This is a true story.
Jeff turned left and soon the road started rising. It had been warm, almost hot in the valley with the strong sun and little cloud but as he climbed higher the sun slipped behind the trees and the temperature fell. Jeff didn't mind; he wore a base layer beneath his top and the exertion of climbing kept him warm. He settled into a steady cadence and kept his head down, watching his Garmin and occasionally glancing at his feet. His right leg was stronger and he noticed that his left knee jutted outwards on the upward pedal stroke but he felt comfortable and believed he could hold this pace to the top of the pass.
The trees were thicker now; tall pines close together and he could see little as he glanced to right and left. A few other cyclists had passed him, some heading down, some up but he had seen no-one for the last 10 minutes and there were no cars. The road was smooth and clean and his carbon rims sliced through the air. Beneath his helmet he wore a cap facing backwards to protect his neck; the close fit also stopped the sweat from sliding into his eyes. The occasional chain rub and the squeak of tyre on tarmac was the only sound to be heard.
Jeff's mind wandered; he loved this time - while cycling his mind could focus on a particular topic, turning it over and over or else it remained blank, all energy and brain power directed to his legs, heart and lungs. He reached down and took a sip from his bottle and fumbled in his pocket for a fig roll. The crumbly sweetness and sticky fig seeped into his blood stream and gave a spark of extra energy. He watched his cadence and heart rate on the Garmin and scrolled through the screens - time, distance, speed, average heart rate, metres climbed, calories burned, so much data.
He felt a sharp bump beneath his front tyre and the bike started to wobble. As he always did when he got a puncture he refused to believe it was really happening - as if the tyre would plug the hole itself or he would ride on and it would miraculously re-inflate. But it never did and it didn't this time. He stopped the bike and dismounted; his cleats clattering on the dark road. He looked around; the forest was dense and impenetrable, a carpet of leaves covered the ground. The sun was hidden and it was cold and gloomy.
He pushed the button on the Campagnolo brake lever to relax the brake blocks and undid the quick release lever; the wheel slipped out and he fell into his practiced routine. He found his tyre levers and levered the bead from the rim. He ran the tyre through his fingers, looking and feeling for whatever had caused the damage. He found nothing. He rotated it again, more slowly this time, the tips of his fingers gliding over the rubber, searching for a tell-tale flint or thorn. Still nothing. A voice came from behind him.
'Y'all right mate?'
To be continued...