I do not like the heat. My favourite weather for cycling is cool and overcast, perhaps with a little light drizzle. Probably not everyone's cup of tea. But when the sweat starts running into my eyes I wish for a servant to ride along side me holding a parasol to ward off the sun. Fat chance!
My reintroduction to randonneering, after a tendon-induced, eight week layoff, was the Evesham Wheeler's Three Counties event. The day started hot, and got relentlessly hotter as we rode. Duncan Archard (he of the peroxide eyebrows) rode with me for the first few miles. Now he can ride me off his wheel even when I am fit, and so, when various twinges made me worried about incurring the wrath of my physiotherapist, I opted to exchange his excellent company for a solitary but steadier pace. I must have drunk my own weight in water that day. During most of the ride I was by turns putting my cap on to avoid sunstroke, then taking it off to avoid heat-stroke. Then, at the finish, a clubmate taunted me about how slow I had been.
I was fitter when I rode the Porker's 400 earlier this year. I started with Duncan, and Jason Clarke. Jason attempts to ride every event flat-out, and reckons himself fit when he can finish without blowing up. He suffered somewhat later that day. Duncan was doing a convincing impression of a man on a gentle club-run, but somehow faster. My legs began to ache. By the time we got to the Beaminster control I was trailing. Duncan appeared miffed when Dave Lewis turned up and I decided to have a second pot of tea with him and continue at a gentler pace.
Somewhere during the event it began to rain. It must have rained hard, because I had to wring my socks out at the Halstock control, which we reached in the dead of night. However, that is my last memory of the ride. I cannot even recall the finish. Perhaps the rest of it was just too painful.
Almost all the names in AUK were at the start of the Brian Chapman Memorial. I even thought I had caught a glimpse of Nev Chanin. Then I remembered him saying that he didn't do 600s, because he disliked not sleeping, and so decided that it must have been an hallucination. Afterwards, someone told me that he did ride, and fast enough to grab a good night's sleep. Anne Learmonth was riding her 67 inch fixed (I'm tempted to use the word 'stupid' here), and I passed her doing a trackstand on one early hill.
On Sunday, at daybreak, as an extra challenge, a howling head wind sprang up. A few fast riders (including Steve Abraham, whose speed has gone up as his mileage has decreased) avoided the worst of it. The rest of us suffered. Several felt obliged to walk across the Severn Bridge, at the end of the ride, clinging to their bikes for support.
But there are two events which stick in the mind for the weather. One was a Peter Coulson Welsh permanent, organised too early one year. Lashed by fine hard snow on the hills above Builth Wells, three of us descended blindly to the town. We stood dripping in a video rental shop (the only place open), waiting for two stragglers and watching the rain driving in through the doorway. Afterwards, it took exact calculation of the extra distance to bring us within the time limit.
The other was in 1994: The last Imperial 125, organised by Andy Blance. The wise riders quit at the first control. The temperature dropped, and the rain and wind got worse. Climbing the main road out of Porlock (where signs warn of the danger from runaway vehicles), another cyclist became dimly visible in the mist, about a hundred yards ahead. After a long, slow-motion chase I caught him. We stayed together long enough for him to introduce himself as Andy Seviour, then he dropped me. Bent low over the bars, squinting into the rain, I watched him disappear into the gloom. I was doing seven mph on the flat.
The final descent, a few miles from the finish, was so painfully cold that my legs stopped working. At the bottom I had to hand-start them to avoid gliding to a halt. Andy was leaving as I finished with half an hour to spare. Drove home with the heater going full-blast, shivering.
The Amnesiac Auk.