Bright n’early then. Sun streams through the crack in the curtains. It’s not yet 5, but natural rhythms and an eagerness to shift raises me.
Velothon day. Single speed day.
Wind the clock back a tad. My mum passes away in September 2014 after a short battle. A year later my cousin Emily dies. A friend of ours complains of neck pain and dies 6 weeks later. Related but unrelated, cancer the cause. Tip of the iceberg of course. We all know someone.
One thing leads to another. An idea (singleminded), a cause (cancer research and palliative care) and a group of friends who think similarly, support strongly and care deeply. Before you know it, a mini movement.
7 of us toed the line in Singleminded jerseys (another 18 have been snapped up by friends eager to support). The whole start-at-the-same-time thing is a bit messy, but we manage it. Next year it’ll be group entry to avoid grief. Heading out of Cardiff, the route is familiar and unfamiliar all at once; the power of closed roads. We keep to the left, but for this day at least, all is available and the roads truly belong to cyclists.
Our intention was – as much as possible – to keep the group together, something we achieve far beyond Newport and into the rolling Gwent countryside. Today is not about fast times, but good times; remembering friends and relatives, supporting a cause.
Hills are different however. It’s exceptionally hard to climb at another’s pace, geared or not and almost impossible on a single speed, where momentum and inelegant muscling are paramount. After rolling for miles we face the first of two truly stern tests for my 42 x 17 gearing; The Tumble, a Tour of Britain favourite, a 4 km climb at an average gradient of 9%.
I loved it. A honking, grinding, blast up hill. Most of the cyclist I passed were very accommodating. Shouting – politely – “On your right!”, I managed to keep the momentum up as we climbed toward the top (on a single speed, you really, really, don’t want to lose it), weeks of single speed training paying off. Only one rider was indignant. “Hey! That’s a fixie! That’s a banned bike!”. I corrected him by freewheeling fleetingly (such a strange complaint to make. A fixie would be an utter nightmare with such savage downhills. Single speeds with two independent brakes and a freewheel are permitted). I ground out a rhythm to the top and enjoyed a hard earned descent.
We regrouped after the Tumble and formed a single speed train, hunkering down over the bars and chugging to the second stern test; the Col Du Caerphilly.
Now I live just the other side of this lump. I know every bend, shape and contour on each of its climbs. I’d never been over the mountain on a single speed from the Caerphilly side due to a very sharp right hander followed by an immediate jacking up of its profile. In my experience, getting over things like that require a fair bit of weaving around. But the open Velothon roads made it doable. Another big effort and the hill is crested. Two big ‘uns. No walking. Result. The singlespeeders regroup at the top , enjoyed the fast run – and occasional noisy crowds – back into Cardiff. We crossed the line together.
It has been a real privilege to watch this idea germinate and grow, garnering support from friends, family and strangers. This was the first outing for Singleminded and I’m hoping that year on year, event on event, we can keep the fundraising avenues open and keep the cause on the agenda. It’s for Mum and Emily and Derrick an, frankly, pretty much everyone.
The Singleminded website is here. Thanks for reading. If you’d like to donate, please click here. Huge thanks to my Singleminded team-mates: Craig Standage, Julian Carter, Richard Self, John Plain, Graeme Donnan. Particularly well done to Kevin Ball and Tim James for a first time long distance effort and huge ask. Above: This bike belonged to Derrick, was given to Craig after he passed away and adapted for use in the Velothon; a fitting bike. Below: After 100 miles of riding, there’s always a cyclo-cross opportunity.