York Cycle Rally: stage 2 (115km)
The world of cycling hides many contradictions: as an activity, it is both solitary and sociable, energetic and relaxing, lung-busting and contemplative. Like many other sports, it brings people together to share a passion, but through that commonly shared interest, you get to meet a kaleidoscope of the different strata of society. And everyone is fascinating in his or her own way………
When I arrive at the The Knavesmire (York’s Racecourse), I look out at the vast emptiness that is slowly filling up with tents and caravans…….this is nothing like my usual pitch, which is usually in the shelter of some hedge or copse, or skulking out of sight of prying eyes. This is a huge unprotected landscape designed primarily for horse racing. When the winds blow and the rains set in, this is not the kind of environment I would choose for my little tent….. And when the wind did blow one night, one of the tent poles buckled under the strain and the tent suffered a partial collapse. So glad I had brought a few strips of gaffer tape……. a bodged job is better than no job, and it held for a few more nights.
Once settled in, I answered the invitation of my brother and his wife to join them at their sailing club, conveniently only one mile from the race course. And that proved to be a curious switch of social groups……. from a motley bunch of cyclophiles to a crowd of boating aficionados, where the talk was inevitably about affairs of the marina, and the comings and goings along the waterways of Britain. And there I sat in my cycling lycra……..