The RideLondon Surrey 100 looms large...
I cannot really look forward to something like this: training disrupted, cleats to get used to, logistics to be surmounted, the possibility of physical collapse on the day. That final prospect has the potential to be the most devastating, but it troubles me the least. My training, such as it is, has so far just about passed muster, despite the fact that my commuting velocipede has been off the road for almost three weeks. Last Sunday I actuated a 45 to 50 mile round trip to Windsor, building upon a 35 miler I'd ridden the previous weekend. It was tough going, but might not have been if I hadn't lost my way, adding a six mile dalliance to a route that had been designed to give me options: if I felt good by time I reached Chertsey then I was to push on toward Byfleet, Cobham and Esher and ride the full 50; if I started to flag I would cut through Walton and satisfy myself with just the 45. In the event, after straying from my intended path and then attempting to regain some ground – the equivalent of sustaining a puncture and having to race back up to the peloton, maybe? – I found myself wavering through Virginia Water. My 45/50 mile dilemma had been upgraded to a 50/55 one, so I took the Walton-on-Thames route, hung off the back of a Barnes Cycling Club five man jolly as far as Hampton and covered 51 miles in just under 3 hours (not including the time that stopping at the Belvedere Arms for coffee incurred). It's not ideal, that I felt incapable of pushing on any further, but at this point in time it's not so unsettling either.
Indeed, my predicament could be trickier. I don't anticipate not being able to finish in the allotted time, or even of suffering to the degree there's the potential for. I'm injury free and there'll be little excuse for not having built enough power come the day, and I am confident I can keep the calories flowing.
Nor am I expecting any significant mechanical transgressions: my bike is relatively new, it is light and well appointed. I've had to remedy two punctures of late and replacing the inner-tube proved to be a breeze in both instances. It's nice not to have to worry about these things.
But something was troubling me still…
And then it wasn’t. It boiled down to nothing more than putting in the hours, which I subsequently did. I made Tuesday ‘3 laps of Richmond Park’ day. I followed up my Windsor excursion with a pleasant and fast 45 mile round trip to Sunningdale, and the Sunday after I rode 51 miles, again up to Staines and this time back through Addlestone, almost making my route up as I went along. Finally, on the Sunday before the event – with four consecutive Richmond Tuesdays under my belt – I rode out to Leith Hill with my fellow cyclist, Mommersteeg. Mommersteeg doesn’t go in for all this stopping for coffee business, so it was 52 miles straight, completed in well under three hours (after which I had coffee alone and added another 6, just for the hell of it).
Most crucially of all, having finally sorted out the steel bike, I was able to return to riding cleated more than two weeks before the event: for those rides out to Addlestone and Leith Hill, and for three of my sessions up at Richmond Park. And I think this was what had really been eating away at me. After taking to cleats really rather quickly, I returned from London to Brighton with cleat fear. There is no reason why this should have been the case, but I had become wary of them. And yet, as soon as I forced them back onto my bike (in more ways than one - it was a real struggle getting the toe-clipped pedals back off), I very quickly regained my trust in them. Yes, I'm quite looking forward to riding this thing cleated, and don’t think I could now do it any other way.