The bikes were ready to go, – well not quite; Jim hadn’t pumped up his tyres and when he did, his pump exploded all over the kitchen. When this was sorted out, yes, they were ready for action. Even getting up at 4.30 to make bacon butties was a slight pleasure. A large quantity of flapjack and jaffa cakes was stowed around my person and crammed into crevices in the bar bag. When Richard came in the van, we put the bikes in and on, and tootled off for our adventure.
The Footballers Flatlands are dead at six in the morning, (I could picture the wives, carefully embarking on a two hour facial preparation workout; cleanse, tone, moisturise; primer, foundation, eyeliner; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, while the footballers themselves would be lolling abed, sleeping off any excesses there may have been during the dark hours) so we were able to navigate the rows of lavish housing without obstacle to find our destination, Poyton Lesiure Centre. Here we found friendly marshals, as promised, and goody bags with special bottles and High5 products. The pleasant thing about a sportive is that you don’t have to set off at any particular time, and we didn’t. We seemed to be the only people with; a. bar bags, b. toe clips, c. a peak on the helmet, and d. a platypus stuffed into the bar bag. (Platypus?- don’t ask) Everyone takes it so seriously don’t they? Never mind though, I took pride in the fact that I seemed to be the only ‘older’ lady doing the hundred miles.
We were lucky with the weather, warm and sunny with light westerly winds. What more could you ask for a hundred mile cycle ride? The lanes, once we had escaped the town, were narrow and full of trees, butterflies and birds. Cheshire in her summer frock. Very enjoyable riding ensued as we whizzed and whirred through warm byways, sometimes in close company with other riders, (another thing that distinguishes this from a race) sometimes with not a soul about. The traffic seemed mostly benign, and patient, and the only incidents were Jim’s chain coming off a couple of times, my drinks tube dangling into the wheel (drinks tube? – don’t ask) getting two wasps at the same time inside my glasses, and my bottle cage breaking off.
Feeding stations were below shadowy gazebos at the roadside, with a shady arbour close by for lucky male cyclists to avail themselves of. Ladies had to be more circumspect, and cycle vigilantly, awaiting their opportunity. Mine came when I saw an open field gate with a handy hedge. What I didn’t know until too late was that the vast brown heap inside the gate was apparently composed of rotting animal material.
And so the hours passed; hour after hour upon hour, a whole working day, just sitting on that saddle , wafting the legs up and down, travelling, travelling…. Jim and Richard were strong and good natured throughout, naturally; I of course had a few dodgy moments when the sugarometer needle swung below zero.
We passed through villages with lovely names. Like a lyrical poem I recite to myself: Meadowbank, Foxtwist Green, Peover Inferior, Swan Green, Lach Dennis, Little Budworth, Gallantry Bank, Chorley, (where I pulled a powdered eponymous cake from my back pocket) Aston Juxta Mondrum, Minshull Vernon, and Occlestone Green. The far end of the course passes through Burwardsley, (the candle factory on Sundays remember?) and places such as Tattenhall which are surprisingly hilly when you are expecting a flat course. Never Expect.
The sun kept on beaming, and there was plenty of wildlife to see and hear, birds of prey and an unusually large flock of flying herons. (I just looked this up and it is called a hedge, sedge or siege of herons) After a long time the roads started to seem more hilly as we skirted round the edges of Macclesfield and there were some steep nips up and down various avenues. Then suddenly – Ping! We were there. We had done it, and a giant vat of hot dogs swimming enticingly in brine was before my eyes. The time? 7.40.25. That’s 41,400 revolutions of the ankles, 41,400 twinkles of those toeclips.