“Mate, it’s just another day of sun” – DC
Long-Box, February 2017
Winter and smashing it on the hack-bike. That’s Daddy Cool’s (DC) idea of a good time. Throw in 100+km and a hefty bike-rack, to rub it in, and you’ve got the ideal Sunday morning for these mad men.
We sneak through the quiet roads of west London to cross the river and stumble on a crew at work. Up before dog-walkers, runners and cyclists, they are an energetic and merry lot. Hammersmith Bridge is a critical artery connecting the western boroughs together. With increasing demands from both sides of the river, and the annual ‘Boat Race‘ between Oxford and Cambridge around the corner, it’s vital that it be repaired as quickly as possible. And I have a feeling they will succeed before our return.
Fluoro all the way
An engineer smiles as I quickly snap a picture of him and his crew getting down to business. Each battered patch is ripped out and replaced with a more durable substitute. Every member has a task: as a welder starts the art of restoration, he is surrounded by a team holding palettes to protect onlookers, or nosy-parkers like myself from the bright flying sparks. With the backdrop of the river, it is wholly hypnotic, and I risk running late for the ride.
Mornings like these
The Crazy Kids
Richmond is already bustling with life and all the players are here, almost: Arriba, Brutalis, King Cog, Steve and Tom. Then DC turns up with his rig, fully loaded with a bike-rack. Well, you never know when you need one.
Like the ride to Kent the week before, we roll out together until the usual sprint stages. Unlike Kent, we’re going to extend the ride by adding 20k to our usual Box route. It leads out to Hampton Court, onwards to Esher and before we know it, we’re climbing over Coldharbour and into Dorking. The team resists splitting before the real climbs.
Only lunatics are out today
The entry into Coldharbour is on one zippy road. As we use the energy from the plunge leading in, it propels us up through the lavender fields that are popular for walks and adventure riding. The moment is fleeting.
We are foolish to think that we have so quickly escaped the side affects of the winter season. Power cables are down and we come to an abrupt stop. We are forced to scale the short ridge and circle the service vans. There’s some fresh snow on the ground, and we don’t need much encouraging before of the snowballs start flying.
Please sir, can we have a go?
There are three break-neck dips on this route: the first is a hair-pin, where if icy, is merciless. The other two, are less technical and give us enough time to develop the courage to ease off the brakes. With that out-of-the-way, we skirt around Dorking and begin the climb of Ranmore Road.
Not to be confused with the Ranmore Common climb, Ranmore Road is a great dry-run for alpine training. It stretches for 1.7km, with an average 7% grade, and elevation of 182m. It is disheartening to discover that it is only considered a Cat 4 climb, because it hurts like a Cat 2.
King-Cog draws first-blood and attacks. I’m pleasantly surprised; his training is paying off. DC aka ‘Rack Man’ is next out of the gates. He effortlessly drops me, then King Cog. I can hear the others breathing down my neck. I’m about to lose the imaginary podium.
Arriba pulling us back to the pack – this girl can!
There’s still 200m of Ranmore to go. I still have a chance, but before I can blink Brutalis grins as he flies past. Third place is gone. King Cog spins out of gear and I jump at his misfortune. The steel boosts my energy levels and I challenge for second. Brutalis sits up and I nudge ahead by a whisker. He let me have that.
DC on the other hand is relentless. Him and his bike rack.
Out of sight
The bells are ringing at St Barnabas, calling local parishioners to worship. We swing by the local church and drop down Ranmore Common Road. The usual target is the National Trust’s cafe sitting on Box Hill. Arriba sets a challenge and we now aim for ‘Destination Bike‘. Located just off Box Hill Road, on 2 Green Tiles, it is a further 1km up the road. Will the extra ‘k’ result in more damage?
On this climb, the result is the same as on Ranmore. Only this time the cut is deeper – DC completely disappears out of sight.
Meeting the new locals
We make every excuse that this isn’t a cake stop and we sigh with relief when everyone agrees that it’s actually ‘regrouping’, – one of the crew get a flat and it’s freezing. Besides, we want to check out Destination Bikes. Granted, it doesn’t have the breathtaking views when sitting on Box Hill, but today wouldn’t do the views justice. British made bicycles adorn the shop and there’s a genuinely friendly service from the lady behind the coffee bar. It’s a warm welcome from the cold.
This teacher and his bike-rack.
For the most part the crew stick together and make the most of the TTT opportunities between Headley and Kingston. Inside Richmond it’s the same story. King Cog has learnt from his previous mistake that I can’t contest. DC is waiting at the cafe where we started almost 4 hours ago. DC = 3 Everyone else = 0. Job done.
Time: 3:57:11hrs | Distance: 106.6km | Elevation 1,257m = Home, and pizza time!