It was hastily organised the night before that some of us would meet at the Tesco on Free School Lane at 12.45 before riding over. This gave the opportunity for one particular member (who could it have been?) to fill his pannier bags with 16 cans of lager and the bottle of wine Holly had brought for Catherine as a thank you.
As we rode up Shibden Wall it was a treat to have an audience cheering me on; whistling and ringing cowbells, I felt like a pro and there was a need to show off by going faster. It was a relief when I got to the corner and was able to dismount and head off the side track to the field. I was later put firmly in my place when I saw children from East Bradford CC effortlessly dancing on the pedals and flying up the hill as if it wasn't there.
Paul Cre had less luck climbing the wall, with the almost 8 litres of booze he was carrying (for it was he) taking its toll as the gradient sailed above double figures. In order to save carrying his bags across the field he gracefully traversed the heavily rutted land on two wheels. It was truly a sight to behold and probably the most skillful bit of cycling to be witnessed that day.
The anticipation built as time went on, with the occasional police motorbike or tour vehicle being greeted by cheers, even more so if it stalled going round the corner. It all felt very British. Another crowd favourite was the majestic sight of two recumbent tricycles, complete with flags and dog trailer, careering down arguably the toughest descent in the country. Though it was just another day for Alfie and Betty.
Paul offered me a beer which was most welcome, even though most of it frothed out as soon as it was opened, for some reason. By now we had what must surely be the highest concentration of imps in one place since the annual dinner. Andrew Mann went into full sergeant major mode to arrange a group photo. For the moment I don't have said photo so I'll have to offer this photo of the Imps Eurovision 2017 entry instead.
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The race arrived soon enough and the noise was fantastic, and certainly up there with what we experienced at the Tour de France visit of 2014. I'll never tire of seeing some of the best in the world racing on our roads. The shouting, the whistling, the clapping, the cowbell ringing, the helicopter whirring, the clicks of the gear changes, the car horns of the support vehicles, the musical sirens of the French ambulances, the shit karaoke booming out from the posh house down the road, the crash of a motorbike falling sideways onto unforgiving Yorkshire cobbles, the laughs from the sympathetic crowd...it was spine tingling.
After the race had left, some went to Sean's after party, unfortunately Holly and I hadn't time, so we had no excuse really to not ride the rest of the Wall. It was certainly a memorable climb; as far as I can recall, I'd never ridden through a human tunnel of Mexicans before. That's one for the scrapbook if I manage to ever to find a picture of it.
What a fantastic day, and thanks Catherine for use of the field and sorry Sean for not being able to make your soiree.