Brunty’s gone all Bertie Wooster this month, swapping his tri-suit for tweed at the Brompton World Champs
What ho, old beans! I hope you’re having a spiffing season so far and that your results have all been absolutely top hole. In case you’re wondering why: a) I’m suddenly being nice, and b) I’ve gone all Bertie Wooster on you, it’s because I’m feeling in an uncommonly gentlemanly mood having just participated in an extremely civilised bicycle race on my trusty velocipede.
For many years my mostridden bike has not been my long-suffering road bike (complete with skipping gears, creaky left pedal and sticky handlebar tape courtesy of a thousand split energy gels) but has in fact been my Brompton. For those unfamiliar with this style of steed, it features no carbon, no tri-bars, no bottle cage, and a position so unaerodynamic that you resemble a giraffe perched on a unicycle, a surprising position for me considering I’m so scared of heights I get dizzy in a thick pair of socks. But, it has one distinct advantage – it folds! And it folds up so small you could fit it inside my mate Neill’s purse (sorry, Rapha “essentials case”).
I’ve also discovered another advantage to owning a Brompton, which is that you can race on it, and in a World Championship no less! The annual BWC race takes place in central London on an eight-lap course that goes along The Mall and passes Buckingham Palace and which, in 2018, featured a certain M. Brunt of no-fixed ability among its 500 strong field.
But where does the gentlemanliness come in? Well the strict dress code for the race states that a minimum of shirt, tie and jacket must be worn, with no Lycra at all. Considering I spend most of my time dressed like I’ve been kicked through a branch of Sports Direct, it made a pleasant change to get spruced up for the day and I decided that if I was going to go to all the trouble of donning a shirt and tie I might as well go the whole hog and defy the boiling hot weather by wearing a full threepiece suit, tweed cap, brogues and, to top it all off, my Dad’s old pipe, which I kept clenched firmly in my teeth for the entire race.
The race started Le Mans style with a run across to The Mall to your folded bike, whereupon you unfurl it as rapidly as you can and pedal furiously off towards Buck House. Inevitably as soon as the start gun went my new-found politeness went right out of the window and the old competitive triathlete came racing to the fore, sprinting across the road and using the experience of a thousand transitions to mount my bike on the run and biff unwary Bromptoneers out of the way with my specially sharpened elbows.
What followed was eight laps of some of the most furious racing I’ve ever been in, and I found myself in the lead pack being driven along by a certain Emma Pooley, former world time-trial champion and Olympic silver medallist. Inevitably, after teetering on the brink of mediocrity, my attempts to move up through the group came to nought and I was left to cling grimly on at the back and spectate as Emma crushed all before her to cross the line. Apart from some spectacularly reckless cornering outside Horseguards Parade in a bid to keep up, my only moment of racing note was when I unfortunately breathed out through my pipe rather than in, generating a cloud of hot ash that went all over my mush giving me a white face and one red eye meaning I spent the rest of the race looking like a Müller Fruit Corner.
After racing that furiously perched atop a glorified egg-whisk I spent the next hour moving more stiffly than Theresa May doing a Rumba, and trying to wring out the four litres of sweat that had gathered in the folds of my tweed jacket. Such was the cut of my dash that even in my now dishevelled state I made the rest of the passengers on my train home look like a holding pen for The Jeremy Kyle Show.
So another race, another defeat, but at least I lost while looking stylish which is a notable first. So to reestablish my triathlon credentials I must return to the more familiar feeling of running vests which chafe under your arms and Lycra shorts which nip at your knackers. It’s what you’d all expect of me.
“At least I lost while looking stylish, which is a notable first”