Words by Lois Dowsett
Ok, confession time, three girls, one puncture. What’s the worst that could happen? All so adamant ‘we can do this girls!’ we removed the tyre, removed the punctured tube, had a gossip, found the flint, took a selfie, put the tyre and the tube back on, sent a tweet, pumped the tyre up which slowly went back down and then… found the new replacement tube laying on the floor. “No… we can’t have?” Oh yes we did!
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So this week the realization hit that the Chelmsford to Paris Athlon Sport ride is no longer optional, the deposit has been paid, forms filled out and five outfit options purchased for the Paris after party. Dare I say it, I was actually feeling good about the challenge up until someone sent me the profile for the first day, BIG mistake! Like the saying goes ‘What you don’t know can’t hurt you’, except that it can… and now I know for how many miles! (103 miles, 3780ft of climbing)
As I went to Legros’ Majorca Training Camp this year I should (hope) be prepared for what is to come but what I considered to be a climb doesn’t qualify until it has a gondola and goats living on it. On the first day we were taken on a lovely flat ride to get us used to the roads and the people in our group putting us into complete denial about what was to come in the days to follow!
Day two… the first long climb (7.5 miles). I was blissfully ignorant. thinking it would be fine and what could possibly be worse than North Hill (popular Essex climb of one mile). I asked for my first ‘are we near the top yet?’ update four minutes in… 40 minutes later we reached the top. My poor friend Rebecca Charlton had to put up with an obscene amount of verbal abuse, as well as drop behind me at one point to confirm that I didn’t have a mechanical and I was actually in the lowest gear resulting in more verbal abuse.
Towards the end of the week, I took a route that my brother Alex suggested and sent the Google map for which he referred to as called the ‘lighthouse ride’. I mentally noted ‘to the lighthouse’, which in hindsight I should have read the map as there was a 15 miles, two hour and 2765ft ascent difference. So what I thought was some sort of sick sibling joke was actually a geographical misunderstanding and the words “you weren’t meant to go all the way to the lighthouse Lois!” will haunt me for years to come.
Regardless of the challenges, mentally, physically and keeping an even tan, I loved the whole week and couldn’t wait to see the results on my next Saturday club ride. Something I will always remember from the week, was riding alongside a fellow group member who was explaining the reason why he loved cycling so much was the sense of freedom he felt being out on a bike, he was so right. It’s something I can’t explain but I’m sure many of you can relate to, I’m fairly new to this and seem to use cycling not only for the fitness and friends, but the escapism.
This month’s Chelmsford to Paris training ride was a real struggle. The toilets at the cafe stop had no mirrors and the Diet Cokes were warm, the actual cycling wasn’t that bad. We ramped it up to 74 miles, ramped being the key word as we combined what seemed like every hill in Essex into the route to prepare us. Meaning, the diva strops were in full swing after my 0.7miles on the front, before confronting the group with ‘If you want to go that slowly all you have to do it ask’. However, each club member is now learning not to rely on me to point out any potholes or indicate any junction to the left due to my inability to take that hand off the handlebars. Another reason why it’s best I’m kept safely in the bunch.
To finish, something new I’ve learned this month is that no amount of hairspray before a ride will help you when you get to the cafe stop and its time to take your helmet off. Also, if you can read the writing on your own arm warmers then they are the wrong way round.
I’ll be back soon with more updates on my training for the big ride.