At Ryka's café a dozen riders were waiting for me. There was a certain reluctance with winter viruses and the season's conditions having taken their toll. And then there was Colin's collar bone which needs gentle handling. So mindful of the tenderness with which I should lead, I set off at full pelt!
We climbed up to Crabtree Cottage for the long descent to the Norbury Park valley to zig-zag back up the ridge. Passing by Polesden Lacey we dropped back down the Hogden Lane byway to take the right hand bridleway back up the hill. We paused at the top but I hadn't shaken anyone off.
I can't properly describe where we went next as I was following a route Julian Wade had devised for the Tuesday nighters. However, it involved a very rutted field (for which I apologised), more climbing, a refurbished Lovelace bridge, a very pockmarked bridleway round a field and finally Phil's puncture at the top of Crocknorth Road.
Invigorated by the enforced rest we dropped down to Green Dene under three more Lovelace bridges. The climb up Sheepleas was sticky but didn't defeat anyone. And then it was a speedy descent to West Horsely and tea and buns.
Squires is in many ways ideal for MTBers arriving in all kinds of undesirable states. A separate area to sit, a not-overly-prissy ambience and good fare – including breakfast if you are quick enough. However the service is soooo sloooow.
At last we were back in the saddle but much to the consternation of some we turned west onto the A246 (it did seem rather counter-intuitive). However there is a favourite climb from Blake's Lane up to the North Downs ridge which I felt we could not turn down.
Atop the ridge it was the usual blast back with a cheeky stretch through Great Copse. Passing St Barnabas Church I decided to avoid our usual single track drop to Denbies (saving Colin from himself), but took the next bridleway down the hill. This turned out to be rather soggy (apologies again) and then it was straight down the hill back to Ryka's.
Despite the pessimistic start including a sour weather forecast, all arrived back in good spirits and fairly dry at that.
Many thanks to Mike Tyrell who back marked the first half and Robert who overlooked the second. And very many thanks to those who marked the corners making it all run smoothly – Cheryl, Colin, Dave (Whyte 109), Graham, Robin and Sue Ritchie being amongst those helpful souls.