Among the grandees of the Muswell Hill Peloton, The Wattmeister and Iron Mike have spent Christmas fighting a nasty chest virus, Slayer has been afflicted by a dodgy thigh (and, it is rumoured, alcohol poisoning), and Gray Goliath is currently handcuffed to a bed somewhere in North London.
This morning, the group assembled a little later than usual in order to allow the frost to thaw. The roll call was as follows: The Wine Gum Kid, Big Mig, Iron Mike, Killer Kay, The Wattmeister, Pistol Pete, Saville Row Alex, Popeye Green and his pal Oliver (no nickname as yet).
The 75km route was devised to avoid shady and potentially hazardous icy stretches of road without venturing onto the M1 and M25. Thus, the men in stripes followed a less familiar route than normal.
But let us cut to the chase. On the outward half, into a cold and biting headwind, The Wattmeister felt sluggish. Each time Popeye and SavilleRow injected a bit of pace into proceedings, the mind tried to cajole the legs into producing more effort, more power, more souplesse. To make things worse, Iron Mike and Big Mig appeared to have good legs and were no doubt saving them for the return to Muswell Hill.
Despite the physical and mental travails, the group enjoyed a most pleasant ride within the confines of the M25. At the top of Hendon Wood Lane, with 62 kms completed, Big Mig, Popeye, SavilleRow and Iron Mike took the left turn to Totteridge at speed, cleaving a gap to TW, The Wine Gum Kid, Killer Kay and Oliver (no nickname).
The Wattmeister responded instinctively. From here on in, approximately 10 kms from the finish, the ride would be played out in his head. A battle ensued between the physical and the mental, each demanding their own way, simultaneously establishing a series of reconciliations and compromises as the ride approached its denouement.
Initially a big effort was required to close the 50 metre gap to the leading group of four. The mind demanded it….the body delivered, but screamed, “no more!”. The group applied further pressure, increased the speed and The Wattmeister faltered, along with Iron Mike. “Jump on Mike!”, barked The Wattmeister, a brief return to actuality before retreating into the war being waged in his head.
Another deep pull into the twin reservoirs of physical and mental pain. And they bridged the gap. TW could see Mike’s shadow sat on his wheel. TW urged his own shadow to pedal harder so that his actual physical being could glean a few seconds of recovery.
A few seconds must have elapsed, then a few more, the pace remained constant, but with no more spikes in pace to derail the chasers. Precious recovery time on the bike. Now SavilleRow toiled to hold BigMig and Popeye’s wheel. TW saw it and pulled through, the snot and the dribble running down his jaw. It had ceased to be cycling and had become the art of scraping the bottom of the well.
Not far to the junction with the A1000 which is situated at the top of a steep little climb. Iron Mike came off the back of the group and attacked hard. Kudos Mike, you had been suffering in a big way. The others responded, but none better than SavilleRow Alex who cantered up to the ‘T’ Junction in some style.
The reward for the rest of the group was the intangible satisfaction that they had survived, each in their own way.