THE Derbyshire Peaks are a very cruel mistress, especially if you’re an over-indulgent Editor who really should really lay off the pork pies, to pull on Blur’s Parklife.
They give with one hand, and take with other. Build you up to knock you down.
I am, of course, referring to the Derbyshire Times and Polaris Apparel 50-mile Flagg Challenge charity bike ride - all in aid of Ashgate Hospice. It was an event I was cajoled into by cycling aficionado and Derbyshire Times reporter, Jon Cooper.
Now, I have done a little cycling. Nothing too strenuous, mind. More sight-seeing around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire with a view to getting out from under the wife’s feet for an hour or two.
But how I wish I’d put in more preparation miles for the hills of Derbyshire.
For the opening few miles I quietly nestled into a pack of riders. They seemed about my level, and were gleefully putting the world to rights with their saddle-banter - which was entertaining me immensely.
Then, almost uniformly they sat upright, removed the frowns of their race faces and whipped out all manner of goodies. A splash of Lucozade here, a nibble on a banana there and a squirt from a carbo-energy gel sachet. Having never ridden with a group like this, never mind experienced wheelers, I was nervous.
Either all of their eating patterns had become bizarrely synchronised, or something bad was about to happen. It did. Sheldon happened.
The second significant climb on the route came at around an hour in, and navigated us up to one of the higest points on the route - and it hurt.
Needless to say, the club riders were off on their way leaving me to rue my naivety at the scale of the challenge. After around 40 minutes of hard graft, pumelling away at the Sheldon climb - some of it at walking pace, because I was actually walking - a descent emerged and I went like the clappers, hitting a top speed of around 60kph.
For a good while I was genuinely enjoying the challenge, and not hurting too much - taking in the unspoilt views of our wonderful countryside in what was quickly becoming searing heat as the morning wore on.
FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL
THEN the inevitable happened to an amateur cyclist who hadn’t checked the weather and frankly hadn’t prepared well. I ran out of water.
And because I ran out of water, and went for around an hour without hydrating, my quadriceps began to cramp quite nastily.
As I climbed into Birchover, I was all ready for giving up. I tried getting off and walking, but that just made my entire quads spasm to the point of stopping me in my tracks. I’d hit my ‘wall’. The reality of climbing over 1,200 metres into the sky under my own steam was not a pretty sight.
Cue shimmering oasis of hope on the horizon: The Druid Inn, to which I owe my life.
As I rolled onto the patio looking like bald panda in labour (whatever that looks like), I was greeted with: ‘ey up, ah fink Bradley Wiggins’ got lost!’
Bradley Wiggins, I am not. Bradley Walsh, maybe.
Anyhow, the kind staff behind the bar filled up my water bottle, putting a smile on my face and some hope in my heart that I just might be able to make the end, and make the people at Ashgate Hospice proud.
To say thank you, I’ll be frequenting the Druid Inn with the wife to sample something from the delicious-looking menu. I have never been as grateful as I was at that moment.
Up next, and lifting my spirits, were the marvellous views of Chatsworth, with families soaking in the sunshine, blissfully unaware of the dozens of red-faced fundraisers rolling through the hills around them. There can be few better places to ride a bike - including the Pyrenees on the Tour de France.
I’d like to say thank you to the, ahem, senior cyclist who despite having plenty of years on me, and far more juice in the tank come the final climb back up to Baslow, drifted past me with a few words that put a smile on my face.
He said: “’Os wok this innit, lad? Thi wunt purosses through this.”
I smiled, nay, laughed before realising an elderly gentleman had just made mincemeat of me in a cycle race. He did make my day, though.
One last water bottle re-fill from the kind and dedicated St John’s team waiting at the side of the road on the final stretch was enough to lubricate me on to the end. A quick downhill section back to the hospice where a gaggle of helpers whooped and hollered - and said thank you - to everyone who had made the effort. A nice touch.
Did I enjoy the day? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. Should more people get involved? You betchya. This should be one of the biggest and best fundraisers in the country. I should like to thank everyone who made it happen, and in particular Jon Cooper - for giving me the most painful yet rewarding experience I can recall.
I wonder how fast Bradley Wiggins could make it round?