Picture the scene. It’s Saturday evening, around quarter to seven, and I am lying on the bathroom floor of a hotel with an ice pack on my bottom.
Actually you might not want to picture that scene. Even Mrs Canavan probably wouldn’t and she knows my gluteus maximus well.
My bottom required ice treatment because of what I got up to at the weekend, a sentence I’m aware might cause a few of you to spurt out your coffee and chocolate hob nob in shock.
I was in the midst of a bike ride you see. A friend of mine invited me to join him and a couple of mates on a weekend cycle trip from Maidenhead, just outside London, to Bath.
“Nothing strenuous,” he told me. “A few miles a day and plenty of pub stops.”
Taking him at face value my training consisted of eating an extra Weetabix and reading an article on Bradley Wiggins (in which, for the keen cyclists among you, he revealed his favourite chain is the DX323 as opposed to the YT45 due to a better rolling ball-slide action, or something like that – I got bored after a couple of paragraphs and stopped reading).
I was feeling pretty confident about the trip, not least because I have a brand new bike. I say new, it’s four and a half years old but as it’s been stuffed at the back of the shed since, only used once, it must still be considered new.
We set off from Maidenhead first thing Friday. There was a slight blow when I attached the panniers (which are bags you hook on either side of the bike). They weighed a little more than I had anticipated, though considering they contained all my clothes and toiletries (lavender moisturiser, foundation, that kind of thing) perhaps that was to be expected.
Yet when we started pedalling it felt great, sort of easy, and as the miles flew by I distinctly remember thinking that victory in next year’s Tour de France may, with a bit of hard work (a couple of practise rides after tea every other Sunday perhaps) be a possibility, or at the very least a stage win.
Suffice to say, and cutting a very long story short, this state of bliss lasted until about lunchtime on Friday when the miles, and the cobbled surface of the Avon-Kennet cycle path took its toll. It particularly took its toll, as I suggested at the beginning of this diatribe, on my buttocks. In fact so swollen were they by Saturday evening that when I walked into our hotel the girl at reception nudged a colleague and said ‘look, it’s Jennifer Lopez’.
In total we cycled 110 miles in three days. The worst moment was a hill at the end of day two.
Halfway up it, my thighs felt as if they were on fire, which was actually handy as it briefly made me forget about the excruciating tenderness of my backside. As we reached the crest of the hill, and as I was crawling along with the bike in the lowest gear possible, sweat dripping from every gland, an 89-year-old woman with a stick and a false leg overtook me.
I can honestly say I have never come so close to crying. It was so tough.
I suddenly discovered a new-found respect for Chris Froome. Granted the hill climbs he did in France probably weren’t on a par with this one in a small village just outside Newbury but, still, fair play to the lad.
But the whole thing was strangely satisfying. At one point a bloke in a flashy Lycra outfit approached in a blur of speed from the opposite direction. He raised his finger slightly in greeting as he passed. It was a wonderful moment. I had been accepted by the cycling establishment.
My bottom has just about recovered and returned to its normal size, thanks for asking, though I did spend the first few days of this working week sitting on a cushion and grimacing at every slight movement.
The bike has already returned to its usual place at the back of the shed. I doubt I shall be getting it out again any time soon.