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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Got any sheep in Lycra for tonight’s ceremony, Danny?

It was the kind of reader challenge most journalists relish. The more highfalutin call it interaction. Flaming impossible seemed nearer the truth on this occasion.

“You know what you should write about in your column?” demanded the angry man with red face and yellow high-vis vest.

“Cyclists. A speeding lorry nearly had my leg off on Dalston Road. Write about cycle lanes!”

Oh dear. I’m the last person in the world to be making demands on behalf of cyclists. Can’t ride a bike.

I never got the stabilisers off as a child. Even when very young I could find no good reason to volunteer for instability – and then somehow, the moment passed.

Later – though not by much – came the high-heeled years. As would be admitted even by Bradley Wiggins, heels and cycles never were natural partners. And I chose the heels.

“Never trouble yourself with anything that can’t be done in high heels,” was the advice proffered by a glamorous, ebullient friend of my mum’s.

Day or night, she wore shiny patent, towering stilettos; pencil-slim skirts; a full face of makeup and was so racy, she sometimes smoked in the street – causing her neighbours to tut-tut in disapproval.

She was called Anne too. And I wanted to be tut-tutted at, just like her, when I grew up. I took her advice to heart.

Consequently, netball, running marathons, synchronised swimming, allotment vegetable growing and morris dancing were all out. As was riding a bike.

“Well take it from me, you take your life in your hands when you ride a bike on these roads,” said my furious high-vis challenger.

“There’s no respect for a cyclist’s....”

“Vulnerability?”

“That’s right. You tell ‘em.”

He had a point and I could genuinely sympathise, to a degree. Running the risk of losing a leg every time you venture out can’t be much fun. Equally, risking broken ankles – or heels – on Brampton’s cobbles is no bundle of laughs either. But it seemed wisest not to make the comparison to a would-be Bradley.

There have been a goodly number of those this week. No sooner had the lad pedalled to record-breaking Tour de France victory in Paris than Lycra leggings came out en masse in Aspatria, Carlisle and Wigton.

On the airport road from Brampton, even at early morning silly-o-clock, they pedalled and wobbled for all they were worth, on bikes that clearly hadn’t seen the outside of a garden shed for years.

All ages, shapes and sizes – and they were only the men – sported inappropriate Lycra and big bug-eyed goggles. Avoiding standing water that had drained from the carriageway to collect in their cycle lanes, they wobbled and wavered all over the place. Almost inviting limb amputation – by nervous drivers in high heels.

This, you may recall, was the scene of my shameful killing crime, that day when I sent a rather splendid jay-walking pheasant on his swift and unexpected journey from under my wheels to see Jesus.

“Dear God,” I muttered a quiet Monday morning prayer. “Don’t let me mow down a gaggle of goggle-wearing cyclists. In tribute to Bradley, can’t you keep them in a straight line?”

He couldn’t. But it appeared by yesterday’s silly-o-clock, He’d persuaded them to put the bikes back in their sheds and, in honour of Olympics opening week, go running – on the same road, in the same unflattering, figure-hugging wrappings.

It’s a relief not to feel necessity to follow death-defying sporting trends, as dictated by high-profile competitive events.

By virtue of an early life-choice of flighty footwear, I’m excused booking a court during Wimbledon fortnight, playing football under the wrong flag when The Olympics get underway and will escape humiliation of stabilisers when the Tour of Britain reaches Carlisle in September.

That’s not to say we, the high-heeled and unsporty, don’t face our perils and challenges though. Opening ceremony tonight and that presents the possibility of a whole new collection of Monday morning terrors.

Talented guy, Danny Boyle. But he might have thought differently about his take on Olympian rural creativity, had he been the one sharing our airport road with suddenly enthused sprinting sheep... in Lycra.

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