According to the latest research there is no correlation between major sporting events and an increase in long-term grassroots participation. But as a thirty-year veteran of the sport and leisure industry, including two summers as the manager of the courts in our local park, I can confirm that “the Wimbledon Effect” is real. People do dig out their rackets from the back of the shed, round up some of their Springer Spaniel’s collection of tennis balls and head off to the nearest public park to emulate Andy or Serena before pulling a calf muscle and reconvening in the pub. It happens every year. Especially the soft tissue injuries.
Having more recently made regular Sunday morning commutes from Glossop to Sheffield to deliver rugby coaching courses, I would also hazard that the Tour de France produces its own TV coverage-related bulge. Dating back to when Sir Bradley – as even David Millar calls him now – first took an interest in Le Tour there has been a noticeable increase in Team Sky replica kit on the roads of the Hope Valley in early July.
While this has caused me, as a car driver on a deadline, no little angst, now that I am about to join them – sans branded kit unless someone sends me some – I can see these weekend warriors’ point. If you watch enough footage of cyclists effortlessly devouring kilometres of mostly picturesque continental roads it does awaken a desire to join in. And this year, thanks to my new-found friends at ebiketips I will definitely be able to.
Its arrived you see. The e-bike has landed. With just days to go before the 22 teams assembled in Germany, and following delays caused by everything from the Borough Market attack to TNT thinking 3pm is in the morning, my Scott E-Sub Tour 2017 powered by Bosch is here.
Not only is she here, she has been ascribed a gender, been named and ventured out on the trails and roads of the High Peak. It’s been an exciting few days.
Nelly, so-called because she sat for 24 hours in the front room unpacked but otherwise untouched – a very large, very black ‘elephant in the room’ – has made both a training run and completed her first road stage. She’s been muddied, she’s been hosed down and she’s been the subject of a fevered conversation with the Bosch tech team, the upshot of which boiled down to “turn it off and turn it on again”.
She has also won my heart.
The day after the 198 starters in the 2017 edition of Le Tour braved a rain-lashed individual TT course Nelly and I got up early. The weather was cold, breezy and promising rain; perfect for my needs. Who in their right mind would be up at this hour on a Sunday and available to judge me? How many cars would be on the road just waiting to cut me up? And what chance was there that any of the many other imagined disasters would befall me?
The plan, following an evening’s out-and-back pootle along a short stretch of reclaimed railway line close to my home was to attempt a slightly more ambitious, circular route taking in one or two very small hills before finishing on the aforementioned very flat, bike-friendly trail. It’s not that I don’t want to climb up Pennines like a latter-day, woolly-hatted Pantani, it’s just that I know I don’t have the legs to support such ambition.
What I do have, of course, is a motor and, not 50 meters from my front door, I started to realise just what that means. As soon as you leave the cul-de-sac I call home, and turn towards the hills, the road goes up. If you’re turning right and crossing the downhill carriageway it is advisable, when you deem the coast to be clear, to step on it – so that’s exactly what I did. And the bike responded. I think there was actually a whoosh.
Nelly and I seemed to leap forward and achieve a reasonable speed in what felt like a couple of pedal revs. I was, it must be said, standing on the pedals at this point and the mode selector on the handlebar-mounted Intuvia display was showing “Turbo”, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to be accelerating away, but it did feel good. It felt so good that having danced up inclines which I would have struggled to walk up without the odd pause to “check out that lovely view” I made the decision to really head for the hills and take on an ascent that – having just checked with someone who knows – would be categorised at 12% as “precipitous”, “shin-splintering” or even “Mortirolo-esque”.
Not on my Nelly it’s not, though. Yes, I did raise a sweat and, yes, my quads did start to complain, but at no point did I even consider stepping off. And while I wasn’t sorry that protocol required I stop for a couple of “summit shots”, I wasn’t “blowing out of my arse”, as I believe cyclists say, when I got there. Indeed, I felt more than chipper. After a quick chat with a sheep – I’m from Derbyshire after all – I hopped back on, scooted down Chunal at what the Intuvia computer later told me was a maximum of 68.8 kph, and was home in time for a much needed shower and a well-deserved breakfast.
When Monday dawned I was still smiling, despite having calves made leaden by delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and looking forward to the next trip out with Nell.