Essex Season Ender 117 kms Sportive. Five Wild Salmon and a Parr

There comes a point in time when deterioration, both physical and mental is inevitable. Having accepted this fact, does one let go, like a dead fish carried away by the current, or does one go against the flow like a wild salmon fighting its way upstream?

To wit, six members of the Muswell Hill Peloton assembled at Hog Hill in Hainault, otherwise known as Redbridge Cycling Centre…a wonderful facility with grand views of the capital city to the West.

Average age of the team, including the fearsome Slayer’s youthful 41 years, brings the figure down to 51.67 per annum. Five wild salmon and a parr (but a powerful one). Big Mig, Doc, Gav, Pistol, Slayer and The Wattmeister made the roll call.

The entrants were rewarded with near ideal conditions for early November. Saturday’s downpours had moved eastwards across the North Sea to be replaced by a calm, mild and latterly sunny day.

Our group set off at a leisurely pace for 800m before Slayer decided to pull hard at the front. We whizzed through Collier Row and Harold Hill, and within a thousand heartbeats, we had climbed Noak Hill and crossed the M25. The waterlogged lanes approaching Doddinghurst hid plenty of potholes, but the organisers had forewarned us, and our train rolled on in powerful harmony. We arrived at the first feed stop in Great Waltham at 11 a.m precisely. About 50 riders stopped what they were doing to observe two minutes silence in respect of fallen soldiers of two world wars.

The journey continued unabated until Big Mig suffered a puncture near High Easter at about 65 kms into the ride. At this point, no other riders had passed us, we were averaging 30 kms per hour. We had an opportunity to assess our appearance. Faces and clothing splattered with mud, grinning from ear to ear, average age 52? More like 14.

The second half of the ride was blessed with almost constant sunshine. Slayer continued to forge a path for the veteran peloton, at times the glare from the sun on damp tarmac made vision difficult, but it never dented the speed or determination of the group. After High Roding, we turned South through Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath towards the glorious rolling lanes of Matching Green and Toot Hill. The Wattmeister had been riding constantly in the big 53t ring, and in the old days, he would have fancied launching a solo breakaway at 25 kms from the finish, just like one of his heroes, Roger de Vlaeminck.

However on this occasion, the group would stay together, a shoal of wild salmon swimming against the current of time.

Thanks to Jeremy Bonn and his team for an excellent, well-organised event.

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