Cycling in Britain demands dedication
by Timothy John
Another day in Britain, another helping of howling wind and driving rain.
Our luckless island is seemingly cursed with the world’s worst weather: 11.5 months of relentless winter, occasionally broken without warning by a 10-day heatwave of the kind to inspire headlines declaiming drought and sunstroke, usually during a period in which precisely no one is on holiday.
Aiming for a gap in the weather is useless today. The BBC’s hour-by-hour forecast is decorated only by cloud symbols and a warning of darkness before 5pm.
Still more depressing than the prospect of being soaked is the certainty of riding into a pounding headwind. The skeletal trees outside bend in endless supplication to the cruel wind, swept in to deprive me of any pleasure from riding.
Time is against me, however. In a fortnight, I am due on Mallorca as a guest variously of IG-Sigma Sport and Human Race, there to ride in the case of the former with cyclists whose ability is considerably in advance of my own, and in the latter with a boyhood hero: Stephen Roche.
The prospect of having insufficient fitness to ride with either is humiliating, and so I will change into what I fondly imagine to be waterproof garments, climb aboard the RCUK Winter Bike, and head out into conditions more likely to inspire an afternoon in the café than an afternoon in the saddle.
Cycling in England demands dedication in a way that riding in warmer countries does not. The Guardian was filled last weekend with tales of Chris Froome’s remarkable journey from Kenya to Paris, and while his story is inspirational, much of it will have unfolded in fairer weather than ever witnessed on these shores; meteorologically speaking, the Kilburn Kid will have faced a tougher challenge, which is why, increasingly, he has become our Man in Mallorca.