I was making my way home from the club ride last weekend, nursing tired legs, Reg and a poorly bottom bracket, when I was stopped at the lights leading onto the bridge and noted a couple of serious looking cyclists, game-faces most definitely on, coming in the opposite direction. The lights changed and I crossed the river and began wending my way home, expecting any moment to be overtaken in a whirr of spinning wheels, a flash of bright colours and a hearty, “How do?”
I slowed to cross the railway lines and let a van out of side road. Still nothing, I began to think they must have taken a different route and not crossed the bridge.
Pushing on I skipped up the short, but steep rise to the road junction, stopped and unclipped at the red light and waited. First one, then the other dragged themselves up beside me, panting like an asthmatic, overweight Darth Vader when the turbo-lifts on the Death Star malfunction.
“How do?” I dutifully enquired, the recognised, UCI approved and universal greeting of cyclists everywhere.
“Going far?” one asked in reply, perhaps not quite realising it was almost 2.00 in the afternoon, the best part of the day had come and gone, and I’d been out since 8.00 o’clock that morning. I mentioned I was on the fag-end of a 70 mile club run and he mumbled something about a planned 100 miler. Ah, I was in the exalted presence of Raphalites.
One glance across showed me a beautiful, painfully expensive and acutely niche Italian carbon frame, deep section carbon wheels, and prominent Rapha logos adorning the necrotic, fag-smoke blue of heavily tattooed limbs.
I rolled off down the hill, soft pedalling somewhat because of Reg’s and my own fragile state, expecting the two to whiz past at any moment. Again, nothing and I became convinced they’d turned the other way at the junction.
They did finally catch me when I was held up busy roundabout, and we rode through the town centre together – just long enough for them to cast a few disparaging glances down at Reg. At another busy roundabout they dared more than me, and I watched them ride slowly away.
I hit the final, steep climb home, and there they were in front of me. Despite 70+ miles, a creaking bottom bracket and legs shredded by Mad Colin’s impromptu paceline (see here), I was closing on them with every pedal stroke. They turned left at the first junction, opting for the slightly easier, longer, twisting, but much less busy and infinitely preferable climb to the top.
I followed, expecting to overhaul them on the steeper lower section, but they turned left again and freewheeled down to a well-known cyclist’s café, obviously needing to stock up on triple shots of espresso and apple flapjacks to fuel their 100 mile epic. I hope the wholegrain goodness and industrial strength caffeine super-charged their ride, because if they couldn’t lift their pace beyond what I’d seen I couldn’t see them getting back before dark.