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Wobbling down to Worthing

Yesterday my husband was taking part in a sponsored cycle from Hampton Court to Worthing with a bunch of friends and Boat Club associates. He left at some ridiculous early hour. I heroically dragged myself out of bed in time to wave him goodbye and take the obligatory ‘setting off’ photograph as he left the house.

I later managed to drive down to Worthing to collect him, stopping a couple of times on the way to meet the group as they meandered the by-ways (the roads which, theoretically at least, had the easiest gradients) rather than belting as fast as they could down the A24. They had decided to call this exclusive event the Worthing Wobble, perhaps to reflect the fact that few of them could legitimately call themselves youthful nor indeed actual cyclists, and thus the potential to wobble was reasonably high.

Part-way there, I joined a friend and supporter of the charity for which this was a fundraising event.  She had an encouraging poster in the back of her car which she strategically parked alongside the road in one of the villages. We amused ourselves for ages trying to guess which of the very many packs of cyclists hurtling towards us on this Sunday morning was the one at which we were supposed to be waving our flags. Most pedallers smiled at us indulgently anyway as they whizzed past, until our own peloton eventually turned up after an extended delay outside a country church in the previous village. The delay mainly entailed waiting with varying degrees of patience for a straggler, looking fruitlessly for a not-too-public convenience and trying not to freak out (with garish lycra – these were most definitely archetypal MAMILs) the parishioners emerging from the early morning service who, by all accounts and somewhat remarkably, were of a vintage even older than the cycling bunch.

Using the A24 with my car, I easily reached Worthing but then found the business of parking slightly less easy. I believe I saw most parts of the town as I searched unsuccessfully for the car park my fellow supporter had somehow quickly discovered. I still don’t know where it was. Her full bladder clearly focused her mind rather more usefully than mine did! No matter, my car park was nearly empty – no doubt cripplingly expensive so close to the beach. Worry about that later – I’d got in with no more than a gentle graze of the unaccustomed cycle rack against the warning head restriction bar and I had other facilities more pressingly on my mind.

The cyclists all reached Worthing eventually, mostly intact. There were two distinct groups, plus one solo rider who claimed to have cycled on the A24 rather than the small roads and was adamant that he had not come by train. His choice of the main road was presumably less bucolic, but clearly faster – not only because of the geography but also because he avoided the endless discussions regarding which way next! Anyway, he was there much sooner than the rest of them as a result. The front runners of the pack seemed pretty relaxed – and even the slower group looked good (although admitted to some assistance from Red Bull and co-codamol towards the end). 

The second-nearest Fish’n’Chip shop did a roaring trade (apparently much better than the closest one) and the local seagulls were much slower than those I have experienced in Devon and Cornwall in recent years. No-one actually lost any of their food to them, despite several menacing approaches.

Three hardy chaps took a dip in the sea before setting off home. I was not in the least bit tempted, even to paddle, as the churned-up water was grey-brown and weed-filled, but we were impressed nevertheless. Most of the group returned to London by cycle as well. Just one was obliged, for reasons of technical breakdown, to retreat to the train and enjoy his journey reading a newspaper and with one of his pedals secreted up his jumper. Bless.

This whole adventure has raised more than £2000 for charity and provided entertainment and camaraderie to such an extent that they are already planning next year’s. Wonderful wobblers.

And that expensive car park? £3 for the duration. Amazing.

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