Wednesday 17 January 2018

The Fielder: Overweight Lance Armstrong wannabes on a slippery slope

The Fielder - The real adventures of an inter-county footballer

They often cycle in groups and for some reason see fit to occupy half of the road
They often cycle in groups and for some reason see fit to occupy half of the road

Pet hates, we all have them. Each and every person, whether they choose to admit it or not, finds something in their day-to-day lives so aggravating that it makes them want to shout dark profanities at the top of their voice in public places.

You'll have the common ones like open-mouthed chewing, overly friendly dogs or slow drivers (bastards), but there's also the lesser-spotted annoyances like GAA players who wear white socks over their football socks, children in general or Kimberley biscuits.

We have evolved into a species that excels at annoying the shit out of each other. Some of us are just better at hiding our displeasure than others. I, on the other hand, choose to wear th'oul heart on the sleeve and have absolutely no problem broadcasting my grievances to those who'll listen.

Like lots of people, I've a few. I can't stand mushrooms, or the ad for McDonald's that shows the supposed facial expressions caused by various foods, and as far as I'm concerned, gossons who button their shirts up the whole way can go and have a shite for themselves.

I'm sure I have these particular persecutions in common with many of you. But my principle peeve is not your run-of-the-mill vexation. Cyclists grind my gears in a big way. So much so that I'm at the stage now where, if I come around a corner and see a cyclist up ahead, I roll my eyes to heaven and utter the word "prick" under my breath almost sub-consciously. It doesn't matter who it happens to be riding their steel steed up ahead and I've even got family members who enjoy a bike ride.

It's strange because in Dublin during my years of intellectual enhancement, I quickly discovered that the only way to get about was on two wheels. Not being one to half-do things, I went to a local bike shop and told him to show me the best bike he had. After getting over the shock of being shown a €15,000 price tag for some carbon-fibre, bat-mobile yoke, I re-evaluated my approach and asked what he could do for €500. Twenty minutes later I rolled out of the shop on a second hand Trek racing bike that I'd been assured was the two-wheeled BMW.

I was told it was Lance Armstrong's brand of choice. The salesman didn't appreciate when I pointed out that Lancey was so juiced up the whole time that he would've won the Tour de France on a unicycle. He sensed that I was only pulling his leg though when I enquired about the mileage and scrappage.

From then on I spent my mornings and evenings hurtling across south Dublin at eye-watering speeds heading to and from UCD. I didn't need any fancy gear like clip-in shoes, lycra suits or even a reflector jacket or helmet for that matter. I'd simply tuck my trousers into the socks and away with me.

Red lights? Me bollox.

No right turn? Be grand.

Footpath? Couldn't give a Jimmy White.

I was a bike-bound brigand, a nuisance to society. I can't remember how many unsuspecting civilians I've clipped accidentally over the years whilst negotiating the sidewalks. Likewise, the number of offensive hand-gestures I've delivered to irate motorists or bitter bus drivers who've sat on their horns as I cut them off must be in the hundreds.

I'd like to think I became known as the peddling pest on the streets of Ranelagh. Blink and you'll miss him. A flash of white from his county knicks (they replaced trousers on a hot day) was all you'd glimpse as he whizzed by; late for his 9.0am in Sheep Reproduction after a FIFA session that ran into the wee small hours. I had my own theme tune and all - Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees, in reference to my marauding style.

That was as far as my cycling career went. The Trek now sits in the shed, acting as a €500 coat hanger. I used to take it out to cycle down the road when I needed to send a funny tweet. We didn't have WiFi in the house back then and there was a bit of signal down at Brogan's Cross. I've been told it'd fetch a tidy sum on, but, alas, a few too many fake adverts over the years has seen me banned from using the site. You'd never guess that cheap One Direction tickets or trailer-loads of hay in a fodder crisis could attract so much interest.

On a summer's eve, our locality is littered with pudgy Lance Armstrong wannabes. This forms the roots of my rage. They often cycle in groups and for some reason see fit to occupy half of the road; as if the bike bye-laws forbid single-file formations.

Trying to pass them can prove impossible. I've given up caring and nowadays simply pop her out, shoot up the outside and sit on the horn. You'd be amazed how quickly they condense themselves with a bit of encouragement.

I always smirk when I come across a 50-something woman toddling languidly along on a bike worth thousands, decked out from head to toe in fancy lycra with the saddle nowhere to be seen. Designed to prevent drag (no, you're thinking of the Catholic Church); the reality is that even with the gear, she's about as streamlined as the back end of a bullock.

I'm probably offending a lot of people here, but I can't be the only one who finds this amusing. She's kitted out like Stephen Roche on Christmas morning, yet grass would grow faster than she's cycling. I know across all sports, regardless of ability, everyone wants the best of equipment at their disposal, but at least if you're wearing boots worth €200 and you stick a 14-yard free wide, you only look like half a numpty.

In true Fielder style, a recent revenge mission was hatched. We'd had enough of being held up by these dawdling pelotons. A pair of long-range walkie-talkies coupled with the local cycling club's weekly meet and some apt farm machinery shaped the prefect ruse.

"Breaker, breaker. Come in Belgian Blue. This is Bob the Builder. Do you read? Over."

"Loud and clear, Bob. What is the payload's current position? Over."

"Payload has turned left and will be with you in two minutes, initiate Operation Splatter."

"Copy Bob."

As a dozen helmets appeared at the brow of the hill, I blessed myself, pocketed the walkie-talkie and climbed into the cab of my tractor. She was attached to a slurry tanker full of parlour washings and backed up tight to the road, in behind a wall. The spout would be the last thing they'd see.

As the saddle chatter became increasingly audible, I cranked up the revs and took a breath.

"If only you'd just gone single file."

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