There’s a nagging feeling when the full UK trio can’t make it on a training ride - that the missing one might be doing something fun - that there might be more to life than cycling.
Thankfully, as Chris was at the cricket, Jacko and I managed to shake that feeling relatively quickly.
The plan was Richmond Park, which is the plan equivalent of not having a plan: let’s just go round and round and round until we stop and then go home. Having prepared the day before by spending all day at a beer festival I was not in the greatest of shape. With an air of numbing inevitability, Jacko turned up outside my door and the cycling began to happen.
The ride out to Richmond Park is a simple affair and you soon cross the gates into some bizarre cycle-topia: lycra glinting in the early morning sun, lighter than air bikes whirring with engineered precision as they convey heavier than air blokes wheezing with athletic delusion. A confused mass of cyclists was gathered in a disordered clump and appeared to be milling around utterly aimlessly.
I wished I was doing that.
Jacko had other ideas. The first loop was upon me.
I’d never done this loop of Richmond Park before so it was a genuine and unpleasant surprise that there was a hill - edifyingly Jacko sprinted up the hill with consummate ease, my beers from the day before weighing upon me, willing me to get off and walk. Jacko waited at the top with the stoic patience of a mother duck looking back at the disorderly waddling of her chicks.
After the hill there was not-hill which I preferred.
We found a spritely chap in Italian racing gear and drafted him back to the start where the gaggle of cyclists remained, utterly directionless. I wished I was doing that.
At some point along the second loop my body relented, “Oh if this is going to happen anyway I’ll get on with it”, my legs started turning, the hill was conquerable and the downhill became a triumphant blur. I actually enjoyed it.
As we stopped for a bacon sandwich and some coffee I looked out at the hundreds of cyclists - I’d always felt there was something ridiculous about obsessing about lycra and carbon fibre and swapping stats about this bike or that. I realised - either as the words “that’s a nice bike” tumbled from my mouth in the cafe, or later - on the way home - having ‘completed a few laps of RP before lunch’ that I was becoming one of them.