I went out for a ride yesterday, the last hurrah. I had plans to go big, do hills, make a statement ahead of the new year. I ended up doing one of those odd loops when you don’t stick to your pre-planned route and don’t really know what you want to do, and it’s raining and not raining at the same time. The roads were full of cyclists, doubtless with the same noble intentions, get one more in. Or they were fighting some sort of losing battle with the festive 500 and slogging themselves into the ground in a futile attempt to ride really far without hating themselves and the bike and the weather, and then posting it on the internet with lots and lots of hashtags and new acronyms.
I rode up Clarken Coombe, then across and round the back of Ashton Court. Up ahead, I could see someone out of the gloaming, sporting Team Sky kit in all their noobmamil glory. For some reason, I was feeling polite, amiable. Maybe it was a New Year’s Eve sentiment, each to his own, that sort of thing. As he approached I gave a cheery nod and a wave, which was reciprocated in kind. At which point I realised it was Geraint Thomas, and nearly wet myself. The three longstanding readers of this blog who have put up with silence of late, to the extent that there are now only two, one of whom is my mother and the other is my father-in-law, will recognise that he is a favourite at Traumfahrrad Towers.
Luckily, the Olympic, Commonwealth, World and National Champion, not to mention winner of Paris Nice, E3 Harelbeke, Volta ao Algarve and lots of other stuff, was held up at the lights so I was able to get on without having a double hernia and brutal prolapse from the effort. I asked him for a photo and he was really friendly and engaging. I later retold the whole encounter to my comrades in the South. By later, I mean seconds later, as soon as I physically could. My ride was ruined anyway, my head completely scrambled.
I also said “I raced against you once… actually… let me rephrase that… I was in the same race that you were in once, the National Championships at Celtic Manor in 2014”. He laughed a bit, just a little. We talked about Bristol City and Cardiff City being rivals; he’s a big Blues fan and was heading to the game later that day. Other titbits – he’s not doing Tour of Catalunya because he doesn’t like it and bad stuff happens there. We rode back into town and across the Suspension Bridge, which he liked a lot. People rode past the other way and I waved at them whilst I was out riding with Geraint Thomas. It was simultaneously amazing and really bizarre. Although I think people might have thought one of us was a bearded old guy in DHB kit and the other a full-on PKW, so maybe it went straight over their heads.
In amongst the instagram fraternity, the response oscillated between outright wonder and amazement, and outright anger at the lack of mudguards. I put the ride on strava where is also got a lot of attention. Some chums checked the heart-rate trace and identified a spike right at the point where our paths crossed.
It shot through the roof; an utter palpitating explosion of excitement.
Lastly; it was the perfect end to the year, and it’s easy and also quite romantic to see it as a sign of a brighter time. This year has been tough. It’s been tough to write, to do things that are important and to keep things in balance. I feel like there is a way forwards, and I’m perfectly happy to artificially place Geraint Thomas as the key to it, the meeting at the crossroads, a guiding and utterly serendipitous presence, saying that everything is going to be OK.
Let’s hope so anyway, because the last Team Sky rider I met on Beggars’ Bush Lane had a bit of a rum time in the ensuing months.