It was slightly overcast, as we made our way to the recently restored (to its former splendor I might add, with the exception of the venetian cornicing) Harley Hall. Not as bright & sunny as the previous week, but a hint of summer in the air. Expecting only a handful of riders after the 7 of last week, I was most surprised as a constant trickle of riders appeared.
With the posse numbering 17, consisting of Chris Selley, Michael Rasmussen, Chris Parkes, Gary, Gordon, Louis, Tony Brunton, Swiss Tony, Gareth, Hard Man of the North,  Simon Canning's, Stuart, Big Dave, Richard (fresh from his 4th placing at a local road race) Frank & Danny, we rolled out of town, towards the famed tea stop of Whaddesdon manor.
The weather brightened, as Stewkley Hill approached, arm warmers were dispensed with & a swift re-grouping saw us all together by the turn. Taking up a more or less organised two by two formation we sped towards our destination, looking like a finely oiled machine.
Upon reaching Winslow, Michael bid us farewell, apparently on a promise, I'm not sure what that is, but I think it has something to do with mowing the lawn. We also had a mechanical & the group stopped to see to Louis's puncture. Swiss realising his legs still needed a bedding in after his year of sunning himself in the south of France, went on ahead taking myself, hard man of the north & Chris Parkes with him. But before we departed instructions were issued to 'he who shall remain nameless' to take the group down the 'gated road'.
So the four of us sped on, missing the usual right hand turn & instead opting for the much harder 'gated road' route. Gloom spread across Swiss Tony's face as he realised that hard man of the north might take us up the even harder hillier route. Fortunately we opted for the 2 mile into the headwind assault on the manor (much easier).
As we had not been passed by the bunch, we figured we were making good time, but were most put out to find the group had taken the 'ladies route' & had arrived before us. Settling down for tea, Gordon relayed tales of a mad dash to the tea stop, with 28mph+ speeds being recorded, it was then we realised that Louis was missing. A quick phone call later revealed that he was standing by the side of the road, with his spare inner tube having let him down. (Come on guys lets not leave a man alone at the side of the road). We told him that we would pick him up on route back, but after tea & macaroons of course.
Louis was dully picked up on the way back, with Gary lending him a spare tube. Swiss, Chris (Parkes) Gordon & myself saw this as an opportunity to re-enact stage 2 of the TDF & staged a break away.
Passing through the villages, we anticipated being picked up at the foot of Winslow hill, but were most surprised to still be on our own at Stewkley, where Gordon bid us farewell. We were even more surprised when Swiss turned off at the cross roads at the bottom of the hill to still be by ourselves. Now to give the lads a chance of catching up, Chris & myself thought it only fair, to gently meander along at 5mph, stopping frequently to admire the view. Sure enough as we reached the top of Stoke Hammond bypass, whilst flicking through a current edition of 'The Chap', Gareth, Simon & Richard finally caught up.
We were soon back at Ridgmont, where Gareth not wanting to clear up after his party stopped for a 3 hour cup of tea. 56 miles on the speedo & a thoroughly good day out.
Until next week