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Cycling, manfully!

Written by Fiona August 10 2010

It was the only other woman in a peloton of some 20 men on Sunday during the Falkirk Bicycle Club’s usual Sunday outing that decided, by the end of the 70-mile bike run, that we had both cycled “manfully”. I think I know what she means and I take this as a compliment. While I’d happily emulate some of Britain’s finer lady cyclists, such as Victoria Pendleton and Nicola Cooke, and also the lady cyclists I know from my triathlon club including the Mighty Vickster, Jo-Go and Uber-Ele, I reckon that being able to cycle like the big boys is not such a bad thing.

However, as we set off from Larbert on Sunday morning I admit I was fighting back the tears. I confess to feeling utterly intimidated and daunted by what was to come. The G-Force kept telling me to have confidence and that he knew I would manage the mileage but it was the sight of all those big guys with their big muscles and their serious-looking cycling kit that made me feel a tad nervous. Plus I had no idea how far we would be cycling, where and at what speed.

And then I found myself enjoying the cycle. Keeping tight in with the pack of guys (and one other woman!) I benefited from an awesome wind buffer. (Big guys = big drafting potential.) Every time I became paired with a new cyclist I found the chat took my mind off the leg effort. One guy told me about a Crotch Guard oil that he sells that could be the answer to all my undercarriage issues. (Now to be known as “undercarriage carnage”!)

And talking to another guy revealed a coincidental connection between his sister and her late husband who I worked with at the Daily Record. Keen climber Tim Harper died some 10 years ago when descending Ben Nevis. While painful, the conversation also brought back some happy memories.

I discussed marriage, divorce and children with another rider and the Pyrenees with yet another.

For a spell Alison and I found ourselves cycling together and chatting. Too much chatting, according to some of the guys in front, but we were still keeping up! Alison is writing a fascinating book about cycling. She also told me of a friend’s amazing “Custard Cream Hill Walking Calories to Cost Formula” that  I hope to reveal in a forthcoming blog.

Throughout the whole cycle through Fife, around Loch Leven and to a great many places that I only glimpsed I felt as though we were travelling at great speed, although the guys were forever telling me that this was an “easy” Sunday run. I mostly kept up and I even rallied on some of the hills. Towards the end a lack of adequate fuelling let me down. (I’ll be better prepared next time and ensure that all my snacks are in the back pocket of my jumper and not stowed in my inaccessible saddlebag!)

The G-Force had told me that the Sunday run usually includes a nice coffee and cake stop. I now know he was joking. The only stops came at road junctions!

Over the final 10 miles, it was clear that testosterone was driving the guys onwards at a faster pace. Alison and I kept up but then on a downhill we lost the momentum (we’re not as heavy as the big boys) and most of the peloton raced on ahead. I tried very, very hard to catch them but with a slight headwind I had no chance.

Nice, kind Martin (of the Crotch Guard!) held back and allowed Alison and I to draft him back to Larbert. He was kind, and suggested that it was a momentary lapse of concentration that had seen me fall off the back of the peloton. I think my legs were simply gubbed!

I had done okay though. 70-odd miles in less than four hours. I’d kept up for most of the way and I’d coped with a few guys possibly suggesting that triathletes might not be so good at cycling. In the end I reckon I did well for a girl. Or should that be “I cycled manfully?!”

Thursday’s usual outing: A 24-mile APR.. It hurts!

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