Well, we made it. We got off the train at Euston – an adventure in itself as the promised member of the station staff who was supposed to let us and our bikes out of the back of the train never materialised and we had to go find someone with a key – and set off through the sticky streets of London hoping we’d make it to Hampton Wick alive. We took a slightly circuitous route because we decided it would be easier to go via our old stamping grounds of Lambeth and roads we were familiar with. That was why I found myself on the roundabout at the foot of Lambeth Bridge, suddenly inches away from a double decker tour bus which had decided to overtake me and then turn left onto the bit of road I’d sort of been intending to cycle on before it was full of bus. You wonder whether ‘wiping out a typical London cyclist’ features heavily on the tour itinerary or whether it’s just a lucky bit of local colour. Either way I was pleased to discover that my city cycling reflexes were still intact, if only because it meant I was still alive.
For the rest of the ride there were only two further assassination attempts, both aimed more at the other half than me, and we easily evaded them, arriving sweaty but unscathed an hour or so later – and at least there were no buzzards. I then got up early the next morning and nipped out on my bike to pick up a paper. Suddenly it was as if I’d dropped through a wormhole and landed in an alternative universe, one where the only vehicles moving were bicycles and pedestrians wandered casually across the road. Was this London, or had some massive navigational error meant we’d somehow ended up in Groningen? I knew cycling was enjoying something of a boom in the leafier parts of the South West, but this was amazing. It wasn’t till I got back to my friends’ house that I remembered that they were effectively on an island – because of the road race that day, all of the roads around were closed. Nobody could drive anywhere they couldn’t practically walk or cycle, and so that’s more or less what people chose to do. With a few exceptions, the streets were filled with bikes and people on foot and the few cars that were moving just had to navigate with care.
The men’s road race itself was possibly a bit of a disappointment. Quite apart from the result, watching it from the side of the road gives you no clue what was going on – and then we got trapped on the wrong side of the barriers and couldn’t get back in time to see the finish. The best bit was probably getting onto the race route itself and whizzing round to the ironic cheers of a few remaining spectators. But it did show that closing off enough roads (on a sunny summer weekend, at least, when everyone was feeling a bit holidayish and not trying to get anywhere) makes even London feel like a pleasant and relaxing place to get around. Now all I have to do is persuade them to keep the race route closed to cars until Tuesday so we can get ourselves, our bikes, and all eight of our limbs safely back to the train. Because I’m not really keen to try jousting with tour buses again any time soon