A crisp autumnal morning in November. Last year I’d almost certainly have stayed in bed as long as possible as two young kids allow. But with the thought of the ride not that far away, yesterday I was up at 6.45 and on my bike at 7.15, making my way to Chiswick.
Ollie Hill, one of my oldest & dearest friends, and hopefully my road captain for at least some of the 25 counties ride, had invited me on his weekend run, which usually involves a group of hardcore cyclists, one of whom is a former US Olympic athlete. So it’s fair to say I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
Thankfully only one of this hardcore crew was present, the inscrutable Irishman Gavin, who I didn’t see much of from my position at the back of the group – along with Ollie’s old mate Grant and his buddy Glen – proper cyclists but closer to my pace than a former Olympian would have been. Thanks for having me along boys.
It was a cracking ride through the southwest London suburbs, a traffic free run through Richmond Park and then out into the Surrey Hills. I had never previously associated Surrey with hills, more stockbrokers, but it’s not a mistake I will make again.
A couple of stiff hills (where I didn’t always reach the summit and the waiting duo of Ollie & Gavin last I am pleased to say) led to a coffee stop in the village of Peaslake, followed by more hills. I am ashamed to say that the 18% gradient of Whitedown Hill was too much for me, leading to a brief walk while being overtaken by fellow cyclists who’d managed to stay on two wheels.
After that it was (relatively) plain sailing, with enough downhill to compensate for the up. And after another couple of stops (puncture & coffee) we were back in Chiswick. So a ninety seven point something K loop, plus another 18-19K each way to & from Ollie’s from my place in North London, made it just over 80 miles. Which is what I will be doing for 7 days in a row at the end of next June.
And do you know what? It wasn’t too bad. I struggled a bit to keep pace on the flat, not always but sometimes on the hills. I was a bit stiff & sore when I got back (and am a bit today), but certainly not in agony. Not that I am getting on the bike today mind.
So with a bit less than 8 months to go, I am feeling confident (ish). And looking forward to a few more rides with Ollie & his crew: if the Olympian is busy of course