At around 8.30 yesterday morning I’d loaded my bike into a van and was being mini-bussed up to Buxton from Derby. The day of the annual University bike ride was upon us and the participants swapped war stories about previous years as we drove to Buxton. “Remember when we used to cycle from Derby to Buxton – its all up hill!”, “Last year will always be known as the ‘rivers of mud’ year” and so on. For a newbie it was thrilling stuff – to be admitted to such a band of brothers and sisters.
Just before 10 we decanted from the minibus and treated ourselves to a complementary breakfast bap to provide essential energy for the coming ordeal.
With a claxon sound and a speech from one of the senior management we were off. Starting in a pack of 50 we soon stretched out as we hit the first couple of hills out of Buxton. I managed to keep up a decent pace, but still saw some of the serious cyclist disappearing off into the distance.
I was impressed with the tone of the whole thing. As someone whose experience at school has left him with a lifelong fear of organised sporting activities I felt that the whole thing was refreshingly free from machismo showboating. There was a strong attitude of collective endeavour with just a frisson of competitiveness to keep it interesting. As I grunted my way up hills and powered down trails I received lots of encouraging words and engaged in lots of friendly chats.
At the second checkpoint I had a minor problem with my chain, but borrowed screwdriver and got the bike on the trail again. I then spent a decent amount of time on my own during the next stretch. I half convinced myself that I’d taken a wrong turn, but somewhere in the middle of breathtaking Derbyshire countryside I caught up with a few other riders. Then it was down through some woodland into Ashbourne.
From Ashbourne I hooked up with another rider and we kept together pretty much all the way back to Derby. Out of Ashbourne it was up a couple of big hills and then some speedy road riding through a series of pretty Derbyshire villages. As we stopped at checkpoints the bush telegraph was firing: wassisname has had a puncture, whodermerflip has had a fall; soandso has dropped out; thingy is a good twenty minutes ahead of you; and so on.
By the time I got to the last checkpoint I was starting to ache a bit, but, was still feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I also bumped into the aforementioned whodermerflip who showed off the blood and gore from his fall. I thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t lost control of my bike during my couple of tussles with loose gravel and potholes.
The final seven miles melted away and we rode up into the University to a warm welcome from the riders who had arrived before us. I was pretty pleased that I’d covered the 45 miles (although the rumour on the trail was that it was actually 47) in about four hours.
This is the kind of thing that the University of Derby does really well. I felt that the sense of community engendered by the ride made me feel that I was part of an organisation that was about more than just delivering courses. Staff spent a day doing something positive and healthy, whilst raising money for charity (sponsor me if you haven’t already). What is more people right across Derbyshire got to see us cycling through their communities and were hopefully reminded of the University.
All in all, one of the best days that I’ve spent “at work”. I’ll definitely be there next year!