It’s January and my half-arsed training is, well, under way. After work, I rode straight from the train station to the Market Square to join up with the club’s weekly chain gang/winter base miles ride. I was cutting it fine, and that was before factoring the slow commuter shuffle from train to platform to bridge via the bottleneck of ticket gates (I wasn’t going to embarrass myself by standing by the train doors, ready to sprint for the stairs like some commuters do).
When I arrived at the Market Square, the only cyclists were two lads on BMX’s. The clock on one of the buildings was showing 8 minutes past, so I carried on, hoping to catch the group.
At the A1 flyover, on the Bushmead road, I caught a glimpse of flashing red lights down by the red house. I guessed the time gap at around a minute and a half. David had said they had altered the route since last week to use the larger minor and b-roads; some of the ones we had been using have deteriorated badly over Christmas, and in a group, in the dark, best avoided.
I followed them, part guessing the route at junctions, part relying on thin wet tyre lines printed on the road. A light rain kept trying to get started, but never enough to entirely wash the group’s tracks away.
Riding out was hard. The roads to the west of St Neots are all false flats and exposed drags and tonight were given steel with a brisk headwind. For a while I had fleeting glances of the group’s lights, flashing like a mobile disco, but all too soon I was relying on their tracks alone. At the top of Chequers Hill I scanned the valley below but saw only a few street lamps and the house lights of Wilden.
In previous weeks the group has turned left out of Wilden to Renhold, followed by a loop up and down Graze Hill. It adds an extra leg of road, but some bits are iffy, with gravel and holes, and I wasn’t sure if they would stick to any of this part of the route or not. The roads were getting wetter too and so my tracking was less reliable. I carried straight through Wilden thinking, and hoping, to head them off at Ravensden if they did, but not far out of Wilden I rode over a dry patch of road, sheltered by a tree. It was streaked with tyre tracks.
Shortly before the turn to Robin’s Folly I saw lights ahead, no, two groups of lights and stationary. I caught up with the first group – a puncture was being fixed with. Obviously I hadn’t been hoping for a puncture in the group as a way of catching them for some respite, but the company was nice.
Respite never came though. Before, I had tapped out my own rhythm, now I had to ride to the pace of the group, which on a single speed isn’t always easy. I did some turns at the front, but was spinning out into my single speed interval mode – rapid spin, cruise and repeat. While it gets the heart rate going it is hard to sustain for long, so I spent more time hanging at the back, but, that’s the training compromise I have to make. With not enough time to get home from work, to swap for a bike with gears, and my single speed the only road bike I’m happy(ish) leaving multiply locked at the station all day, the Tuesday night ride may become quite a work out.