Sun’s out, Gun’s out.
The mercury is rising as we roll out onto an open road to somewhere. The short and dark rides of Winter are becoming a distant memory. Spring, on the other hand, offers the chance to test the legs on longer-tougher rides. Where freaks get their kicks for affliction.
Freaks aren’t born this way though. They need something to spur them on, something to give them the hunger to ride. Two weeks of island-hopping and sunkissed bliss in NZ will leave their mark, not just on the mind, but the cycling-body too. With this in mind we make for a steady route that will give us plenty of time to make it home at a civilised hour. After all, it’s Mothering Sunday!
Pausing on a hill just outside of Guilford we remark on our week, then get down to business: daring each other to go faster, longer and harder.
As we enter a town, there are Tree-Doctors at work. We join the locals cheering the specialists on. Timberrrrrrr! There’s a big hoorah as runners, motorists and ourselves look in awe at their efforts. The first milestone is the cobbles of the High-Street. It’s a sharp sprint uphill of around 400 meters. It’s a friendly reminder of our time in Roubaix. We hate it and we love it.
NuStu makes tracks for home to be with loved ones. It’s good to see him out again. The summer will pay him back for his faithfulness.
We set course for Ranmore and I find myself racing up with Daddy Cool. He’s ahead and kicking strong. I fight back and think of all the words of inspiration the boys have given me. I scream as I reach past DC. It’s not pretty, but I land victorious, if somewhat undignified on a nondescript patch. I’ll take it anyway.
Next up is everyone’s favourite easy Sunday morning climb : Box Hill. There are one or two hills to stir the excitement and keep us all guessing who is ready for the finale. Soon enough we hit the junction and sweep aroudn the round-about before arriving at it’s base. The cycling caps are replaced with chess caps, donned to outwit each other and see who can be KOM for the day.
There are two switch-backs to count down before getting to the top. In between are long straight stretches that give a clear line of view.
Daddy Cool breaks away early! A 100 metres in and DC gives the look that eggs us on. I manage to hold onto his wheel round the first switch-back, but it’s not enough. Very quickly I lose him, and Daddy Cool escapes. As I look up, he’s out of the saddle and head down, fast disappearing to the cover of the trees. I kick again in an attempt to reach him before the second switch-back, and it’s close.
But I’m burnt.
Daddy Cool is waiting. Slumped over his handlebars and grimacing, he reaches out to shake my hand. I’m glad, DC is back!
Not long after the boys join us and we share our story of cat and mouse. Feeling good, we decide not to pause for cake or the breathtaking view, but instead press on. Round 2 is a journey of fast hill-sprints followed by long pulls on smooth stretches of tarmac.
Chronos spares no rubber as he swoops past the final round about and it isn’t long before we’re on the home stretch.
It’s then we stop as affliction sets in. Chronos is suffering from the well earned time away. A quick gulp of water, words of encouragement and hug get him on the saddle again and we’re off.
As we enter Kingston, we pull up behind a bus and we all seem to read ‘Strava’. It turns out to be an Art Fair called Strarta. We laugh at ourselves.
I don’t remember much of the ride back into the park. All I can recall is how how warm and everyone glowing marvelously from the day. We’re almost an hour early.
The park is bustling with families, golfers, runners and cyclists. It doesn’t matter. We find a patch and lie down.
Affliction looks like this?