tr.v. jux·ta·posed, jux·ta·pos·ing, jux·ta·pos·es. To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
Sunday 18th November 2013. 12.15pm. Heol-Y-Mynydd, Gorseinon (Swansea).
On start line. Gridded at back through absence. Heavy breathing. Heart in mouth. Whistle goes. I sprint into the gap. Mark Spratt swings left. We lock handlebars, pulling in opposite directions to free them. Somebody hits Mark from the rear. Mark goes down. I’m into the first bend and fighting for position.
The course twists and winds. Heavy mud, tight corners, switchbacked tape. The field is partly quagmire. Cloying soil sucking the wheel down. Are the tyres pumped too hard? Too late now. To stop is to lose position. Heft bike onto shoulder, run.
Ahh. The bottom section. I like this. Slight downhill single-track. The wheels float along. I gain ground previously lost to poor handling in the mud.
9 laps…….6 laps…….3 laps……….2 laps…..1 lap …..Legs reinvigorated, fight for those places. Don’t lose any more now. Twist, turn, shoulder, run, hop, cycle. The finish line beckons, the chequered flag is waved. Stop. Chest explodes and I feel suddenly, unexpectedly, violently ill. That was 4 weeks of letahrgy purged from the system.
Sunday 18th November 2013. 14.55pm. Whitchurch, Cardiff.
Dad, are we going to going out on the tag-along?
Give me 10 minutes to clean my bike, love.
<2 minutes elapses>
Daaaaad, when are we going out on the tag-along?
Another 5 minutes love. I need to clean my bike.
Daaaad, are we……
YES. FIVE. MORE. MINUTES.
Head off to Taff trail. A relaxed saunter until the hill. Whizz down, giggles emanate from rear. “Can we go quick again?”, pace picks up for 30 seconds and eases back down. We roll. Slowly. Watching the world go by. Evelyn wants to pedal on her own. I stop spinning. I start again. Evelyn is chuffed. She powered the newly forged tandem. Ducks glide across the Taff, waters swollen by heavy rainfall, but not down here. Not in South Wales. Higher up perhaps. Brecon?
Blackweir is busy. We watch the footballers kick a ball around. “Why aren’t they playing properly, Daddy?”. “They’re warming up love”. The benefit of the doubt has been given. Dog walkers are everywhere, canines snuffling through browned leaves. We pass the arboretum. The College of Music and Drama. The Castle. Much to Evelyn’s disappointment, the café is closed. The light is fading. “Look Dad! Crows!”. A flock gives us an aerial display. Lights on the bikes approaching. Time to put mine on. We head straight back. Content.
There are many sides of cycling. Sunday represented two extremes; from hard and fast racing in cross, to being a Dad and taking our time. At the risk of using an oxymoron, both were unbeatable.
Top image courtesy of OCAD university. Centre image from Bute Park arboretum (by me).