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L2B‘You fucking idiots!’ went the cry as we set off through a rather drunken, very balmy South West London around midnight. And, to be fair, the Saturday night revellers had a point; it was a bizarre sight, several thousand cyclists with varying degrees of festive illumination, flashing their way out of the smoke towards the coast. After dodging cabs full of clubbers and a broken down mini, we left the city and made our way through the suburbs into the land of the semidetached. Amid the mock-Tudor frontages, more drunken bemusement greeted us and some jolly girls exposed their breasts in encouragement. Then the countryside and sleepy villages. Blinking bike lights turned steady as they became necessary for basic navigation. Hurtling at speed down pitch black roads was at times rather alarming, all sense of direction lost and hard to tell whether the road was going uphill or down, the only clue being the sudden strain on the legs. The rest stops were strange markers on the journey – an enforced party-atmosphere masking a general desire to go to bed. 2am and the pack was quiet, concentrated, pushing on towards the South Downs, and, to be honest, I was getting a bit bored; I know the Brighton ride well, and one of the pleasures is the views and the scenery, so looking at a small patch of illuminated tarmac for several hours was becoming a little dull. A hint of daylight appeared as we began the cycle over Devil’s Dyke – passing a distant rave in a valley – and Brighton appeared below in the early dawn. On the seafront, Saturday night was relentlessly going on, short-skirted girls and shirtless lads munching chips while dodging Hitchcock-like seagull attacks; more drunken confusion at the sight of the tired cyclists. Over the finish line and my bike was in a van I was on a bus in minutes, fast asleep. Suddenly we were back at Clapham Common and I was in my bed by 7am, waking at noon with the feeling that I’d had a rather strange, rather surreal cycling dream. And maybe I had…

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