Forgive me. I don’t often quote Nietzsche. Mainly because I don’t understand a lot of it. But I like that one, and it seems to make sense right now, as I’ve spent a lot of time searching within myself for the strength I’m going to need next weekend on for the Fred Whitton ride. And the longer I gaze into this particular personal abyss, the more I realise that I’m searching for something more fundamental than whether I have the strength to complete a bicycle ride. But that’s enough of the philosophy for now.
In purely practical terms, things are actually looking pretty good. We’ve got accommodation sorted out (cheers Simon), I’ve got the Monday booked off work for the journey home, and the bike is all set up and ready to go. My personal training is pretty much done now, I’ll probably just pop out for one more longish ride this weekend in order to just keep my legs turning over. I guess that now would be as good a time as any to mention the last training ride too, as it had it’s ups and downs, but was a pretty good day out all in all.
Sol, Simon and I had agreed to use the annual Cambridge 100 as a good way to get a few extra miles in our legs in the lead up to the Fred. Sol and I did this ride last year, and kind of misjudged our pace a little… We got a really good tow around the first half of the course courtesy of some chaps time-trialling their way around in preparation for an iron-man competition they were doing. These guys didn’t want us to do any work at the front, as they’re not allowed to do this in the ride they were training for, but they were cool with us riding in their group. However, keeping that pace killed us for the second half of the ride, and we both suffered rather. This year, we were determined not to do the same thing. Besides, I was struggling with a recently broken rib, which didn’t bother me most of the time. Only when bent over, or breathing deeply. Dammit.
So, we got away smartly at 7am, and immediately settled into a nice routine, swapping the lead, enjoying the beautiful scenery and morning stillness as we rode out from Cambridge towards Fordham. I guess that we were doing a pretty good job, as when I looked over my shoulder I also noticed the other 18 riders lined up behind us, steadfastly refusing to take a pull at the front. This went on for quite a few miles, and eventually I rolled off the front, and went right to the back of the group, just to see if anyone else fancied doing some of the work. Nope. Sol and Simon kept swapping the lead, and not one other bugger would do anything to help out. I mean, it’s only a bike ride, and not a race at all, but still, it’s pretty bad form to just sit there, and not even offer a couple of hundred metres with your nose into the wind. I rode back past the line up to the front, and could sense that Sol was also getting a bit fed up with this, so we had a quiet word with Simon, pulled out of Isleham onto the Prickwillow road, and went for it. 10kms later, we’d dropped our chasing pack. Sadly we’d also comprehensively knackered each other in the chase, but it was good fun while it lasted. The rest of the first half of the ride was pretty uneventful, other than the stark beauty of the scenery. I know I’m in a minority of about three people, but I really do like the bleakness of the Fens.
Just before the halfway point I had a bit of a wobbly leg moment, probably due to trying to keep up with Sol, but also, I like to think, because my ribcage was properly bloody sore now, and I was struggling to maintain a constant breathing rate. This, happily, coincided with the first rest stop, so we took the opportunity to sit down, have a cuppa, and I wanged down some Nurofen to try and take the edge off the pain. Once we’d finished the tea, we set off again, and had a lovely few kms with the wind right behind us, and sun was now getting up, and the road surface was good. We span along lazily, holding about 40km/h with ease. Until Simon’s saddlebag exploded, which gave us another short break while we recovered bits from the road and bodged it all back together again. A few miles further on, into Outwell, and we caught a group of four chaps from a local cycling club. Being the polite chap I am, as asked if we could sit with them for a few miles.”No problem!” came the cheerful answer.
74.2 metres up the road, and the miserable git turned around, and spat “are any of you going to come to the front then?” at us. My normally placid attitude kind of snapped a bit at this point, and I just rode to the front without saying a word. Sol, considerably less placidly than me, decided that the best thing to do was just to drop them, and get on with our own ride. (I later noticed at the end of the ride when we were sitting down with a cuppa and some food that the same group were pointing at us, and talking to their clubmates. Hopefully we had transgressed some unwritten rule of the cycling club. If there’s one thing that bugs me about cycling it’s the stupidity of the unwritten and unspoken rules on the club run. Have a read of Richard Smith’s excellent book ‘recycled’ for a withering appraisal of why an awful lot of road cyclists are complete knobs).
Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes, Just coming into Ely. I like this bit of the ride, as there’s a really good atmosphere in the city as it’s one of the major foodstops on the green in front of the cathedral. And also, just because it’s an absolute pleasure to ride through such a beautiful city. The ride out the other side is also a real laugh, as the ‘serious’ 100 mile ride meets up with the route of the shorter fun ride, and suddenly, it’s just like being a kid again, riding out with a bunch of mates on a Sunday afternoon just for the fun of it. That said, there’s still a good 10 miles to go. Most of it into the wind. Some of it uphill. And on one memorable occasion, accompanied by a massive crash that sent one hapless rider headfirst into a drainage ditch, and had Sol and I skidding sideways up the road trying to avoid the wreckage.
5’57 mins after we started, we crossed the finish line. Which wasn’t a bad time at all, give that we were stopped for 30 mins in total, drinking tea and rebuilding Simon’s luggage. In terms of preparation for The Fred, that’s pretty handy, as I reckon that I’ve finally got some strength in my legs. My rib is a bit of a worry, but I’ve still got a few days, and it’s getting less painful every day. A few painkillers, and I’ll be just fine.
So when I see that abyss on the day, I’m going to give it a damned stern talking to, and ask it what it’s staring at.