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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?
- Last week was a great one for Rapha Condor JLT, all the action and images now up on the team site: http://t.co/ftBejPnnCJ
- RT @alainrumpf: Well done @mike_cuming and @raphacondorjlt winner of #TdK2013 under the scrutiny of latest drone… http://t.co/gv81uP9mHP
- In their attempt to cross the US in 24 days, @michaeltabtabai & Andrew Hudon will ‘Leave It On The Road’. → http://t.co/Per6QsCAtt
- We are delighted to announce the opening of a one-month, pop-up @RaphaCycleClub in Tokyo this summer from 22/6–21/7 → http://t.co/Jrc0EKZ9ky
- Huge congratulations to @raphacondorjlt’s @mike_cuming for winning the @TourdeKorea2013 and to @tomsoutham for best DS. #TdK2013
- @danfromnam in Corsica — outtake from our 2013 Spring/Summer shoot #corsica #beningstagram http://t.co/03A7pT9mtj
- Winner Winner Chicken Dinner ! The most important jersey of #TdK2013 hot off the press. http://t.co/Pflx0eUfdv”
- What a day... The boys keep Mike Cuming in yellow, after having to chase all day. Great performance by all.
- Just rehearsing the whole of Pacino's speech from Any Given Sunday to recite to the boys...
- UK: Thanks to all who came to to tonight’s Rapha Étape Evening in London with @CyclefitUK — one of our biggest turnouts yet.