Friday, 3 September 2010

On the back seat of my convertible

Few people who do not own them know how practical a car a convertible is. The phrase "a practical, sensible car" probably evokes an image of an estate or a 7-seater family car. Not so. In the past I have placed six trees on the back seat of my Saab 9-3 convertible (with the roof down). And today my bianchi is sitting on the back seat. Though I did have to take the wheels off.

This is because I'm taking part in the Tour Ride this Sunday, 175k and 10,000 feet of climbing across Somerset and Devon. Having survived the London to Cambridge ride --

ok, a little more on that. It was pleasant. At least once my lost bike had been relocated at the start it was pleasant. I started off gently and admired the London morning. Then a group of racers flew past me. I couldn't bear it, so I hung onto the back. We churned through London and the southern parts of Essex at some pace. For a moment i thought: this is going to be fast. Then they pulled over for lunch. I kid you not. Half way through, they just pulled over to a pub. So I kept on going. And then I began to worry that they'd catch me up, so I pushed it all the way, over the hills of Essex.

I made it to the finish. The banner was so high that I failed to notice it, and I shot right past it into the drinks tent on Midsummer Common and almost crashed into a marshall. The whole experience took three hours, which is perfectly respectable for 59 miles. Then I went for a beer (belgian) at the Fort St George.

So, back to the present. I signed up to ride with the Real Peloton team in the Tour Ride, 175k and 10,000 feet of climbing, with my friends Ned Boulting and John Beech, with whom I've run marathons. In fact John was there in New York in November 2006, meaning that he's the other man who beat Lance Armstrong. Also Matt Rendell, who's written some interesting books on cycling. These are people who talk about cycling, and are sometimes paid for it. And then there are some other people signed up for the team who actually train and so on. We will be wearing matching shirts, but the bodies underneath will be very various.

Let's be clear: having learned to cycle I love it. It's less hard on the body, you go faster, get to see more, and can drink more the night before. But 10,000 feet is like going up Mont Ventoux one and a half times, and then cycling another seventy or so miles. And I'm not allowed to do it with my bike in the back of the car -- I have to take it out and ride it. Together with the new gears that I personally fixed on when I heard about the 20% gradient (thanks to Howard Zinn [Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance -- great book] I managed to do this with zero knowledge). The petty hills around Cambs and Suffolk are no preparation for the ravenous pit of suffering that awaits us.

And what's worse, I hear from Ned that the whole thing is going to be filmed for the Tour of Britain TV coverage, and that there'll be a motocam on him the entire way. You may be able to watch eight hours (?) of self-inflicted pain on TV when the proper Tour of Britain rides through a few days later. Perhaps if I get in front of him I can ride in the slipstream of the motorbike.


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