"project4cycling might be the best blog about cycling I've never read ... but then there are lots of blogs about cycling I haven't read" Ned Boulting, TV presenter and author of How I Won The Yellow Jumper (and How Cav Won The Green Jersey)
Ilkley Cycling Club this morning kidnapped cycling legend Stephen Roche and brilliant TV presenter Ned Boulting in an audacious pre-planned and coordinated swoop.
Plans were laid the previous evening as Paul O'Looney Chairman of ICC and locally know as The Don left a coded message on the club's Facebook Site. It read:
As you know, as part of the Ilkley Lit Festival "Tour de France" session tomorrow afternoon, the club has invited any visitors to come and ride with us on Sunday morning. Only two that might be coming so far is an older Irish chap who seemed to do a lot in the 80s and 90s and a younger Londoner who has only really been in to cycling since 2003 ;-)
Approximately 80 of the club's 800 members read the message for what it was. A signal. The hit was on.
|Paul "The Don" O'Looney lulling Stephen Roche with his scouse charms.|
The HitWho knows what stories The Don told Roche and Boulting to get them to arrive at the rendezvous in the morning (the omerta with which ICC organises its affairs is the tightest outside of Italy). The innocent scene that greeted them may have looked like a simple club run gathering - albeit a large one due to the huge success of the club - but Paul's guests already sensed that something was up. Stephen Roche attempted an early escape by pretending to have forgotten his pedals, but the JD Cycles support vehicle soon dealt with that. He had no excuse but to join the peloton. After all, they were surrounded by a mob of middle-aged Yorkshire-folk in Lycra. The most terrifying sight known to man.
Everything seemed to be going well, but Paul needed to check a few details, so he announced what seemed like an innocent photo opportunity.
|Our Hero was tasked with checking Stephen Roche's grip to calculate if he had strength to escape off the front of the ride.|
|He was then asked to check Ned Boulting for scale. Note the perimeter guards.|
Nothing is innocent in ICC. Paul's troops knew their roles and the plan was being executed to perfection. Roche and Boulting had no option but to ride away from the safety of Ilkley Literature Festival into the dark and unknown Yorkshire Dales National Park. Would they return?
The IncarcerationWho knows where The Don learned his craft? Some say it was in covert operations for the CIA. Others suggest it may have something to do with his past as a diamond runner. But most just assume that kidnap is just something you learn when you grow up on Merseyside. One thing is for sure, he's a master.
The freezing weather was enough to disorientate the captives, but any chance they had of remembering their location was soon taken away as the peloton sped along the most potholed road outside of Bolivia. Ned Boulting was then regaled with stories of how this "was nothing" and "last week we rode through a stream" to let him know he was in the presence of people who just might be psychopaths.
Forced to ride at a less than comfortable pace for the first 21 miles, Stephen Roche had no chance to escape off the front and any thought Ned had of escaping off the back was blocked by the club's obligatory "mopper up", ostensibly there to make sure everyone makes it home. Tired, cold, disorientated and surrounded by strangers in Spandax, Ned must have wished for a sign. Then one came.
Who knows what this sign meant to Ned in the state he was in? Perhaps he glanced at it quickly as he sped past and an image flashed into his head.
|Any thought of a nice brew had to be cast aside as the peloton refused to stop at a Kettlewell cafe.|
|The art of kettling as practiced by the great British bobby.|
|Starbotton passes for a normal name in these parts.|
Oh yes, Ned, you are a star. Oh yes indeed.
Ned Plans His EscapeYou really see the mettle of a man when the chips are down. Ned clearly has guile and fight in spades. Soon after failing to stop in Kettlewell, Roche and Boulting hit on a master plan. Divide and conquer.
Without warning, Ned swung into a cafe stop, splitting the group as Stephen Roche upped the pace at the front. The Don swung back to ask a few ICC members to "make sure Ned is alright" and then set off in pursuit of Roche.
|80 ICC Members cleverly reduced to 9 by the prospect of flapjack.|
The Nightmare EndsSure enough, the nine guards left to "look after" Ned were soon reduced to four as the others peeled off to race back to wives and children. Before too long Ned was skipping along the back roads to Ilkley spraying cow muck into the faces of his oppressors as he went. The spell was broken. He felt fear no more.
|JD Cycles Rescues Ned Boulting and Stephen Roche|
But SeriouslyIlkley Cycling Club has done it again. I hope Ned and Stephen enjoyed their ride out with us this morning. I know that everyone who joined them had a fabulous time. They were both fantastic sports and generous with their conversation and willingness to stand for photos and to sign books. What good eggs.
Ned has a book on the way which sounds fascinating, but he also has one you can already buy. I read it last year and really enjoyed it. I can't recommend it highly enough, particularly for its insight into the French view of the tour:
Stephen Roche was in Ilkley to promote his new book at the Ilkley Literature Festival. I haven't read it, but I'm now the very proud owner of a signed copy and I'm sure it is as brilliant as the man himself.
And finally. Paul O'Looney isn't really know as The Don. There is no omerta in ICC. And please don't touch my family Paul. I didn't know what I was doing. Please Paul. Please.