Birnie, Pickering, Clarke, Christen, Bourne

First Century of the Year.

Tradition has it in these parts (where I live) that the first ‘Hundred’ of the year takes place on the first Sunday in January following New Year’s Day.

So it proved this year, mainly because I was obliged to cancel last year’s ride due to a right old dose of flu. I could not, therefore, cancel again and disappoint the veritable peloton of wannabe participants without very good reason.

An air temperature of minus seven degrees Celsius on the Sunday morning was not good enough, although I admit to hoping on the way to the start that no one else would turn up and that I could turn around. Fat chance; waiting at the station were cycling journalists Ed Pickering and Lionel Birnie, Tour of Wessex organiser Nick Bourne and elite roadie Dave Clarke of the Pendragon Sports team.

By the time we got to Ryka’s Café near Dorking, my water bottle had frozen hard, albeit not as hard as my shins. Foolishly I had decided on ¾ bib knicks, having thus attired completed half a dozen rides of between one and two hours over the festive break without discomfort. What works for two hours may not work for eight, however, and Magicalia staffer Juan Christen, who joined us at Dorking, wore full-length leg coverings like my companions. Dave Arthur had apparently decided to ride ‘cross.

By halfway to Worthing we had seen a fair amount of ice, several emergency vehicles with flashing blue lights and one overturned 4WD. Nevertheless, all went well until Nick fell off, ironically on a dry, clear stretch of dual carriageway. He was clearly on a mission to subdue Dave C, however, and carried on as if nothing had happened.

This private battle within Pendragon Sports kept the pace high enough to kill my legs soon after halfway, reducing me to an ignominious grovel until we reached the lunch stop near Billingshurst. While Juan tucked into a Little Chef Olympic Breakfast and I wolfed down a Crunchie bar, Picnic bar, Late Starter breakfast, Jubilee pancake and two cafetieres of coffee, Dave ate some toast. He was clearly hungry after his 7 ½ hour ride the previous day…

Properly refreshed, we (or, rather, Dave and Nick) maintained a steady pace back to Dorking and then, having parted with Juan, Sutton as the temperature dropped away. The final tally was 168km (105 miles) ridden, around 1700m climbed and the first Century of the year in the bank – for those of us who turned up. Those who stayed in bed know who they are.