Monday, 29th September
Chesham – Bicester – Chesham. 64.71 miles
It has been some time since the trip to the London Eye, but Chris and I finally made it out on the road again. The prospect of three-and-a-half hours in the saddle, after the awful showing yesterday and Friday, was one that I wasn’t exactly relishing, but I had no intention of chickening out. However, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sight of an incredibly hung-over Chris at the front door. The paracetamol and ibuprofen came out of the cupboard, along with a selection of cordial drinks.
We finally set off, heading initially for Great Missenden and, as it would transpire, the local Somerfield, where Chris would buy hang-over food. The road to Great Missenden is five miles of gradual ascent, followed by a rapid drop into the village itself. If ever a man on a bicycle moaned, Chris was that moaning man. I, on the other hand, was experiencing a Vinokourov-like transformation. For the benighted, Khazakhstan’s disgraced Alexandre Vinokourov rode most of the 2007 Tour de France alternating between extremes of brilliance and darkness, before being ultimately expelled, along with the rest of his Astana team, after he provided a positive doping test. I felt far from brilliant but, compared to yesterday, I was virtually on fire. I hoped that once there was a vile Ginster’s pasty coursing through Chris’s system, he’d start riding.
Chris wasn’t going to be that lucky, and he never really had the chance to find his legs. The road from Great Missenden to Aylesbury was windy, and it was in our faces. We shared the pace as much as we could, but it soon became more than obvious that drinking until you declare your undying love for an empty polystyrene kebab box is not conducive to cycling, and I spent more and more time on the front. Chris was supposed to be draughting, or riding in the slipstream. However, every time that I took a glance over my shoulder to make sure he was still there – with our history of punctures, you never know – he was a couple of hundred yards down the road, and certainly not benefitting from the gap in the wind produced by my lardy shape.
Aylesbury to Bicester continued in much the same fashion as the journey from Great Missenden, with the added, “Are we there yet?” and “How much farther is it?” from Chris, whenever he found it in him to draw, briefly, alongside. Every time the road went upwards, he went backwards. He was having his first ever bad day on a bike. As I seem to endure more bad days than good, I had some sympathy, but not much. It was, after all, self-inflicted. I confess to feeling a little grateful, as we’ve been out when he’s had a mild hangover and, if it affected his legs, there was little evidence of suffering. Or, more accurately, his suffering.
We continued to battle against the unrelenting wind, and eventually we made it to Bicester. The first stop was the town centre, and some of the worst chips in the world were hastily consumed. I was keen to get on with it, before the legs cooled down and didn’t want to push me home. Before we could continue, a wee-stop was in order, and a quick potter to the nearby Bicester Village, the outlet shopping centre, where some local conveniences were located.
Now, I’ve been to Bicester Village on more occasions than I’d care to count, and I’ve never seen the sign at the entrance which states that pedal cycles are not allowed. I’ve since searched the website for a similar prohibition. However, it took one of the cleaners or, perhaps, one of the cleaners took it upon himself, to point out the “error” of our ways. I don’t mind being asked if I’d refrain from riding my bike in the centre, but his suggestion that he’d have to confiscate our bikes would only be carried out under the strongest of protests and over my dead body.
Having said all that, I have just found this:
The ride home was far easier, with a tailwind providing a much-needed helping hand, and the seventeen miles from Bicester to Aylesbury was covered in well under the hour. The moaning from Chris continued, however, and I decided that we’d take an easier route home than I’d originally planned. We passed through Aylesbury without incident, on to Aston Clinton, which I’m led to believe boasts the dubious accolade of being the place most distant from the sea in England. From there, we rode to Tring, and on towards the only real climb of the day – the ascent of Hemp Lane.
Covering not much more than a mile, the climb is certainly not the hardest climb around, but after more than fifty-five miles, and thirty of those into a headwind, the legs were suffering somewhat. For all his moaning, Chris went up the climb ahead, and I took the road upwards at my own pace. Riding on the front for most of the previous four hours had taken it’s toll a little, and I decided to let him go and catch him on the descent. I needn’t have worried about it, as his pace dropped as rapidly as he’d begun the climb, and we reached the summit together.
It was all downhill, physically rather than metaphorically, from there. I led again, riding towards the well-deserved cup of tea.
Fatman: Pinarello Paris with full 9-speed Ultegra and Mavic Open Pros
Chris: Wilier Mortirolo Carbon with full 10-speed Veloce and Fulcrum R7s