Hitting the organic ejection seat at 05:40am on a sleepy Sunday is never go to put you in the best of moods. Especially if a good part of the rest of that day shall be spent riding past fantastic looking dirt trails – partially hidden by humourless men squeezed into inappropriate lycra.
Not all of them, of course. There were some women as well. Not many sadly with the stereotyped demographic of expensive bikes piloted by sort-of mobile sponsor billboards representing far too much of an otherwise rather fab event.
Ian and I were keen to seek out unlikely looking physical specimens scheduled to ride a 100 kilometres in the lumpy environs of the English/Welsh border. Mainly to make us feel a little better about ourselves and, specifically, our woeful lack of preparation. And team harmony was already being tested after the rushed admission that one member had indeed been secretly training. Sure it was one ride, and quite a short one at that but I still felt this wasn’t in the spirit of our cook-snookery worldview of riding around in circles.
Hot on his training admission, Ian also felt the urge to share his ratio faux-par of a triple front ring*, swiftly followed up by making a sexually ambivalent fashion statement though the medium of white shoes. Right then I’ll be spending the next four or five hours with a one man Liberace tribute act would I? Splendid.
After some customary faffing which somehow left us with multiple tubes but only a one-shot inflation solution, we gunshot-clipped into roadie-pedals and made rather rapid headway onto the course. Ian was looking a bit racey having arrived at this event without being clinically half-dead, although he was keen to point out that very small children gain-stayed any periods of useful sleep in the last few weeks. I rebuffed this with the fact he was still a young man full of vitality whereas I was an decrepit old fucker. In that happy vein, we made steady progress to the site of the first accident.
Not ours thankfully, but some poor sod had clearly been introduced to unseen traffic and was lying in a bloodied face-up position looking quite bashed around. Nothing we could do other than curse Sunday drivers and hope we weren’t next. Mass cycling events on public roads are going to create some kind of friction and conflict however well organised. And this one was extremely well organised, but there’s always some arsehole behaviour on the part of the motorist and/or cyclist ending in gunning engines, dangerous manoeuvres and the waving of a couple of fingers.
Generally tho, a lovely day out. Lots less banter than a mountain biking event but moving speeds and restrictive roads explain some of that away. Ian and I were having a good time especially at my expense once I’d proudly explained part of my ‘fuelling solution‘ were energy bars endorsed by no other than ‘Sir Bradley Wiggins‘ himself. Inevitably this led to much innocent questioning ‘what’s it like having Brad in your mouth?‘ and ‘Brad seems to have gone a bit soft and squishy since the last time’.
I responded by lampooning his choice of ridiculous gear ratios likening them to a BBC3 denier. Dirty secret that sometimes will be used but never, ever admitted to. We even had a go at some proper road riding, drafting a few riders who began to look a bit angry when their significant looks suggesting we should take the wind were met with a facial expression somehow suggesting that ‘we’re mountain bikers mate, absolutely no idea what you’re talking about’.
I don’t suppose it helped much when – at the foot of the first proper climb – Lance Beddis stomped on the pedals and attacked the group. I watched in middle aged detached amusement in my happy spinning place catching Ian sometime later, where he admitted to a possible tactical mistake. We traded strategies where my plan to ‘unleash the power of my mighty thighs at 80k‘ was met by some bemusement and surreptitious pointing at the tiny ring on his chainset. “You’re not thinking of using that are you? You’re dead to me now‘
Warming temperatures, blue skies, light winds and a few more hills landed us in the first feed stop at 45k. Both felt in decent shape although the extra 10 minutes rest on deploying our one and only puncture solution might have helped. Me jumping off curbs a few minutes before probably didn’t. You can take the boy out of baggies and all that…
Refuelled and relieving ourselves of expensive energy drinks, we crossed the border with half the distance gone but still with a couple of monster climbs to come. Which I was a little quicker up, but Ian caught me easily on the descents. Every time I tip the road bike into a corner, the almost imperceptible tyre width gives me the bloody jitters. With some strong MTFU mental flogging, I improved immeasurably from crap to ‘quite crap‘ while Ian cheerfully railed corners and cut through slower rides.
One more big climb at 75k was met with an impromptu halt while I sorted a bit of cramp amusingly brought on by reaching for the hard to grab water bottle. The one being drunk to ward off any signs of cramp. Popping ‘my last Brad‘, legs and lungs felt good enough for a bit of an attack on the strung out pelaton ahead. Although it wasn’t an attack rampant in savagery or shown by awesome speed. No it was more passing tired riders – with that head down/raspy breathing of the properly knackered – with a cheery ‘hello‘ and polite enquiry if all was well. A patronis-attack if you will.
We even saw a few walking which was sad and painful for those clearly who didn’t ride that much but were giving it a great shot, and shallowly amusing when it was the fat blokes tramping leaden footed with a carbon trinket for company. I know this is a crap attitude, and I know that more people cycling is all good and – yes – I also know that it’s lazy analysis at best. But I can’t help myself. I guess if a decent MTB’er sees me having a mince somewhere on my over-biked much upgraded steed, he or she is welcome to feel the same way.
Last 10k was a fun tussle with a couple of young fellas who had all of the fitness, but lacked my guile and engorged competitive gland. With the GPS running out of pointy bits, the hammer went down until my arrival back at the start stopped the clock in just over 4 hours. Ian was a couple of minutes behind having rightly refused to get involved with such silliness.
We toasted ourselves with yet more energy drink and concluded these road bikes are actually quite good fun. What we needed was another challenge. Something ambitious we could be rubbish at. Both of us arrived at the same idea – a proper imperial century. We even talked about doing it this year. I wonder if I can move to somewhere flat first.
Whatever, it won’t be 18 months before the road bike and me go tarmc’ing again. It won’t be next week though because that’s mountain bike time. Today was a lovely day to ride my road bike with my good mate Ian. Still not a patch on hitting the dirt tho.
* 3 rings? THREE. Honestly just post a video of you and a goat deeply in love on YouTube. It’d be far less humiliating.