London calling…

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Thursday, 11th September

St Albans – London Eye – St Albans. 53.3 miles

Today marked what is hopefully the first ride of many without a puncture for Chris and I. The short ride yesterday proved to me that the punctures weren’t solely his fault, and that without his ride-jinxing presence I could still have a leaking tube.

We started out from St Albans at about 3pm, with the sun shining upon us, and the puddles from the morning’s downpour nicely drying out. We’d both worked the night shift last night, and he certainly looked more lively than I felt. Fifty miles on a bicycle is something which, as I was to find out, should not be attempted without sleep.

The first two miles seemed like an interminable agony, with first myself, then shortly after Chris, asking rhetorically if we were there yet. We weren’t. We were nowhere near our intended destination. However, despite our legs not having come on the bike ride with us, the next sixteen miles saw us nicely without mishap into London. Perhaps a slight bending of the truth, if I’m being fair – I was nicely into London, quite enjoying sailing past the snarling traffic, and feeling quite good. Chris, on the other hand, had a stitch which wouldn’t leave him, regardless of what he did to relieve it.

Once into London, the hand reached around the back of my jersey for the pre-prepared directions (with wholly-inadequate map), neatly folded so that I could see all the directions as I rode, without having to worry about unfolding it. Sadly, I’d decided that the original route was a duff one, and took us on far too many main roads, and we’d deviated from the original plan almost from the off. The directions were useless – and here we were, a northern bloke with a penchant for pies, and a pig-loving bloke from Norfolk. To say we were lost would be incredibly accurate. Following the signs of “C. Lon”, which with unfailing belief we took to mean “central London”, we rode through the back streets (if there can be such things in the middle of the nation’s capital) towards what looked like nowhere in particular. Just as we were beginning to think that we might have to retrace our wheel revolutions, we spotted St Paul’s Cathedral. “That’s that big dome thing…that churchy place, isn’t it?” asked Chris.
“Er…yeah…reckon…”
“We should head for that.”
“Aye…”
So we did. Which, at ground level in the sprawling metropolis, is easier said than done. I’m not sure if St Paul’s kept moving, or if the bends in the road were almost imperceptable, but the bloody thing kept disappearing. Still, more through good luck than good judgement, we suddenly found ourselves on Blackfriars Bridge. A short freewheel later, and we’d done it. We’d made it into London and found the Eye, all without a map. Well, not one that was worth the paper it was printed on, anyway.

Once at the London Eye, there was little to do for two idiots in lycra astride a pair of bikes other than begin the journey home. A brief discussion later led us rapidly to the conclusion that we should just go back the way we came, via Westminster Bridge and Victoria Embankment, where had, less than a week ago, seen the start and finish of the TfL London stage of the Tour. It looked very different, and was considerably busier.

Eye Eye...a miserable and overcast sky over the London Eye...

Eye Eye...a miserable and overcast sky over the London Eye...

The ride back was quite pleasant for the first few miles. We encountered Thursday’s rush-hour traffic, and there was a lot of stopping and starting. Without realising it, I’d managed to ride more than half-distance without having eaten anything other than a few slices of toast and marmalade when I got in from work. In fact, I hadn’t realised this until long after the day’s events were over, and I was at home. By the time we reached Barnet, where on the outward journey a small child in the passenger seat of a car nearly died from laughter at the sight of my argyle leg warmers, I was feeling much the worse for wear. This, for those unfamiliar with cycling parlance, is know as “the bonk”, and I had bonked in a spectacular fashion.

It would be a big fat hairy lie, with massive bells on, if I said that I enjoyed any part of the last however-many-miles from Barnet to St Albans. In fact, one of only two things that I can remember about that part of the journey was the sight of my slowly-turning crank-arms and the blackness around the edges of my vision. The other thing I remember was my one of our colleagues, on her way home from work. As we neared the top of London Road in St Albans, she was driving down. In a most discourteous fashion that is her usual want, she hurled a torrent of well-meaning abuse at us from the wound-down window of her car. I shall not repeat what she said!

Enough waffling, here’s the pointless map:

The utterly pointless map.

The utterly pointless map.

The bikes:
Fatman: Pinarello Paris with full 9-speed Ultegra and Mavic Open Pros
Chris: Wilier Mortirolo Carbon with full 10-speed Veloce and Fulcrum R7s

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