There is a good reason I commute 30 miles in and out of London every day on my bicycle.
Above: Gavin meets Olympic Gold Medallist Joanna Rowsell at the Surrey Ambassadors event. Read more about it below.
A good reason - no matter what the weather - through the dark nights of December, the freezing mornings of February and the showers of September - that I rarely resort to public transport for my commute to work. A good reason - I prefer to dodge the black cabs in Chelsea, the bendy buses in Belgravia and the eager shoppers on the Kings Road (seemingly unaware that traffic is on the left in this country).
The pull factors that put me on my fixie for those gruelling 15 miles either side of my work day are obvious for anyone with a love of cycling - let alone the financial and health benefits. But there is also a push factor that obliges me, in some of those dark, wet mornings, to clip in to the trusty Langster - and on Saturday I was reminded of that.
Taking my family to the Tate modern (an anniversary present for my wife) necessitated not only a train journey - but also a tube ride. I did try to duck out of the public transport options - offering first to cycle in to London and meet my wife and children at the railway station - this was met with short shrift.
Likewise - my offer of a family Boris Bike ride, from the mainline station to the Tate was met with unanimous disapproval. I had nowhere to turn - I was destined to journey in to London - on a Saturday - a hot Saturday - on the train, and suffer the dreaded Underground.
The Tate was interesting - and the abilities of Damien Hirst as an artist will always be a lively debate and as my wife and daughter enjoyed the butterflies and my son the shark. I started to feel the after effects of my sojourn on the Tube. And as the scent of rotting cow's head hit my nostrils - I knew I was done for. The headache - the nauseous feeling - the unseasonable heat of September, I couldn't get home and to bed quick enough! I spent the rest of Saturday in a haze- retiring early to bed and a fitful night's sleep.
And so it came to pass that I missed - what was to be - my 12th sportive this year - and failed to cycle my 1000th Sportive mile. And as if missing the event was not enough - fate dealt me a further blow by conjuring from nowhere - the sunniest - brightest day of the year.
So I sit here - recovering from the trauma of a tube journey, the stench of a Hirst installation and a cancelled sportive. Luckily - I have six happy years of marriage - an understanding wife (who can put up with me when I sulk from missing a sportive) and a nice fixed wheel commute to look forward to next week. And if that is not enough - then the Cycling Weekly Dorking Original Sportive in October presents a long enough ride to see me over my landmark 1000th, a few leisurely climbs in the Surrey Hills and hopefully an extended late summer.
Stage 8 – Tour of Britain
This summer has seen some halcyon days for cycling in Surrey. Blessed with the Olympic Road races, Time Trials and culminating with the final stage of the Tour of Britain. All events enjoyed fantastic support and I was lucky enough to view the final stage of the Tour of Britain from two vantage points.
I had meticulously studied the route since it was announced that the final stage would be set in the Surrey Hills. Having trained and cycled them most week-ends since the beginning of the year, I thought I stood a good chance of seeing the last climb (the 20%+ gradient of Barhatch Lane) and at least one other.
I did have some limitations - a dodgy rear hub and Sunday Morning mini-rugby training for my son (which ends at mid-day) meant I was up against the clock - not for the first time this year! I was pushed but managed to get to Crocknorth Road for the second King of the Mountain climb - having had to ride over ten miles and 300 vertical meters myself to get to my first view point. I then navigated myself to the infamous Barhatch Lane.
Barhatch Lane has featured in a number of Sportives I have completed this summer - namely those designed by the most sadistic of organisers. It purports to have a 25% gradient - and the road signs certainly allude to that sort of pain. It does - tantalisingly dip downwards on the early part of the climb - a section that can often be the undoing of the unwary cyclist - who inadvertently change to a higher gear- only for the road to ascend quickly and rear up at a breathtaking rate and precipitate either a fall or a dismount as the legs fail to keep momentum going at such a low cadence. The top of the climb is where the hill is at its steepest. Do not be beguiled by the beautiful tranquil tree-lined road - for many a cyclist, car and motorcycle have fallen foul of this stretch of road, as the bare knotted roots embedded in the embankments can testify. I feel I have to point out - no matter how slow I "pedal" - I have always somehow managed to cycle up this venomous beast.
There was plenty of support along the route and the Barhatch climb was packed with old sweats who knew that this was THE place to watch the Pros. And how they tackled it. Like a breeze. Huffing and puffing the NetApp attacks had clearly taken their toll and split the field - but how great it was to see them climbing this vertical wall with the cacophony of cheers and shouts egging them on. Normally on this stretch of road all I hear is my own breathing and the voice in my head asking me "WHY?" After cycling home - I saw that Cav had managed to top his World Champs Jersey year with a great win.
Last call for the Ambassadors
Friday 21 September was the Surrey Ambassadors celebration event and the final curtain call for the Surrey Ambassadors. For now I can surely hang up the puce purple and pink outfit for the last time.
The event was a thank-you to all the volunteers and included a presentation of a celebratory baton. There was also a chance to meet Surrey's Olympians and Paralympians including track star Joanna Rowsell (plus gold medal) and hand cyclist, Rachel Morris (plus bronze medal). The evening was extremely entertaining and the story of Rachel being hit by a car at 70MPH whilst training just weeks before the Olympics was both saddening and inspirational. Surely the highlight of my year is encapsulated in this photo of me - trying to prise the medal from Jo's hands. She also kindly signed my Etape certificate.