The Tour of Britain is fast approaching, the RideLondon Classic still fresh in the memory, and the Tour de Yorkshire has made great strides capitalising on the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ, but none of these professional behemoths quite capture the spirit of British cycling the way hundreds of people lining up in the rain, suited and booted, on the opposite side of the road to their folded commuter bikes does.
The union flags lining the Mall only add to the overall sense of daft eccentricity that this unique event (well, there are qualifying events held across the globe, but as the Final it is unique) gives off in spades. That’s not to belittle the race, like the Brompton itself this is a masterpiece of planning and design: the location is perfect, the course is perfect, the Le Mans-style start with each competitor having to unfold their machine before they can set off is perfect. Even the weather – not planned – is kind of perfect for a race that rests somewhere between bicycle racing as we know it, and such Cotswold peculiarities as wool sack racing, cheese rolling and shin kicking.
That’s Cycling Plus’s view from the third wave of competitors, anyway. Down at the front things are a lot more serious – as serious as curiously dressed folk in tin helmets with funny little folding bikes can be, anyway. The racing is fast and furious, as we witnessed first hand when the lead group lapped us at pace somewhere on our sixth of eight times round the Mall, past Buckingham Palace, up Birdcage Walk and along Horseguard’s Parade (we told you the course was perfect), and as someone with the class of ex-pro David Millar finishing 42nd attests.
We didn’t hold much back ourselves, the long-dormant competitive instinct resurfacing the moment we didn’t completely fluff our unfold, but we still had to settle for 116th. Plans were already being put in place to improve on that showing next year before the complimentary post-race beers had even been quaffed.
To all our fellow Bromptoneers, we salute you. And to everyone who wasn’t there, put the date of the 2018 Championships in your diary now.
A lifelong advocate of the never sacrifice style for speed credo, he has never come close to winning anything but did at least achieve one long-held cycling ambition in 2015 when he became an ancien of Paris-Brest-Paris.