Showing posts with label Bradley Wiggins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bradley Wiggins. Show all posts

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Saturday before Christmas - cycling in the rain


With a multitude of presents to wrap, a turkey to buy and red cabbage recipes to puzzle over, there was still only one place I could be on Saturday.

Not home. Not Sainsbury’s. And no, not even the off licence. No, with three days to go till Christmas, my family hot-footed it to the picturesque environs of Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, on the outskirts of West London.

Undeterred by the torrential rain, my bike-mad son had decided to enter his second-ever road race. He loaded his bike on to the car and we tore down the M40. The rest of the traffic seemed to be heading in the opposite direction, laden to the gunnels with Christmas presents. 

By the time we got there, I half expected to find that the event had been called off. But cyclists are the hardiest people I know and a crowd of them, clad in fluorescent wet-weather gear, were busy warming up on their turbo trainers. My son, pale with nerves, grabbed his helmet and over-shoes and plunged into their midst. A middle-aged chap, clearly an old hand at road cycling, kindly gave him a load of advice about tactics. “If you fall off, protect yourself by getting into the foetal position,” he said. “The beetle position?” queried my husband. “What’s that?”

It seemed like an age before the event got underway – and a century before we saw him flash past in a sea of grit and Lycra. By the time he’d done forty minutes his face was splattered with mud and white with exhaustion.

But with another five laps to go before the finish, on they rode through the wind and the rain. Planes took off from nearby Heathrow and a wedding party drove by, but the cyclists kept their eyes on the track. Bradley Wiggins eat your heart out.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Middle-aged men in Lycra


At 9 every Saturday morning a posse of cyclists speed down the street, clad in sleek (and very chic) black and white biking gear.

They’re all part of the local cycling club, heading for the steepest hills in the district. When he’s home, my teenage son is out with the peloton like a shot – and now my husband’s caught the cycling bug and signed up too. He’s had his 20-year-old bike overhauled (“where on earth did this come from?” said the man at the bike shop, marvelling at its retro yellow and pink paintwork), bought a ton of Lycra and begun stockpiling energy bars and flapjacks.

The first weekend he returned four hours (and 80 kilometres) later, ashen-faced and stunned by how tough the ride had been. He hadn’t taken any food, got caught in a downpour with no wet weather gear and suffered a puncture. But his fellow cyclists were kindness personified. They shared their food, lent him a jacket and patiently waited for him to sort his tyre out.  

My husband’s clearly not the only one to have turned into a cycling fanatic. Fired up by Bradley Wiggins’s triumphs, middle-aged men all over the country seem to be getting on their bikes. In the FT’s Life & Arts section at the weekend, editor Lionel Barber wrote about his gruelling weekend bike trip across the Pyrenees – wittily titled “Blood, sweat and gears.” And thanks to his article, I have now discovered I’m married to a “MAMIL” – a “middle-aged man in Lycra.”

But friends down under have coined a different term for middle-aged cycling enthusiasts. My friend Virginia emailed from Brisbane to tell me: “We call them VOMITS - very old men in tights!”

Monday, 23 July 2012

The dormouse in the attic


Lines of Cypress trees silhouetted against a pink sky, fields of golden sunflowers, ancient farmhouses with their shutters closed to keep them cool.

Those were the sights that made my heart sing as we drove south through France earlier this month. With London gearing up for the Olympics we decided to escape the mayhem and head across the Channel instead. Not surprisingly, the French were far more preoccupied with the Tour de France than London 2012. Even in the local ├ępicerie people were talking about “le gentleman Wiggins” and his amazing triumph.

When we arrived at the House With No Name after the ten-hour drive south it was almost midnight. But it was definitely like coming home – even though there was a wilderness of weeds and the broadband was up the creek.

We weren’t totally sure if the loir in the attic was back in residence or not. My daughter says she heard scrabbling in the roof in the middle of the night but didn't know whether it was real or she was dreaming.

The most surprising thing of all, though, was seeing the sun for the first time in months. As we sat on the terrace on the first morning we all blinked in bewilderment, a bit like loirs coming out of hibernation after winter. My son, who’s spent most of the summer so far cycling in the Oxfordshire wind and rain, was so stunned that he went straight out and bought his first-ever pair of sunglasses. 

Loir – a dormouse in French.
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