A good mix turned up at Hildegard's: Ivan, Paul, Ray, Tom, Steve H, George, Dave and Liz P, and the Runcorn clan of Dave H, Steve Tan and Keith. Dave Matthews had cycled out for a chat, but was again in recovery mode, having worn down his perineum skin as thin as Graphene cycling in France. Initially the weather was disconcertingly cold with drizzle, but gradually improved to ideal. We had gratefully accepted Ray's initiative in leading, as he had Clive's outline route to Hanmer on his screen. We were soon twiddling down our favourite quiet lanes through Ridleywood and Sutton Green to Bangor on Dee. Ray was doing well following Clive's intricate and hummocky route. We took in Penley, Hampton Wood and Bettisfield before reaching the Hanmer Arms, one of our favourites.
My food was really good, but Keith and the Pipes were grumbly about the quality or absence of bread. Also, the waitress initially wanted us to pay as a group, threatening that if we paid as individuals the last person would have to cover any cash shortfall. Dave Pipe was thankfully assertive. After all, the Pipe's pudding penchant meant they could well have been last to pay. Ivan had turned back before lunch, as he had initially said that he would have to return early to Chester. Something about cycling without electrical assistance not floating his boat anymore. Incidentally, his next bike is to be a carbon Willier with electric gear change. Tasty!
Our return was via Eglwys Cross and Higher and Lower Wych: hard work for the valiant tandem two. The remainder of our route took us to Cuddington Heath and Chorlton Lane towards Shocklach and Farndon. George put the pedal to the metal as we headed north to the A534. We presented an unwitting lead-out to Paul 'Kittel' Rose who rocketed past. Ray and Tom soon appeared in his wake. Despite missing the break, the indefatigable Steve Tan was registering 24 m.p.h. just trying to catch up on his semi-mountain bike. No podium place for me today after all! This bit of a burn-up is becoming a fun optional tradition of ours when finishing at Holt. Hildegard was our wonderful host at the end. Luscious plum cake and extra coffee - who needs a medal? About 38 miles without the mud of March. Great company and a great day out.