No Surrey today. Nor Kent either. Instead, it’s a 15K warm up to meet Rob and Captain on the foot of Swains Lane, north London. Even in this sun drenched city, the neighbourhood is still fast asleep.
It must seem quite peculiar for people waking up; drawing their curtains, and being greeted by smiling cyclists as they climb this little-big hill. Gritted teeth and wobbly legs isn’t usually the view specified by the estate agents. Nevertheless, it is because of these views that attract both residents and urban climbers alike. Sandwiched between Highgate Cemetary and Waterlow Park, it’s a nice area for families to enjoy. In fact there’s Hampstead Heath on the other side, and a sprawling cafe society. Add to this, up to 18% gradients over a 800m stretch, to make it a great place to bring up a cycling family. Particularly, if you have a moment to travel just a little further and explore.
We’re not the only ones out for a climb. We’re greeted by Paul in his green-jersey. I think we all know who he’s backing in this year’s Tour. A 25th stage win would not only be historic, it would be sweet-as too!
Rob kicks clean and he’s away. Like a red balloon he floats effortlessly to his destination. Ben and I look at each other and there is no response, but for a grin. Rob should enter the Urban Hill Climb!
We promise that next time we’ll ride out to Hertforshire together.
The Secret of the North
The rewards are easy to see. For starters, there’s a much more relaxed attitude than in Surrey. There’s no big-teams flexing their carbon and calfs. Here, it’s everyone’s turf to share.
Secondly, the locals and the traffic are a lot more sociable. There are people out for a stroll; horse-back-riders having a gentle gallop, and even the motorists pull over to give you way.
More to the point, there’s a lot less human activity, which means that the natural habitat can simply exist without us meddling. We’re simply onlookers enjoying the ride.
Once in the woods, there’s enough terra-firma to mix it up for a good day on the saddle. The roads wind and split generously and the options are endless. One road for instance, will take you to a nature reserve where big cats, such as lions and cheetahs roam. Naturally, you feel like they can smell you.
The returning loop is just as thrilling: the ascents and descents open up to lush bright-yellow rapeseed fileds. With narrow twists that flank quiet, but not too distant roads. Clearly the locals love their community so much that naming their roads is a way of humouring the rider. Roads like ‘Cheese and Bread Lane’ keep you smiling as you press home.The long straight roads give themselves up for team efforts as you line up for a train. And, If you want a stop to replenish, there’s always a decent petrol station or off-licence to satisfy your bidon. En route home the cafe’s line up are spaced out and civilised enough that quite a few riders frequent.
On this occasion we give the coffee a miss. It’s enougoh that we’re sharing this ride, and only wish we can share this with the rest of the team soon.