Wolf asks, “why?”. The question does not deserve a trite response.
What drives us to convene at the meeting point early on a Saturday, while sleet as piercing as shrapnel bombards us, grappling hooks for the cold air to breach our mortal defences?
This morning The Wattmeister arrived just as a much reduced group of regulars, Dingle Dave, Iron Mike and Big Mig were setting off for the Park. There was no chance to back out. That would be a massive loss of face.
A much more cautious ride down into town than usual, due to a thin layer of snow; a visible warning that the cyclists’ nemesis, black ice, could be laying in wait for the unwary, unseeing or just unlucky.
Leaving the rarified heights of Muswell Hill behind, it soon became clear that the Park was untouched by snowflakes and the sleet had been replaced by a mere drizzle. It was like a ghost park. Our foursome, swelled to half a dozen by the presence of Wolf and CannondaleMan, pounded out a series of swift laps, each rider taking a brief turn on the front. These turns began to take their toll. Big Mig was first to crack and did well to hang on. The Wattmeister and Dingle Dave each burned a couple of matches and needed to take a breather on the back of the small bunch.
In the meantime, The Lion King and Pistol Pete had made the trip down from the heights. Lion King tore the flange off his Enve wheels and rode a taxi home, but Pistol joined the crew for the final laps.
With one lap to go, a frozen Wolf went home to warm up and CannondaleMan called it a day soon after. The slowest sprint of all time was played out to an imaginary audience, and the peloton of five returned back to Muswell Hill via Swains Lane and a mini-blizzard.
Cresting the summit in Highgate, the answer to ‘Why?’ became clear. We don’t do it for ourselves, we do it for each other. Frozen to the core, soaked to the skin and splattered with streaks of mud, we turn up every Saturday in order not to let the others down.