Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A culinary Tour de Force

Seeing as Ma and Pa were over from the Antipodes last weekend, we decided to sample the finest cuisine that England had to offer. Or not.

The Turkish in the Marmaris wasn't too bad, although Dad decried the paucity of hummus. He was brave enough to try the "selection of house wines", ie red or white. Throwing caution to the wind, he opted for "red", and on drinking it he made the face he usually does when confronted with this sort of varietal.

Ma decried the lack of dressing on the salad, but I assured her this was normal for these parts. How can you eat a salad without vinaigrette? There's almost no point.

I stuck to beer (rule number one of drinking) and enjoyed it and the very meaty dinner.

Day 2. I squeezed in a fast four hour ride through the Mendips. Burrington in 8'32 and Cheddar in 8'44: easily my fastest times up there this year, and not that far off the times I did in the hill climbs last year. I therefore conclude that doing lots of hills, eg in Welsh Wales, makes you faster up hills. That's quite a revelation, I know, and I'm calling it Jeff's Patented Training(tm). Just remember, you read it here first.

I joined Ma and Pa in the Arnos Manor hotel on the outskirts of Bristol (Christ, now every idiot looking for that hotel on Google will find this blog entry). A very fine establishment it is, though. The dining room was a converted cloister and had interesting chairs in it that were a) very heavy and b) had Latin inscriptions on them that dad was going to decipher.

Dinner there was better than the previous evening, although I can't for the life of me remember what we had. The wine was a hell of a lot better, causing me to ignore rule number one but not pay too heavy a price. Breakfast was good, although snaffling a croissant from the swarm of French locusts at the next table required all my speed and cunning.

Ma & pa at brekky in the Arnos Manor. Note table of French locusts in the background and a distinct lack of croissants.
© Jeff Jones

We needed the fortification for the drive to Oxford: the M4 is stunning at this time of year. We had a lunch date with John, my 97 year-old cousin who's probably at least eight times removed. John first came to Oxford in 1911 and has done many things since, a very interesting chap. He used to walk everywhere and after a long pilgrimage once turned up at my Aunt Margaret's place in Yorkshire, dripping wet, aged approximately 82. This madness must run in the family because I once turned up at my Aunt Margaret's place in Yorkshire, dripping wet, aged 26, after one of the coldest four hour rides I've ever done (it was midsummer, after all). That was in 1998 so things really haven't changed at all.

The restaurant at the end of the universe

The Trout Inn. Don't be fooled, they don't serve trout and it's not free.
© Jeff Jones

Lunch was at the Trout Inn, an incredibly popular pub in Godstow, where Cousin John once composed a poem. I say "incredibly" because as a result of the millions of people there, it had the slowest service in Christendom. After I recounted this to a colleague later, I was assured that along wait for a table was par for the course. It was terrible and we nearly died.

Luckily, we got a seat before the heat death of the universe (to quote another John) although while waiting for food we were able to observe the evolution of several stellar bodies all the way from protostars to supernovas. It was truly enlightening and I never knew a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram could be so useful.

In the end I opted for the garlic mayo, which was accompanied by chicken and chips. Cousin John had a dry salad; Dad I'm not sure, but I don't think it was Isis trout; Ma had a slice of cured leather.

Ma engages Cousin John in conversation while dad watches the universe slowly cool
© Jeff Jones

Waiting for Godstow. At least it was pleasant
© Jeff Jones

The Thames or Isis
© Jeff Jones

We noted that the Trout Inn had the aircon running at full blast, which given that all the doors were open led to a power failure. I guess we could have gotten away without paying (they wouldn't accept John's cheque, which was rather annoying) but alas, we had cash. I should have tried to pass them a 25million Zimbabwean dollar note, which will be worth at least 10 or 11p once they revalue the currency there. Update: it's worth less than that now.

We bade Cousin John farewell and headed for the noice town of Bradford-on-Avon, where we hoped to find some better cuisine and service for dinner. The first port of call was the Lock Inn, but alas the kitchen wasn't open on Sundays. Then we tried the adjacent Canal Tavern, but didn't have much more luck. Their oven had broken so we had a choice of sandwiches or burgers. Everything else was "off" and it reminded me (strongly) of a Peter Sellers sketch. Oh well, it does you good to have a fling occasionally.

Dad had a look at the fish and chipper, but that was closed "due to lack of available staff". It was not looking like our day, but eventually we did find an Italian place that did half decent pizzas and wine, and was actually Open. I'm now sure that the real reason the Romans left Britain was because they were starving.

Bradford-on-Avon is rather noice
© Jeff Jones

El Tour

At the time of posting, it's a good one innit. Without knowing what's going to happen on Alpe d'Huez, I'd say Evans has got to be the fave. He's odd but I like him. I remember when they put him in B grade (because he was a mountain biker) in the Canberra Two Day Tour over 15 years ago and he wiped the floor with everyone. Forget the TdF, the Canberra Tour is a proper race.

JL Augustyn needs some descending tips. Even Denis Menchov could give him some.

Testing times

I still seem to be pedalling reasonably well. I did 21'41 for the club 10 @ 355W the other week, 35 seconds knocked off my best and one of half a dozen people to ever go under 22 minutes on that course. The course record is 21'27. I guess that's possible, especially with some aerodynamic tweaks.

I also did the Chippenham open 25 on the fast U46B course. Alas, it wasn't as quick a day as last time - a stiff norwesterly put paid to that - but I had a relatively better ride than I did in the Cheltenham 25, finishing third in 53'46 behind John Tuckett (52'54) and Bill Moore (53'00). We won the team prize and the West District team championship too with Ben and Andy - number 10 for me this year.

To give you an idea of how much the wind affected things on a fairly flat course, my splits on the two up and back 12km sections were 19'05 @ 341W (~38km/h) and 13'20 @ 309W (~54km/h). Despite the low power coming back with the tailwind, I didn't feel as though I could go any harder. Maybe it helps having wind or a hill to push against, but I also could have done with a bigger gear than 53x11. I never thought I'd say that!

My overall average was 328W, 13W higher than it was for the Cheltenham 25 but 1'44 slower. It's interesting that conditions can affect times by that much.

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