And so two weeks ago the Giro d’Italia rolled out of Naples around the same time that I was rolling out of the skateboard ramps at Colchester Leisure World. The elite pro riders have been in the saddle for fourteen days, climbing, sprinting and time trialing. I’ve mowed the lawn, had a bit of a hoover around the house and then collapsed on the settee watching the cricket.
With the Col du Galibie the next challenge for the Giro, I decided to get back in the saddle on Sunday morning and ride with the lovely folk of Colchester CTC out towards Maldon. It may have been a more sedate ride compared with the Dauphiné Alps, but then unlike the elite pro riders, I’ve not had the benefit of two weeks in the saddle to prepare.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream, etc. Plus don’t forget to stop off for mid-morning coffee at Perrywood Nurseries in Tiptree, a pleasure that the supposed glamour of the Col du Galibie is lacking.
We got off to a watery sun sort of start as the small but perfectly formed pelaton rolled out along the edges of the Colchester Roman Wall. The Vicar of St James the Great gave us some encouragement climbing up East Hill. Backsides left the bicycle seats. The good Vicar wasn’t quite your crazed Col du Galibie cycling super fan chasing you up the hill whilst wearing a mankini. No sign of El Diablo either.
Once again my knowledge of route and destination was on par with my understanding of The Bible. Maldon was mentioned as the turnaround point, but this could have been Mount Sinai for all I knew.
A bicycle un-friendly cycle path around the back of the old Barracks was bloody awful. Gravel littered with broken glass and dog shit greeted us at regular intervals. A nervy touching of the front brake and you were looking at a bloodied face mixed in with faeces. Which wasn’t a million miles away from my Saturday night out to be honest.
We made hay whilst the sun wasn’t shining at Layer de la Haye. A buzzard hovering over Berechurch was a reminder as to how the ‘comfortable’ pace of a CTC ride allows you to take in your surroundings and actually experience the changing scenery.
It strayed dangerously into Graun reading territory as a crowd of Sunday morning lane cyclists engaged with nature whilst looking forward to the first Danish pastry of the day. And then the Mod squad of West Ham scooter boys sailed past at Layer Marney, slightly off route for The Boleyn, but looking cool as fuck all the same. Betcha they don’t dish up Danish down at Upton Park.
The mid-May arid air around the lanes was a reminder that North Essex is one of the driest locations in the land. I tried to counter-balance this in a hedgerow with my own contribution to raising the water table. All that I succeeded in achieving was cycling in a saturated pair of lycra shorts.
Now was no time for Nursery rhymes, but I know an old (ish) lycra lad that swallowed a fly. I don’t know why he swallowed a fly, but he did it again, again and again as a swarm of the little buggers did their best to upset my natural breathing rhythm.
A sign saying: Guinea Fowl Crossing just outside of Tiptree offered more hope than actual comedy moments. I was half expecting a lollipop lady with a featherless head to step out and allow a safe passage for the plumed pedestrians. Instead my back wheel skidded on some guinea fowl shit left in the middle of the road.
The CTC tradition of endorsing EVERY garden nursery cafe en route continued at Tiptree. A green canopy then greeted us as we left the Land of Jam and freewheeled down a lane laden with lush leafs growing from either side. A ray of sun illuminated the empty road as the branches tailored off towards the end. It was like a science fiction scene as the darkness emerges with a symbolic light at the end of the tunnel.
For the riders of Colchester CTC however all that we were greeted with as we rode into Little Braxsted was a homemade sign saying: Hardcore Wanted.
There’s a time and place for everything, Comrade. Lycra shorts and hardcore aren’t a good combination. But good effort, fella.
Purleigh was the perfect luncheon feeding station. My salmon and chips bap (classy) was enjoyed with a view overlooking the Blackwater – I think? The ramblers in the country pub looked as confused with the lycra set as I was with the three quarter pants preferred by the bobble hat boys.
Refueled and ready to roll out again somewhere close to Cocks Clark.
“Don’t worry dear, it’s only a deer“
…was a rather joyous turn of expression as a beautiful Bambi narrowly missed my front wheel as it darted across the backstreet lane. An estuary echelon was required as the wind started to blow up around the Blackwater. A slight turn of direction and soon it was blowing up our backsides, all the way back to the Leisure World skateboard ramps.
Sixty plus miles with the lovely CTC folk and still time to collapse on the settee in front of the cricket highlights back at base.
See you next Sunday.