Walking out of Wimbledon station I contemplated August – the new February. A month when change is afoot and the weather is troublesome enough to unsettle one; not yet Autumn but not quite Summer. A month that is defined primarily by family holidays and cities so quiet you can hear a pin drop.
I took cover hoping for a break in the torrential rain. My phone beeped. It was Foxy: ‘Not coming South the bike ride has closed a lot of roads going to stay local.’
My subdued mood headed out into a brief respite from the downpours and towards the bottom of Wimbledon hill to catch a bus up to the village.
As I rounded the corner I noticed cones everywhere and barricades and, could that be in the distance……yes, yes it was, hundreds of bikes and their riders (www.prudentialridelondon.co.uk) cycling hard through this leafy suburb towards the finish line at The Mall in central London.
My mood lifted by the sight of movement; I watched them whirr past. Brightly coloured ‘uniforms’, one water bottle – sometimes two – perched between legs beneath cross bars. And, wheels. Wheels that looked like they were flat – not round – fancy wheels: Expensive bikes.
I started to climb. Rather them than me I thought, watching as they hurled themselves upwards. The rain dampened no-one’s spirits here. The spectators kept cheering, and the cyclists – in the face of such optimism and support – gritted their collective teeth and pushed on.
“You can do it! It’s the last hill!” someone shouted.
I got to the top and stood with Becky outside a shop to watch the race go past.
Beards were everywhere together with the drive and ambition of a slightly older ‘crew’ keen to capitalise on the youth and associated energy they still have. My pal E, who’s in the know tells me they’re referred to as ‘Mamils’ (middle-aged men in lycra) in cycling circles.
“Gosh, if you were single, Becky, this would be a great place to meet some nice fit men.”
“What would you do though?” she replied, “They’re moving so fast! Would you drop a handkerchief and hope one of them might dismount to retrieve it for you?”
We chuckled away as the riders sped by – some grinned, others were sombre, oblivious to everything but the goal. The occasional one chewed hurriedly on an energy bar. But, all were in a hurry, riding over the crescendo of summer, preparing themselves for a sprint to the finish.