I’ve been looking back at previous entries in my Livejournal for the things I wrote while training for the Etape in 2007 – one thing is clear, just how little I knew and what a terrible liar I was. More to myself than anyone else.
There’s a great entry from March of that year where I blithely talk of a “Leisurely ride from Macclesfield to Buxton…possibly taking in the Cat & Fiddle”. I didn’t go via the Cat and Fiddle in the end but instead via little back roads of hideous steepness. The only excuse for my very hubristic insouciance was my total ignorance. Oddly enough, there wasn’t a follow-up entry about this ride for some time – because it was horrible (Bryony has reminded me that I allegedly said “Don’t ever let me ride that way again”). There was lots of wailing, gnashing of teeth, crying for mummy (and a bit of walking up hills). This doesn’t seem to get a mention on my LJ though. It’s very hilly in Derbyshire, lots of steep hills and lots of weather. I did get out a fair bit but it was all very hard riding and I was wondering at that point whether I was attempting too much too soon.
Not long after that I was in Scotland for my sister Mairi’s wedding – a few days after her wedding I was out with her and her new husband riding in the hills near her home near Stirling. This was a lot more enjoyable. Although it was early April it was a lovely sunny day and a cracking ride overall – it was the first time I was starting to get any idea of the training starting to pay off. The route took us from Cambusbarron via back roads to Shielbrae then the Carron Valley Reservoir. From there we ended on the B822 which was a fantastic road, recently surfaced it climbed at a steady rate before dropping down the side of the hill at the sort of gradient I can allow myself to go relatively fast on. After that there was a bit of slog along the A803 to Kilsyth where we turned left and started climbing the steepest hill of the day (up what Google maps tells me is know as ‘Tak-ma-doon Road’ which was instead ‘Climb-up-slowly street’ in my case). After that we want back via the reservoir and Shielbrae.
Things started to get better after that – I rode my first Cyclosportive later the same month, a mostly flat 100+ miles in a circuit around Peterborough. I did ok but it was mostly a lonely ride for me as I couldn’t get to the start until very late due to trains from London (I had to cycle something like 16-20 miles just to get there due to some engineering works part way on the route, one of the problems with being a non-driving cyclist.
I remember it most as a long attempt to catch someone up, anyone – as I was almost the last to leave the start. On checking the results later I remember that I wasn’t last, which was good enough for me.
My training continued as normal then a few weeks later I was in Plymouth to stay with my friends Rupert and Jane – each night we got hammered on beer and red wine and each morning I somehow got out of bed at an early hour to ride out over Dartmoor. The weather was horrible everyday and on one level it would have been nice to say that I got out despite the weather because I was focussed, dedicated or some such other lies. In reality I think I was still drunk each morning and therefore too stupid to stay in bed. And the weather was really, really bad – it was the weekend of the Ten Tors, a challenge for teenagers – the rain was so bad that wet teenagers (that phrase might generate a bit of search traffic) were being driven off the moors in army trucks, in some cases being airlifted. I just kept riding.
Drunk or not, the three days that I got out over Dartmoor every day proved really useful later on as it was never, ever that bad outside again. When I rode up Alpe d’Huez solo in the rain last year I thought “It’s still not as bad as Dartmoor. I’ll keep going”.
(The title quote is from the film ‘Little Big Man’ in case it’s bugging you)