Monday, June 13, 2005

Tour de Hampshire

So yesterday was the 66-mile charity bike ride. Well, 70 miles in fact, because they couldn’t find an exact 66-mile route. I cursed those extra 4 miles, I tell ya. So how did it go?

Well, as I had an early start ahead, I’d planned an early night for myself and knew I’d be able to get to sleep early as I was dog tired. But the England ladies football team scuppered my plan by playing such a dire game of football on Saturday night that I drifted off to sleep during the match, meaning that when bedtime came around I was feeling wide awake. Thanks a bunch, girls.

So I arose early yesterday morning, groggy as you like after about 4 hours of sleep having been unable to get my head down. After a breakfast of pasta and 3 cups of tea, I went to the garage to fetch my bike only to find my Dad, who looked more nervous than me, frantically pumping up my tyres.

“Dad, they’re ok,” I said.
“Yes, but I want to be sure,” he said as he needlessly fiddled. Sweet of him, I suppose.

I started the course at about 8.30, where they were sending us out in ones and twos every 10 minutes to ease congestion. After 6 miles, I was passed by the guy who started behind me. Not to worry though, he had 3-spoke wheels and the whole shebang.
“Plenty more miles to go yet,” I told myself.
“And it’s not a race,” I reminded myself a short time later as my attempts to keep pace with him failed. Ahem.
The conditions were pretty much ideal - 23 degrees (75 F) and partial cloud cover – and after the initial few miles it took to find my rhythm I’d started to make good progress. So far so good

During what I’d estimate to be the 8th mile, I was climbing a hill when I heard an almighty crack come from the bike. I looked down fearing the worst – something had definitely violently gone SNAP- to see that my pump had fallen off my bike and I’d promptly run it over cracking it in two somehow. I stopped to retrieve it and could see its pumping days were most definitely behind it.
“Good one Dad….” I muttered to myself “You didn’t reattach the fucking pump properly….”.
I hoped for the best, and continued on my way.

After about 20 miles I’d reeled in the husband and wife team in their early thirties who’d started half an hour ahead of me: I latched onto their rear wheels and zipped past them at the crest of a hill.
“It is a race!” I crowed to myself triumphantly.

On the next hill I was lost in thought and exertion when, just before the peak, the wife passed me. She must have got on my wheel as I passed without me noticing. As she went by she said something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. It was either “Drink when you’re at the top” or “I really like your top”. Either were feasible: I’d slowed for a drink on the go whilst still climbing - hence making it easy for her to breeze past me - and was also wearing what is, if I do say so myself, quite a snazzy top. I politely smiled, and then got back to the business of passing her again. “It is so a race now!”

Around the 55th mile, the burning sensation in my thighs was really starting to kick in; this was the furthest I’d ever ridden in one go and I was freewheeling whenever possible, any zip I previously had had was long since gone. I should really thank my friend Sam though, who's texts ("Pedal like a bastard!" & "Ride as though Satan himself, habouring violent bum love fantasies with you, is on your tail!") gave me a vital spur at this difficult stage. As I dawdled through a hamlet with about 10 miles to go, I noticed my handling seemed to be going and stopped. The valve on my rear inner tube had become faulty, leaking out all the air. I had a spare, but no fucking pump. Well, if pumps were worms, I had two. But they’re not.

Fishing out my mobile, I got on the blower to Dad and summoned him out with a spare pump. It took about 25 minutes from stopping until he arrived and the new inner tube had been pumped up. As I was wheeling off I thanked my Dad and said I’d see him at the finish in a bit.
“Don’t look now” he said though, “but there’s two riders about 80 metres behind closing in on you.”

Damn! The woman who had complimented my top/critiqued my rehydrating method and her husband, who I’d hauled in from a half hours start and subsequently managed to get a further half hour on, had caught me!

Now, don’t be fooled into letting anyone tell you that charity rides are without a fair dose of competitiveness: they ain’t. I knew they’d desperately want to pass me so they could have started and finished ahead of me, and I was well aware of this and desperately didn’t want to be passed, and they knew that, and I knew they knew, and so on. My dad appreciates a bit of competition so seemed fairly excited by this development, but he is also a true sportsman so there was no hope of him giving me a helping push-off. It was a case of my now stiff and cold muscles verses their warm but exhausted muscles and it made for an intense final 10 miles. It may have been physical exhaustion causing auditory hallucinations, but for the final leg my mind was blaring out a lusty rendition of Glenn Frey’s The Heat Is On

Behind those doors, it's a wilder ride
You can make a break, you can win or lose
That's a chance you take, when the heat's on you…
When the heat is on!

Cue sax

Oh-wo-ho-oh, oh-wo-ho-oh!!!
Caught up in the action I've been looking out for you
Oh-wo-ho-oh, oh-wo-ho-oh!!!
Tell me can you feel it
Tell me can you feel it
Tell me can you feel it
The heat is... (dum dum dum) on!

At the finish line I’d managed to restore a 5 minute lead. Ooooh Yes! It made up for my legs buckling beneath me at least.

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