The last bit of promo for ACE took place last week. I’d been asked yonks ago to attend a dinner of ‘The Pedal Club’ in London’s famous London. To be honest, I had no idea who they were and had to do a bit of research. My partner in crime, Steve Green, had previously spoken for them about his Milk Race project and it went down very well.
I didn’t think it could be that challenging, and they were offering expenses + lunch + fee so it seemed like a done deal. Doug Collins invited Steve along for moral support.
Doug rode for Condor Mackeson, winning several stages of the Tour of Britain and riding in the Peace Race. He recounted a story of riding London-Holyhead on a Moulton, which collapsed at some point after halfway.
On arrival it seemed fairly low-key, but any pretensions of an easy ride, metaphorically at least, were extinguished fairly quickly. I was seated to the right of Carlton Kirby at dinner, who gave a moving eulogy to David Duffield. He is much much bigger than he sounds on the telly, and funnier, and more salacious, and does very good accents, and keeps his schedule in a tiny diary in his pocket, and bought a copy of my book. Sat in front was Grant Young of Condor. Behind him was Ian McMillan, a track champion. I was coping just about ok with this, when Maurice Burton strolled in.
He was joined by Keith Bingham. And these were just the ones I recognised. All of the rest were united by their commitment to furthering cycling as a force for good. And they wanted to hear me speak about my book. It was by some distance the most nerve-wracking audience I’ve encountered.
Dinner was an entertaining affair, with lots of banging of the gavel and drinking of the wine. I sat restlessly, waiting for the point where I would have to get up and speak. It was preceded by a short announcement, celebrating my achievements as a cyclist, of which there are two; obtainer of 49 minute 25 and participator in National TT Championships, appearing alongside other minor celebs like Wiggo and G.
The talk went well, the jokes just about flew across and I forgot the no spoilers rule by telling them about death. I amended it on the hoof to take into account any issues which might be encountered when teaching elderly matriarchs to suck eggs, and on the whole, i think i just about got away with it. I even fielded some questions, including one from Maurice Burton asking me to tell the assembled dignitaries a bit about myself.
I was all set to sit down (and then hotfoot it across London to catch a train on account of misjudging how long a Pedal Club lunch might take) when one last person popped up at the back to ask a question, both about hill climbs and time trials, and how they are quintessentially, uniquely English, and about Darryl Webster’s achievements.
At which point I realised I’d just spoken for 40 minutes to a room of cycling heroes, and amongst them, hidden at the back, was King Alf himself, and he was directly addressing me on the topic of my book and the people in it. I didn’t reply, i simply pointed out that i’d be unable to respond in a coherent fashion because I couldn’t process that I was being asked a question – or spoken to – by Alf Engers.
And that was it. A typical day out in the big city with cycling folk. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the change in circumstances that have come about from writing an obscure book.