Playing catch up 3

Tim can’t get the day off, but is likely to let the team up by being the only fit member, so this is not really an issue. Henry is also busy, so I set off on the Brompton from Sailing Barge Cabby almost on time having cleared the decks (no pun intended) of the work I needed to do.

Grey weather, threatening rain, and a headwind making the most of the non-aero-dynamic front bag that Brompton’s sport. I am knackered by the time I get to Streatham with Brixton Hill sapping any strength I may have had. Chris arrives and he too is without a map. 66 miles to Brighton and the two people with the worst sense of direction I know are having to work from memory – I mean, the Marrakech Atlas Etape is a single road up and down and we struggle not to get lost on that – what could go wrong.

I struggled. Rose Hill, that dreadful slog past Sutton, Mitcham or somewhere. Main roads eventually stop as we turn onto the Dorking road, cross the M25 and pass the Pfeiffer factory. Christ this is hard (pun intended). Chris feeds me a bar of some sticky muck and the liquid foulness of a gell – as he describes below, I am in dire need of food.

Beyond Box Hill, the staff at the small post office, general store combo we stopped at looked shocked as I purchase Lucazades, greasy bacon and cheese number, 4 snickers and a couple of packets of jelly babies, however, it hit the spot and around 30 miles in I had warmed up.

The Brompton, while making me look like a bear on  clown bike, felt twitchily responsive. The handlebars of the P-type, while looking like an exercise bike, providing the variety of positions required for distance, climbs and the like. This is the bike I want to ride this year. I want to get a Brompton up the Ouka Monster for the third time – how to break it to Henry that I do not want to ride the tandem again?

Devils Dyke, Beach, beer, burgers and home in time to collect the children – that alone is a record!

 

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Playing catch up 2 – featuring Kate Moss

And so, after many false starts – briefly riding with Mike in the Cévennes before returning to London and getting swallowed by the day job, trying again in November and surviving the embarrassment of crashing and being picked up off the roundabout by the Brunswick Centre by a French tourist only to then fracture something unpronounceable in my foot while walking around Kew Gardens to name but two (with complete disregard to punctuation) – training eventually started.

‘Started’ may be a bit of an overstatement. Henry and I, the tandem-tastic team from 2016

(Yes, that’s us), had a bit of a night of it. Despite this, we were up early – not sleeping helps to facilitate this – and fixing up the tandem which had been sitting untouched, below decks in Cabby’s workshop since last year’s Marrakech Atlas Etape. Things were oiled – hands, clothing and the like, pedals added and tyres pumped. Water bottles were filled and made pretty with the addition of purple isotonic things – whatever they do – and Box Hill beckoned.

The tandem was lifted onto the pontoon and the tyre was flat. In fact the tube was broken at the valve. This was a problem as the old Helios Circe Duo has odd sized wheels and, while I could find tubes for the fat tyres, there were none to hand for the Marathon’s.

Change of plan and Chris cycles north via a cycle shop who had the requisite tubes in a dusty cupboard of collectors items. Broken tyre levers and some time later we set off. Box Hill is out – being 26 miles away – so we target Hampstead and Highgate. The tandem is a beast – says the unfit duo blaming their rather marvelous machine – and a mere 23 miles of hills later we stop for lunch at the Flask – training over.

While sitting there, I vaguely notice the arrival of a couple of women. The fair haired of which looks around in my direction – Henry and Chris have their backs to them. I am at the age where people do not give me a second glance anymore so thought nothing of it – and even if I did, I really need to visit an optician to focus across a beer garden (before the addition of beer). I was watched again on my way to and from the bar as well as being the subject of, from my pov, a blurred conversation and a couple of more ‘checking outs’.

As we were heading out Chris and Henry were very excited that Kate Moss was the blonde. How often do you get checked out by Kate Moss??!!??

I mean, it helps if you vaguely knew her through a friend when at school and that she then drank in your Camden pub – the Camden Brewing Company – obviously.

And, she was probably saying, ‘I am sure that guy used to run a very cool party pub and now look at him – fat, middle aged and wearing lycra’…

 

Water bottles

Grenoble airport has a certain provincial charm as one basks in the sun waiting for our (‘P2P’ Manchester) flight to be ready to go through security. This charm is offset by the loos which have graduated to porcelain but not toilet seats and have the obligatory yellow tabarded French women cleaning the urinal around you. Woman who, bar the cigarette (now part of inhaling, hunched, outdoor huddles where smokers, vampire-like, cling to gossip filled shadows) have not changed in the slightest from when the airport opened in the ‘30s.

A tented stand near the entrance contains a couple of high-end turbo trainers allowing one to try the local hills in their summer mode. Lyulf hopped on and started cruising a valley while I felt obliged to attempt a hill and, for the first time, use those gears that are built into the brake levers.

