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The Crazy Gang
by Guy Andrews
Thursday night. For once it’s not raining. The Stranglers are paving the way home. I hit Swains Lane feeling content with my lowest gear. “Walking on the beaches…” Then from nowhere a fleece-clad commuter on a Brompton screams past at 20mph plus. I try to catch his wheel, fail. Chase. Wheeze and splutter. He glances back and taunts me, his fluorescent green helmet cover bouncing left and right. Bollocks to it. I pack it in and go home to contemplate what I have let myself in for.
You see earlier this year, Rapha suggested that I ride with the guys on The Crazy Bet and, being a big fan of deadlines, I looked at it as an admirable goal. Ah-ha! I optimistically thought, a realistic target that wasn’t racing. It’s [just] two days of climbing. The Alps and Pyrenees… which sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I gratefully accepted the challenge.
I thought I’ll be OK, after all, I’ve raced for 22 years ridden a Premier calendar or two and as a result I was fitter at forty than I was at fourteen… but that was two years ago and now things have changed. Dramatically. I have spent the last two years living like a journalist (of the Fleet Street variety) drinking, smoking and eating far too much… the training plans I once had were lost and racing became a distant memory. Now I am a shambles and a shadow of my former self – and, to cap it all, I’ve been beaten by a nodder on a folding bike.
Let’s get the excuses out of the way. The problems started when tendonitis hit my knees when I was training for my first year as a Veteran. After a week in Mallorca and a hard ride too far with a pro team meant my work-hardened joints just gave way. Six months off the bike ensued and my first season with the old timers was over before it had even started. The six months turned into a year, then a year and a half…
But latterly the hinges in my legs have healed and I started training again this spring, not really with anything in mind, but just in case I couldn’t keep it up [or should that be keep up?]. I had recently moved to North London and luckily an old riding mate of mine lives nearby. Twenty years ago we raced together with enthusiasm, now we spend four hours just cruising, chatting about politics and business rather than the nitty-gritty of next week’s time trials and the road races we’d entered. Fortunately, at the time, Jay wasn’t race fit either and we have spent most Sundays pootling around and getting lost in the south Hertfordshire lanes and bridleways, racking up some miles and slowly feeling fitter. It’s been fun and although we mostly talk about how good we once were, at last there is some feeling of a return for our efforts.
As a result Jay is riding the Étape du Tour this year, but not the Marmotte. I, on the other hand, have opted (for some ludicrous reason) to do both.
I am under no illusion – It will be all about survival. The Glandon, the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez await… and then the Tourmalet and the dreaded Hautacam, a beast of a hill that I have some history with… but more of that (including some facts about my lack of serious training) next time…
The Crazy Bet is going to ridden by Bill Strickland of Bicycling magazine, John Bradley of Outside magazine, Simon Richardson from Cycling Weekly and myself. Bill's already blogging away and so is John.
Guy Andrews is editor of Rouleur Magazine;