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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?
- RT @IonaNiDhalaigh: Yahhh mountain jersey in the bag!!! Nice one @mike_cuming!!! @raphacondor http://t.co/GrGqSL0Kgl
- RT @CondorWarehouse: Nice to see the @raphacondor JLT team bike on display @campagnolosrl HQ with so many top pro teams http://t.co/5CgE0tY…
- RT @anpostras: GC after Stage 4: Bialoblocki,, McConvey, Guldhammer, Handley, Pelletier-Roy, Hunal, Simon Yates, Fodor, Roger Aiken, Archbo…
- Spare a thought for @Porterelliott who punctured out of the yellow jersey group, when will he get some luck!
- Took the @anpostras on today. Didn't quite pull it off. @RichHandley90 4th on GC and @mike_cuming in the KoM jersey.
- Tour series update from Stoke up on the site http://t.co/aVdcnGnkOX
- RT @elstopbanana: Here's Kristian House @raphacondor at last night's @TourSeries picture by Sue Howlett Great racing! @SoTCityCouncil http:…
- RT @sticky_bottle: Meant to say, to be eligible for the @raphacondor team car compeition you have to be a stickybottle twitter follower!
- RT @sticky_bottle: OK folks; nice morning for it. To win a day in the Rapha Condor JLT team car on the Rás last stage, Sunday, just retweet…
- Third team overall for the Men in Black at Stoke last night in the @TourSeries