Friday, 10 August 2012
It was an early start. Up at 6.00am and immediately eat a bowl of pasta made the night before. Then get the bike out, check the tyres, pick up an extra spare inner-tube and make sure a waterproof is packed. Gary would be here at about 7.00 and we are riding to Skegness - a seaside resort in Lincolnshire on the East coast, around 100 miles away.
There was a gentle breeze as we set off, but it was generally warm as we made our way uphill from Thorton to Markfield and then on through some remarkably pretty villages - lots of thatched cottages, a nice restaurant, moon daisies like milk along the verges, and meadowsweet, like the cream of summer, the musty, sweet softness of earth and wood. We went on through Rothley and Cossington and made our way into Melton Mowbray.
Home of the eponymous pork-pie and one of the six homes of Stilton cheese, this is an interesting area. In and around Melton there are 28 scheduled ancient monuments, 705 listed buildings, 16 sites of special scientific interest and several deserted village sites. The day had developed into one of calm warmth. The roads were flat now, and smooth. We were moving like proper cyclists - 23mph for long extended periods. We must have averaged 20mph for 10 miles easily. We passed through a village that was one of those golf-club and ornamental willow affairs - Jags and water features. You could tell it was posh - the 'A' board outside the pub advertised 'Thursday night is Lobster night'
From Melton Mowbray we head out towards Bourne - more easy-going roads, surprisingly smooth, even and flat - ideal really and we made good progress, no headwinds, good weather, mostly sunny - the day was developing into one of supreme enjoyment - everything was going so well. We stopped for a drink and saw the first cyclist of the day. An oldish guy riding a Bianchi bike - moving steadily and smoothly, fast but relaxed. We set off to catch him - this proved more difficult than I first thought - he was probably travelling at the same speed as us - but by the time we got going he was a good 800 metres ahead - we needed to work hard to make up that gap - it was a tough ten minutes of 24mph as we gradually closed in on him - creeping ever nearer as he held his pace. Finally we were on him - and then he turned off!! - heading in a different direction.
We circumnavigated Spalding and approached Boston - the traffic was heavy and slow as we weaved between cars in a tailback of maybe a mile. It was a good feeling zipping past them as they sat, frustrated, waiting their turn to pass through traffic lights around a series of road works. We somehow took a wrong turn at Boston, taking the A16 instead of the A52 - we moved steadily up to Stickney and made a right turn through fenland to Eastville on the way to Wainfleet St Mary and the A52. At this point the road was dirty, rough, broken and to make things worse we encountered thunder and lightening, we donned our waterproofs but for 20 minutes we cycled through some horrible weather.
Then it brightened up again, as we reached Skegness itself. It's a weird place - ram-jammed with red -faced, beery-breathed people - an awful, ugly collection of tattoos, nylon, grease and giro-culture. As we sat at the clock surveying an endless procession of characters from Little Britain it occurred to me that I don't think I've ever seen so many chip shops in one place - literally every shop along the seafront teamed with people stocking up with kebabs, chips and curry sauce. It was like visiting an open audition to the Jeremy kyle Show. I was glad to wave it all goodbye and head for home.
Then it struck me, Skegness should have held the alternative to the Olympics. It would be The Drunk Olympics. There'd be drunken men running down the street, with struggling determination to stay upright. In some cases events might be improved. The intricate interweaving of the track events. The hint of danger in the javelin and hammer. The sheer aerial poetry of the long jump. The intriguing unpredictability of the weightlifting. The cruel beauty of the high diving - Cycling would be the great leveller - literally as contestants tumble to the ground. Urine samples would be more than generous - what could go wrong?