you can always tell when spring has arrived, well on islay at least, because the croft kitchen, purveyors of excellent espresso, open their doors to all, and happily allow knackered members of vc port wemyss to place their lycra'd butts on seats and refresh for the last part of the journey home.
every sunday, almost without fail, the huge swarms that make up the vc peloton (well, there's two of us at the moment, but you know how these things can snowball) meet somehwere on the bruichladdich/port charlotte road before deciding which particular route will fit the parameters of that particular week's training programme. aside from making these decisions, it leads you, the reader, to believe that we actually have a training programme (of course we have).
however, aside from re-instating a more modern variation of the 'espresso run' there is a downside to the arrival of springtime on islay - and for that matter, probably every other agricultural area in the highlands and islands. see, the farming policy around here doesn't quite correspond with that of other uk agricultural areas.
i could be wrong in this, since i am no farmer (though the ileach editor is, and i should probably have asked him before letting fly with word processor) but it is my understanding that it is normal practice for farm animals to be safely ensconced behind walls or fences, happily chewing cud or whatever farm animals do. not here.
while there are a number of farms that do have their cuddly wee sheep and less cuddly cows separated from the roads, there are just about as many that don't. and in fact, today, the route taken by the vc port wemyss peloton happened to be perennially uphill (at least it seemed that way), and the sheep were calmly eating at the grass verge most of the afternoon. and despite the fact that we could care less about the wooly beasts, they seem hell bent on avoiding the passing sprint (hopefully this will give an entirely convincing, though probably erroneous image of our progress through the countryside). this avoidance generally offers two modes of resistance: running in front of the bikes for miles on end and offering no opportunity to pass, or more likely, running from one side of the road to the other - like that's going to make much difference.
but now that it is spring, as described at the beginning of this diatribe, there is another problem, because at this time of year, spread at differing times across the island, those nice woolly sheep, have lambs. and while sheep are in possession of a death wish, lambs don't even know what a death wish is. so picture what is a very common scenario, and one that emphasises good brake maintenance more than at other times of year: mother and one lamb are happily eating on one side of the road. second lamb (and believe me, there is always a second one) is eating on the opposite side of the road. as the brightly coloured peloton approaches at speed (well, if it's downhill, we do), you can be absolutely sure that there will be a crossing of road by one of the aforementioned groups of sheep. i'm not sure what they figure is going to happen - if there are any sheep reading this, we are paying way too much attention to the brake levers and cycle computers to worry about wool on legs (actually we're generally looking at the scenery, but i like to give a more professional image if i can).
and i know that both real people and sheep are wondering what the point of all this is. if we know that this sort of thing is going to happen, and it's a part of every day cycling on islay, why the heck to i want to waste valuable html and pixels, telling you all about it? after all, you're not worried about this are you?
well normally i would agree with you, but springtime and particularly easter (not too far away now) usually heralds an influx of cyclists to our part of the world (just so's you know, if cyclists are on the road in front of the vc peloton, they are referred to as 'victims' but if the bikes are coming off the ferry or on the back of a car, they are known as 'customers'). and, in fact, we saw two victims today, though they were sneaky enough to turn left when we turned right, just to avoid being embarrassingly dropped as we swished past at close to sonic speed.
and i would be willing to bet that these poor souls on mountain bikes (with knobbly tyres - i ask you!) may well have unwittingly headed at speed down the glen road, even though they didn't because we didn't meet them as we headed up the glen road. and they would have met the crazy sheep, who have no discrimination between visiting pelotons and that of vc port wemyss. so thewashingmachinepost has provided this insight into cycling on islay for the benefit of those who arrive from more sanitised agricultural areas or even cities and towns outwith the agricultural belt. watch out for sheep. and of course, make sure you stop off at the croft kitchen for an espresso. thewashingmachinepost, as part of its previously announced campaign to make roadies trendy, did just that. while the directeur sportif had a normal coffee (take note, not a cup of tea) i had an espresso and a fruit slice.
how cool is that?
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to, and the next ride takes them from st malo to biarittz and then across the raid pyrenees. so i have. and here it is.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.