I can't remember exactly how many times I have ridden it over the years, but when I was fit and in the midst of winter training it was a little bit of fun, a good little lung opener.
The first Christmas related incident happened after the event, which conveniently started and finished in a pub car park. On a crisp Boxing Day morning my brother myself and my dad rode the few miles from my dad's house to the start. Everyone was is good spirits and raring to go so plenty of jokes and competitive verbals were flying around.
The course was a tough circuit, always covered with water, gravel and potholes on the steep descent, which really notched up the fun stakes, but not as much fun as the rest, which consisted of a long leg burning drag and dead flat section. If you were fit, it was a nice test: you couldn't help but belt around as fast as you could.
At this point I have to skip to the apres section of the event, which took place in the pub. Here the times were read out, prizes given, and alcohol played a part. In my case, a lovely glass of red wine was consumed. Then another. These were large glasses – before people realised the measure of one glass equalled your weekly intake. Then possibly another and then maybe another after that. I really can't remember, it might not have been that many but they were large glasses and I was a small woman back in those days (before I ballooned) and the alcohol seemed to enjoy its speedy journey to the brain.
I came out of the pub, got on my bike – somehow – and merrily cycled straight across what was luckily a quiet road and set off homeward in the opposite direction. Me, a finely tuned athlete was roaring drunk (some [many] would dispute 'finely tuned' or 'athlete'). If I'm honest I couldn't really stand up, but I could ride my bike. I couldn't steer it but I could pedal... I couldn't see where I was going... I don't know how I got down a really steep hill, but it was certainly with the aid of my dad and my brother, and a fairly astonished club mate of my dad's, pinning me to the correct side of the road.
I don't remember the race or what time I did or where my prize went (everyone got one). What is quite vivid is the blue porcelain printed words Armitage Shanks, which I spent the next half hour studying quite closely.
Part II of how to be a bad example of everything at Christmas coming soon...