He couldn’t conceal the look of disappointment, despair even, worse than any defeat he’d suffered in any race, ever.
‘Never mind, I’m sure other cafés will be open’, said Dave, trying as always to think positively.
‘But I like this one, and will they do eggs on toast?’ asked Rob.
‘I’m sure they will’, said Dave reassuringly and then he consulted his internal mental map of all the local tea shops and cafés that were available to us within an hour’s ride before giving us our options.
We considered these as we sat astride the top tubes of our bikes trying to summon up the mental energy to make our way from Castleton Tea Rooms over towards Great Ayton. It didn’t matter how many times Rob looked forlornly at the tables inside, the lights weren’t on, it was definitely shut. Like it or not we simply had to press on. The night before Dave rang me about the ride to say ‘Rob Carter’s coming out’. Normally this would make me think twice, not because I don’t like Rob, he’s a nice bloke, but it’s the pain it would involve you see. Rob is an incredibly strong rider, he competes regularly in Premier Calendar races, as well as doing well in the National Road Race Championships last year, and even an easy ride for him is probably an on the limit ride for me. But before I could think ‘do I really need this in February and only three weeks after an appendix operation’? Dave explained that Rob just wanted to casually potter round some cafes. Great! I thought an easy ride, perfect, but it just didn’t seem to add up based on what I knew of Rob. What I didn’t know is that since I last rode with him, when he was in great shape and powering up Rosedale Chimney, he had succumbed, temporarily at least, to the Dave Kirton School of cycle training. Some might say ‘the Dark Side’.
Not me though. Before I rode regularly with Dave I rarely stopped at cafes, preferring to refuel when I got home after the ride. Now I am a convert, what could be better than passing the day away with your fellow cyclists while you enjoy a brew and a teacake and reflect on the ride you have just done along with planning your next one? As we rode up Rob was already in this mode of thought as he talked about the excitement, not of his upcoming stage race in Morocco, but of all the cafés that he would be riding to today and what he would be eating in each. Cycling would just be a means of getting from one café to another. He was keeping the watts reading low on his Powermeter as he set himself the task of riding at his easiest possible training level as the three of us made our way up over the moor from Lockwood Beck, so this is how he does it I thought? The climb dragged on and I for one was approaching my limit, soon though we were over the high point and descending into Castleton.
And now here we were as Rob looked to Dave (his café stop mentor) to lead him safely from this place of disappointment to the promised land of eggs on toast. The pressure was on and just after we set off again it quickly became clear that Rob’s mental strength just wasn’t where it needed to be, not in cycling terms you understand, it was just… well Great Ayton was simply too far to go and too long to wait. Dave and I looked at one another, we clearly had a crisis on our hands, I imagine that it was like becoming aware that your team leader in the Tour simply couldn’t face going over one more col. I suggested in desperation of trying the Cleveland Inn in Commondale, which was only three miles away, and Dave clung to this. So I then felt pressurised to exaggerate the menu that might be available, remembering a chip buttie that I had many years ago but beyond a that and a pickled egg I was struggling. Rob was fixated on eggs of the fried variety though and digging deep into his suitcase of café knowledge Dave rashly promised Rob that all he could ever want would be available to him in Kildale. The day was seemingly saved and with morale restored the undulations between Castelton and Kildale were miraculously smoothed out, well sort of, and eventually we got our man to the end of the first stage.
Once seated comfortably inside the café the first question Rob asked was ‘Do you do eggs on toast?’ The look from the proprietor suggested that the worst was about to happen, the answer would be no and we would have a broken man on our hands, a man who would give up the bike there and then on the spot and demand that we ring for a taxi. Thankfully we misread the look and ten minutes later the crisis was over, the food was delivered, spirits were high and the next café stop and all that it promised was being discussed. A 35-40 mile ride was enough for me though so I peeled off and made for home, my support role complete as I left them to complete their odyssey. Later in the day I got a text from Dave to let me know that they’d done 55 miles with three café stops – mission accomplished. Dave, his new (or maybe old?) training methods steadily gaining favour, will no doubt be taking credit for laying the foundations for Rob’s upcoming season.
Paul Christon – March 2013