I couldn’t let myself reach Christmas without getting out into the Surrey Hills for the Sunday club ride so, on Christmas Eve, I dragged myself out of bed and down to Hampton Court Bridge to take a measure of my winter fitness with a bunch of the regulars. There’s no need to guess how well it went…
My head was a little foggy from too little sleep but otherwise I didn’t feel at all bad as I cruised down through the outskirts of Richmond and the centre of Kingston. I’d put on my trusty Ron Hill Bikesters against the cold and four layers (LS baselayer, Rapha jersey, LS winter jersey, gilet) on the top as well as knee warmers and overshoes and had plenty of food and water with me, knowing full well how much I suffer in winter with energy levels.
Surprise of the day was picking up Graeme on our way out through Esher, who had decided to bring his mountain bike along for something a little different. He was still quicker than almost all of us, much to our collective chagrin.
First stop of the day was for me getting a puncture just down the road from the Hautboy pub. When I checked the tube, on getting home, it turned out I’d managed to get two punctures in the one incident, possibly from rolling on the flat tyre. I’ve also got a nasty gouge from a flint which may warrant a replacement tyre.
Toby and I discussed who is going to bag which frame from Cyclefit’s sale as I fixed the puncture. I think I may well grab the silver and black non-sloping Merckx, if it is still there and fits me. My plan is to build it up with a set of SRAM Rival, a reasonable spec of finishing kit and the Mavic Kysrium Equipe wheels I bought in the summer. And then to take it to the Tour Of Flanders sportif. After all, it would be fitting to ride a Belgian bike in the biggest event in the Belgian calendar.
I was feeling confident that I wouldn’t struggle too much up the hills. Unfortunately I’d forgotten I’ve put on five kilos since the summer and promptly dropped off the back up Whitedown Vale before putting the weight to good use on the descent. I struggled a lot less on the bit out of the quaint village with a duckpond, the name of which I can never remember (it might be Shere) and stayed with it, just about.
Then I started to get a bit confused on our route round Leith Hill (not the tough side but still awkward) and fell behind. Further ignominy was to follow up Ranmoor Hill where I managed to fall over at slow speed. One of those ones where you lose concentration and drift with the camber until you are in the leaves and run-off. In dry weather I would have just given it a bit of power and got back onto the dcent surface but, with the wet leaf mulch, doing so just resulted in the back wheel sliding out and me toppling, like a falling tree, into the middle of the road.
At this point I really did think about packing it in but managed to struggle on to the top and then down to Box Hill. Going up seemed to take forever and my speedo check told me I was going considerably slower than usual. Luckily I made it as far as coffee and cake before I caved in.
Starting from cold after a cafe stop is always difficult, more so when it is cold and you are tired and sweaty. The run back was just a slog for me that passed in a blur of pain and gritted teeth. The top of my quad seized up again making the ride home agony.
Slumped in the bath for an hour, did some stretches and then decided “In the New Year, things will get back on track.” As everyone does at this time of year.