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Photos & Words by Phil Gale
One step up from a dirt track, the country lane is the proving ground for many British cyclists. They are narrow, winding and often barely big enough for a car. As you pedal away from the grey of urban concrete, green fields and hills open around you. Looking over the countryside's patchwork quilt of rolling hills and shifting hues, textures undulate from field to field. And as you become more and more acquainted with the contours of the lanes, the drag of everyday life leaves you and the energy of the countryside invigorates both body and mind.
The small lines of these sacred lanes show up only on large-scale maps. Like capillaries, they deliver a rich lifeblood to the road cyclist, freeing them from the restriction of major roads, immersing them in nature. As singletrack is to the fat-tyre rider, so the lanes, with their meandering routes, feel like following the path of an ancient, drunken rambler. Twist after turn, they slowly reveal their intended direction. Riding them, you are focused, consumed in the moment, just you and your bike. The simplest pleasure.
Eyes focused, breathing rhythmic, at speed the lanes fly by: close hedges; the skeletons of trees; and the muddy banks which flank the road. The occasional low branch or startled animal are warnings that the lanes are the frontier between the civilised world and the wild.
The low sunlight flashes through the hedges as you ride. In a moment, the thick undergrowth gives way to panoramas of the surrounding countryside, then just as quickly closes back, small windows opening briefly on to the wider beauty of nature.
And, at the crossroads, the eternal question. The narrow unmarked lanes spread out, virgin roads with serpentine curves, full of energy on this frontier between humanity and the elements. But which way?
- How good is this shot ! “@TourdeKorea2013: @mike_cuming looking good in yellow! #TdK2013 @johnherety @raphacondor http://t.co/CrCV1zkCUB”
- RT @TourdeKorea2013: @mike_cuming looking good in yellow! #TdK2013 @johnherety @raphacondor http://t.co/oCjdyhvSue
- Reality check we also lost teammates @AaronBuggle and @carthy94 today. Going to be tough to defend.
- @mike_cuming in yellow with just over a minutes lead going into the final 2 stages of @TourdeKorea2013 couldn't of happened to a nicer guy
- RT @TourdeKorea2013: 25km to go in Stage 6. @mike_cuming is the virtual leader for @raphacondor. #TdK2013
- RT @TourdeKorea2013: 102 riders will sign on today after eight were dropped by their teams in the TTT and failed to make the time cut. #TdK…
- RT @London_phill: @raphacondor @MiBsponsor @james_fairbank_ Rapha team in Tour De Korea 2013 TTT http://t.co/SW09x70Zs0
- RT @182Jay: @raphacondor please share my @JustGiving page @thomwilson88, @DavidMetherell1 and I are fundraising for @MyelomaUK http://t.co…
- Great ride by the boys in Korea. 3rd by only 3 seconds in the 25km TTT today. Mike Cuming now up to 5th overall.
- Some nice pics of the boys and report on the great Mr Cancy's ride last night: http://t.co/ctoHu37ixb