Tuesday, June 20, 2006

London to Brighton

Maybe I'm fitter than I thought I was. Either that or cycling is easy. I really enjoyed yesterday's bike ride from London to Brighton and find myself surprisingly able to walk today. I'd originally applied for a 6am start because I wanted to avoid the midday sun if possible but the organisers had asked me to do an interview at 7.30 and obviously I was very happy to oblige. It did mean that they would provide transport for me and my bike down to Clapham Common and that seemed like a very good deal to me. As it was whoever I was meant to chat to ended up stuck on a tube and so I ended up not doing an interview and setting off at around 8am. The official photographer took this picture as I left.

With 27,000 people taking part it's a massive thing to organise and they really do make a spectacular job of it. There must have been nearly 200 marshal points along the way and every major junction was well managed and controlled. The journey ended up taking me around 5 hours all in but I reckon if I'd started earlier it would have been nearer to 4. The ride started and ended in gridlock and at one point, maybe a third of the way in, we ended up stationary in a lane for a good 10 - 20 minutes while something was cleared up ahead of us. I spoke to a few people who'd left before 7 and they all said that their ride was uninterrupted.


There are small crowds that gather along the way to offer encouragement which really helps to keep you going and the young kids with water-pistols offer a welcome dash of cool water in the heat which is, I think, their intention. And of course there's the encouragement of sponsors who have all chipped in too. They're the ones who actually raised the money - I just had the fun of the ride. And the sunburn.

I really thought I'd cross the line and collapse - or worse still, fail to cross the line, but I'm pretty sure I could have carried on for a good while longer. I stayed in Brighton for a couple of hours for a cup of tea (it does cool you down and anyone who says it doesn't is a liar) and a sandwich and a bit of pebble-balancing on the notoriously stoney beach.

Pebble Balance

For many years a lot of people have travelled back to London on the train but last year the train companies banned bikes on the day of the event and so now the organisers arrange for a fleet of coaches to ferry cyclists back while the bikes go on lorries. I could see the pained looks on the faces of those who owned expensive bikes as their bikes left Brighton on a separate vehicle to themselves but it was a pretty efficient system and our bikes turned up in Clapham about 5 minutes after us. At which point I cycled home. Not a twinge of pain I tells ye, not a twinge.

My favourite images from the day: the youngster on a BMX bike who was speeding up one of the early slopes, throwing some amazing jumps off the back of the speed bumps and the lady of a certain age who was puffing along on an old clogger of a bike with nothing in her basket except the Mail on Sunday.

Incidentally, I recently mentioned taking part in a photo shoot alongside Brian Dowling and others and I'm reliably informed that it appeared in yesterday's Sunday Mirror magazine. It's laughingly titled Sexy British Male Celebs: The Entertainers (so there's two words that make me squirm (no, not entertainers, I have some pride in my job)) and as well as Dowling.B and myself it features Alan Carr, Alex Zane, Dave Berry and Richard Bacon. I'm the oldest man there by a clear 5 years although surely Bacon.R is lying when he says he's only 30. Surely. Isn't he? If anyone who was reading that thinking, Sexy? Him? could have seen me at 12 o'clock, red in the face with both sunburn and effort as I slowly scaled Ditchling Beacon they would have known for sure how wide of the mark it really was.

The ride is done but you can still donate... and let's be honest, it's all really just an excuse to donate money to something that you should support anyway... www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman.

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