Cyclists are fussy fellows. The more obsessive of them have been known to weigh each mouthful of food before cooking, write down the number of calories consumed and factor in how many hours on a turbo will rid us of it. The cycling mags are full of advice on nutrition - which supplements to take to help fast muscle twitch; new studies into the right percentage of protein in relation to carbs; how many litres of sports' gloop to drink whilst riding; the value of green tea in relation to lactic build up and countless countless other handy hints.
As the wind bites and the legs flag out there a middle aged man's mind turns to breakfast. Most start the ride with something in them. I favour a bowl of porridge and a cup of rocket fuel strength coffee. Others prefer a hastily stuffed banana, whilst other still prefer to suckle on gels with donkey spunk-like consistency . But all know that these are merely hors d'oevre to the main breakfast. The fuel that only the virtuous can truly consume.
If not all rides lead to Barling, all rides end up in front of a pot of tea and, hopefully, food. Some swear by cake and I can see its attractions - there is only one thing the English do better than cake - preferably coffee and walnut in artery hardening slabs. But, for me, I truly need something a bit more, erm...substantial.
The true home of the Leigh Riders, as we have decided to call ourselves, is The Barge(prop Jason White, one of Essex's finest cyclists himself). One of a row of cafes built into arches under a sloping road, this is the spiritual heartland for us. As we arrive, the waitress dumps an urn of tea which she regularly replenishes with nary a word of complaint and then listens to our specific dietary requirements - brown or white, poached or scrambled, can i have that with mushrooms and not tomatoes, any chance of a river of brown sauce? There's as many breakfast varieites as there are cyclists.
We sit and the steam slowly rises from us, in states of undress, the early morning denizens of the cafe slightly bemused by grown men in skin tight lycra and socks over their shoes, we devour on the Barge's finest, regardless. The talk turns ribald, the day's near misses, leg fades and moments of heroism relived. It's a time to hear arcane component talk, regale each other with opinions about the latest edition of Cycling Weekly and generally talk bollocks before we re-climb on to our bikes and slowly slink back up the hill and back to our grown up lives and families.
thanks to MF for the photos