Immediately, muscles straining, my body temperature started to head towards that ‘turbo trainer’ hot. Wishing for a fan, I groaned and staggered off, the dismount ungainily highlighting that my jeans are rather restrictive at my current weight.

Regardless, this is my first hill training of the year and is celebrated by the gift of a souvenir ‘bidon’ (as cycling types refer to water bottles). The irony does not escape one as directly opposite is the entrance to security, my next destination, where, true to form when exiting countries, I am stopped and searched. My clothes nicely patted and stuck to the damp recently exercised body thereunder.

Despite it being slightly unpleasant for both parties, I will take it as a small victory and fly homewards with my Marrakech Atlas Etape training having, albeit briefly, graduated to a bike.

bidon.jpeg

Roll with it…

Oasis playing.

1995 seems like a long time ago.

Beautiful day – one of a series that have made up a glorious week in Tignes.

The children finish early to get their ski school medals, so I will see if I can get a late afternoon skate in instead – My Dad’s Bauer’s purchased from Skate Attack 29 years ago cutting a hockey-bladed dash on the frozen lake in glorious sunshine…

Memories of early Broadgate days with Henry, Joel and the Canadian gang, ice, rain, Turbos and Chargers.

Young, fearless and fit.

The subsequent body battering, the self-induced, the brakes, the wear and tear. The lack of core strength from prolapsed disk, fractured pelvis and recent fractured foot meant I was too fragile and, more to the point, too scared to ski.

Strangely removed from the community motivation, skating was the answer and the first proper move towards regaining enough fitness to ride the Marrakech Atlas Etape this year. The experience has left me feeling healthier and determined to build up the strength to both beat the Ouka Monster and come back here to ski.

‘Some might say, ‘we will find a brighter day”

IMG_7158.JPGBring it on.

Epic

Well, a week to go and between needing to update the ‘hall of fame’ and thank everyone for the support to date, from Linda to Imogen, Heather to Jai and all between, we have been making the effort all the more ‘epic’ by not training. Chris has been busy burying people while I have moved from pitch-frenzy to being ill and on antibiotics that keep making me throw up.

While this is far from ideal preparation, Henry and I have had our photo taken with the Circe Helios Duo from an ‘epic’ low angle.

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Quote of the day

Having punctured in the torrential rain that accompanied my attempt to ride home yesterday, I jumped in a cab. Sodden, late and 20 pounds lighter (if only I could loose pounds as fast as my wallet), I dump my folding bike on the deck and go below to present my partner with damp birthday presents from me and the children.

Not being inclined to change a tube on a beautifully clear morning of fresh Spring sunshine, I mounted the tandem and headed to work.

The small wheeled, two seated Helios Duo often draws comments from scaffold mounted builders to ‘Mamils’ at the lights – the former being louder, to the point and funnier as a rule.

You often hear exclamations of, ‘a tandem!’ (yes) and from the more observant, ‘A Brompton tandem!’ (no, but it does have small wheels and a Brompton bag mount, which puts the commenter in the unusual position of stating the obvious and being wrong).

Today, however, the early morning heckle to a man on a bicycle made for two was in a league of its own.

‘Oi, you’re pedalling your broken marriage through the streets of London…’

I cycled on, at a loss for a smart answer and wondering if I should contemplate marriage in order to facilitate a poetical moment further down the line?

An uphill battle

Going home sick on a Thursday and still ill on Monday was all part of Henry’s warm up to last Wednesday’s ride. Chris, meanwhile, being in Ireland as it is the school holidays.

Having spent the night on the boat and indulged in a far more gentle warm up than before the previous ride, Henry was still hawking like a Dickensian child of the Jago – not the poncey hipster shop on Great Eastern St, but the slum that was there before it and that you can still get the meanest whiff of in the ‘rag trade’ street market behind this, on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Shoreditch High Street.

Regardless of health, he was up for the ride and, leaving the East End behind we scaled Fitzroy Farm to the dizzy heights of Highgate.

Explosions of prolapsing lungs spat over my neck, but down we went and back up Swains. Feeling Henry spinning out, but just clinging on, we swung round the back of Kenwood and up to Whitestone’s Pond, London’s highest point.

Recovered somewhat and egged on by the prospect of lunch, every pedal punctuated by gut heaving coughs and showers of phlegm from the stoker, we dropped to Golders Green – and back up. Down to the Finchley Road – and back up. Up Mount Vernon. Down to Chalk Farm and up to Pond Street, down and up again to Whitestone’s – a killer. A sweep back around Kenwood and a climb to a welcome rest in the Flask.

24 miles of steep climbing while sick deserves being rewarded with one of London’s best kept pints of Pride. The second, equally acceptable.

The three course meal and two bottles of red to follow may have been a little excessive, but nicely set us up for the ride back to Limehouse and the boat!