Sunday, 30 December 2012

Gonna ride the world like a merry-go-round

It was the best of years and it was the worst of years.

Well I have finally done the last ride of 2012. Yesterday Martyn and I headed out into the worst cycling weather I have encountered in the UK. We were only out in it for three hours thank heavens, and of course the rain stopped just as I rolled onto Rouleur territory.

I even texted him as I was leaving, for despite all my best intentions, the rain was coming down so heavily, the roads so awash with puddles and the wind so stormy and wild, that even I had second thoughts.

But he'd already left and didn't get the text till we were snug in the cafe, so on I went, into the maelstrom.

By the time I got to Axbridge I was soaked to the skin, so I thought, wtf, may as well press on for three hours. The gorge was closed to motor vehicles but we ignored the signs, and despite the stream of water now occupying the road surface it was quite nice to ride up it. Very quiet, no traffic, and as long as you dodged the falling rocks it was fine.

Only joking, but there is a lot of gravel, and road grit which is not being cleared by motor traffic. Also a fair few potholes which are steadily increasing in size. It will also take them ages to fix the surface in a piecemeal fashion, so I am hoping to see a wholesale re-surfacing of the gorge in the late Spring.

Once up on the top we benefited from the strong tail wind to speed through the murk and rain to the Rocky Mountain cafe. Which was closed, so we went to Hartley's cafe instead. As it had a roaring fire and a welcoming host it was the ideal place to stop and re-group and to try and dry a gloves and hats.

We headed out into the rain again and did our best to warm up by pedalling like mad down the Horrington road. I hit a bump and my faithful KOM Cateye computer flew off. I quickly re-traced my tracks (allowed in order to rescue inadvertently discarded equipment) only to find that the car following me had done its worst.

Don't worry I re-cycled the battery before I chucked it in the bin. It may have been on many trips with me and many miles too, but it's function over form that counts if you are a bike computer. And Laurens seems to be doing such a fine job too. As you can see from the route he recorded, 45 miles in wet and windy conditions.

The last bit of the ride, like the last few months of 2012, were about slogging it out and getting to the finish. Across the flat lands we went via Wedmore and Badgworth, until we came to a penultimate stretch, down the A38. I was flagging, but Martyn is a relentless machine, and towed me to the turn.

We went our separate ways, and I rounded off the year by circling back past the Webbington Hotel and home. One solitary cyclist was all I saw all day, and he looked like he was going somewhere purposefully, rather than being a mad dog or an Englishmen going round in circles.

Round about now, every year, the media, the blogosphere, the twitterverse, Facebook, all of that, start to spout a lot of guff. Their man of the year, woman of the year. What are your plans and goals for 2013? Will you hit the ground running? Aside from the latter sounding a bit like an oxymoron, the answers to those questions are quite simple really.

Man of the year? No not him, although he did pretty well, "for a boy from Kilburn". OK Brad, you can stop saying it now, time for a new line. Not even a cyclist, or an Olympian, or a poet, or someone from an L & D self-help book.

I'm going for what I would describe as a "top bloke". And the reason? Because he made my son feel calm and proud to lead out the Irons on a grotty April evening at Ashton Gate.

The photo is a bit blurry, and apart from James Tomkins well-directed header, so was the match. And I don't know what Rob Green was thinking about, maybe all the money he was going to make sitting on the bench at QPR.
But it's quite something to see your son leading your favourite team out at a match, even if he was the mascot.

Kevin Nolan may be a footballer, but he was fantastic that day. And he is probably the reason we got promoted, and that day at Wembley was one of the best I have experienced as a fan. Just.
I went to a match for the first time since then last week, and it re-connected me with all of the things I love about West Ham. Much as I love cycling, football will always be my first love. And you never forget them do you?
Top woman? Stupid question really. You always wish for more time don't you, afterwards, and I have been pondering on how to make more of the time that is given to me. Watch this space.
I did a lot of riding in 2012, more miles at a faster speed with more energy consumed than ever before. Tougher rides and more centuries, mountains, climbing, and definitely more extremes of weather! I could bore you to death with all the data I have, but I want to remember 2012 with these two pictures, both taken by very special people who love cycling even more than I do.
One for the sheer joy and the other for the sheer challenge.
So many thanks to Mark Cox and Chris Balfour respectively for those shots, and much else. Mark's daughter ran a cafe for a day to raise money for cancer research, and it was a real pleasure to ride down late that day and buy the most valuable cupcake in the world. Chris and his wife Helen run Pyractif, the best cycling holiday business in the world. Fact.
I have already talked about planning some longer impromptu rides and the planning for those is coming along nicely, as is another germ of an idea I have. Be cool, wait for the announcements, which will be along directly. But I'm planning on having a lot more joy out of cycling in 2013, and that's a fact too.
As for personal challenges, I have a few in the offing. The Tour of Wessex is always hard, just hope the rain stops by then. I'd like to break five hours for the White Horse Challenge (it opens next Monday, please enter and I'll give you my winnings if you ride for me), and along with the joy of watching the big Tour in the Pyrenees I hope to ride a tough challenge with Bunny called "The Devil's Pitchfork". I'm just aiming to finish it alive.
Most of all I want to thank everyone again. Thanks for thinking of me, for your prayers, best wishes, messages, texts, e-mail, all of it. And thanks to the people who rode with me, cajoled me, waited for me, poured water over me (on Hautacam especially, Helen), and the ones who told me to MTFU.
Finally thank you to the great British weather. Other weathers are warmer, drier, calmer, but then, they are not on TV every night.

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