Knight Riders Again
Today it feels like Spring: the temperature is reading double-figures and besides the occasional down-pour, there are moments of sunshine. Even Craig, on his Classic Challenge is smiling at the end of a hard day’s ride. Yet, it was only last month when five of us attempted a cycle to Bournemouth. It feels just like yesterday.
The call comes to clock up a preparation ride for the 2013 Paris-Roubaix Challenge. One worthy enough to keep us in good stead, just one month to the day when the pros will be racing the 111th edition of L’enfer du Nord – the Hell of the North! For us, this one day, winner-takes-all race, will forever be remembered as the Queen of the Classics.
Back to London, and as early as 0400, we are up and ready to ride. Four of us meeting on what is usually a hairy round-about that connects both north to south and east and to west – the Hanger Lane Gyratory. Four very cold, but ready Baroudeurs await the fifth, but it is not to be. Only four are out of bed and heading south: Big Chase, Poncherello, Crazy Legs and Disco.
An early lesson came in the form of light, or lack of it. Despite being ‘officially’ Spring, the use of lights is still absolutely necessary. We are riding where only early morning birds and lorries will keep us company, and all of us need to be visible. The late-late lesson is the cold. It feel like I’m experiencing the Christmas 500 Challenge all over again. No booties, just shoes. Gloves, but no liners. It is a recipe for disaster.
Every moment we refuel, our bidons remind us of the freeze. It was juice when it was poured fresh out of the fridge, but now has become an unseasonal slurpee.
With legs going the wrong direction, hands and feet being snapped by the frost, Crazy Legs and Disco head for the Basingstoke exit. I reluctantly take the train ticket home and say farewell to my fellow Baroudeurs. Big Chase and Poncherello head for the coast with bags of time to spare.
If this ride is a challenge, what will the Roubaix be like?
Foolishly, I tell Crazy Legs that I’ve got a ‘second-wind’ and try to catch up with the leaders. Very quickly I blow up having been caught by the lights and curse my stupidity. I feel like a wannabe Lantern Rouge, only to be carried away by the Broom Wagon. A call from Big Chase speaks sense and assures me that the best thing to do is to jump on the train and head home. No loss, just a big lesson learned.
I head back hoping to catch the same train as Crazy Legs, but find myself alone on the track and missing yet another team-mate. Giving me plenty of time to reflect on today’s ride, my legs have gone red, and what will meet us in Roubaix. Notorious for being hard, how much tougher will it be if it’s cold, or worse, if it rains? Thankfully, before I can think too long, the train stops at Waterloo and the sun is out. There’s still a chill in the air and I can only imagine the temperatures our boys are experiencing. By the time I get home Big Chase and the Man from CHiPs is sitting happily in a restaurant and looking out to sea. Next stop, northern France!