Joined Jake for a couple of laps of Richmond Park in the evening sunshine on Wednesday in an effort to keep the miles ticking over in the legs. Riding from the City out to Richmond Park on a sunny day should be quite enjoyable but thanks to a combination of rush hour traffic, roadworks and an accident on the embankment the progress was hot and frustratingly slow … even by bike. But I consoled myself with the thought that I could buy a cold drink and maybe some sort of energy bar at the Richmond Park cafe when I got there. Except I couldn’t because despite getting there just before 7 it had already shut. (I’ve since learned that they work a strictly 9-5 routine there which seems like a pretty poor use of a prime location – particularly in the summer when the park is so busy in the evening but I’ll keep my rant to myself and move on…)
I stashed my work bag in the car park to transform myself from neon clad commuter into full on lycra lout and set off with Jake for what I suppose one would call a ‘social’ lap of the parks 10.6km perimeter road in an anti-clockwise direction. Not exactly ambling along but slow enough to maintain a conversation on the way round. Still it was surprising to learn later on that we did the Roehampton Gate – Cafe lap in 20:33 mins which was under a minute slower than the fastest I’d ever managed to go around on my own. So there is definitely progress being made even if I’m not really aware of it. I think Greg LeMond was the one who said “it never gets easier – you just go faster”.
After this first lap we were joined by Will Greig (also of the SW Rouleurs) who is a lovely guy but he has a nasty habit of riding a bicycle very fast and suddenly things got a bit more serious (for me at least). We set off line astern and despite the fact that Will and Jake are both tall guys, it was all I could do to hang on to the back as they pulled me up the incline to Richmond Gate. At some point it occurred to me that I was probably expected to put in a turn at the front and so with deft timing I managed to coincide this with the steady downhill part around the back towards Kingston gate and even got a bit of a recovery bonus when we were forced to slow down behind a car. From Kingston gate to the finish though I was relegated back to my rightful position of 3rd wheel, hanging on as best I could when the steep (down)hill section suddenly resembled the corkscrew at Laguna Seca as we barrelled through there with indecent haste. By now I was starting to blow quite hard but at the same time trying to ride with a degree of effort that would let me keep this up for at least another lap, so it was with some relief that I heard a shout behind me (I must have drifted into an undeserved second wheel or maybe I was thinking that if I could haul myself into the front and lead for a bit I could slow us all down) and Jake announced that he needed to get home. I needed no second invitation and, in the best tabloid tradition, I also made my excuses and headed back to the cafe car park to retrieve my rucksack.
According to Jakes Garmin we did this second lap in 17:31 mins. That’s over 2 minutes faster than my previous best effort (riding solo), was marginally a new best for Jake and for Will…? Still a minute outside his best! By the time I’d ridden home into yet another headwind I felt like I’d had a proper ride although I guess it was no more than 35 miles all in.