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Summer of cycling

Monday, 23 July 2012

Richard Barson riding the classic trail down through Stanage in the Dark Peak. Photo: John Coefield

Rich Barson riding the classic trail down through Stanage. Photo: John Coefield

I replaced both sets of brake pads on my bike on Sunday afternoon. Which was nice. The brakes themselves are only about two months old, but such has been the nature of recent riding conditions in and around the Dark Peak that bike bits have had a limited shelf life. A ride last week being a case in point: rain throughout, muddy as hell, yet perverse, laugh-out-loud fun. Things all changed the other day, and we're now enjoying a period of sustained good weather which I, for one, am determined to take advantage of.

But, first things first, Sunday afternoon was all about history being made in Paris. My brother and I have watched the Tour since we were kids. Our dad taught French and every summer holiday we'd head off for a six week break over the channel. The trip would be always just after the Tour, but the race itself would provide a gripping build up to our imminent holidays. We'd then drive through towns with the names of that year's cycling greats painted on the road, a faint echo of the grand show which had passed through only days or weeks before.

As a kid, the Tour was all about guys in spandex with weird names (Djamolidine Abdoujaparov ... Laurent Fignon ... Mario Cipollini ...), not really anyone from Britain, although it was fantastic when Chris Boardman ruled the race against the clock. The Tour was exciting and exotic – another world. British guys could never win the world's biggest annual sporting event, could they? The development of British Cycling is well documented, so I won't labour the details – a read of David Millar's excellent book Racing Through the Dark gives a good commentary – but to see Wiggins secure the maillot jaune and to watch Cavendish (the World Champion) win yet again on the Champs-Élysées was something really special. And good god was I psyched to ride after watching that.

Out we blasted along the great trails up and down the Rivelin Valley in western Sheffield, and then out to Stanage. Things had dried up a lot, and wheels were spinning much faster (I think the Tour psyche probably helped a little there). Loop around, back home and pizza. Brilliant.

The bottom line is that cycling is amazing. It really doesn't matter what the weather is doing, you can still get out and have a bloody great time. And it's pretty much guaranteed to lighten the darkest of moods when things – life, the weather – are getting you down.

See you out there ...


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