Note: I know it looks like I haven't written anything in months, but I have. I just forgot to press the publish button!
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. It's a bit late to be publishing an end of year review. I should have done it last week while I was still in 2018. "No one will read it" I was reliably informed by my wife over breakfast, completely missing the point that I have no expectations that anyone will read it anyway. I had a brief two week period in the summer where hundreds of people read about my daily struggle to ride home from Milan and that's it. No doubt I am back to my audience of three now, all of whom share my surname, but that's OK. The blog is as much diary/journal as it is for public consumption. I have actually enjoyed looking back at the blog posts and photos and remembering my adventure because six months later I had forgotten many details or had trouble placing them in chronological order. Except for Belgium. I remember Belgium.
The fact that so many people read my blog over the summer still surprises and delights me. That they are still asking me about it amazes me. Last week I meet a guy out riding with whom I used to work. (Pedants will enjoy the correct use of grammar there, which I am mindful of in order to avoid my mother's disapproving tutting). Anyway I hadn't seen this guy in 10 years but he told me he had followed my blog every day and enjoyed it "because I am so ordinary". Thanks. I think.
Let's get the self congratulatory stuff out of the way early. By any measure 2018 was my best year ever on a bike. I rode further, faster and higher than ever before, completing over 11,300km. I would go so far as to say 2018 and in particular the ride across Europe, represented by best ever physical/sporting achievement. That's not bad for such an ordinary bloke over 50. The fact that fellow club mates at Warwick Lanterne Rouge CC agreed and gave me the Club's Rider's Rider Award at the end of the year is a source of immense pride. I have never won anything like that in my life before and probably won't again, but it made me very happy on the night.
Clearly the ride across Europe was the big highlight, but there were other great days out riding solo, with family and with club mates. What sticks in my head most is not the painful or tiring days when it was a struggle to complete a ride, but more the joyful rides when it just felt fantastic to be on a bike.
A big chunk of that annual total distance occurred at the end of the year as I completed the Rapha Festive 500 for the second time (663km as you asked). This is a great end of year challenge as you have to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Last year this was a grim affair completed in the snow with the help of a solitary team mate (cheers Mark), but this year 15 riders from WLRCC completed it, often riding together to support each other. It's another example of why I love riding with this club. People set challenges and then help each other complete them.
The big challenge with the Festive 500 is not really the distance, if you break it down it's 'only' 62km a day. The bigger challenge is fitting in riding at that time of year in between all the family stuff that is inevitable around Christmas. I maintain that only three types of people can reasonably hope to complete it:
(a) unmarried people in their twenties with few commitments
(b) people in their 50's with grown up kids and understanding partners
(c) people of any age who just don't give a crap about anyone else
Completing the 500 gave me one last achievement for the year and I fully expect this to become a part of my cycling life for the future.
It would be very hard to pick an individual highlight of 2018, but if I was forced to pick one day on the bike, it would be the day I rode over the St Goddard pass. My first time in the Alps. The highest climb I had on my whole trip. The ease with which I rode up. The weather, the views etc. I was absolutely elated that day having felt I had really achieved something. I desperately want to feel that again. Maybe that's not possible, but I have plans to try it. All will be revealed in the next post.