How on earth do you pee while wearing Lycra?
It started as a relaxed afternoon, the sun was shining as I prepared for my ride. I had only one real choice to make: bib tights or bib shorts? I'd go with shorts, this was my first opportunity to show off my newly shaved legs after all! If I dressed for a sunny day the weather might take my hint and stay fine.
"Make sure you take lots of fluids with you," said my girlfriend.
Dutifully, I downed a bidon of water and headed off.
I know hydration is essential, but drinking a lot can have a testing effect on my bladder. There are days when it struggles to hold more than a thimbleful of liquid, and this was one of those. Add to that it was a lot colder than it appeared earlier. With every passing moment my (already tiny) bladder shrank, and was very soon alarmingly full.
Never fear, I'd head straight to the public toilet I remembered was close by. With my new, aerodynamically shaved legs I was sure I'd be there in a matter of moments.
You can only imagine my horror in finding the loos had been vandalised and were boarded up. A minor inconvenience had suddenly become a public convenience emergency! The local area was far too busy with people for me to consider stepping behind a tree. Not that peeing discreetly was really an option; I was wearing layers and bib shorts, making 'access' without stripping off nearly impossible.
I racked my brains; where was next nearby loo? The answer was several (uphill) miles away. I'd make it, just, if I travelled quickly.
I've never cycled faster than I did that day - newly shaved legs or not. As I rode I desperately tried to come up with a plan B. What would the pro's do? I know the entire peloton occasionally stops at the side of the road for a call of nature - something rarely caught on TV coverage - but where I was going to find 70 other riders to hide among was beyond me.
I'd heard stories of professionals deliberately wetting themselves as they cycled. I didn't like the sound of that. I considered stopping at a house to beg use of their facilities. Yet I was aware Lycra-clad cyclists weren't popular around these parts of late:
"Whizzing around as if they're in the bloody Tour de France, they're a bloomin' menace."
If I did knock on a door there was a strong possibility I might never be seen again.
Making it to the next public toilet seemed my only option. Yet, as I rode, the world seemed to laugh at me: babbling brooks, flowing rivers, and even someone using a pressure washer really didn't help my situation.
Eventually I arrived. I didn't bother to lock my bike, I just rushed inside. To my horror there were no cubicles and a significant queue for the urinals. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity doing the "I really need the loo NOW!" dance I arrived at the front of the line. I was reminded of the Kenny Everett sketch where a desperate Spiderman can't find a zip in his costume to relieve himself. With numb fingers I unzipped my jacket, then pulled gymnastic manoeuvres to unhook my shoulders from the bib. As I did, I was suddenly aware the people in the queue were transfixed by the sideshow I was performing. I found it anything but entertaining.
Without going into detail, the call of nature was answered. I stumbled back outside, collected my bike and sat on a bench to get my breath back. In the next few minutes I saw five Lycra-clad cyclists sprint towards the toilets. They too must have been caught in a "perfect storm" of too much liquid, deceptively cold weather and a vandalised loo.
Finally I saw another cyclist arrive. This fellow wasn't travelling at the same pace. Rather than going into the loo he walked (or should I say waddled) over to the bench next to mine. There was a distinct squelch when he sat down. I took his arrival as my cue to leave.
I'll never win a yellow jersey, that's for certain. But I'm determined not to join the yellow shorts club.