Let’s ride through this festive fug

It has already been a long, boozy, couple of weeks, kicked off, somewhat ironically, by our local cycle club’s Christmas party. 

This is a traditionally messy affair where my fellow comrades of the road, many of whom are retired and none of whom can drink to any extent, drink excessively. 

It begins at the home of the nominated host where we attempt to drink him dry before the whole gathering shifts to the restaurant of choice which then attempts to feed 30+ of us at the same time. This is the only time of year wives and partners are included in proceedings, unless they happen to cycle themselves, and they don’t tend to hang around for long once they have got an idea of the direction in which the day is heading. 

This is held on a Sunday so as not to interfere with any weekend riding but does not a lot for those who have yet to reach retirement age and have to get up for work the next day. 

And so begins the round of parties and gatherings that exemplify December, and its resulting drop in performance on the bike. The weather hasn’t much helped either - so many ridiculously vicious storms that they’ve started to name them and we’re already on Eva. This fact is all the more concerning when I consider we only actually officially began winter yesterday. 

So we’ve shagged the planet up and I’m in the process of shafting what remains of my fitness, but there are one or two incentives to be had, even in these dark days.

There is Rapha’s Festive 500, where you are encouraged to ride 500 km between December 24 and 31. That’s 62.5km per day if you’re going to ride on Christmas day, 71.42857 if you’re going to take that off, or 44.38 miles per day. You won’t get much in the way of thanks but clearly the rewards will come in the form of the mountain of mince pies and gallons of mulled wine you can consume GUILT FREE. 

That aside, maybe I’ll get a bike-related present for Christmas. Although if it’s winter kit that’s me shafted yet again, seeing as it’s hotter than the Bahamas out there. If it wasn’t for the state of the thatch currently covering my legs I’d be going out there with nothing but bib shorts, it’s that hot. 

This weather is presenting all kinds of dilemmas among the un-pro peloton I ride with. While none have resorted to actually getting the legs out again just yet, there is all manner of overdressing issues, which does somewhat perplex me. A temperature of 15 degrees is the same whether it is experienced in summer or winter, so why people are turning out in winter jumpers, rain jackets and neck warmers is beyond me. At least stash the jacket until a full-on weather event. 

There are a few people who aren’t going anywhere in this weather. Judging by Strava, turbo training appears to have grown in popularity, especially since the inception of Zwift, the virtual racing app that transports you to an island (somewhere in the Bahamas probably) where you race people from all over the world, from the comfort of your garage, kitchen, or shed. It’s all getting a bit advanced, this Zwift, you can even buy kit from your winnings. Even a rain jacket, I suspect, if you want to overdress in a virtual environment, too. 

I was wondering if they have dopers in Zwift. They have 17-year-old kids ‘fessing up now. If he hadn’t been caught red handed by his mate’s dad (no resources in British Cycling to test at grassroots), his junior National 10 TT win would have stood, presumably with no one any the wiser. How he got hold of a vial of EPO is anyone’s guess. 

I would imagine a virtual world like Zwift could be a hotbed of dopers, all sitting there chugging away at the turbo trainers, mainlining jelly babies or around this time of year, After Eights. Who needs EPO when you’ve got After Eights? They could do us all a favour and plug themselves into the national grid. Give something back. 

Should keep a few Christmas tree lights on the go. 

This column first appeared on www.thetimes.co.uk/onyourbike on December 22 2015

Graham HutsonComment