EuroCrash

Photo: A St. George’s Day rose to brighten the day.

“€300 fine”. A voice from behind told me what the penalty is for running a red light. The two of us had stopped but the rest of the group rode through on red. I take a dim view of running red lights. I think that every time we cyclists run a red light we earn a little more disrespect from drivers, which makes the roads more dangerous for us all. If you are a red light jumper and you read about the death of a cyclist, then think about your contribution to their death.

We were 7km in of a 200km audax in Ljubljana, Slovenia when we lost the group at the lights. The Super Rando Week is a brilliant idea. You ride all the Super Randonneur rides (200km, 300km, 400km and 600km) back to back, completing them in 8 days. The quickest way you can qualify for PBP for example. For me this 200km was the first ride of my attempt to achieve the European Super Randonneur title. All four qualifying rides have to be in a different country. Slovenia to start, followed by Italy, Germany and the UK is the plan.

Soon after the lights the rider behind overtook me so I settled in for a solo 200km. I’d love to tell you how beautiful the countryside was but most of the morning was ridden in mist. Not enough to cause visibility issues but too much to admire the view.

At the first control I met up with the rider who told me about the €300 fine. Janko was a local, living near Ljubljana so when he suggested we continue following the cycle path to Laško rather than re-join the busy road as per the route I went along with it. At first it seemed a good idea. No traffic, great tarmac and by now the mist had cleared so even a view.

Shortly after this photo was taken we realised why the organiser hadn’t included this part of the cycle path. The path kicked up into the hills. Short though the climbs were one section topped out at 14%. One word from Janko. “Sorry”. No apology necessary. Audaxes are supposed to be adventures, this was our little diversionary fun. I confess that when Janko asked a local if this was the way to Laško I was a bit concerned but I could see from my Wahoo how we could re-join the route, which we did, adding a few more km and metres climbed to the audax.

After that we cycled at a similar pace but not really together, over taking and re-taking along the route back towards Ljubljana. We would have carried on that way until the end but for a bridge.

The bridge in question took us across from one bank to the other of a small river. It formed a nice S bend. The right hander onto the bridge was fine, the left hander off the bridge was a different matter. I carried too much speed into the corner. The grip gave way. Knee, hip and elbow hit the tarmac as I watched my bike skid across the road. My fault. Janko stopped, as did a local cycling club ride to pick up my bike and all the bits that fell off. One of the riders was keen to show me photos of his damaged knee and elbow as he told me he did exactly the same thing the week before. Following rainfall, the approach roads dry out quicker than the bridge for some reason, so wet patches remained. I felt slightly better that it caught out a local as well as me.

Janko kindly waited for me to gather myself and check the bike before we headed off. The adrenalin started to wear off and I started to feel quite weak. This wasn’t great as we had the last climb of the day ahead of us. Only 2km long but I really wasn’t feeling so good. I decided to follow Janko up the climb. As he rides a recumbent then, by his own admission, he’s quite slow in the climbs. He missed a gear change and I had to go past him. It wasn’t that steep, remaining in the Wahoo yellow zone (4-8%) for it’s entirety but every metre was a struggle. At least I could see on my Wahoo how far I had to go. That really helps when you don’t know the climb. Combined with the incentive that after the summit it was downhill and flat all the way to the café for the next control I ground my way up and waited for Janko at the summit. I was exhausted. Empty. Feeling shit.

As you’d expect I was very tentative in the descent. Falling off again wasn’t a good idea so I kept well inside the safety limit in the bends. At the café, damage assessment. Not too bad. Spraying the wounds with anti Covid bacterial spray was more painful than the throbbing.

Restored by pizza and hot chocolate the remaining 27km were, fortunately, uneventful. Janko and I crossed the line together to finish the day. Finish the day in the saddle that is. One of us had 25km, the other a 550km drive home.

Just like me, my St. George’s Day rose was a bit battered by the end.

If you want to get your Super Randonneur status done quickly then the Super Rando Week is a great way to do it, details here: Randonneurs Slovenija.

Thank you to Janko for stopping to help and to Marko Baloh the event organiser.

It was my first time riding in Slovenia. Good roads, very considerate drivers and beautiful countryside. I’ll be back to ride there again for sure.

Leroy Hodge

On Sunday 24th April my London club, Islington, rode to Brighton for fish and chips on the beach in memory of club member Leroy. Last year I rode with them and bought a colourful cap to celebrate Leroy’s love of hats. During the audax in Slovenia I wore the cap again in his honour. RIP Leroy.

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