22nd September 2013
The day is firmly ingrained in my mind, which is more than can be said for the date (I had to look this up shortly before starting to write this).
It was a sunny afternoon in London, and on a whim, my girlfriend and I decided to ride into central London and watch the final stage of the Tour of Britain. I didn’t think much of it really, it was just a day out and an excuse to ride my bike.
The bike, a cheap single speed, had been purchased earlier in the year, and had been my main mode of transport for getting around London, but that was all, a means of getting from A to B.
That afternoon in September, I saw a bike race for the first time (the time the Tour de France passed my house in Portsmouth not withstanding) and I was struck mainly by the speed at which the peloton moved, and the apparent ease with which it flowed.
At that time, I had no real understanding of just how chaotic and scrappy it can be in the midst of the action, but seeing it all going on in front of me, I was drawn in.
Sir Wiggo was in yellow and Cav, riding for Omega Pharma Quickstep, a team whose exploits I would later go on to follow with interest and enjoy, took the stage. Two British cycling legends.
That day changed my mindset. I was on a mission to start riding long distances, getting faster and faster, building up strength and improving my fitness. I knew I could never be as fast as the pros, but I also knew that I could become a better rider.
I picked up an old French 10 speed from my parents’ place and started exploring the suburbs around London, edging out into Kent, then Surrey. A whole lot of other stuff happened after that, including meeting the other Domestiques, but essentially, that day led me to where I am now.
That day has ended up costing me an absolute fortune in bicycles, in kit, socks and tons of other accessories and tools that I clearly need. I won’t go into detail about the crashes, the near misses and the endless hours of enduring the appalling British winter. It’s all part of the fun.
In spite of all of this, the time spent on my bike since that day has been time well spent. The friends I have made, the ritual of the Sunday rides where every so often, that competitive urge comes out and there’s a sprint, or a push on a climb or that moment when you’re suffering and someone passes you some food and encourages you to go on, giving you their wheel or a bit of a push, just when you need it. The coffee and cake, and the days when we all suffer together but get through it. That’s why I ride…
By Justin Berman