A hot date
The Baroudeur Big Ride is like a hot date that keeps coming back for more.
Created for new riders, seasoned athletes, or simply the curious; the BBR is a great way of enjoying a chilled Sunday on your bicycle. February’s BBR is the first of many for 2014. It brings together a cheery bunch of friends who figure, why not bring their friends along too.
Where it’s at
For once, the cafe is absent of cyclists. It seems that the road is where it’s at. People spin around Richmond, or are passing through before making tracks for the south-west. We, on the other hand, congregate around the car park, making time for introductions or to simply catch up. Not too long, mind, it’s getting cold.
The rubber of our wheels splash through the puddles. A reminder that much of the country is submerged under the worst weather we’ve had in 250 years. This morning, it remains quiet and still for the rest of the population. By the time we hit Kingston, there are several clubs gathering together. A few years ago I would have found this hard to understand. Today I find it far from strange, but rather reassuring.
The ride takes on a gentle pace. Just enough to keep us from shivering, but good enough that we remain focused. There are new riders with us today, and there’s no point having a fast ride, if by the end of it, you’ve learnt nothing from the people you’ve been with. Besides, we soon discover our new friends are more than capable. We lean into a turn and what sounds like whispers, are actually conversations that were spoken moments ago. The wind blowing thoughts into the air. We organise ourselves into pairs and new conversations are born. Before we know it, we’re in Cobham and everyone is looking fresh-faced and relaxed – Happy Baroudeurs. We take a natural-break before making the necessary adjustments to seat posts. Now that feels better.
We look up and there’s a ray of light. The sun takes a cheeky peek from behind the clouds and we start to warm up. Feeling lighter we pick up the pace as we start taking on the first climbs. Denis, Jack and Tom are looking comfy as our guides for the day, Chronos and Big-Chase help us gently rise.
Even so, as we enter Surrey the road seems to move against us. Like streams, the gutters are overflowing with water that have been flowing for weeks. It’s time to unclip and ride with our legs in the air. Look mum, no feet!
As we hit the crossroads, we see a car stuck in a flood and very quickly a fellow driver assists. It was a similar scene last week, but Daddy-Cool and I still made it through. Today not everyone is so lucky. Beyond the trees and in the fields, we see an unusual sight, cyclists carrying their bikes on their shoulders, forced back by the elements. We check they’re ok, give them a nod and press on.
In addition to our ride leaders, Captain keeps the group happy and safe. He calls out to everyone that a hairy descent is just around the corner. Everyone acts sensibly and glides through with fingertips on their brakes. Zoom, zoom, zoom, each one of us enters the rocky road. It resembles a narrow trench, not too dissimilar to the one on the Death Star, at the climax of Episode 4 of the classic tale known as Star Wars. Big-Chase eases up as he informs us he has a flat. I ride ahead to let the others know, only to find Daddy-Cool with his front tyre to be found wanting. It’s cool, it becomes a welcome respite, a chance to reflect on how we’re doing and how it’s all coming together on the BBR. One, two, three teams pass us, and as soon as we’re ready, we too are underway.
As we roll on, we are joined by a cyclist from Twickenham. She tells us that she’s taking her turn on the bike today, whilst her other half is with their children. She shares that she feels guilty. I tell her that there’s nothing to worry about: hubby will be proud, and what better role models for the kids than parents who love the great outdoors.
Denis turns to talk to Stu. There’s much to share: a passion for the bike and the playing fields of the ‘beautiful game’ keep them happy. Tom laughs with his brother, smiling at how good it is to ride with a group again. Jack looks on and rides confidently. His bike-handling is natural and he takes opportunities to engage with everyone. There’s no doubt he’s enjoying himself.
We hit the Box and there’s an agreed split. Itchy legs are stretched with DC, Chronos and Big Chase breaking away. We ride at our pace.
As we gather on the top, our heavy breaths are gradually silenced by a sense of achievement. And before you can say “Tea and Cake!” there’s a call for a loop and another dignified split is formed. Cake will just have to wait a little longer.
The loop we take follows the Olympic route of 2012. Only, we take a cheeky turn that leads to narrow roads flanked by fields with grazing ponies. A mile up and these fields are replaced by trees. In the summer the fields are filled with sheep ready for sheering. The trees hover overhead which capture our shadows slicing through the landscape. A few of us made a recce last week and the roads were clear, except for a few pebbles here and there. Today they are littered with ‘Kinderkopf’ (size of a child’s head) type rocks. Thankfully, everyone rides through it safely. On our left are country homes and I can smell the breakfast coming from the open kitchen windows; it’s bacon and eggs.
As we make our second approach to Box, the curious riders are feeling ever more confident and give a determined kick. This time the gap is narrowed, and in no small part because Stu has secured a nice little sitting area for us. It’s time to tuck in!
Hot tea is cupped in our hands and big bites are taken from our cake. Soon the conversation turns to the months ahead: talk of races with the Pro-Tour starting, plans for revising one or two of the Classics, Yorkshire’s Grand Depart, and our very own – fifth year anniversary on Mount Ventoux.
Before we head home there’s a chance to capture the moment:
Thank you for a great ride everyone!