Showing posts with label Tour de France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tour de France. Show all posts

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!”

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Mont Ventoux chronicles

As we drove south, through olive groves, lavender fields and dusty tracks twisting up the scorched Provençal hillside, I felt more and more nervous.

My son, sitting in the back of the car with his sister, was as happy as Larry – especially as the distinctive peak of Mont Ventoux appeared above the skyline.

We’d left at dawn so he could attempt to cycle up Mont Ventoux for the first time. He only took up road biking a month ago, but he’d set his heart on doing it before his 18th birthday. A commendable ambition, I know, but I was full of trepidation.

Mont Ventoux, all 1,912 metres of it, is famed in cycling circles. There are higher mountains in France but Mont Ventoux stands on its own, right at the heart of Provence. There’s an abandoned weather station at the top, while just below the punishing peak is a shrine to the memory of Tommy Simpson, the British cyclist who died from heat exhaustion during the 1967 Tour de France. “Put me back on my bike” were his last immortal words.

We arrived in the village of Bédoin at 9.30 am, took the bike off the car roof and my son raced away. The rest of us adjourned to a cafe down the road to keep our minds off his climb.

We’d arranged to meet him two-thirds of the way up - to hand over two more water bottles. But to our astonishment he’d got a lot further than we’d expected. When we caught up with him he gave us a cheery wave, said he was feeling fine and kept on pedalling.

We met him at the summit, which looks a bit like a lunar landscape, and it turned out he’d done the whole ride in just under two hours – his goal for his first attempt.

Then came the moment he was really looking forward to – the glorious ride down, followed by a stop at the bike shop in Bédoin to buy an I conquered Mont Ventoux cycling shirt...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Tour de France and other biking matters

School’s out for my teenage son, who’s finished his scary exams and plans to spend the next six weeks on his bike. His new obsession has coincided neatly with the Tour de France so when he’s not on the road, he’s glued to Bradley Wiggins on the TV.

Every morning he appears in the kitchen, clad in his Lycra cycling gear. He fills a couple of water bottles, stuffs some flapjacks in his pockets, grabs his helmet and cycling shoes and then he’s off. If I’m lucky he’ll give me a vague idea of where he’s going and how many miles he’s planning but that’s about it.

The truth is that I’m a bit torn about his new hobby. It’s fantastic that he’s out in the fresh air every day getting tons of exercise. But he got cut up by a car in Oxford the other day (he clocked the driver’s idiocy so managed to duck out of her way at the last minute) and being a natural born worrier, I can’t help fretting.

Mind you, another plus is that he’s getting to know the countryside like the back of his hand. He hasn’t got a swanky GPS or data roaming on his phone so he tries to memorise his routes before he sets off. But his memory occasionally lets him down. Cue a phone call on Sunday afternoon saying “can you look at the map for me? I think I’ve gone the wrong way. I’m just the other side of High Wycombe.”

PS. When you’re taking the scenic route rather than the motorway, High Wycombe is a good 35 miles from Oxford…
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...