Tuesday, 2 July 2013

As the Tour gets underway, I'm on a hat trick....

Gary is away. I'm riding solo this weekend and have a plan to make it three 100s in a row. The idea is sound enough although my eagerness is somewhat dampened by over indulgence at the pub on Friday night; it felt good at the time but the brightness of a fine summer morning and the dry, clagged feeling of my mouth make me realise the error of my ways.

Its 10.30 before I am ready for the grand depart, I have worked out a route that takes in some of what we have ridden for the past couple of Saturdays but also takes in a visit to my dear Mum - I figure I should get to her somewhere around 65 miles, I can refill my water bottle, have a cup of tea and with any luck she'll have a few slices of pork-pie and a couple of egg custards left over.

I set off at a gentle pace, too much alcohol has left me dehydrated and somehow drained - I soon realise this won't be an easy ride - but at least it's warm, no indication of rain, it's a wide green world with acre upon acre of crops pushing upwards to the sun. Riding along past the remnants of a rape field I hear the familiar jangling sound of a corn bunting, no sign of the bird but the sound is enough, ornithologists often describe the corn bunting's song as being like the jangling of keys, the simile holds true.

Up a head I see a group of riders and before I know it I've joined their tail end - they are travelling even slower than me, I decide to just hang at the back and take advantage of a welcome rest. They drag me up the steepish hill to Market Bosworth before veering off to the right. There's a market in town today and I pause to view the hustle and bustle, as people gather and queue for seemingly guilt-free consumption under the banner of a 'farmers' market', a temple to localism, regionalism and specialism. I look at the milling of the weekend crowd, eye-gazing the stalls with blank fascination. Food really has become the new fashion. These people aren't shopping for everyday staples as much as foody stuff: honey and liquorice flavoured mustard, a melange of cheeses, sourdough bread and value-added bottles and jars. People seem happy buying something dribbly with pine nuts and rapeseed oil.

I head off towards the sun but into the wind, my pace quicker now but feeling better than I did an hour ago. I enjoy the silence, no traffic along these quiet lanes, just the slumbrous broken moaning of wood pigeons in the great canopies of sun-dappled leaves. Of all the notes this is the note of summer - the monotonous, soothing, drowsiness of high noon. There is something in it that drugs the bllod and deepens and stupefies the silence of the day. After another hour of riding in the sun I stop and wheel my bike into an open field. I quaff eagerly from my bottle and lie on the dry edges to stretch my aching back. I feel like I could go to sleep - I close my eyes for a second and realise that if I don't move on I will drop off.

I reach my mothers house at around 2.00pm - much later than planned. She's in the garden deadheading and moving plants around. A cup of tea, a cheese salad roll, the obligatory egg custard and half an hour watching The Tour live on TV and its time to set off again. Its harder now - the combination of a long sit down, food and drink and the still draining effects of last night leave me particularly lethargic as I pant up the hill at Walton on Trent. I pick up some momentum into Netherseal and then through to Measham - but my mileage is nowhere near enough. I head back on the first part of the journey from this morning - up into Bosworth for the second time and round to Daddlington and Stoke Golding.
Time to stop at the pub for a pint of whatever they've got - Goats Milk today. I sit outside on the bench adjoining the bar and swallow in the beer in a seemingly continuous, hungry gulp. Time is moving on and I've a fair way still to go. Onwards then through Upton and Shenton, to Far Coton and Congerstone - my calculations show that I'm seven or eight miles short of my target - I carry on past my turning for another four miles, then turn around and head back. At the journeys end I've clocked up 100.7 miles - and I feel tired, weary and grateful to be home. My back is sore and I'm in need of the shower and bed!

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