“Have you had enough of that?” I asked Mark as he came backwards out of the bunch towards me.
He and I had been riding along, minding our own business, when suddenly we were swept up by a sizable group of riders comprising a mix of Garmin Sharp, Madison Genesis and IG-Sigma Sport riders. The road was narrow so, for a few exhilarating minutes, we were carried along, out of control like twigs in a torrent, at a pace neither of us would sustain for long.
As if the road wasn’t narrow enough, there were traffic calming measures that, far from being calming, caused unexpected braking and waves of panic back through the bunch. We were literally rubbing shoulders, and banging elbows, with the pro riders. I gravitated towards the back where there was a bit more margin for error and before long saw Mark doing the same. He had, indeed, had enough, but it had been fun while it lasted.
The event was the Garmin Sharp Team Ride Out in the New Forest, an opportunity for fans to ride with pro teams about to ride the Tour of Britain. We had set out in a wave that included Dean Downing of Madison Genesis and Steele von Hoff of Garmin, but most of the pros were available for a handshake and a photograph at the feed stop, including Dan Martin, a last minute addition to the Garmin team. He had recently crashed out of the Vuelta and so was riding the Tour of Britain as preparation for the Worlds.
We were joined at our table at lunch by Jack Bauer who, even by New Zealand standards, had a very relaxed disposition – though he can clearly pull it out of the bag on the bike as evidenced by his 10th place in the Olympic road race last year.
Just before we left we bumped in to Roger Hammond who took the time to talk to us at length on a variety of topics including his punditry on itv4’s Vuelta coverage. As manager of the Madison Genesis team he had the unenviable task of driving the team bus up to Scotland over night, his riders having all gone off with the Garmin team to catch a flight.
A fast 50 mile ride in the New Forest and privileged access to professional racing cyclists. Not a bad way to spend a day off work.