the ridiculously satisfying rides continue on a daily basis but hecky thump it is cold, 6 degrees today and i am no longer built for these conditions, that much is abundantly clear. my fellow Northerners would say i’ve gone soft and i will agree, and you know what? i always wanted to be soft. when in was a kid here i dreamt of life on a tropical island. i’d like to see them survive a Taiwanese summer on anything less than three layers of skin, a bucket and a half of camomile lotion for the burns and without saying ‘bloody ‘ell, too ‘ot for me is this!‘ fifty times a day.
reminds me of when i started scuba diving in my mid 20s. we went for our first outdoor dive to a sunken quarry in Leicestershire. in february. you could see the top of the abandoned crane poking out of the top of the water. there was a picture of a fish in the clubhouse, it was reputed to live in the lake and was the only fish anyone had ever seen, but no two people had ever claimed to see it at the same time, so its existence was very much debated.
everyone else by the dock had on full dry-suits, under which they wore tracksuits, thermal undershirts and thick wool socks, everything any sane person would insist on wearing before jumping into a lake that was full of water cold enough to kill a man without protection in about 3 minutes.
we, being new recruits and not having yet attained out dry-suit certs, wore 7mm wetsuits. our hoods were so tight that everyone’s face looked a bit like a testicle trapped in a zipper.
our instructor handed each of us a liter of water.
we dived in, and i was sure i’d been lobotomised. the rush of cold on what was exposed of my face is still now indescribable. the visibility was down to 2 feet and we clung to our buddies with our frozen claws as if our lives depended on it… cos, well, they did depend on it. after a couple of minutes of flapping about amidst the mind-jolting coldness, my buddy tapped me on the shoulder.
i turned to see him looking at me, eyes wide, then suddenly they crinkled into what might have been a half-grimace but was also kind of a half-smile. i thought maybe he was about to check out and leave me to drag his frozen stiff corpse back to the surface, but no – he then started to pat the area around his belly and then his legs and even his neck.
i wondered what the heck he was doing when i felt my bladder protesting. ah. got it. he was pissing in his suit and shifting the warmth about with his hands!
i felt the liquid release and did the same,patting it about me, as my eyes fluttered and rolled in their sockets like i was having an underwater hot-gasm. it was that good. i tell you, i can feel it still, warm, wonderful, glorious urine!
when we all got out and unzipped though, i almost got whiplash, the smell was that bad. neoprene is a wonderful thing, but i advise against pissing a litre of English tap water into it. just in case you ever get the urge.
unless of course you’re in 7mm of it in a sunken quarry.
after the dive i chatted to the instructor, Simon, who was still completely stinking of booze from the night/morning before.
‘i’m thinking of going to Thailand to do my instructor course.’
‘is it any good there?’
‘well, if you like looking at fish and shit, then yeah, i suppose it’s not bad…’
everdrunk Simon, you see, was so hard and so bloody much a man that his idea of scuba was getting together with a bunch of blokes who looked like they’d rape you with a broken pool cue ‘just for a laugh’ and who all drove cars with stickers on the bumpers that said ‘divers like a lot of bottom time’ and going to a quarry to dive to depths of 90 meters on a baffling mix of gases that meant they had to be down there for hours, in the dark, rather than going diving at 15 meters in tropical oceans and seeing the kind of fish and colors that had you wondering if there wasn’t some strain of magic mushroom being pumped through your regulator.
and the point of that long preamble is this: riding in England in March, or February, or January or take-you-pick-uary is an altogether different kind of riding than riding in more temperate climes. it’s like a grim march, the winds whip your skin to flakes and the cold inhabits your bones like a scab that’s broken the picket lines to take your job. it’s beautiful, terrible, breathtaking, brutal and all in between and then some.
feels amazing when you get home though, though the post-ride meal has been bacon and sausage sandwiches almost daily, in a desperate attempt to get fat back in between bone and skin. but yeah, you feel like Scott might have felt if he hadn’t died in that tent.
i’m home Ma, i made it!
but it is beautiful. they call Yorkshire, the next county over, ‘God’s Country’ on account of its terrain, but it extends to Lancashire and the Lake District too. if you haven’t been here to ride, i implore you to consider it. those foreign lads at the Tour this year are gonna be gobsmacked.
did my first race in the UK in 20 years and more last Sunday, a Cat 4 one hour crit, and got 3rd. i still say i was 2nd, but the line guy was adamant. we had to sprint through 20 guys that we’d already lapped so it was a bit of a crapshoot but still, it was a lot of fun. i’m a long way off form so it was great to get the lungs going, same race tomorrow so will be going for the win this time.
Flanders and Roubaix draw ever nearer, i am so excited that if i was wearing a 7mm wetsuit i’d definitely pee in it.
today Sagan went and won the E3 and threatens to make this journo dude look a bit of a fool, the same guy who said he couldn’t beat Boonen and Cancellara next week.
over and out. next installment of the Euro Adventure 2014 coming soon, thanks for reading.