Nine lots of three minutes. I can do this, easy. I tell myself to stay focused, breathe steadily, sit up straight and keep the wine flowing. Wait... what?
With daylight diminished and storm season definitely upon us, the darkened evenings will find many a cyclist, keen to maintain as much fitness as possible, swapping out at least a few of those outdoor kilometres for the odd static bike session or roller derby. For once though, tonight’s indoor activity is not a torturous turbo trainer workout but Cycling Speed Dating at Look Mum No Hands!, Old Street’s lovely bike café, bar and workshop. My legs might appreciate the rest but I’m still expecting to spend plenty of time in the red...
Why would someone want to date a cyclist? Well for one thing, we have nice legs. For another there’s… no, I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got. Every one of my ride buddies who has, through no talent of their own, somehow managed to sustain a relationship to the point of cohabitation has a partner with saintly levels of patience/tolerance. That tired stereotype of women taking up the wardrobe space is as nothing compared to the sheer cubic footage of bike... stuff that we possess. I don’t even care that much about the kit, but it’s still bloody everywhere. Frames, wheels, tools, summer kit, winter kit, spare winter kit, the aforementioned turbo trainer… Then there’s the early morning abandonment, the obsession with data, the interminable tiredness, the need for every holiday to feature at least one Cat 1/HC climb and we’ve still barely scratched the surface. So, to rephrase the question, what kind of person would actively seek this out? Do these women really know what they’re letting themselves in for?
They don’t seem to. Most of the women at LMNH are not so much cyclists, as people who ride bikes. In other words, completely sane. When I mention to one - we’ll call her Pinot - that I have stopped shaving my legs for the winter, she recoils, aghast that this is something I would even consider doing in the first place. All I had to do was resemble a human being for one hundred and eighty seconds, but no.
In case conversation runs dry, the organisers leave on each table three cards containing conversation topics. Chat-doping, basically. Given the theme I’m expecting them to be cycling-related: What was your highlight from this year’s Tour? What’s your VO2 Max? Shimano or Campag? Although at no point do I need to resort to them I do sneak a peak and I’m disappointed. What’s your favourite holiday destination? (Mallorca, duh) What’s your dream job? (Come ooon.)
So did I meet a future team leader to whom I might one day serve as super-domestique? Sadly, not this time.
Perhaps due to having ridden here in the rain, Terpstra seems a bit stroppy so I’m relieved to be saved by the bicycle bell rings as she is obliged to move on. Although there’s no spark, as such, Hesjedal is enormous fun to talk to and could be a great accompaniment on training rides. Kittel has stunningly shiny hair, so (naturally) I find myself asking if she’s a fan of Alpecin shampoo. This (naturally) produces the most awkward moment of the evening. Oh for a sticky bottle.
Names have been changed.