About 12 years ago, my best mate said "hey, Al. When you visit next, do you want to go for a bike ride instead of running?" He'd grown a bit tired of my making him suffer, pounding the streets of North Notts (& I was a bit of a bandit at the running thing). Yeah, why not? I'd watched the TdF on ITV4 for a good few years & even as a runner, I'd spotted the crossover between sports. The suffering, the injuries, the mud. The pain. I knew that Ullrich would crush Riis in '97. I said so to a cyclist I ran past on cardiac hill the day before. "But I don't have a bike!", I objected. No problem, he would 'source' me one.
About a month before the visit, I asked about the bike. "Nige will lend you one" he casually replied. Alert! Alert! That would be Nige? Brother Nigel? Aka 'the Animal'? Never mind that Nige was 4" taller than me, Nige was indeed an animal! Former world class rock climber, Mr intense. Nige never did things by half. "This shit just got real!" I thought (occasional film references may appear...). Anyway, I knew it would be trouble. It turns out this social bimble for 15 miles was a 60 mile club ride. I hadn't ridden a bike since I smashed myself up riding back from school, head down in the rain, wham, into the back of a stationary Morris Minor (classy, eh? And old).
Anyway, I hotfooted it down to Red Kite in Shirley, bought some SPD-SLs (first edition) & slapped them onto an old Peugeot from a friend of the wife. Four weeks of training. Sometimes over 20 miles!! I was ready!
So the day came. Nige's bike was way too big. I nearly lost it in the first 10 metres (who has a gravel drive in this day & age?). Sort of survived it. I found out that when you lose the wheel, it's gone. Still, I wasn't last to the tea shop, and made it back in one piece. Something new to try? Secretly, I always fancied it. Shame it took so long.
So it begins...