Yesterday I rode the first stage of the Tour of Britain.
OK, I wasn’t actually with Wiggins, Cavendish and the rest of the pro-peloton, but I did ride the 126 mile route anyway. From Ipswich to Norwich. For fun.
The pro’s go through next Sunday and it will be well worth a trip to Ipswich to see them off or to the coast to see them pass.
If not, ITV 4 will be covering the race, and I’ll be watching intensely for every bump, crossroads and landmark I passed on the way.
The ride added up to 136 miles door to door, the longest I’ve ever gone on the bike.
(Though not the hardest. In 2007 (when I was a lot younger and fitter) I cycled 120 miles over five mountains in the Pyrenees, passing grown men at the side of the road – each one sobbing onto their cycling shoes. I myself shed a tear after I’d gone over the last 13 mile climb, I’m not ashamed to admit).
But back to East Anglia and here are some simple things I learned yesterday during the 7-hour, 18mph average route…
Norfolk is pretty flat, thank god.
There’s no real reason to rush back to Lowestoft or Great Yarmouth – ever. Well, unless you like out of town shopping centres with no good shops.
However, Southwold and Horning are lovely. I’m glad I picked them for my refuel stops.
The headwind out of Great Yarmouth is pretty intense, made worse by cycling along a dual carriageway for five miles.
There’s only so much energy drink one can consume until every sip makes you feel sick, and you crave some cool, clean, fresh liquid that doesn’t taste like a chewy mix of sugar and ‘summer berries’.
Promising to reward yourself at half-way, and then again at 100 miles, with a wee at the side of the road helps you to get through the day. It’s the littlest things.
The ‘time to think’ you promised yourself on the route only lasts two thirds of the way. The last third is taken up with thinking only about finishing.
“Hey, sexy legs” is one of the nicest things anyone has every shouted at me on the bike. Or at least it felt like it at 125 miles, hollered as it was by a bunch of Hens warming up for a Saturday night in Norwich. I’d have joined them, but I don’t think I’d have been that much use.
(Usually the kind of phrases that get shouted at me include: “get out the road”, “you don’t pay road taxes”, “get those knees up” and my personal favourite… “you wanker”. That kind of thing.)
If I ever do do a charity bike ride in aid of a brain tumour charity, it’s going to have be something really epic and horrible. 126 miles just won’t do it, if that’s what I do for fun. I’ve made a bit of a rod for my own back, there.
If there’s even the slightest hint of a squeak in your pedals, GET IT FIXED before you leave. After 20,000,000,000 squeaks, it really does start to get to you.