A lifetime of cycling – part 3

Posted: March 4, 2011 in 2011, General

Training for London to Brighton, ah yes I remember getting a few miles in, nothing much, but enough to convince me I was fit. Then I went out for a ride with Julian. Reality check…I was ok, going slowish for up to 10 miles. We went out two or three times a week for what I now realise, were short bimbles around the lanes. Twenty miles or more (up to 25 when he was being cruel) with me tucked in on his wheel wondering when all the agony was going to end (and that was after 5 miles!). My legs hurt, my lungs hurt, my bum hurt! Despite having padded shorts, my backside needed a long running in period to become acclimatised to time in the saddle. Talk about sore… I was walking like John Wayne for a couple of hours after each ride.

I then learned one of the rules of cycling. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, cycling always hurts; the only difference is that you go faster for longer…. that’s it! I was convinced I was going backwards until I realised that as time passed, we were indeed riding further in our allotted time. I was making progress. I ignored the recommendation of clipless pedals and soldiered on in running shoes with clips and straps – not a good move really but I didn’t know better and refused to listen to those who did!.

Anyway, time passed and L2B hove to (sorry about the pun). I  set off with another mate, at about 5.30am in some park, somewhere in London, after a heavy night the night before. We joined in a group and sat there until London proper was left behind and doing a sort of bit and bit routine, we started to leave our group behind. We continuously passed streams of riders and then we spotted the hill. Ditchling Beacon was presaged by hordes of riders riding at walking pace, deferring the agony as long as possible. Let’s just say I got up, only walking about 25 yards (remember the gears I had on this bike) and before I knew it the ride was over. We jumped in the train, picked up our car and headed home for Suffolk. My big ride was over… what next?

What next was a bit of a shock. Julian picked me up one Thursday evening and we rode slowly out to North Stow, an area just north of Bury. Rounding a corner I spotted cyclists, swarms of them and that was where we headed. Before I knew it, I was signed on for my first race, an ‘evening 10’. The general idea was sketched out for me ‘go as fast as you can down to the roundabout and come back; concentrate on what you are doing and you’ll be fine’. Such confidence! I don’t think I was taking it seriously enough, I nodded at other riders coming the other way, waved to one or two faces I knew and shouted cheery hellos to anyone who passed me (all of them….i.e. the rest of the field!). I had a blast and was reasonably happy that I had secured a winning, or at least top 5, place with my 36.10. Hmm, another reality check, the winners were in the long 23 range (it was a ‘sporting course’). I needed to do some work here. And so it was, that 1986 saw me compete in my first time trial and it was all downhill from there.

I stuck with the Rondinella but I was already dreaming of bigger and better things. I had caught the bug and I haven’t shaken it off even now. I finished the rest of the season, improving gradually, clawing my way up from the bottom of the pack out of the ‘relegation zone’ until I was firmly ensconced in the top of the 4th quartile. The season ended and I settled down to a winter of gym, squash, running, windsurfing and swimming. Somewhere among this plethora of exercise I caught another bug… triathlon. I had already been competing (badly) for a few years with the St Edmunds Pacers and I used to swim at lunchtimes for pleasure; now I was riding a bike the trinity was complete. My sister, heavily into triathlon at the time, persuaded me to have a go at a triathlon in the summer of 1987. She explained that I could already do all the distances for each discipline, so it was just a case of stringing them together. At the time, triathlon was a dirty word in cycling circles as triathletes were seen as ‘strange’ so I kept quiet and upped my training. By the time the triathlon came around (it was in Stowmarket – Olympic distance if I remember correctly) I was as fit as I had ever been. My head was ‘sorted’ and I was ready to take on the challenge.

In the event, I was chuffed to bits; I placed about half way and had an absolute blast. I was off on another craze; by the next year I had a whole programme of events laid on, duathlons, triathlons, road races (running) you name it but at the base was my bike. We became attached as if by an umbilical cord. The trouble is, the bike really was too small for me and I needed something else. That’s right, you guessed it… I needed a new bike.

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