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C.P. in Bermuda
Charlie Pearch, a good friend of Rapha, Rapha Condor Club member and keen racer has written a piece on a recent trip to Bermuda where he competed in the inaugural Father's Day Race.
Mr. Graeme Raeburn of Rapha emailed me asking if I wanted to ride around Richmond Park with him in the morning. To ride around this Royal Park with the deer and rising mist as company is an experience that no one should miss. However, I was abroad, Bermuda I told him. "It was a beautiful morning CP, traffic very low, not a cloud in the sky - but then I guess it's probably like that in Bermuda (but without the hills). Enjoy!" came the reply. His perception is probably everyone’s idea of Bermuda, so let me put a few things straight: The island does have hills, short, sharp and nasty. The infamous 'Corkscrew Hill', which on race day in the Bermuda GP becomes the devil himself, is a perfect example. Indeed, I am sure that our very own Dean Downing, Malcolm Elliot and others will attest that your heart is coming out of your chest as you reach the top. Then there's Knapton Hill, which is Bermuda's Ranmore, a pig… No, Mr. Raeburn, there are hills a plenty here. And then there is the weather. It rains in buckets. Grey clouds shifted swiftly towards me as I stood at the bedroom window peeking through the curtains.
After lunch at Little Venice I’m on the bike. The roads are narrow but well surfaced and undulate past walls of limestone. It is now raining cats, dogs and canaries as I cross over the world’s smallest drawbridge. I peddle slowly round the craft market in the rain and notice that my socks are now grey. I turn and head back - into the wind, hands firmly on the drops, head up into the rain, and now it is serious, water is pouring down the road, I ride on and feel it washing off my back.
Generally speaking we are not often aware of our surroundings on the road, grey and black tarmac, the rear hub of the bike spinning in front, the breath of the guy on your right shoulder. But in Bermuda it’s worth taking in its humidity, the sound of tree frogs and, in June, the unbelievably beautiful Poinciana trees, which are a deep red and orange when in flower, huge colourful umbrellas providing shade as you ride and above the limestone walls, hedges of Hibiscus and Oleander provide colours of red, yellow and pink. And on every road there stand neatly trimmed palm trees, this is a very beautiful island.
I stop by to see Peter Dunne, the selfless President of the Bermuda Bicycling Association: A lean, mean American with a passion for the development of the younger generation. I am wet and so we chat for a few minutes on his porch. He tells me about Sunday’s first-ever rolling road closure race. I immediately sign myself up.
We congregate on Front St. at 6:30 am. Groups of teams form; Bike Works, Winners Edge, and the orange and white of some insurance company that I can't quite remember. I remember faces, Garth Thomson gracefully appears and rests on his top tube, one foot clipped in chatting to a mate, then a couple of red clad Madison riders appear, one of them being New Zealander Graeme Miller who competed in four Olympic Games and won more than 200 races in his career.
Police outriders appear, a police car, rolling road closures are in force today. The pace goes immediately, I am tucked in four back, perfect, up - down, the power kicks in and heart rate ramps up. Soon we are turning right, Kent Richardson and Randy "Animal" Davies go out on a break, the wind is on their back, the peloton let them go, ‘far too early’ (many lazy minds calculate). Miller has not gone so that’s all ok and I sense that everyone is watching him. We are moving fast but there is a lot of freewheeling, Kent and Randy are gaining ground, I get bored and put the hammer down. I am after them in an effort to bridge the gap. I hope that a couple will come with me, nobody does. They are in sight, I am gaining on them, but they are working well together and then I am no longer gaining. I realise that I can’t get to them without help - I am doomed. Why try to be the hero, let the peloton do its work.
In no time we are at the roundabout and back, riding into the wind. I try to find the biggest rider to sit behind, knowing that there are many who relish sitting on my tail for that very reason. Up to Swizzle pub, left, I think we just rode through a golf course… We are flying now, down a steep hill and into a dodgy ninety degree left turn down by the water. Lots of shouting in the peloton, something is happening, sure enough I am slipping back, hurting, desperately clinging on, riders are flying off the back. I force myself onto a wheel. Dizzy now I wobble, a Bike Works rider deservedly shouts at me, I am sorry. I find a wheel, find a rhythm, catch a deep breath, I have survived.
The big hill is next, I am on Lombardi's shoulder. At the top I say something to him, he scowls back. Miller is out in front taking seconds out of the two leaders, but it’s to no avail. The Botanical Gardens are moving inexorably towards us. The Animal takes the line, two bike lengths ahead of an aging Richardson. Miller is 3rd at 30 seconds, Garth has sat up, his race will be next week, the rest of us pile through. I cross the line, a short 22 miles, in 55 minutes at 24 mph. I appreciate that this is nothing special, but I had a good day, my RC Club jersey was worn with pride.
Big thanks to everyone I met and raced with, and thank you Bermuda.
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