Gayle and Sam’s children who thoroughly enjoyed the music and dancing. Who says that ‘Morris Dancing’ is dead!
Donald took his place at the head of the pack and led us off through the Rempstone forest back towards the Studland Ferry Road. There was a distinct division in the group at this stage. The aforementioned Donald, Duncan Keates and Sam led off at a distinctly faster pace than the rest of us found desirable. All three claimed, however, that they were just chatting and cycling. There might be some truth in this since for a few breath stealing moments I attempted to keep up with them, listening to Sam’s stories, as he cycled alongside no-handed! My contributions to the conversation were necessarily brief. I think if you are capable of cycling that fast Sam, you actually ought to dress correctly for the occasion. Lycra speed whilst dressed in tailored shorts and ‘dockies’ is definitely taking the mick!
The ascent of ‘Evening Hill’ was, of course, uneventful although the party was somewhat concerned by the non-appearance of Ann. I was able to assure everyone that she hadn’t divorced me, ‘Los Vegas’ style but had been doing a recce for her retirement party later in the week. So with that exception, we were able to follow the Fleet Captain’s dictum: ‘we all started together, we all finish together!’
A final drink on the club balcony was enlivened by the spectacle of our earlier guide, Gary, shepherding a group of sailors in several different boats as they negotiated a tricky return to the club through the Marina entrance. It might not have been a day of ‘Tour De France’ proportions but at least we all managed to complete the stage relatively unscathed: ‘chapeau’ to Hayley for a great effort!