Saturday, 19 March 2011

Epping Dupe!

With Jon called in to work on the weekend and Jono (the club mascot's etc. etc.) in Southampton, it was up to Doctors Matt and Doug to undertake the Epping Loop today. In fact, Matt and Doug always end up riding this route without anybody else, for some reason. What's wrong, everybody?

Anyway, the weather caused a certain amount of sartorial consternation: the temperature was predicted to be 12 Celsius/Centigrade, which is a lot warmer than it has been... but how much warmer? Doug went for Mourinho baselayer and Mourinho jersey, and busted out the three-quarter length bib shorts (capri pants) to "show a little shin." Doug also wore long fingered summer gloves. Matt, on the other hand, went wool cap, full-length bibs, base layer, winter jersey, winter gloves. Let the record show that Doug made the better clothing decision.

It was sunny! It was virtually windless! We got all the green lights heading out of London, until the point that Doug remarked that this had been the case, after which we sat at red for every single traffic light the rest of the way. We sped into the countryside. There was some sort of sportive on this weekend, so we passed a big Evans Cycles repair wagon, and, riding in the opposite direction, lots of cyclists. A significant number of "good mornings" were exchanged. We discussed potential nicknames for Jon, who seems to be very good at doling them out for other people. After a minor wrong turn (perhaps if Hudson Bay was with us, this would not have happened), we took the long and less steep way up Toot Hill, then barreled over the rolling section thereafter ("this is like the 'easy' sections of the Puncheur," Doug remarked). On into Epping and the first testing climb of the day. "Ten points," Matt declared, and took off. Doug sat on his wheel. Matt jumped out of the saddle and cranked upwards. Doug remained seated. Just after the tube station, Doug passed Matt, and continued on. Doug looked on the ground for Matt's shadow, but didn't see it, so Doug looked over Doug's shoulder and still didn't see him. Doug craned Doug's neck further and there was Matt, way back there! I won! I won! Ten points! This is a significant event. I've never beaten Matt going up this climb. Hooray!

One of the chief joys of the Epping Loop is the section from Epping to our "feed station," which is actually a newsagent about 2/3 of the way through the route. The stretch of road is rolling, with a lot of speedy sections, views of farmland, and offers the opportunity to put your foot down and crank along and try to get in "the zone." This we did. Then, passing through a lightly wooded section, where the road is a bit narrow and curves around, [redacted]. We trundled for a couple of kilometers, more or less until "the weird bridge," which is also labeled by the Highway Authority as "Weak Bridge." We picked it up after that, but the legs weren't responding quite as well any longer, the adrenaline spike and dissipation having sapped a lot of my energy.

After a brief pause at the feed station to stock up on liquids, we pushed ahead to the last two climbs of the day, Robin's Nest Hill and Judges Hill. Most of the way up Robin's Nest and a couple of old guys strolling down offered some friendly banter and advised us to stop at the pub at the top, but we soldiered on, and into Potters Bar, where the train pulled into the station only a minute or two after we arrived on the platform. We reached the conclusion that yes, this is the way to ride the Epping Loop, rather than fighting the Saturday traffic all the way back to and through London, giving us the chance to watch Matt Goss storm the sprint in the Milan San Remo.

Stats: 27 kph average (to the nearest whole number...), a touch under 100k.

A sign posted outside The Farmer's Boy in Brickendon advertised tonight's live music as Neil Diamond, scuppering my plans of posting Bikini Kill as the song for this post.


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